Saturday, January 31, 2004

Lutheran Air

Lutheran Air

I almost never forward humorous e-mails, or even refer to them, but this one got through my filter:

If you are traveling soon, consider Lutheran Air, the no-frills airline --- you're all in the same boat on Lutheran Air. Where flying is an uplifting experience. There is no First Class on any Lutheran Air flight.

Meals are potluck. Rows 1-6 bring rolls, 7-15 bring a salad, 16-21 a main dish and 22-30 a dessert.

Basses and tenors please sit in the rear of the aircraft.

Everyone is responsible for his or her own luggage. All fares are by freewill offering and the plane will not land until the budget is met.

And pay attention to your flight attendant who will acquaint you with the safety system aboard this Lutheran Air 599....

"Okay then. Listen up; I'm only gonna say this once. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, I am frankly going to be real suprised and so will Captian Olson because we fly right at around 2000 feet, so loss of cabin pressure would probably indicate the Second Coming or something of that nature, and I wouldn't bother with these little masks on the rubber tubes, you're gonna have bigger things to worry about than that. Just stuff those back up in their little holes. Probably the masks fell out because of turbulence which, to be honest with you, we're going to have quite a bit of it at 2000 feet, sort of like driving across a plowed field, but after a while, you get used to it.

"In the event of a water landing, I'd say forget it. Start praying The Lords' Prayer and just hope to gosh you get to the part about forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, which some people say "trespass" against us, which isn't right, but what can you do?

"The use of cell phones on the plane is strictly forbidden, not because they may interfere with the plane's navigational system - which is seat of the pants all the way - no, it's because cell phones are a pain in the wazoo and if God meant you to use a cell phone, He would've put your mouth on the side of your head.

"We're going to start lunch right about noon and it's buffet style and the coffee pot is up front and then we'll have the hymn sing --- hymnals are in the seat pocket in front of you, and don't take yours when you go or I am going to be real upset and I am not kidding, and right now I'll say Grace: God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for the food, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, May we land in Dallas or at least pretty close. Amen."

Friday, January 30, 2004

Article XXV. Concerning Confession

Concerning Confession, Article XXV. of the AC

1] Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved. And 2] the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there 3] was profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, 4] and pronounced by God's command. The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences, also, that God requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven, and that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of sins. Aforetime satisfactions were immoderately extolled; 5] of faith and the merit of Christ and the righteousness of faith no mention was made; wherefore, on this point, our churches are by no means to be blamed. For this even our adversaries must needs concede 6] to us that the doctrine concerning repentance has been most diligently treated and laid open by our teachers.

7] But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is not necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with anxiety to enumerate all sins, for it is impossible to recount all sins, as the Psalm 19, 13 testifies: Who can understand his errors? Also Jeremiah, 17, 9: 8] The heart is deceitful; who can know it? But if no sins were forgiven, except those that are recounted, 9] consciences could never find peace; for very many sins they neither see 10] nor can remember. The ancient writers also testify that an enumeration is not necessary. For in the Decrees, Chrysostom is quoted, 11] who says thus: I say not to you that you should disclose yourself in public, nor that you accuse yourself before others, but I would have you obey the prophet who says: "Disclose thy way before God." Therefore confess your sins before God, the true Judge, with prayer. Tell your errors, not with the tongue, but with the memory of your conscience, etc. 12] And the Gloss (Of Repentance, Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret) admits that Confession is of human right only [not commanded by Scripture, but ordained by the Church]. 13] Nevertheless, on account of the great benefit of absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us.

The question of right reception of the sacrament doesn't come up super often in my context, but it does come up. Especially when we get to passages from 1 Corinthians in the lectionary. Mostly, the reception of the sacrament is done because all are doing it, and the only ones who exclude themselves are Catholics pious enough to know better. The concept of confession prior to reception is lost. It is not even on the horizon as an historical artifact.

I find myself of two minds on this shift in our linking of confession and the Supper. On the one hand, to limit the reception of the Supper simply to the culmination of a penitential rite seems misguided. The Supper is always much more than that. We say, according to the creed, that in the Supper we receive the forgiveness of sins. But we also say that in the forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation. So these two sides of the same coin should play out liturgically. It is both a penitential rite and a celebratory rite.

But to lose completely the penitential, so that it becomes simply a somber thing one does with wafers and chalices is also misguided. We have, it seems, maintained the semi-somber nature of the meal without going to the depths of the consolation present in the meal itself. This itself would be argument enough for re-instituting individual confession prior to reception. To celebrate this sacrament in its fullness would be to re-institute the confession, but also to celebrate the meal totally- in the meal there is life and salvation, consolation in the forgiveness of sins, alleluia!

This article concludes with an interesting example of the confessors' concern to be in continuity with Scripture AND the tradition of the church. In fact, it cites positively Gratian's note, that "confession is not commanded in Scripture but was instituted by the church." And then continues, "The preachers on our side diligently teach that confession is to be retained because of the absolution." Thus a tradition instituted by the church (not Scripture) is retained for the sake of the absolution. This is a key example of how the confessional documents are themselves a part of the development of doctrine in the church, not simply a blind repetition of Scripture. Allegiance to Scripture without sensitivity (or even admission) to the role of tradition and the church in its interpretation is not confessional, it's a later product of fundamentalism that any good confessional Lutheran, and anyone in the catholic tradition, would disavow.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Marks make the church or church makes the marks?

Contrariness or radical confessionalism?

One of my good friends mentioned to me once that the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered would empty our church buildings since the Gospel runs so contrary to culture and human nature.

But my question would then be does the Church make the marks or do the marks make the Church? Three people are in a house, someone reads the Words of institution over bread and wine... isn't THAT church?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Aidan Nichols, in his Holy Order, quotes a French New Testament scholar concerning what we might consider an intersection between the visible and the invisible action of Christ in his Church.

"To define apostolicity, we must not separate the proclamation of the Gospel from the foundation of a solidly structured Church. The foundation of local communities that are themselves the Church of God in a given place is just as much an apostolic task as is the preaching of the Gospel, and it gives an institutional face to the expansion of the faith."

Article VIII of the Confessions states:

"Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ..."

This institution and commandment is deployed in unseen and seen, commingled ways. These activities - preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments - are carried out in a visible context, the Church. Moreover, the mandate by which a minister of the Gospel does these things also effects the very context in which he does them, so much so that they are inseparable.

As far as modern concerns of "institutional growth" go, I've got scant love for the McChurch mentality. But seeing Christ's mandate as the context for an "institutional face" combats such "corporate" mentality far more effectively than reductionism and plain old contrariness.

The church is no substitute for faith

I would have to draw myself that good 'ol third-way of confessional Lutheranism in terms of ACVII. Both the American Protestant love-fest with growth and the ELCAUSARCPCUSA dependence on some kind of visible authority both seem to use visibility as a substitute for faith in Christ Jesus.

The radical nature of the Gospel slams this big-church pastor in the heart in the realization and confession that I cannot know who belongs to the church. My job is to preach the Word and rightly administer the sacraments.

But what about our endless scouring of the membership rolls to see who might be falling through the cracks? What of the survey after survey sent out to see if we are "meeting needs" and what new things we might try to "fill the pews?"

In my reading of ACVII this is all shown to be poppycock.
Attemptio: the marks of the church listed in Article 7 of the CA state that the "Et ad veram unitatem eccesiae satis est consentire de doctrina evangelii et de administratione saramentorum. Nec necesse est ubique similes esse traditiones humanas ..." and in German: "Dann dies ist gnug zu wahrer Einigkeit der christlichen Kirchen, dass da entraechtigkeitlich nach reinem Verstand das Evangelium gepredigt und die Sakrament den gottlichen Wort gemaess gereicht werden." Both of these versions do not just say: 'wherever the sacraments are rightly administered and the gospel proclaimed." It says that the there is harmony and mutual agreement (eintraechtigkeit; consentire) among the churches. I want to explore the following:

1. The church of the Augsburg Confession is bound to seek out and mutually join other churches that qualify.
2. CA & does not address all of the issues usually listed under apostolicity, catholicity, and the holiness of the church. So does this only concern unity and not the rest? Or is this CA's proposal for all the four notes of the church. The answers here will of course go a long way towards answering the substance of ecclesiology intended by the Augsburg Confession. It must be read in harmony with the total eccesiology of the confession.
3. Does CA 7 speak of doctrine? It speaks of two activities: gospel preaching and the administration of the sacraments. In its view you need to understand the preaching task rightly and those sacraments properly 'done.' These two activites require some understanding but to preach the gospel doctrine must take another form than a body of propositions that must be believed. That is modernistic and rests on modern views of the human subject that don't correspond to the role doctrine plays in the Reformation as well as the church generally. I am opposing the illegitimate developments that took place in the period of Lutheran orthodoxy and the neo-conservative reactionaries that emerged in the 19th century. That is what I mean by the last sentance. Does that help Clint?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 CBS: Don't Censor Ads
CBS: Don't Censor Ads; or, The Superbowl

I'm taking votes. First of all, should we or shouldn't we put these advertisements on our blog. Second, what would be the theological and ethical rationale for putting them on vs. leaving them off. Respond ASAP, cause the Superbowl is coming.
The professor of my introductory Christology class once told about a conversation he overheard in seminary. A seminary rector was relating his woes to an older rector concerning various abuses, academic neglect in particular, occurring in the seminaries around the country (Switzerland, but this story certainly applies universally). The older rector told him to concentrate on three core necessities in priestly intellectual formation which he then enumerated as: 1) Christology, 2) Sacramental Theology and 3) Ecclesiology.

As I've witnessed the posts and debates developing over the past few weeks, I've noticed that theological discussion, particularly in an ecumenical context, seem to radiate from the these three topics. They form a backbone (and sometimes a fault line) for what we are doing here and elsewhere. In light of this, what is the project of ecumenism? Well, in a sense we are faithfully attempting to arrive at a point where we can speak the same language. Do I mean that in a purely semantic way? No, such reductionism misses a fundamental point of language - communication and relationship. However, meaning can never be eclipsed by relationality, for indeed it is at the very heart of relationality as the self-revelation of being in communication. So, properly viewed, meaning and relationality are the two, inter-penetrating, sine qua non components of ecumenical dialogue when two are attempting to speak the same language.

Greg mentions the dialogue between the LWF and the Reformed and Josh (in the Comments) specifically mentions the agreements between the PCUSA and the ELCA. We might ask to what extent these dialogues 1) ground themselves in the three loci of theology mentioned above and 2) they are authentic dialogues in the sense of communicating in the same, or at least mutually comprehensible language of belief. The Lutheran/Roman Catholic Joint Statement on Justification seems a more acceptable model (although the project isn't as extensive and as such doesn't cover all the "bases" enumerated above).

Clint (in the Comments) raises a pertinent issue concerning the language of our dialogue -- "marks", "visible" and "revealed" are all terms a propos to ecclesiology, but how do they describe the life of the Church? To begin with, the life of the Church must never be considered as an entity apart from God. The Holy Spirit enlivens her during her earthly journey (consider the placement of Church within the article on the Holy Spirit in the creeds), and the Living Christ who abides in her through communion welcomes her in the fullest sense in the lasting communion of the resurrection. The three terms above, while wholly meaningful, describe a mystery that surpasses our understanding - a mystery that is to be consummated in the arrival of the Bridegroom. Our understanding, then, must have a real but also symbolic or analogical relation to the truth as known only to the Divine Mind. Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit, must be the center of this understanding received in faith.

The mystery of the Church is fundamentally this - the mystery of humanity's union with God (Catholic Catechism 772). That this union has Christological and Sacramental overtones is apparent and appropriate. Clint applied Christological categories to sacramental theology and ecclesiology. While they must be qualified, they also must be explored (literally, analogically and spiritually/meditatively). Conversely the marks, visibility and revealed-ness are notions which belong in the greater context of theology to all three loci mentioned above. For example, what one has to say about the Holy Spirit as the revealer of Christ in Christology has an impact on pneumatology in the context of Sacramental Theology and Ecclesiology.

The Triune God and, in a special sense, Christ the God-man, as the source and terminus of unity, holiness, universality and apostolicity should be our starting point. Likewise, revelation and visibility must be understood fundamentally in what God in Christ and the Holy Spirit has revealed and consequently made visible. Sacramental theology and Ecclesiology proceed from this Christological/Theological foundation. Are we up to the task of sounding this out fully? In a word, no. No one is, in an absolute sense. Nonetheless, I propose that we faithfully seek the unity that enlivens the truth about God and his assembly. It is Christ who is at the center of meaning and relationality where two or three are gathered (Mt 18:20) in his name. And it is his wish that we follow when we pursue such unity (Jn 17:21).
Howard Dean and Theology

I was just listening to the reports from NH regarding Dean's re-ascension in the polls in NH. Yeah! That's all I have to say on that.

Regarding clarity on some of our terms. I've heard the argument repeated numerous times that the words visible and revealed imply different categories. So, for those of us who still aren't privy to this discussion, I'll have at it. Basically, visible implies ontological and more Calvinist distinctions, whereas the term revealed/hidden implies more divine plan/Lutheran distinctions. Or so I have heard the critique stated. Most people, when they use either term, are referring to the same reality. Can we see and trust in the church there in front of us on this or that issue, is it revealed by God and therefore visible to us, or is it hidden and therefore invisible.

The issue comes into starker relief when we talk about the what of visibility. If we mean by the visible church the gathered church, those bodies who warm the church on Sunday mornings and serve vocationally as the church the rest of the week, then we are talking the life of the living church in its membership and parish life. If, on the other hand, we are talking the visible church as that in which we can trust, and have faith, namely the sacraments and the proclaimed word, then we are talking about christ in, with, and under the bread and wine, and the promises of God attached to such and the same.

So, the issue of visible church has to do with, indeed, ecclesiology (is the church the church dependent on how it is structured), anthropology (is the church the church as it is gathered and people), and sacrament (is the church gathered around the sacrament rightly administered and the word properly proclaimed)? We must distinguish between these things for the sake of clarity.

Monday, January 26, 2004

One True Chruch?

This post by Chris asks whether this quote reflects confessional Lutheranism and secondly whether it is true to the confessions. Clint has responded in a comment. I think this is a good thread for us. We have discussed other things when we looked at Article VII the first time.

Given the development of this article I have two historical-theological remarks to make.

(1) First of all, the marks of the church here presented differ greatly from the marks given by Luther first in Concerning the Ministry (1521?). There he lists seven marks, many of which correspond in an evangelical fashion to the ancient four marks of holiness, unity, apostolicity, and catholicity. These marks do not replace the four marks, as Melanchthon did not understand the Lutheran Reformation to divide the church. They would, I suppose, be additions to the four fundamental marks unique to the sort of proposal the Lutheran Reformation was making for the reform of the Church Catholic.

(2) These marks in the history of subsequent Lutheranism replaced the four marks in Lutheran orthodoxy. Thus, preaching was interpreted more along the lines of "correct doctrine." This aspect surely plays a part of the original article and intent, given Melanchthon's presentation of the church as a school-house. But it neglects the massivedifference between right doctrine and right preaching. Later orthodoxy made many distinctions about doctrine, what is essential, what is most essential, and so on, but it did not retain the truly essential difference between doctrine and proclamation. Thus, some Lutherans today have a field day condemning what they take to be the more liberal Lutherans of the Lutheran World Federation because they do not "hold to pure doctrine" given by the simple fact that through the course of ecumenical dialogue there have been found to be no church-dividing differences between Lutherans and the Reformed, if there are certain compromises made liturgically by the Reformed. That, of course, is a far different post and I appreciate the points of view of Lutherans skeptical of such an ecumenical agreement.

This second step is the course of history that allows someone to make such a statement as that quoted above. It always strikes me strange that Lutherans in this line of history who make such claims obviously need the sort of opening to the world that the Second Vatican Council provided in allowing Catholics to see other Christians in some sense as Christians. When these marks are taken to be enough and doctrine is defined as what is in one Lutheran's head, this article of the Augsburg Confession has not been heeded.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

New Links and Format

New Links and Format

Today we changed the links structure and added a bunch. A number of blogs have been pointing to us for some time and we only just now have returned the gracious favor. Please note that under "Lutheran Confessions" the second Book of Concord entry is to Augsburg Fortress's published version of the Book of Concord. If you want to score the Lutheran Confessions in their original languages in the best critical edition you need to order Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche from Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. Yes, there is an CPH has the far inferior but still with orginal languages Concordia Triglotta. Do what you gotta do.

Some of the new links point to excellent journals: Lutheran Quarterly, Pro Ecclesia, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada's worship site, Lift up your hearts. The Pro Unione center in Italy provides the texts of the internationally agreed dialogues statements from those dialogues partnered with the Roman Catholic Church. You'll find the Lutheran dialogues there too.

Finally, a link is put in to Thursday Theology, a weekly email put out by the Crossings Community in St. Louis. Under the direction of Dr. Ed Schroeder, this weekly theology rambling is worth the time.

Always, let us know if we missed anything.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Private Mass

Private Mass

Many of my colleagues, and myself sometimes, have been found using this article to oppose the idea of communion at a camp, pastor's conference, at a Bible camp. I have sometimes called this use of Holy Communion a private mass. But is it? The logic, I've usually thought is that this is a public service. But a public service need not be public in the sense that we need to go knock on doors to get the public (i.e. neighborhood) there. If this were the case, Sunday morning services would not be public were it not for the regularly held service. So what makes the mass public? This article would oppose those masses in which only clergy (and usually just one or two) were holding the mass for a purpose other than that to which the Sacrament was intended. And to remember Christ's benefits, as this article puts it, is the central issue. Which is a very odd way to refigure what a public worship service is: is it a function of how the Supper is used or who attends? A little of both perhaps.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Newman and the Sacrifice of the Mass

In the spirit of Newman, I'll start with some personal biography. As far back as my 2nd year of seminary, I argued with my worship professor and refused to tape record my recitation of a Eucharistic Prayer for one of our worship seminars because I was, according to my deep and profound (ironic voice) understanding of Lutheran history and those who had died refusing to do Eucharistic prayers.

On internship, I never used an Eucharistic Prayer, and my internship supervisor fully supported this move. I remained gnesio.

In my current position, sometimes the printed worship resources require me to use it, and/or ignore it, in which case everybody else would notice my skipping it. So on a practical level I've had to do deal with the issue in a way that is new to me. Further, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the narrow view of the Supper conveyed by gnesios doesn't do justice to the actual sacrament nor to Luther's thinking on the matter. We're too Lutheran for Luther, one might say.

And thus to Newman. He finds the same thing to be true of Anglicanism, too Anglican for Anglicanism. He spends time reading the history of Anglican thought, and eventually realizes that the Anglican divines of the early centuries espouse a catholicity that also embraces apostolicity, whereas his contemporaries were either naively anti-pope and apostolic, or liberals and enemies of both apostolicity and catholicity.

I love this quote, "The Anglican said to the Roman: 'There is but One Faith, the Ancient, and you have not kept to it;" the Roman retorted: 'There is but One Church, the Catholic, and you are out of it.' The Anglican urged 'Your special beliefs, practices, modes of action, are nowhere in antiquity;' the Roman objected: 'You do not commuicate with any one Church besides your own and its offshoots, and you have discarded principles, doctrines, sacraments, and usages, which are and ever have been received in the east and west."

This then leads me to the issues of our current debate. Is it possible, that Lutheran confessionalism on the Supper is too sectarian because it doesn't take into account the catholic tradition (not to mention that it conducts the Supper "outside" of the Roman church)? That we argue for "one nature" in the Lord's Supper. Is it possible that Lutherans are heretical on this issue, in spite of our trinitarian emphasis? I think so. Read pages 96-97 of the Norton Critical edition of Apologia to see what I mean. This is why Matt cannot subscribe to what gnesio-lutheran theology on the issue recommends, and why those of us who refuse to be bound by blind allegiance to parties also must listen to the Catholics on this issue.

What I've written above scares me somewhat. I could very easily be wrong.

That's all for now. It's enough, without even getting into the confessional issues.

So little for so much

I'm wrapping my mind around the idea of the intertwining of faith and work in the mass and just can't reconcile the fact that if even a little work need be done to make the sacrament efficacious then it shows little regard for the justification wrought for us on the cross of Jesus Christ. Our actions, whether worshipful or not, cannot justify us in the eyes of God, that is the work and merit of Jesus Christ.

I would then say that indeed the sacrament is meant only as a consolation, the text goes on to say, "So Ambrose said, "Because I always sin, I ought always take the medicine." What do we, as saint and sinner, need more than the consolation, received in faith, that Christ Jesus died for the very sickness we are being treated for?


Boy, this is a meaty article. I have a few questions:
1. "...Mass as a human work, not divine": It seems to me that this creates a polarity between humanity and God that is a) contrary to the Incarnation and b) exploded by the Risen Christ who shares with humanity his very communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit through his self-giving in the Mass.
2. Article 24 says, "if the Mass take away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act justification comes of the work of Masses, and not of faith, which Scripture does not allow." Here the dichotomy between the outward and the inward does not seem to allow for the inter-penetration between the two which is an evident reality of the human person.
3. The Sacrament as consolation: do the AC fathers mean only as a consolation?

Helmar Junghans on Luther's Liturgical Reform

"Luther on the Reform of Worship" by Helmar Junghans

This article, graciously made available by Lutheran Quarterly, provides an overview of Luther's criticism of Eucharistic sacrifice and his own liturgical proposals. LQ offers a few articles and rotates them so this link may fail. If so, the article may be found in Lutheran Quarterly 33 (1999) 315-333. Please check out this journal for great theology, history, and other issues of contemporary Lutheran concern.

Of the Mass

Article 24: Of the Mass

This is a long article which I hope we will take in parts. This article, belonging to the section of abuses, treats the reforms instituted in the churches. This article comes at the end of a long journey for Luther and other reformers. It is a truism to say that the Lutherans did not set out to create a new church but it also is true that Luther did not wake up one day and have all of something called "evangelical doctrine" in his head. I have just finished a book by Wolfgang Simon, Die Messopfertheologie Martin Luthers. Simon shows the development of Luther's ideas of Eucharistic sacrifice.

Luther's exegetical work in Hebrews combined with his previous reflection on faith and righteousness led him to see "the Mass" as a human work and not divine. This is as an example of how Scripture functions for him. Depending upon several factors in medieval theology, he came to see the Verba, the Words of Institution, as the center of the mass. These Verba function as Christ's testament, his last will and testament. With this comes all sorts of challenges to preparations needed for the mass, the demand for both cup and bread given, and so on.

Only when other theologians and monks in Wittenberg took up some of Luther's ideas did the order of the mass change. And the order of the mass was not finalized until much later. Luther composed his own orders of service. I don't know what happened to these proposals.

It seems like the center of this article differs from Luther's theology of the mass:

"But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in remembrance of
Me; therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those
who use the Sacrament should remember what benefits it
receives through Christ, and cheer and comfort the anxious
conscience. For to remember Christ is to remember His
benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered unto us."

Monday, January 19, 2004


I'm an Iowa boy. Although I haven't taken up the vocation of farmer, a long-standing vocational calling in my family, I still identify strongly with the state. So tonight I'm listening to the radio (no TV, TV is evil) and currently, Tom Harkin is cheering on the Howard Dean supporters, in spite of Dean's seemingly reversed position in the Iowa caucus. Edwards and Kerry came out way ahead of Dean, but the race is not over, because New Hampshire is a week away, and who knows. Just look at what happened in Iowa. Harkin says, "change is a marathon", and that seems to be the case.

So, people are switching sides with alacrity. I must say I'm one of them. I liked Dean because he was ahead. I liked Dean because of his grassroots appeal. But i really like Kucinich and Brown because of their platforms. Now, after watching the debates, I'm thinking Kerry and Edwards are the real power-houses. Kerry has a history that is convincing, and Edwards has a personality that is convincing. I think Edwards is really the personality powerhouse.

But I still have the Dean bumper-sticker on my car, and now, Dean is talking on the radio, and he's happy, and excited, and he's the man, and he's gonna take back the white house, and now he said, "whaaaaaaaa. We will not give up!" Politics is so much about the hurrah. It is so much about chutzpah, about shouting and being fired up and about being confident, in spite of the evidence. So lose your voice, like Clinton did before you, but take back the white house from that ass, Goerge W.

And so I'm saying that on this blog, that as a Christian, as a Lutheran, and as a person and citizen of the U.S. and an Iowan, if George W. is not replaced in 2004 by any of these Democrat candidates, I only have one thing to say, "We've gotten the punishment we deserve, like the Isrealites of old who asked for kings and got them."

Greg says we must write comedy. We all must. I will find the time to do so, but for now, let's simply say this, "Bring it on."

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Water by Itself

Water by Itself...

Chris's comments on the blessing of the water provoked a quick read of the Large & Small Catechism (Could one of you write a Medium Catechism?). There we may find that:

1. The Small Catechism has it that baptism is "not merely water, but it is water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word"; but the inversion of the statement also fits: "God's word in water" (Smalcald III, 5, 1).

2. But where the Word is absent this water is "no different than the water the maid cooks with..." (LC 22). Water by itself is only water.

Edmund Schlink (Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, p. 146) argues that the Word of God is above all the baptismal command of Christ (Mt 28:19). This coheres with Luther's attempts at defining a sacrament in terms of a specific command of Jesus in the New Testament (Babylonian Captivity of the Church). This position would raise serious questions as to the function of blessing the water. This is an extreme Western position that does not take into account the role of the Spirit in making this a life-giving water.

But it is not the Word we trust in spite of the water, it is the water together with the Word. We do not trust only "God's will and not at all through the Word or the water" (Smalcald III, 5, 3). So the language of Titus 3 that this water is the "water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit" is not plerophoric inexactness. Does this mean that we do not trust the Word in spite of the water? Too often the church has spoken of the spiritual reality of God's promise and therefore left us, who draw oxygen and take up space on the couch, without contact with the Word.

Does this justify Schlink's conclusion: "Faith can cling to the Word and to the water. ... God effects salvation not only through the Word but through Word and water, through the Word in the water and the water in the Word. Water and Word are now in one anohter. The Word is visible in the water of Baptism" (p. 148). ????

Friday, January 16, 2004

Responses to Responses on Baptism

Thanks to Clint for initial responses to my questions.

#1 . The context of my question was the affirmation of baptism by everybody. It was not a "confirmation" service. So this does not parallel the culimination of Christian initiation that most churches think needs to happen in the teen years. So what of the full congregational use of the affirmation of baptism?

#2 . We were told that we should reaffirm our baptism by our pastor because we need to keep to it, stick to the Lord, and so on, for the sake of our vocations. Is this the same as use? I can't help but think this use of the baptism is the sort that is misuse because it is my badge to go out and do Christian things in my job. I am of the mindset that yes, Christians do approach the world's demands (law) differently but the do so in freedom not becuase they can fulfill the demands in a special way.

#3. I like your way of introducing baptism. I'll have to ponder it more.

#4. Maxwell Johnson proposes this in his book, The Rites of Chrisitan Initiation. He is on the Renewing Worship board; I wonder what reasons they have for not following his advice.

#5. Your response opens up more questions for me, Clint. The older way to phrase what Luther treats in the Sintflutgebet is the relationship of the sacraments of the old and new testaments. Also, it reminds me of an older back-and-forth between on the Theology Thursday writings where readers urge that Exodus and other OT events are salvific in an important way and Ed Schroeder sticks to his Elert-istic guns and says: nope. Does Israel's passing through the shower do the same thing as baptism? A yes may be the right answer but I am interested in the mechanics of how that is the case.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Inordinately Brief Responses to Really Great Questions

1. What is going on when baptism is affirmed?

Nothing, and everything. From a theological/historical perspective, it's a vestigial structure left over from the bishop arriving to bring the Holy Spirit post-baptism. But nobody knows that anymore, so it's a cultural institution valued very highly by most Lutherans and others because they did it as youth, it's the time to "get religion" or "do religion." So, although it doesn't have the sacramental character of baptism or the Lord's Supper, it ends up being given as much cultural and existential weight and freight, maybe even more so.

I don't think it is using baptism, because it is something to be undergone rather than something in which to find comfort and hope. That provides a concise answer to #2.

2. Is this the same as what Luther means when he talks about using baptism?
3. What is the propriety of the language of covenant in baptism?

I use this phrase in my baptismal instruction which may or may not be helpful, but I use it anyway. "In the life of the child, baptism is all grace. In the life of the parents, the baptismal rite is all law." This isn't strictly true, because the parents receive the consolation of their child receiving a means of grace, but the actual rite is very law and instruction oriented for the parents. Infants baptized in this rite receive pure gift. So if there is a covenant, it is a divided or split covenant, as in "I, the Lord, do everything for this child in a completely free manner, but you, the parents, promise to do thus and so."

4. In the LBW baptismal rite, the baptized, sponsers, congregation, and parents make promises. How do we understand these promises theologically? Martin Bucer introduced them as a prefatory rite/preparation for baptism so that he could understand infant baptism as baptism conditional on these promises. Where should these be and what do they do?

In their best form they create a context in which the child will be raised in the faith, "asset building" that includes the whole congregation. Liturgically, I think they should be after the actual baptism in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in a true liturgical sense, they should be liturgized in the daily, weekly, and monthly life of the congregation.

5. How many rites of baptism include a prayer for the blessing of the water? Does Luther's flood prayer do this? What function does this prayer have?

No idea on the first question. I'm not convinced that Luther's flood prayer blesses. It certainly "remembers", and invokes heilsgeschichte. In my baptismal instruction, again, I believe the function of the prayer is to remind all of us praying of the context "in which" the infant is baptized. This same God did this same thing with this element, water, in many and various places, and now does it here in this place, for you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

"In no area of doctrine has the Lutheran church in America had greater difficulty than in the matter of the ministry." ---Conrad Bergendoff, "The Doctrine of Ministry" 1956
Mississippi Arguing

Writers use the metaphor of rivers often to convey change. Having grown up on the prairie in Minnesota, seeing the Mississippi near the bluffs in the SE corner of the state and in Iowa with its width and depth contradicted my mother's tales of going to the headwaters near Bemidji. I have only seen this river's delta in pictures. But I did cross it many times when I served a congregational internship in Goodridge, MN. Just a small river at those points.

Square in the middle of the Mighty Miss is St Louis. I have friends and relatives who belong to the LCMS. They all report of much build up and conflict in the Synod that will meet or deflate in the LCMS's summer assembly. I cannot pretend to identify all the issues but in paging through the websites the metaphor of the river and chasm comes to mind. Most interesting to me is the Day-Star Network. On this site you will find excellent reviews and writing. Especially catching my eye is a review of Scott Murray's book on Law in North American Lutheran Theology. Also fascinating is the superb The Blessed Dual: How Christ Is the Christian's Victory over Law by Stephen C. Krueger.

I hope to dig into the writings on this website too for their theology of church communion. The Mississippi carries much with it and much of the stuff here is no mean repristination of Lutheran orthodoxy but my friends indicate part of the "thin line of tradition" that runs through Missouri's history. But already I have ventured to sound out waters unknown to me.

In reading this and other LCMS websites about the state of the state, I am reminded of Karl Barth's comment on Schleiermacher: "we are near each other by a hair's breadth; but oh, what a chasm that is between us despite that hair's breadth of difference." Such may be the present and future of Lutheran unity in North America, especially between LCMS and ELCA.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Questions about Affirmation of Baptism

This Sunday we went through the service of affirmation of baptism. This has raised some questions for me I don't have much time to ponder:

1. What is going on when baptism is affirmed?
2. Is this the same as what Luther means when he talks about using baptism?
3. What is the propriety of the language of covenant in baptism?
4. In the LBW baptismal rite, the baptized, sponsers, congregation, and parents make promises. How do we understand these promises theologically? Martin Bucer introduced them as a prefatory rite/preparation for baptism so that he could understand infant baptism as baptism conditional on these promises. Where should these be and what do they do?
5. How many rites of baptism include a prayer for the blessing of the water? Does Luther's flood prayer do this? What function does this prayer have?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Rose Says He Gambled on Baseball

This is not a strictly theological issue but after deep media reflection on this topic yesterday and in the days to come, I can't help but notice the issue of contrition and repentance involved. As well as the strict refusal of most of those reflecting or reporting to falter in recognizing that gambling involves the same sort of addictive structures and practices that drug or chemical abuse does. That Pete Rose lied publically for so many years when his earlier admission would have brought readmission to baseball does not surprise me one bit. Anyone who is addicted to anything has so much shame, power, and other problems with the truth that it takes someone to "hit bottom" usually before the truth can be confronted and healing begin. Sadly, many are still sounding out how deep the bottom is. And with it, the lies continue.

I do not know if Pete Rose has gone through treatment for gambling. But I hope that the media and baseball people--whose sport carries with it the reality of betting--will be kinder on the man and help him find his way. He was a great jewel of baseball. The man known as Charlie Hustle once said "I'd run through Hell in a gasoline suit just to play baseball." Facing his addiction and the truth may require greater courage.
Short Rite for Epiphany and The Conclusion of Christ-mass aka getting rid of the Christmas tree

1. This rite is appropriate for home use or in public spaces; usually after a nice supper to mark the end of Christmas
2. After removing the ornaments, giving the edible ornaments to children, neighbor children, or other worthies, turn on the lights/light the candles one last time.
3. L: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
4. C: Amen
5. Lesson: Matthew 2:1-15
6. Hymn: O Tannenbaum, a few verses (is this in the Renewing Worship hymnbook?)
7. L: Okay, so, now what?
8. C: Christmas is over; the stores have Valentine's stuff now
9. L: Let's pray or something
10. L: Lord, we give you thanks for this tree whose life we took, especially we hope you preserve those other trees that only Charlie Brown would take. We give you thanks that nothing bad happened to our tree [OR, we're sorry that things got out of control with the dog/kids/party and the tree tipped over] and thank you for giving it to us for the important office of "Christmass tree." May we all remember the light of Christ that this tree bore [as well as our house, the yard, etc.] for this Christmas season, especially since our commute is during the dark hours. In Jesus name,
11. C: Amen.
12. Remove the lights, the angel, and clear away a space for removal. The assisting minister, the one who can dead lift the most weight removes the tree. Take it to the curb, the dumpster, to a porch or yard, to dry out for Ash Wednesday use, or if permits or ordinances allow, have a nice bonfire with the neighbors to celebrate the end of Christmas.
13. One might consider use of the service of committal if the tree goes straight to the dumpster or curbside pickup.
30th Anniversary of Seminex and Related Events

This year and last is the 30th year anniversary of the events following the 1973 New Orleans national convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The link goes to a paper written by a member of a church in St. Louis and the fallout this event had on church members. The epicenter may have been New Orleans or St. Louis but the quake continues to be felt.

"The Church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord..."

Monday, January 05, 2004

Article XXIII. Of the Marriage of Priests

1] There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not chaste. 2] For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. 3] Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because 4] Paul says, 1 Cor. 7, 2. 9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly 5] Christ says, Matt. 19, 11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1, 28. 6] Nor is it in man's power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, 7] those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to 8] contract matrimony. For no man's law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons 9] the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.

10] It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men. 11] For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the husband of one wife. 12] And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope's decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. 13] And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity.]

14] Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man's nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.

15] Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. 16] The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. 17] And it is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.

18] But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against 19] the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all 20] well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. 21] But now men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than 22] marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4, 3, calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. 23] This may now be readily understood when the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.

24] But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can it be done by any vow. 25] Accordingly, Cyprian also advises that women who do not keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are these (Book I, Epistle XI): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts; they should certainly give no offense to their brethren and sisters.

26] And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the case.

This happens to be an unusually long article in the confessions, and the second of the articles on "abuses which have been corrected". The article hits close to home, because it is something that makes my life very different from the average Catholic priest- I am a married priest.

Two months back or so my wife and I went to view "Luther: The Movie." There's plenty to complain about in the movie. A recent review in First Things does an excellent job of summarizing the complaints, both theological and historical. Nevertheless, a surprising result of my viewing the movie was the realization that the particular act of Luther, getting married, was rebellious in the extreme. Although the movie way over-dramatizes and romanticizes the issue, I believe the act as an heroic act deserves our attention. The average Christian of the time expected their priests to be celibate. It was canon law, common practice, and therefore accepted and expected custom. So for a priest to get married, and remain a priest, must have been scandalous. To lift up the act as virtuous, as honoring the vocations and Christian estates, probably seemed even more troubling. So for Luther and other evangelical pastors to take this step seems brave in the extreme. I can't help but wonder what it would have been like to go through the decision-making process. Did the knees of the priests and nuns tremble not out of nerves at what they were entering into, but because of what they were violating?

And then I wondered, what must it be like to discover some thing in one's own church tradition that is deeply engrained, bears the weight of tradition and the authority of the church leaders, but that you believe to be wrong? And then what must it be like to risk excommunication and condemnation in actually doing what was proscribed? Although we might lift up communion and right reception of the elements as more central to the life of faith because it is a more central sacrament to the church's life, marriage hits us more closely at the level of daily existence. What must it be like to get married "as an act of faith", as an act even of protest of abuses in the church?

I was surprised in re-reading this article to note that it focuses much more on what marriage does for a priest by way of restraining or curtailing sin than it does on Luther's emphasis on marriage as a proper and honorable vocation qua vocation. The article also briefly discusses the marriage of priests in the context of texts referring to the marriage of bishops. It briefly lifts up issues of historical precedence in the early church, as the AC often does. I am surprised it makes no mention of the eastern church practice of priests marrying.

Nevertheless, in the end the argument is straightforward and easily summarized. Priests should marry to restrain sin, lest they engage in sexual activity outside the bounds of Christian marriage. It's really that simple.

When we lived in Slovakia, we attended some Catholic churches that still communed in only one kind. But the overwhelming practice, I am led to understand, and the practice of the Catholic church post-Vatican II, is for communion in both kinds. So the abuse to be corrected in article XXII has been corrected, or is at least on its way towards correction. I wonder if there will be any rapprochement, or agreement, on this XXIII article between Lutherans and Catholics.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Thomas in Latin

Thomas in Latin

Greg recently provided me with a link to fuel my pretentions of learning medieval Latin. Sertillanges encourages the reading of Thomas for the sake of the intellectual life, and mentions in passing that it would take only two months to learn the Latin necessary for reading Thomas in the original, something no serious intellectual, so he says, should foresake. This may be a pipe dream. For those of you wanting access to such a text, this is a beautiful resource.
The Eucharist and Reconciliation in Diversity

This document, still worth reviewing, from 1979, shows the connection between liturgical imperatives and sacramental theology. On Article XXII, see sec. 76 of this document for some concluding remarks. I think they are all on the mark because they do not see ecumenical future in straightforward agreement on doctrine. They do not expect their ecumenical encounter to persuade the other party to their own position.

As the Second Vatican Council has taught, there is a hierarchy of truths, so that certain matters are of course more important than others. Agreement in doctrine touches only one level of churchly communion because unity in the sacraments and the preached word are of a different sort of thing than doctrine. Reconciliation in diversity finds unity in such things as the sacramental life of the church and only secondarily in such things as doctrine. Thus, we do not have to agree on this or that theory of Jesus' presence but instead act in such a way as to respect legitimate diversity and true unity. The liturigical imperatives that encompass such a unity are such things as the consumption of all bread and wine in the service. This usage does not commit Lutherans, especially given the diversity of approach to the extent of the presence of Jesus in the Confessions, to any one of the views, but it does allow for a common practice of the sacrament, satisfying the Tridentine decrees and the Lutheran Confessions.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Article XXII: Of Both Kinds in the Sacrament.

With this article we now move to consider the abuses or matters under dispute even though the previous articles did bear the fire of controversy.

"To the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because this usage has the commandment of the Lord in Matt. 26, 27: Drink ye all of it, 2] where Christ has manifestly commanded concerning the cup that all should drink. 3] And lest any man should craftily say that this refers only to priests, Paul in 1 Cor. 11, 27 recites an example from which it appears that the whole congregation did use both kinds. 4] And this usage has long remained in the Church, nor is it known when, or by whose authority, it was changed; although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time 5] when it was approved. Cyprian in some places testifies that the blood was given to the people. ..."

Trent responded directly to this article and allowed for the usage of reserving the cup by referring to the fact that the whole Christ is present under both bread and wine, so that no one is faulted where one to have one and not the other. It did note with the Augsburg Confession that the ancient practice of Communion was under both kinds. This latter pratice has been officially restored in the Second Vatican Council: "The Holy Communion becomes a clearer sign if it is received under both kinds. ..." (SC 55). And so it goes. I have been witness to Masses that are giving both bread and wine.

The German Ecumenical Working Group argues that from the Lutheran side there is implicit agreement with the Tridentine/Vatican II position because " is agreed that for grave pastoral reasons it is possible to modify and adapt the practice of Communion (e.g. only wine, or only bread, in the case of the sick; unfermented wine [grape juice] in the case of those who might be endangered by alcohol" (The Condemnations of the Reformation Era, p. 109).

I never know what to think of the latter issue. Sometimes it seems to me to divide the cup, others it seems loving. But the latter is often messed up because we belong to a congregation that has a variable communion age (whenever parents and child are ready) and many children not yet communing feel left out get the glass of grape juice instead.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The Happy Fault

Luther assented to the happy fault only occasionally. The best is from a table-talk: "If God should be asked at the last judgment, 'Why did you permit Adam to fall?' And [God] answered, 'In order that my goodness toward the human race might be understood when I gave my Son for the salvation of the world" (Luther's Works, vol. 54, pp. 385-66; trans. altered).

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky

Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky

Just completed this New Year's day the new Wendell Berry essay collection "Citizenship Papers". If you haven't read Berry, now is the time. His theories regarding agrarian economies and the importance of local, small communities, is essential. His prose is to die for. Therefore his novels are gems as well.

The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods Books: The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods

Find yourself a copy of this book as soon as possible. Matt recommended it the other day in a phone conversation, and it is fun reading (if a bit romanticized) but helpful in its Thomistic preparations for authentic intellectual pursuits.

Dorothy L Sayers

The Dorothy L Sayers Society

I used one of my Barnes & Noble christmas gift cards to purchase the first of Dorothy Sayer's Peter Whimsey mysteries, "Whose Body," and enjoyed dipping back into a genre I rarely read. I think I'm addicted enough to read the other seven or eight in the series.

Dorothy Sayers is well known also as Christian theologian and student of doctrine. Two questions: What is it that draws (apparently) people to pursue these two craft simultaneously, theology and mystery novel composition? I'm thinking of G.K. Chesterton as my other example. If indeed this a common type of wedding of writerly vocations, can anyone suggest other names.