Sunday, February 29, 2004



And if you desire to read the text that Gibson's movie is truly based on, rather than Scripture, here it is.

Facts Faith and Film-Making

Facts Faith and Film-Making

If you are going to see The Passion at some point, here's a good study guide. If you're taking a group or doing education, then it's definitely helpful!

"Der du die Zeit in Händen hast"

"Der du die Zeit in Händen hast"
Jochen Klepper--from Kyrie-Geistliche Lieder

Part of my lenten discipline is putting some of Klepper's poetry into singing English. Failing that, perhaps some halting English. Here it is in German. I'll be posting some drafts for whatever you may make of it this Lent. You can find other texts of his here. Sorry, German readers only. Which is why I am translating.

1: Der du die Zeit in Händen hast,
Herr, nimm auch dieses Jahres Last
und wandle sie in Segen.
Nun von dir selbst in Jesus Christ
die Mitte fest gewiesen ist,
führ uns dem Ziel entgegen.

2: Da alles, was der Mensch beginnt,
vor seinen Augen noch zerrinnt,
sei du selbst der Vollender.
Die Jahre, die du uns geschenkt,
wenn deine Güte uns nicht lenkt,
veralten wie Gewänder.

3: Wer ist hier, der vor dir besteht?
Der Mensch, sein Tag, sein Werk vergeht:
nur du allein wirst bleiben.
Nur Gottes Jahr währt für und für,
drum kehre jeden Tag zu dir,
weil wir im Winde treiben.
Ps 102,25-28

4: Der Mensch ahnt nichts von seiner Frist.
Du aber bleibest, der du bist,
in Jahren ohne Ende.
Wir fahren hin durch deinen Zorn,
und doch strömt deiner Gnade Born
in unsre leeren Hände.
Ps 90,9

5: Und diese Gaben, Herr, allein
laß Wert und Maß der Tage sein,
die wir in Schuld verbringen.
Nach ihnen sei die Zeit gezählt;
was wir versäumt, was wir verfehlt,
darf nicht mehr vor dich dringen.

6: Der du allein der Ewge heißt
und Anfang, Ziel und Mitte weißt
im Fluge unsrer Zeiten:
bleib du uns gnädig zugewandt
und führe uns an deiner Hand,
damit wir sicher schreiten.

Bishops and Pastors

Bishops and Pastors

Melanchthon seems to argue with Jerome that "the distinctions of degree between a bishop and presbyter or pastor are established by human authority" (para. 62). He claims further that any pastor may ordain and that "the churches" retain the right to do so. My first question is: what does Melanchthon mean by "the churches"? He seems to indicate an individual congregation or collection of congregations (para. 80) becuase he speaks of how it used to be custom for a neighbor bishop to confirm the choice.

It is here that I think Melanchthon shows his deficit of reflection that the New Testament should enlarge for him. True as far as it goes but it seems to me that the view he holds of congregations is quite atomistic. The need for mutual communion and so forth between congregations does not seem to exist in his discussion of bishops. And thus, he can see no distinction between bishops and congregations than one of human necessity. Does the view of church as the church of churches change this? If so, it would seem that the distinction between bishop and pastor is not one of divine right in the sense of the bishop having different evangelical tasks but instead a different congregation: a bishops church is a church of churches and she therefore has a different task than a pastor of a congregation does. She does not have a different set of powers than the local pastor. They both have the same evangelical responsibility. I am therefore less convinced that one pastor shouldn't ordain but the bishop can. She and the local pastor both are the same, in a way.

A Remarkable Question of Context

A Remarkable Question of Context

A difficult question for interpretation of the Confessions is whether or not the authors or the documents founded a new church. How one answers this question of course determines much of what you read into the documents (or sound out what is already there). We have only ever so briefly touched on this in the course of our blogging.

My own view here depends not so much on the Reformers as on the subsequent generations. They took the measures that people such as Bugenhagen took, to install deans and bishops in Iceland, Norway, and Denmark, as the ordinary course. And thus, the American immigrants arrive with all manner of bishops, deans, and so forth. So, no matter what doctrine was in their heads, these Lutherans broke communion and were left on the outside as far as polity goes. So even if they had the same notions that the apostles had, what is to be made of such a break? "But it was the Roman's fault! They kicked Luther out!" Not a good enough answer for this question.

Bishop, what are you?

Bishop, what are you?

Matthew, in his earlier post on the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope points out the way forward. He rightly indicates the way in which the Treatise as well as the abuse of papacy in its history opens up a way for reconciliation of understandings of the bishop of Rome. This topic is exceptionally complex especially because of the difficulties facing the history of the church of Rome and its bishop in its long institutional history. This is all easily indicated by the favorite phrase of those who work in Rome: "we think in centuries here."

Take just the titles the Pope uses: what is most basic or rudimentary? Is she the episcopus universalis? epsicopus oecumenicus? patriarch of the west? bishop of rome? pope? vicar of Christ? and many more? J. M. R. Tillard's book, The Bishop of Rome argues that the best way to understand the Pope is first and foremost as the bishop of the church of Rome. Not the Roman Catholic Church in all its lands but the church of the city of Rome. This is more or less what the Confessions wish for bishops as well as the pope.

The questions of the pope's universal mission or mission in service of unity of the church is less of a question for the Treatise and indeed the Lutherans. They do not touch this question. It is indeed a very patristic or 20th century question that may not have been possible for them to form. Indeed, the very structure of human and divine right utilized by the confessions does not reflect subsequent insights into the biblical roots of that right and the role of discerning the Spirit in terms of what is needful for the church's mission. Instead, Melanchthon operates with a view of human and divine right heavily indebted to the late-medieval discussions. So, the arguments around the papal office must establish either that a) God wills this structure always to be this way and only this way or b) if it is not that way always, it is not by divine right. This is not the way the Bible or early church reflection has seen the matter and it is to the credit of Catholics and Lutherans of today to see this through.

But still, this treatise does wonders, as Clint and Matthew have indicated. It wishes to see episcopacy within the church rather than above it. And it argues for the importance of a council.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ

I saw the movie yesterday, and I refuse to see it ever again. Although I felt obligated to see it (what is this felt obligation, anyway? To whom am I obligated?), and although I can now speak from experience rather than hearsay when people ask me about it, my primary reaction is that the blood, plus the appearance of Jesus' flesh turning to ground hamburger at the hands of the flagellators, is obscenely too much and gratuitous, and there are enough non-biblical/artistic license additions (the devil always watching with worms crawling out of his nose, Jesus inventing the idea for tables that you sit at with chairs rather than lie near with pillows) that no one can really claim "it is as it was", if indeed the one who supposedly said that really said that. 'Nuf said. I will not recommend the movie to anyone. Feel free to make up your own mind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair trade coffee idea catching on in high places

Bishop Hanson and President Kieschnick share a cup of Fair Trade Coffee. Not bad! Fellowship in that is fellowship in a truly Sacred Thing.

Pre-Lenten Humor

Pre-Lenten Humor

Two stories, the first apocryphal and possibly true, the second reliably accurate in all details:

It was Ash Wednesday, and the new pastor had forgotten (or never known) to save palms from the year previous to use for the mixing of ashes with oil. Out of necessity, he burnt a pile of papers from the recycling bin in his office and mixed them with cooking oil from the church kitchen. The mixture was of a passable consistency, so he went ahead with using them for the service, only to observe, to his horror, that as he applied the ashes to the foreheads of his parishioners, the mixture of office paper and oil had a sufficiently acidic quality to actually burn peoples foreheads ever so slightly. Talk about burning the sign of the cross into our heads and minds.

At a rural parish I served in southern Minnesota, the president of the congregation pulled me aside the week before Ash Wednesday and said, "Just so you know, we don't do ashes for the Ash Wednesday service." Confused, I asked him why, and why they held the service if they didn't do the imposition of ashes.

Apparently their previous interim pastor, a seminary student, had also not thought to provide ashes prior to driving out to the church for the service. So in haste on a Wednesday afternoon, she too had decided to burn some paper in the sacristy and try to use the ashes for the evening service. Two problems. First, this was one of those old wooden rural churches that has two small rooms off to the side of the altar, one located behind the organ, a kind of office, the other a small sacristy for the pastor to dress and prepare for service. Each of these rooms had false walls but no ceiling. Second, there was an updraft from the cold winter wind buffeting the church.

So when said interim seminarian lit the paper on fire and set it in a bucket to burn, it caught an updraft, shot straight through the missing ceiling of the sacristy and up into the rafters of the wooden church. The ushers, just arriving for evening service, witnessed a flaming ball of paper rising up out of the sacristy and into the wide open space of their beloved building. Imagine! Thankfully, nothing caught fire, the paper descended in ashen form, and from then on, the church decided to have a policy of no ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Assurance from me that ashes would be mixed and prepared elsewhere prior to the service alleviate their concern somewhat. So it goes.

Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras. Karnival. The beginning of Great Lent. The start of the catechumenal process. Although I may romanticize such things (a confession of sorts- forgive me), today, tomorrow, and this week loom larger in my devotional life than more popular Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter. Certainly I celebrate Christ's Incarnation and birth. And my hope of all hopes is hope in the resurrection. But in spite of myself, it is this penitential preparing that takes hold most strongly of my imagination. The only comparable holiday for me is All Hallow's Eve, which took on new meaning for me the first time I lived in a predominately Catholic country (Slovakia) and witnessed the placing of candles in the cemetaries all over the country. Bright lights on a dark night. Later on I witnessed Karnival in Italy and Germany, and saw the value of the celebration before the penitence, not debauched and excessive celebration, but the simple celebrating of good food, fellowship, and fun. And two years ago I stood in St. Elizabeth's cathedral (Kosice) in the cold and received the ashes on my forehead, and that clinched it.

In addition to romanticizing liturgical rites and seasons, I may be prone to contrariness. The culture shares gifts at Christmas and eats chocolate bunnies at Easter, but this week provides no days off from work, not even any space for contemplation and penitential action, at least at the level of culture, work, and American life. So me the contrarian will make the space in my own life. I will blog less. I will eat no meat. I will pray. And Christ and his cross I pray will be at the center of my vision throughout these forty days, in the hope of an impossible possibility- resurrection.

Monday, February 23, 2004

St. Stephen's Musings

List of Lent links

I didn't know that in the orthodox tradition Great Lent starts on the Sunday evening before Ash Wednesday. I had already started preparing in my devotional practices, and am glad to know I am in keeping with this tradition.

Karl has done a great summary of Lenten resources, so I commend the link above. I will write, in good Lutheran fashion, on Lent the day after Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday, T.S. Eliot

Ash Wednesday, by T.S. Eliot


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

A Famous Children's Book on the Trinity

A Famous Children's Book on the Trinity

Inspired by the Athanasian Creed, I remember a Trinity Sunday where the children of the church were given this book. The book, 3 in 1 by Joanne Marchausen is a famous book for children on the Trinity. It is not too bad. I have heard it condemned by theologians for providing too static a picture of God. Apples instead of God-given language for God. This is a good argument: after all the analogy of the apple is stretched big time by its connection to the Trinity. And it seems to suggest that the "threeness" of God is the same level as the "oneness" so that 3 in 1 is sort of a mathematical problem. But, as far as it goes, it is a good book. Preachers I have heard have had a lot more lousy explanations. Especially the instance Hans Kung likes to cite where the country parson claims the Trinity is above reason so that there is no sermon today. Surely the Trinity is a mystery but mysteries are there for speaking and thinking on just as much as adoring.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Sadly, The Canterbury Bookstore here in Madison is closing up shop after many years of faithful Buchhandlung. The Inn will remain open, each room a theme room modeled after Chaucer's tales. We succeeded, over the course of 1.5 years, in purchasing enough books to get a free nights stay in a room there. Fun.

All of which is an indirect start to sharing where I finished reading Guardini's book on The Art of Praying. At Ancorra, the coffee shop attached to Canterbury. With a clipper of fair trade guatemalan. The book is utterly inspiring; in fact, I found it to be both immediately useful in my ministry of prayer as a pastor, and in the longer term, as a guide to future praying.

I read the first half of the book last night, and used concepts and themes from it for the prayers of the church this morning. Guardini argues at least these points- that prayer begins with confession, then continues with adoration. That prayer is centered around the Lord's Prayer in and through Christ to the Father. He further distinguishes between personal and liturgical prayer, centers prayer in God's Triune life, spends some time reflecting on the central Christological and Trinitarian nature of prayer, but does not exclude the Catholic approach to prayer that includes Mary, the Saints, and particular devotional practices (the Rosary, etc).

Yet it is impossible to summarize Guardini's thoughts, because it is the overall effect of reading the work that accomplishes something and furthers the prayer life of the reader. It is one of those books that leaves you different at the end of the reading than at the beginning, not because of its intellectual audacity, but because of its simple catechetical profundity.

Te Deum laudamus

Te Deum laudamus

Per Evers' request and Scot's reference, here's the Te Deum in a Latin-English side-by-side.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Helmut Zenz: Romano Guardini im Internet

Helmut Zenz: Romano Guardini im Internet

He's even got a stamp!

CIN - Meditations Before Mass, Romano Guardini

CIN - Meditations Before Mass, Romano Guardini

In preparation for my Lenten reading of Guardini's The Lord (others are welcome to join me), I've been doing some background reading. Picked up a used copy of "The Art of Praying" (hardback, no less!) today, and now discovered the translation of "Meditations" on-line.

The Alpha Course :

The Alpha Course :

And here's the "pomo" alternative to the ancient-future re-appropriation of the catechumenate.

ELCA : Worship : The Catechumenate

ELCA : Worship : The Catechumenate

The ELCA version...

Stll Asking- to Alpha or Not to Alpha

North American Association for the Catechumenate - Home Page

Continue reading here...



We have an increasing number of people coming to our congregation who feel so distanced from their Christian roots that they are actively seeking something like the "Rite of Christian Initation of Adults". I've got some issues with this practice (not the educational/catechetical piece, but the delay of baptism, the "mystery", etc.), but would love to hear if anyone out there is doing this stuff in their congregation.

Otherwise, the question in the Lutheran context becomes, to Alpha or not to Alpha!?

Symbolum Quicunque: The Athanasian Creed.

Symbolum Quicunque: The Athanasian Creed.

And while we're on the subject of creeds, what is the proper role of this creed in the life of the church today? Trinity Sunday?

Te Deum


This is my favorite hymn and creed rolled into one. Sometimes I fall asleep reciting portions of it to myself. There's something about the rhythm, the call and response, as well as the laudatory content. The tradition has it thus: Ambrose began singing out a line of it at Augustine's baptism, Augustine, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called out the next line, and the two of them proceeded to cry out the entire Te Deum in tandem, the spiritual father and the newly baptized caught up in the inspiration of the Spirit, and voila, a great hymn was born. Luther considered it worthy of becoming a fourth creed.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Christian History - The Da Vinci Code Special Section

Christian History - The Da Vinci Code Special Section

And this, some good links to comments on another "religious" pop culture icon. This book I have read- he gets basically everything wrong, and as Sandra Miesel says, "Brown never lets a good plot get in the way of a lecture."

Film Forum: Is The Passion of the Christ Good Because It's Accurate? Is It Accurate? - Christianity Today Magazine

Film Forum: Is The Passion of the Christ Good Because It's Accurate? Is It Accurate? - Christianity Today Magazine

I'm not sure I've ever seen so many people weigh in with opinions about a movie before it even came out, but this article provides some good links to a variety of comments on the movie, pro and con. It is also worth noting that reps from the ELCA, as well as writers for First Things, reviewed the movie positively. I will express no opinions 'til having seen it.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

§ 5: A Prolepsis

I’d like to begin this discussion with a hermeneutical insight. Throughout the treatise we find a polemical dialectic directed at papal authority in two different ways. First, we see a polarization between the Pope and the Church, couching the papal office completely in terms of potestas supra rather than ministerium ad et inter. Were the Smalcaldic fathers justified in doing so? Certainly some of the Renaissance popes favored the exercise of their office in such terms. Was this in virtue of their office or in spite of it? The Reformers seem to hold that the office itself is to blame for the deplorable behavior of Julius II et al. While warranted given their cruel treatment by his legates (with a few notable exceptions), this does seem to be a rather unsubtle tack, particularly in light of the careful deference given to patristic witness throughout the treatise. Rather, the abuse of the office should be defined precisely in light of its true res. This approach eliminates the Pope vs. church polarity in favor of a Pope-within-the-church context much more in line with the tradition. Does this absolve the pope? Certainly not. If anything, it’s a harsher corrective. Neither does this close the book on what the petrine office is ontologically or functionally.

Secondly, the theologians of the Smalcald Assembly polarize the Magisterium (seemingly reduced to the person of the Pontiff) to Scripture. This reminds me of the “They’ve got the Pope, we have the Bible” line taken by Gerhard (whose spiritual theology, by the way, I certainly respect). Again, this polemic, in light of the poor exercise of the pastoral office, is understandable. But is it reasonable? Further, does it not justify a similar polarization of interpretation with the individual playing a similarly despotic rôle over Scripture, wielding the Word interpretively as he wills?

Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope

A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope

Treatise Compiled by the Theologians Assembled at Smalcald


1] The Roman Pontiff claims for himself [in the first place] that by divine right he is [supreme] above all bishops and pastors [in all Christendom].

2] Secondly, he adds also that by divine right he has both swords, i.e., the authority also of bestowing kingdoms [enthroning and deposing kings, regulating secular dominions etc.].

3] And thirdly, he says that to believe this is necessary for salvation. And for these reasons the Roman bishop calls himself [and boasts that he is] the vicar of Christ on earth.

4] These three articles we hold to be false, godless, tyrannical, and [quite] pernicious to the Church.

This is the forthright opening to Melanchthon's treatise, and his arguments are worthy of close reading. We shall take the three articles one at a time. I encourage a close (re-)reading of the Treatise by all dialogue participants prior to weighing in on the issues. Let's stay close to Melanchthon's arguments on this one before we enter into more contemporary dialogues around the Petrine office.

More Commentaries

More Commentaries

Strong showing on Pentateuch commentaries. Thanks! The more listed the merrier, and the more you're able to share re: the merits of the commentaries the list, the better. Next set of books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Once we make it through the whole Bible I promise to compile a comprehensive list and put it up as a post!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Biblical Commentaries

Biblical Commentaries

Last year I had intended to use my pastoral book allowance to expand my collection of commentaries. I bought a few, but not as many as I should have. To further this goal in 2004, I'm asking that we engage in a task here at this blog. I'll list five books of the Bible per week that I'd like recommendations for- these can be traditional commentaries in the various commentary seria (Anchor, NIBC, etc.) or individual monographs, essays, or exegetical/theological works that you believe should be on the shelf of a pastor when they prepare a sermon or lesson on a Biblical text. So to begin- The Pentateuch. Weigh in on the comments. I'll post my top choices at the end of the week.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday: The Passion

The Passion comes out next week on Ash Wednesday, but since I haven't seen the movie (nor did I receive an advance pastoral copy), I'm refusing comment. Instead, let's get some reflections on Ash Wednesday.

Foregoing any theological meanderings on whether or not we should take up spiritual practices for Lent, I'll simply confess that I am, and have. When I was nineteen I gave up Mountain Dew for Lent, a considerable feat. Mountain Dew was the only thing we kept in our college dorm room fridge at the time, and I would consume upwards of four cans a day, plus more soda at the caf. Over the years, I've tried giving up various things. This year, we're going meatless for Lent, and in a reverse of the normal Catholic pattern, our only meat will be fish on Friday's.

Which will make Friday celebratory rather than penitential, but oh well, this way we can partake of the Wisconsin tradition, Friday fish fry and cheese curds if you can stomach them.

I'm also reading Romano Guardini's "The Lord" during Lent. I can already tell it's an amazing reflection on the life of Christ, and more edifying than Gibson's movie. Unless pure graphicity trumps a story well told, aka the gospels.

Our congregation is doing the "What if all of St. John's read the same book", now better known as One Book One Church. We're reading Praying with Martin Luther. More on that later.

Finally, I've put out tracks published by the Society of the Holy Trinity on "Individual Confession for the Sake of the Absolution." They don't have copies of this trifold flyer available on their web site, but if you'd like a hard copy, just put a mailing address in the comments and I'll ship one off to you. If I get around to it, I might re-type it as an electronic file.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dorothy Sayers & the Da Vinci Code

I've been reading a lot of fiction the past two months. I made an impulsive decision in december, and decided to use the majority of my book giftcard Christmas gifts to purchase the murder mysteries of Dorothy Sayers. I consider it money well spent. I'm not much into the murder mystery genre, but the Lord Peter Whimsey novels (which later include as fellow detective Harriet Vane) have me hooked. Book #1, Whose Body?, is a good starting point, because you get a lot of Lord Peter Whimsey's charcter and demeanour.

My two favorites so far are Murder Must Advertise and The Nine Tailors. Here's why- Sayers worked in the advertising profession for a few years, and her descriptions of intra-office dynamics are pitch perfect, and seem so modern. Murder Must Advertise is wonderful for this reason alone. The Nine Tailors is a novel centered around campanology. I'll leave it to my readers to find out for themselves what that is. Once you learn, you'll want to read the book just out of curiosity. The murder and its solution are particuarly interesting in this novel.

So have fun. It's much better reading than the Da Vinci Code. Which, btw, we're hosting a discussion of here at church March 5th at 7 p.m. Look for Sandra Miesel's article in reply to the novel,

Article 28: Dixit!

Article 28: Dixit!

I've attached the full text of AC 28, because it is worth our reading in full. So do that now, before you read my comments...

Did you do it? If not, read it now...

Ok, on to some comments. I'm most fascinated by what this article doesn't say! Although it deals at length with the power of the bishops to declare traditions re: food, the Sabbath, etc., the article deals not a wit with the "structure" and ordering of the church per se. It simply assumes that there are bishops, and they have an office. What is this office? To preach the gospel and administer the sacraments! It is the ministry of the Word. The confessors encourage the ecclesiological structures to exercise their authority in regard to the Word, and the civil authority in regard to the ordering of civil society. But again, this distinction does not concern itself with the proper ordering or structuring of the church itself.

Most notably, the "traditions" the confessors point out have nothing to do with traditions regarding the structure of the church, like the ordering of bishops, pastor, papal office, etc. Rather, tradition in this text refers to practices commanded by the bishops that can merit something before God, like feast days and fasts and the eating of certain foods.

Rather than hearing this article as a condemnation of papal or bishoply authority, we should hear it more as a condemnation of church's that meddle in civil ordinances. In fact, I imagine this article has more direct relevance to our church's writing of social statements, and our bishop's public letters to civil authorities regarding war, etc. If I am wrong on this, please correct me. We may decide that article 28 is wrong on this point in the modern era. At the very least, we should probably heed the article's distinction- if Bishop Hanson or any bishop of our church speaks out on civil or social issues not directly related to the Gospel, they do so on their own civil authority, not in their office as bishop.

Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.

There has been great controversy concerning the Power of
Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of
the Church and the power of the sword. And from this confusion
very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs,
emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted
new services and burdened consciences with reservation of
cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken
to transfer the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire
from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in
the Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers,
for the comforting of men's consciences, were constrained to
show the difference between the power of the Church and the
power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of
God's commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as
the chief blessings of God on earth.

But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the
power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or
commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain
sins, and to administer Sacraments. For with this commandment
Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My
Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy
Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Mark 16,
15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.

This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their
calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are
granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal
righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things
cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the
Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power
of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore,
since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is
exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not
interfere with civil government; no more than the art of
singing interferes with civil government. For civil government
deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers
defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against
manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily
punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not
be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission
to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it
not break into the office of another; Let it not transfer the
kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil
rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not
interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or
contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers
concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John
18, 33: My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who
made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, Phil.
3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2 Cor. 10, 4: The weapons
of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the
casting down of imaginations.

After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties
of both these powers, and command that both be honored and
acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.

If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they have,
not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human
law having received it of kings and emperors for the civil
administration of what is theirs. This, however, is another
office than the ministry of the Gospel.

When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction
of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again, according to the Gospel
or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs to the bishops
as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the
ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction
except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines
contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of
the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this
without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the
congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them,
according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But
when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then
the congregations have a commandment of God prohibiting
obedience, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of false prophets; Gal. 1, 8:
Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him
be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against the
truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath
given me to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the
Canonical Laws command (II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap.
Oves). And Augustine (Contra Petiliani Epistolam): Neither
must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or
hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.

If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and
judging certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc.,
they have it by human right, in which matters princes are
bound, even against their will, when the ordinaries fail, to
dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of

Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the
right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws
concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of
ministers, etc. They that give this right to the bishops refer
to this testimony John 16, 12. 13: I have yet many things to
say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He,
the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all
truth. They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who
commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled,
Acts 15, 29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been
changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it
seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more
than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say
they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with
one of the Ten Commandments!

But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has
been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree
anything against the Gospel. The Canonical Laws teach the same
thing (Dist. IX) . Now, it is against Scripture to establish
or require the observance of any traditions, to the end that
by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit
grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ's merit
suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to
merit justification. But it is manifest that, by such belief,
traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the Church,
the doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith
being meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy-days were
made, fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of
saints instituted, because the authors of such things thought
that by these works they were meriting grace. Thus in times
past the Penitential Canons increased, whereof we still see
some traces in the satisfactions.

Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of
God when they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like
things, and burden the Church with bondage of the law, as if
there ought to be among Christians, in order to merit
justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of
which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus
some of them write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to
be misled by the example of the law of Moses. Hence are such
burdens, as that they make it mortal sin, even without offense
to others, to do manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to
omit the Canonical Hours, that certain foods defile the
conscience that fastings are works which appease God that sin
in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority of
him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only
of the reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the
reserving of the guilt.

Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon
the Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts
15, 10, forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples,
and Paul says, 2 Cor. 13, 10, that the power given him was to
edification not to destruction? Why, therefore, do they
increase sins by these traditions?

But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of
such traditions, as though they merited grace or were
necessary to salvation. Paul says, Col. 2, 16-23: Let no man
judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day,
or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with
Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living
in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste
not; handle not, which all are to perish with the using) after
the commandments and doctrines of men! which things have
indeed a show of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids
traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments
of men that turn from the truth.

And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who require
traditions: Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the
blind; and He rejects such services: Every plant which My
heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.

If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite
traditions, and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so
often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does
it call them "doctrines of devils"? 1 Tim. 4, 1. Did the Holy
Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?

Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary,
or with an opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the
Gospel, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to
institute or exact such services. For it is necessary that the
doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches,
namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to
justification, as it is written in the Epistle to the
Galatians, 5, 1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel
be preserved, to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in
Christ, and not for certain observances or acts of worship
devised by men.

What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in
the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for
bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done
orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should merit grace
or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to
judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin
to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1
Cor. 11, 5, that women should cover their heads in the
congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30, that interpreters be heard in
order in the church, etc.

It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for
the sake of love and tranquillity, so far that one do not
offend another, that all things be done in the churches in
order, and without confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp. Phil. 2,
14; but so that consciences be not burdened to think that they
are necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when
they break them without offense to others; as no one will say
that a woman sins who goes out in public with her head
uncovered provided only that no offense be given.

Of this kind is the observance of the Lord's Day, Easter,
Pentecost, and like holy-days and rites. For those who judge
that by the authority of the Church the observance of the
Lord's Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing
necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the
Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been
revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet,
because it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the
people might know when they ought to come together, it appears
that the Church designated the Lord's Day for this purpose;
and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this
additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian
liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the
Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.

There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of
the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the
Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that
there must needs be in the Church a service like to the
Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the
Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to
salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the
righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough. Some
dispute that the keeping of the Lord's Day is not indeed of
divine right, but in a manner so. They prescribe concerning
holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such
disputations than snares of consciences? For although they
endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can
never be perceived as long as the opinion remains that they
are necessary, which must needs remain where the righteousness
of faith and Christian liberty are not known.

The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from blood. Who
does now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for
not even the Apostles themselves wanted to burden consciences
with such bondage; but they forbade it for a time, to avoid
offense. For in this decree we must perpetually consider what
the aim of the Gospel is.

Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to
day many go out of use even among those who are the most
zealous advocates of traditions. Neither can due regard be
paid to consciences unless this mitigation be observed, that
we know that the Canons are kept without holding them to be
necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even though
traditions go out of use.

But the bishops might easily retain the lawful obedience of
the people if they would not insist upon the observance of
such traditions as cannot be kept with a good conscience. Now
they command celibacy; they admit none unless they swear that
they will not teach the pure doctrine of the Gospel. The
churches do not ask that the bishops should restore concord at
the expense of their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be
proper for good pastors to do. They ask only that they would
release unjust burdens which are new and have been received
contrary to the custom of the Church Catholic. It may be that
in the beginning there were plausible reasons for some of
these ordinances; and yet they are not adapted to later times.
It is also evident that some were adopted through erroneous
conceptions. Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of
the Pontiffs to mitigate them now, because such a modification
does not shake the unity of the Church. For many human
traditions have been changed in process of time, as the Canons
themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a
mitigation of such observances as cannot be kept without sin,
we are bound to follow the apostolic rule, Acts 5, 29, which
commands us to obey God rather than men.

Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule
over the churches. It is not our design now to wrest the
government from the bishops, but this one thing is asked,
namely, that they allow the Gospel to be purely taught, and
that they relax some few observances which cannot be kept
without sin. But if they make no concession, it is for them to
see how they shall give account to God for furnishing, by
their obstinacy, a cause for schism.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The Bishop!

The Bishop!

To explain why the previous post has an exclamation point so rudely placed in the middle of a sentence, I must point to the above link, my single favorite Monty Python Flying Circus sketch "eva" as they say here in Jersey. I believe this sketch should play an important role in any theological consideration of the office of bishop. How the Second Vatican council was ever to come to their reforms and insights without it, I will never know.
The Bishop! And the Reformation "break"

One of my Presbyterian friends was just ordained an Elder in their church. This means he is part of the supervisory body of the New Brunswick Presbytery. He said to me: "Dude: I'm part of a bishop!"

Article 28 is a long one. There are many issues here I hope we may consider. But I wish to explore the fact that no bishops went over to the Reformation in Germany. In other countries only the Swedish bishops stayed (and I think the Finns?). This is a big deal from a Roman Catholic view and even causes trouble for Lutheran-Anglican relations.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the bishop is an important part of the church's apostlicity or even that it is a really good thing that a church must have to be the church. This apostolicity involves far more elements than the continuity of the bishops' office in the single act of laying on of hands. There is the fidelity of the people of God without whose help there would be no church. There is fidelity in pastoral practice, in social witness, there is liturgical and musical traditions, the Bible, and so on. Unless the bishop is so essential to the church that she is more important than the other elements of apostolic tradition, then why would a break in that signify a whole break? The Decree on Ecumenism states that such churches are "wounded" or "defective" (I'm not sure of the official translation). Would not a church be wounded that did not follow some of the reforms in other areas of apostolicity? Why is the bishop's office more or most important? Or is it better not to think this way?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

So three Lutherans and a Roman Catholic walk into a blog...

That's it. That's our blog. Except we blog about the Lutheran confessions, try out ideas related to them, and there's no virtual coffee to keep us going! Just real coffee .

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Countries I've visited

A Fun little game- countries I've visited

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Church Authority


"Germany and Geneva began with persecution, and have ended in scepticism. The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter, of the Revelation." (Newman, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 91)

Of course Newman is speaking from the European perspective on this matter (Germany and Geneva have resulted in something relatively different here in the States), but his point remains cogent. It would seem that the doctrine of infallibility, pronounced ex cathedra by the pope in the 19th century, was likely a response to issues around revelation and Christendom of that time. The doctrine was not espoused until that point because it did not need to be articulated in that way in the preceding centuries.

He thus is making two points. 1) Doctrines develop for the sake of necessity, they respond to needs. 2) Doctrines that come about through this process of development are not necessarily wrong simply for being new. They are rather that which comes from that which came before, but responding to a new historical situation.

The Lutheran church, at least in its ELCA manifestation, lacks the appropriate resources for the proclamation of doctrine in new situations. We write social statements, but seldom if ever make new confessions. The reason for this lack is manifest- what magisterium is in a place to declare it? The bishops tend to concern themselves with "practices", ELCA churchwide concerns itself with liberal social issues (I may be stereotyping here for the sake of brevity), and our ecumenical theologians make ecumenical statements, but who can really speak in our church ex cathedra for the sake of renewed proclamation of the gospel. What is our magisterium? What parallel do we have for infallibility?

Monday, February 09, 2004

Fasting, Tradition and Communio
I don't always agree with Eamon Duffy, but this lecture is an excellent (if somewhat wistful) look at fasting since the 2nd Vatican Council.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Council of Trent

I've added, in the Lutheran links section, a link to the full text of the Council of Trent. In all fairness, it probably needs to be there to see how the RC responded to the theological questions of the protesting Germans in the 16th century.

Missing Article?

Where's the P.o.a.b?

I dare you. Scour the whole Augsburg Confession to find the Priesthood of all believers. Regin Prenter, the great Danish theologian of whom few have heard, wrote in this article in honor of the great Leif Grane that it the CA should have stressed this aspect. Looking in the index to the Kolb/Wengert edition of the Confessions doesn't turn anything up either. Not that it isn't there or wasn't ever a part of the catholic tradition. Or that the Augsburg Confession itself says that not everything that it could have said needed to be said (see the conclusion to the CA).

24 Hour Fast

24 Hour Fast I mentioned in the comments on CA 26 that there's a 24 hour fast that I know church youth groups have used. I didn't know that you're supposed to take pledges, like Crop Walk or other fun runs. I also didn't know that it is associated with Band Aid, that 1980s rock for Ethiopia thing. U2 rocked that house.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Lutheran Monasticism

Lutheran Monasticism

Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows.

What is taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be
better understood if it be remembered what has been the state
of the monasteries, and how many things were daily done in
those very monasteries, contrary to the Canons. In Augustine's
time they were free associations. Afterward, when discipline
was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the purpose of
restoring discipline, as in a carefully planned prison.

Gradually, many other observances were added besides vows. And
these fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age,
contrary to the Canons.

Many also entered into this kind of life through ignorance,
being unable to judge their own strength, though they were of
sufficient age. Being thus ensnared, they were compelled to
remain, even though some could have been freed by the kind
provision of the Canons. And this was more the case in
convents of women than of monks, although more consideration
should have been shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased
many good men before this time, who saw that young men and
maidens were thrown into convents for a living. They saw what
unfortunate results came of this procedure, and what scandals
were created, what snares were cast upon consciences! They
were grieved that the authority of the Canons in so momentous
a matter was utterly set aside and despised. To these evils
was added such a persuasion concerning vows as, it is well
known, in former times displeased even those monks who were
more considerate. They taught that vows were equal to Baptism;
they taught that by this kind of life they merited forgiveness
of sins and justification before God. Yea, they added that the
monastic life not only merited righteousness before God but
even greater things, because it kept not only the precepts,
but also the so-called "evangelical counsels."

Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism
was far better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was
more meritorious than that of magistrates, than the life of
pastors, and such like, who serve their calling in accordance
with God's commands, without any man-made services. None of
these things can be denied; for they appear in their own
books. [Moreover, a person who has been thus ensnared and has
entered a monastery learns little of Christ.]

What, then, came to pass in the monasteries? Aforetime they
were schools of theology and other branches, profitable to the
Church; and thence pastors and bishops were obtained. Now it
is another thing. It is needless to rehearse what is known to
all. Aforetime they came together to learn; now they feign
that it is a kind of life instituted to merit grace and
righteousness; yea, they preach that it is a state of
perfection, and they put it far above all other kinds of life
ordained of God. These things we have rehearsed without odious
exaggeration, to the end that the doctrine of our teachers on
this point might be better understood.

First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they teach on
our part that it is lawful for all men who are not fitted for
single life to contract matrimony, because vows cannot annul
the ordinance and commandment of God. But the commandment of
God is 1 Cor. 7, 2: To avoid fornication, let every man have
his own wife. Nor is it the commandment only, but also the
creation and ordinance of God, which forces those to marry who
are not excepted by a singular work of God, according to the
text Gen. 2, 18: It is not good that the man should be alone.
Therefore they do not sin who obey this commandment and
ordinance of God.

What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol the
obligation of a vow as much as they list, yet shall they not
bring to pass that the vow annuls the commandment of God. The
Canons teach that the right of the superior is excepted in
every vow; [that vows are not binding against the decision of
the Pope;] much less, therefore, are these vows of force which
are against the commandments of God.

Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed for any
cause whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given
dispensation for it is not lawful for man to annul an
obligation which is simply divine. But the Roman Pontiffs have
prudently judged that leniency is to be observed in this
obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have
dispensed from vows. The case of the King of Aragon who was
called back from the monastery is well known, and there are
also examples in our own times. [Now, if dispensations have
been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it
is much more proper that they be granted on account of the
distress of souls.]

In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the
obligation or effect of a vow when, at the same time, they
have not a word to say of the nature of the vow itself, that
it ought to be in a thing possible, that it ought to be free,
and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not
unknown to what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of
man. And how few are there who have taken the vow
spontaneously and deliberately! Young maidens and men, before
they are able to judge, are persuaded, and sometimes even
compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore it is not fair to insist
so rigorously on the obligation, since it is granted by all
that it is against the nature of a vow to take it without
spontaneous and deliberate action.

Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the age of
fifteen; for before that age there does not seem sufficient
judgment in a person to decide concerning a perpetual life.
Another Canon, granting more to the weakness of man, adds a
few years; for it forbids a vow to be made before the age of
eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall we follow? The
most part have an excuse for leaving the monasteries, because
most of them have taken the vows before they reached these

Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be censured,
yet it seems not forthwith to follow that the marriages of
such persons must be dissolved. For Augustine denies that they
ought to be dissolved (XXVII. Quaest. I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and
his authority is not lightly to be esteemed, although other
men afterwards thought otherwise.

But although it appears that God's command concerning marriage
delivers very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce
also another argument concerning vows to show that they are
void. For every service of God, ordained and chosen of men
without the commandment of God to merit justification and
grace, is wicked, as Christ says Matt. 16, 9: In vain do they
worship Me with the commandments of men. And Paul teaches
everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought from our own
observances and acts of worship, devised by men, but that it
comes by faith to those who believe that they are received by
God into grace for Christ's sake.

But it is evident that monks have taught that services of
man's making satisfy for sins and merit grace and
justification. What else is this than to detract from the
glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness of
faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows thus commonly
taken have been wicked services, and, consequently, are void.
For a wicked vow, taken against the commandment of God, is not
valid; for (as the Canon says) no vow ought to bind men to

Paul says, Gal. 5, 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you,
whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from
grace. To those, therefore, who want to be justified by their
vows Christ is made of no effect, and they fall from grace.
For also these who ascribe justification to vows ascribe to
their own works that which properly belongs to the glory of

Nor can it be denied, indeed, that the monks have taught that,
by their vows and observances, they were justified, and
merited forgiveness of sins, yea, they invented still greater
absurdities, saying that they could give others a share in
their works. If any one should be inclined to enlarge on these
things with evil intent, how many things could he bring
together whereof even the monks are now ashamed! Over and
above this, they persuaded men that services of man's making
were a state of Christian perfection. And is not this
assigning justification to works? It is no light offense in
the Church to set forth to the people a service devised by
men, without the commandment of God, and to teach that such
service justifies men. For the righteousness of faith, which
chiefly ought to be taught in the Church, is obscured when
these wonderful angelic forms of worship, with their show of
poverty, humility, and celibacy, are east before the eyes of

Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true service of God
are obscured when men hear that only monks are in a state of
perfection. For Christian perfection is to fear God from the
heart, and yet to conceive great faith, and to trust that for
Christ's sake we have a God who has been reconciled, to ask of
God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all things that,
according to our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile, to be
diligent in outward good works, and to serve our calling. In
these things consist the true perfection and the true service
of God. It does not consist in celibacy, or in begging, or in
vile apparel. But the people conceive many pernicious opinions
from the false commendations of monastic life. They hear
celibacy praised above measure; therefore they lead their
married life with offense to their consciences. They hear that
only beggars are perfect; therefore they keep their
possessions and do business with offense to their consciences.
They hear that it is an evangelical counsel not to seek
revenge; therefore some in private life are not afraid to take
revenge, for they hear that it is but a counsel, and not a
commandment. Others judge that the Christian cannot properly
hold a civil office or be a magistrate.

There are on record examples of men who, forsaking marriage
and the administration of the Commonwealth, have hid
themselves in monasteries. This they called fleeing from the
world, and seeking a kind of life which would be more pleasing
to God. Neither did they see that God ought to be served in
those commandments which He Himself has given and not in
commandments devised by men. A good and perfect kind of life
is that which has for it the commandment of God. It is
necessary to admonish men of these things.

And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error of the monks
concerning perfection, and testifies that in his day it was a
new saying that the monastic life is a state of perfection.

So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows, namely, that
they justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that
they keep the counsels and commandments, that they have works
of supererogation. All these things, since they are false and
empty, make vows null and void.

I've been providing the full text of the AC articles rather than links for the sake of the reader. If you prefer hypertext links, just let me know, and in the future I'll oblige.

I'm weighing in on this one for some personal reasons. First, one of my closest friends is currently a novitiate in an Orthodox monastic order in Arizona. After a long and painful process of vocational discernment, he has finally found comfort finding himself in the hands of this God who has called him to this vocation. Furthermore, as a subscriber to the rule of the Society of the Holy Trinity, I recognize that orders and rules properly employed can further the gospel and the life of the church. Our Lutheran monastic brothers in Michigan would argue the same.

As Matthew recognizes in the previous post, it is the abuses of monastic vows that are at issue in this article. Abuse #1: trapping young people in the monasteries even if their vocational discernment led them elsewhere. This went against papal canons. It was an intra-Catholic abuse. Abuse #2: confusion of proper following of rites with the free gift of justification in Christ. Abuse #3: the monastics learned little of Christ.

Monasticism is a valid manifestation of a person's vocation and sexual practice. In our modern culture we need to recognize religiously the two estates warranted by Scripture- committed monogamous relationships (marriage), and committed lives of celibacy (sometimes manifested in monastic vows). Both are gifts of God.

The article also recognizes that vows are voluntary, not forced. This is in keeping with Aquinas's dictum, "A vow is a promise made to God. However, no one can obligate himself or herself for something in the power of another, but only for what is in his or her own power" (STh II, 2 q. 88, a. 8.)

The article seems a bit extreme on the issue of nullifying the validity of vows. From my perspective, if monastic vows are taken with the same kind of seriousness as any other vocational calling, and not elevated as being more religious than other callings, more salutary or able to save, then they are simply that, vocations. The flip side of this coin would be to find ways to religiously recognize the vocational calling of all Christians, not just monastics and pastors and a few other servants in Christ's church.

I'll leave my final question open to the answers of others, because I have only an hypothesis, not an answer. I believe, hypothetically, the final statement of this article, "Since then all of this is false, useless, and humanly contrived, monastic vows are null and void", is a statement of liberation for those currently trapped by their vows through the legal and religious system of that day, not ours. It was, like the emancipation proclamation, written for those currently bound in slavery to a system from which they sought freedom. Thus it is not a universal declaration or confession nullifying all monastic vows then and in the future, but nullifying false vows that subscribed to the errors mentioned in the article. There would be room, in this understanding, for contemporary monastic vows rightly understood and practiced, even within the Lutheran tradition. Comments?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Article 26: Is this going to get me in trouble with you guys?

Having recently delved into the rich issues of Ecclesiology, Pneumatology, the Sacraments and so forth, it may seem that the issue of fasting is relatively insignificant. I would argue, however, that it is a significant, salutary practice with an important part to play in the life of the church. Thus while not commanded in Scripture, it is certainly recommended. Even the CA maintains this point:

… So Christ commands, Luke 21, 34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17, 21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 9, 27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling.

The CA takes issue not with fasting per se, then, but the use/abuse of fasting. What do the abuses center on? It comes down to three somewhat interrelated ones:

1. An illegitimate exercise of church authority (as Josh points out in the Comments)
2. Obscuring the Gospel
3. Putting an undue burden on the conscience of the faithful

Does the church run the risk of these things by including the practice of fasting in her liturgical and moral life? If by doing so, the faith is reduced to the external, to the “observance of certain holy-days, rites, fasts, and vestures,” then I would certainly say so. Likewise, the fathers of the Confession describe the Roman side saying, “with the gathering of these traditions, the schools and sermons have been so much occupied that they have had no leisure to touch upon the Scripture.” But, what could be said of the churched divorced from these traditions? To proclaim the Gospel rightly in the Word and Sacrament, is to do so in the life of the church. This life manifests in the interior life of the faithful, but also in the exterior life of the church as a whole – foremost in the sacramental and liturgical dimensions, but also in the traditional practices and observances that render one fit for such spiritual things.

So, precisely how can the church, in living the sacramental life of the Gospel, commend fasting? First of all, she can as something that is rooted in the Scriptures, particularly in the public life of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Secondly, fasting is consonant with long standing tradition and is advocated by the Fathers, Doctors and especially the Mystics. But lastly, the church can confront us in a present sense in two ways. Fasting can be recommended as a spiritual practice for the individual seeking to live the life of interior faith with his or her body. Fasting, then, “brings the body under subjection” and renders the faithful fit and hungry for things of a spiritual nature. More importantly, though, fasting takes on communal significance in the liturgical life of the church. By fasting communally in Lent, the church as the body of Christ mirrors Christ’s own life. Unity in Christ’s body takes on a rich meaning, including even unity in suffering and waiting. Thus the corporate body, as the individual’s is rendered fit by participating in the life of Christ. Far from obscuring the Gospel, fasting (and communal/liturgical fasting in particular) highlights it and makes it present in a real, almost visceral sense as the Good News that feeds yet also causes great hunger and anticipation. That fasting is so often connected with the time leading up to the great feasts (particularly Easter) and the Eucharist is demonstrative of its rôle. Instead of putting a burden on the conscience of the faithful, a sacramentally focused fasting is rooted in and anticipatory of the Gospel which is freedom. In prescribing such fasts the church exercises not power so much as ministerium and does so fundamentally as an assembly around the Eucharist.
An Exegetical Note Concerning Article 26:

It seems to me that while passages commending fasting by example and by way of advice explicitly refer to the practice, those used in the CA to speak against its practice in the life of the church focus on the Jewish Christians’ adherence to dietary laws and the problem that arises in a mixed (i.e., Jewish/Gentile) community. Fasting and dietary law both existed in the early Jewish-Christian world of the Apostles, but Scripture focuses on the divisive and legalistic problems that arise from the latter while couching the former in positive terms.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Google Searches to our Site

It is interesting to look at our eXTeMe Tracking stats. There are at least two searches a day where someone out there searches for "Lutheran Confessions" or a close variation. Glad you found your way to us! There's got to be a virtual pot of coffee always on at our blog for you.

Sacraments by Rowan Williams

Badges of Profession: Sacraments and Archbishop Rowan Williams

Clint usually respects my job by refusing to suggest books for me to read. He literally did cry out in protest when he recently found out that I have not read anything by Rowan Williams. At least not that I can remember. So he laid the imperative on me quickly to do so. And, I do what I'm told.

So I picked up his On Christian Theology and looked at some of the essays on the sacraments. One of them approaches the sacraments anthropologically, from the perspective of human community and communication. He compares the sacraments as signs (using traditional western language) to human sign giving and making. This enterprise, he argues, is fundamentally religious. He then says, of course, Isreal had signs that constitute their community. The Torah functions in all sorts of ways and so on. The same thing happens in the church and in Jesus.

He draws upon the identification of Jesus as the unique sacrament of God. This then leads to some excellent comments on the sacramentality of the church and some proposals to stem off the questions of human and divine action in the sacraments.

I have to say that despite some excellent insights, Williams fails to presuade me that I should care all that much about the church's signs or the sign community. He interprets the churches signs wholly in a way that he does not argue for how they differ from the general human creation of signs. That he does not need to do if he is presupposing this and then utilizing the ritual descriptions to enliven his sacramentology. But there is not a hint of this. I am too pursuaded by the crisis in theology provoked or indicated in 1919 by the Romans commentary of Barth (as well prepared for by previous theologians in his heritage, such as Ritschl, even Schleiermacher) to so readily grant this basic continuity between human sign making and sacramental sign making. God's action in all human and creaturely things is of course there. God works life and death and all in all. But that God's work is hidden becuase it is the work of God who actively hides himself from us.

Of course, it God speaks to the creature through the creature, as Oswald Bayer quotes Johann Georg Hamman. Williams is of course on to this fact. But his discussion requirs more at this specific point to show the transition from our mode of observation of human communicative action and its sign-character to the invocation of God's action. Indeed, from what I can glean from just this essay, Williams is very wooly about that point of speaking through the creature. That God speaks to us, he wishes to say. But to identify this action or its relation to human action, Williams' essay seems to think that in the discussion of sacraments, it may be quietly passed over. He does get at it somewhat in the end in claiming that all human sign making is enabled by God's primordial act of love. I'll have to think more on this.

At any rate, I am grateful for the suggestion, Clint. Now just dont' suggest anything more until September.

Institution and Freedom

Institution and Freedom

Clint strikingly suggests that we should replace discussion of the hidden/revealed curch but in terms of the Spirit's advent. The prophets speak of a "drought of the world of the Lord" and there of course is the withdrawl of the Spirit feared by the Psalmist. One would need to say more than Clint does. The rub of this is that the Catholics and Orthodox that follow Clint's line can insist on the pneumatoloigcal freedom to pour out but it is that on which the Spirit broods that matters. Both of course insist on the Christological institution of the episcopal hierarchy as well as the the insitutiton of the sacraments by Christ. Are you thinking along Volf's lines here? The antecedent institution or gathered bunch of folks surely depends upon the coming of the Spirit but does the Spirit create that institution or free it?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Article VII. Pneumatologically Speaking

Article VII. Pneumatologically Speaking

Could it be that part of our confusion regarding the hidden/revealed church stems from a lack of pneumatological reflection on this topic? The sacraments and the Word are in an important sense centered Christologically within the Lutheran tradition, but the word & sacraments are "in the Spirit" as well. We certainly can & must speak of Christ's "real presence" in the meal, and the presence of the Word in the preached word. This is the testament and revelation by which the church is established, but from a pneumatological perspective, we are called also to speak of the "institutions" and "charismata" of the church as well (categories traditionally lifted up by Catholic and Pentecostal theology respectivelY). In the Spirit, the ecclesiology of the church matters for the Spirit "institutes" the church in and through the Word. In the Spirit, the fruits made manifest by the Spirit matter as well, and these charismata have a life in the church, especially in their establishing ecstatic fellowship and participation.

In other words, we might say (correct my formulation if it is wrong-headed) the Spirit is the life of the church spoken through the Word by the Father.

So, rather than speaking of a hidden/revealed church, might we speak of the life of the church in the Spirit, not per revelation, but per the Trinitarian love and relationship between the Son and the Spirit- church not as hidden/revealed but rather as "not poured out/poured out"? For the institutions and charismata of the church are the outpourings of the Spirit that are spoken into the community through the right administration of the sacraments and proclamation. And given the reciprocal relationship of the Son and the Spirit, the Spirit too in the institutions and charismata it pours out also participates in right administration and true proclamation.


An additional thought:

It seems to me that pneumatological reflections would also help us make the distinction between doctrine and proclamation more clear- in a similar way we would need to reflect on the epiclesis in the meal, the invoking of the Spirit at baptism, the laying on of hands at ordination, the perichoretic union as sacramentally manifested in marriage and monastic rites, unction before death. This pneumatological dimension would effect a rapprochement in the the sacramental views of Lutherans and Catholics, for the Lutherans have self-limited their sacramental breadth for the sake of a Christology that is not informed by the breadth of "catholic" (from both east and west) thought on the work of the Spirit in the sacramental life of the church. Boy, don't I sound Catholic?