What’s wrong with having lots of denominations?

I am very glad to see a post from Anthony Sacramone–a.k.a. Luther and the Movies and Strange Herring– at First Thoughts and wish he would start up another blog of his own, so much have I missed his madcap theologizing.  But this post I don’t get.  He riffs and rants against that new semi-conservative denomination being formed by some ELCA congregations that don’t approve of gay ordination:

The NALC is, in fact, the North American Lutheran Church, as opposed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, from which congregations are fleeing like Democrats from Congress.

Just what we needed. Another Protestant denomination. This one to straddle the biblicism of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the bibliphobia of the ELCA, presumably with its ratio of traditional exegesis/engagement with modernity balanced so precisely that an ambitious busboy could lay his tray of half-eaten cheesy nachos on its presuppositions without fear of tippage.

I sympathize with those Lutherans who could no longer suffer the leftward march of their denomination into the abyss of irrelevancy, and those who find the denomination of my youth tiresome in its calculation of how grizzlies managed the voyage on the ark without their Dramamine. Yet another denomination can only spawn yet another denomination and so on, until there are so many congregations and so little coherence that only a swift end to history can stifle the cacophony of competing theological claims.

And so I have vowed to give up organized religion for Lent. I remain neither spiritual nor religious, but a Lutheran, sans pew.

via Just What We Needed. Another Protestant Denomination. » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

I’m not convinced there is anything wrong, per se, this side of eternity, with having lots of denominations. But Christ in His prayer wanted us to be unified! Yes, and so it is in the sense that matters most, that all believers in Christ are united in Him.

I do agree that unity of confession and doctrine and unity of fellowship in the people holding them is important. But where is there more unity? In a large organization in which people have so many different beliefs that they are always fighting with each other? If that organization split into two or more groups, each one of which consists of people who agree with each other and get along, wouldn’t there be more unity, not less? There would then be two or more unified, peaceful groups.

Yes, Christians should find the church that they believe teaches the truth. In principle, all churches should teach this same truth. But in practice, different views about what that truth is mean the need for different options. At the end of time, we will know who is right, but until then, people should congregate where they find agreement.

Maybe this is the Protestant mindset and that those who crave unity should look to Rome. But is the Roman Catholic church all that unified? It too has its conservatives pitted against its liberals, its factions of feminist nuns and pro-abortion professors, its Thomists arrayed against its Phenomenologists. Institutional unity without confessional unity doesn’t seem all that unified.

And if Mr. Sacramone dislikes both the ELCA’s liberalism and his own Missouri Synod’s creationism, it sounds like the new NALC may be just right for him! That would be better than not going to church at all. And during Lent!

UPDATE: This has succeeded, as I hoped, in luring Anthony Sacramone from his self-imposed exile (comment #12). He says, “touche,” as if I have jabbed him with a fencing foil, meaning, I think, that he concedes something of what I said, and then goes on to lay out his serious concerns. Can you answer them?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    If the NALC were to become the LCMS without young-Earth creationism, then perhaps there is still hope I could become a Lutheran again some day. But I know that NALC will probably bring some baggage of liberalism along with it.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    If the NALC were to become the LCMS without young-Earth creationism, then perhaps there is still hope I could become a Lutheran again some day. But I know that NALC will probably bring some baggage of liberalism along with it.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Really? Young Earth Creationism is the only thing holding people back from the LCMS? Unless one is a professional geologist or archeologist, isn’t this but a gnat to be strained?

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Really? Young Earth Creationism is the only thing holding people back from the LCMS? Unless one is a professional geologist or archeologist, isn’t this but a gnat to be strained?

  • Patrick Kyle

    To answer the question posed: Nothing. Honest men disagree honestly. Jesus’ idea of unity must be quite different from ours or else His prayer for our unity to the Father was answered with a resounding “NO!”

    I often wonder if the multiplicity of denominations is not God’s work in some kind of “Tower of Babel” way. On the last day those who reject Christ will not be able to appeal to dislike of the church as an excuse. There are so many different kinds of Christian Churches that they will be without excuse on that score .

    As to Mr. Sacramone’s critique, I seriously doubt the LCMS/ELCA polarity expresses the full richness of Lutheran doctrine and practice in it’s entirety.

  • Patrick Kyle

    To answer the question posed: Nothing. Honest men disagree honestly. Jesus’ idea of unity must be quite different from ours or else His prayer for our unity to the Father was answered with a resounding “NO!”

    I often wonder if the multiplicity of denominations is not God’s work in some kind of “Tower of Babel” way. On the last day those who reject Christ will not be able to appeal to dislike of the church as an excuse. There are so many different kinds of Christian Churches that they will be without excuse on that score .

    As to Mr. Sacramone’s critique, I seriously doubt the LCMS/ELCA polarity expresses the full richness of Lutheran doctrine and practice in it’s entirety.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Allow me to clarify: the Bible teaches WAY crazier things than a 6000+ year old earth.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Allow me to clarify: the Bible teaches WAY crazier things than a 6000+ year old earth.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    (and that was not directed at Patrick’s answer, which is a good one)

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    (and that was not directed at Patrick’s answer, which is a good one)

  • Geoff

    I can’t help but recall Sasse here: “There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie.” Hermann Sasse, “Union and Confession,” in The Lonely Way, 272.

  • Geoff

    I can’t help but recall Sasse here: “There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie.” Hermann Sasse, “Union and Confession,” in The Lonely Way, 272.

  • Joe

    I think denominations are necessary. We are not given to preach gospel reductionism. The Great Commission doesn’t just say go and baptize people, it ends with admonition that we must teach them everything Christ taught. Since we are fallen men, we will disagree with each other as to exactly what it was that Christ taught about this or that. But the only way we can take serious this admonition is to draw clear distinctions among those who take differing views and to do our level best to convince each other of the right answer.

  • Joe

    I think denominations are necessary. We are not given to preach gospel reductionism. The Great Commission doesn’t just say go and baptize people, it ends with admonition that we must teach them everything Christ taught. Since we are fallen men, we will disagree with each other as to exactly what it was that Christ taught about this or that. But the only way we can take serious this admonition is to draw clear distinctions among those who take differing views and to do our level best to convince each other of the right answer.

  • Winston Smith

    I’m in favor of lots of denominations — tens, twenties and fifties would be nice.

    Seriously, though, believers must uphold truth and be true to their values. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3

    When one’s commitment to truth becomes a stumbling-block to fellowship (which assumes that the grounds for disagreement are serious and substantial, and not trivial), it may be a very good thing to break away and form another (sub-)denomination.

  • Winston Smith

    I’m in favor of lots of denominations — tens, twenties and fifties would be nice.

    Seriously, though, believers must uphold truth and be true to their values. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3

    When one’s commitment to truth becomes a stumbling-block to fellowship (which assumes that the grounds for disagreement are serious and substantial, and not trivial), it may be a very good thing to break away and form another (sub-)denomination.

  • CRB

    I dont know, but it seems to me that “denominationalism” goes
    back a long way, according to Revelation, chapters 2-3, no?

  • CRB

    I dont know, but it seems to me that “denominationalism” goes
    back a long way, according to Revelation, chapters 2-3, no?

  • Peter Leavitt

    When Christ distinctly gave Peter, above all the other Apostles, the Keys of the Kingdom and stated that he had whatever authority to bind on earth what would be bound in heaven, we may reasonably assume that he was talking about a holy, apostolic, catholic church with serious authority, not a cacophonous, tribal bunch of churches that have historically diluted the authority of Christendom.

    Lutherans and other Protestant denominations would be better served by focusing on ecumenism than to carry on with their ubiquitous tribal
    imbroglios.

  • Peter Leavitt

    When Christ distinctly gave Peter, above all the other Apostles, the Keys of the Kingdom and stated that he had whatever authority to bind on earth what would be bound in heaven, we may reasonably assume that he was talking about a holy, apostolic, catholic church with serious authority, not a cacophonous, tribal bunch of churches that have historically diluted the authority of Christendom.

    Lutherans and other Protestant denominations would be better served by focusing on ecumenism than to carry on with their ubiquitous tribal
    imbroglios.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    I suspect Sacramone is caught up in the all-too-common confusion among Christians (especially modern & western Christians) of who is responsible for what.

    Jesus prays to his Father that his Church be one as they are one — and people somehow think that Jesus is praying to them, asking them to do whatever’s possible to bring everyone together under one big “Christian” tent, no matter what doctrines and distinctions have to compromised or sacrificed in order to do so.

    And throughout Scripture believers are told to watch their doctrine closely and to carefully avoid everything that is false — and people somehow think that as long as they and their churches hold, in some way, to some basic common ideas derived from or reminiscent of Christianity (“God is love”, “It’s good to go to church”, “Be nice”, “Jesus is alright with me”), that’s all we can do and all that really matters, because it’s all in God’s hands and he will sort it all out in the end.

    But the Word of God is clear. There should be no confusion. The true unity of the Church, which is the shared faith of the Gospel and in Jesus Christ for salvation, is entirely and only God’s doing, just as he is the only one who can achieve it. He is responsible — and we continue in awe at the way in which he carries out that responsibility.

    And the responsibility of Christians, congregations, and church bodies is to confess the truth of Scripture — to seek it out in the Bible and learn it, to teach it, to practice it, to proclaim it, to preserve it, and whenever it becomes sadly necessary, to fight for it against every error and attempt of Satan to undermine, compromise, or nullify it.

    But human nature wants to reverse those responsibilities. Because it’s a lot easier and more comfortable our way than God’s way.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    I suspect Sacramone is caught up in the all-too-common confusion among Christians (especially modern & western Christians) of who is responsible for what.

    Jesus prays to his Father that his Church be one as they are one — and people somehow think that Jesus is praying to them, asking them to do whatever’s possible to bring everyone together under one big “Christian” tent, no matter what doctrines and distinctions have to compromised or sacrificed in order to do so.

    And throughout Scripture believers are told to watch their doctrine closely and to carefully avoid everything that is false — and people somehow think that as long as they and their churches hold, in some way, to some basic common ideas derived from or reminiscent of Christianity (“God is love”, “It’s good to go to church”, “Be nice”, “Jesus is alright with me”), that’s all we can do and all that really matters, because it’s all in God’s hands and he will sort it all out in the end.

    But the Word of God is clear. There should be no confusion. The true unity of the Church, which is the shared faith of the Gospel and in Jesus Christ for salvation, is entirely and only God’s doing, just as he is the only one who can achieve it. He is responsible — and we continue in awe at the way in which he carries out that responsibility.

    And the responsibility of Christians, congregations, and church bodies is to confess the truth of Scripture — to seek it out in the Bible and learn it, to teach it, to practice it, to proclaim it, to preserve it, and whenever it becomes sadly necessary, to fight for it against every error and attempt of Satan to undermine, compromise, or nullify it.

    But human nature wants to reverse those responsibilities. Because it’s a lot easier and more comfortable our way than God’s way.

  • Anthony Sacramone

    Touche, Dr. Veith!

    But on one serious note: here is the problem(s), in my opinion. Endless splits over doctrine or discipline weaken believers’ trust that there is such a thing as “the Church,” and foster the belief that such differences over same are, ultimately, mere differences of opinion, and so of no real consequence anyway — any more than that thing called the church is of any real consequence anyway. You disagree with me on Article A or Article B (or both)? Start your own church/denomination/congregation/sect/parachurch organization, TV show, etc., ad nauseum.

    Even worse, such endless splits foster the notion that Christians cannot agree on what they believe, so how on earth should they expect anyone to take them seriously when they talk about “the truth”?

    We Reformation types cannot rely on a single bishop to resolve all difficulties, nor even on a single interpretation of Scripture (baptismal regeneration, the real presence, and double predestination being good examples in which verse combats verse for the last word). So what else do we have? My tiny “church” vs. your tiny “church” — both witnessing to the world as to the truth of the Gospel we cannot define in concert? Something is not right there.

    If the liberalism of the ELCA was becoming toxic, I would like to know why aggrieved members didn’t, in fact, move to the LCMS. And if I were to join the National Letter Carriers of America, how can I be sure that five years down the line there won’t be a dissident group vying for my allegiance to start a new association of letter ferrymen? And so I’m right back where I started.

    Luther never intended to leave the Church, as we all know. It THREW HIM OUT. And so what could he do? Admit that indulgences — a medieval invention — were consonant with the free grace of the gospel so he could worship publicly again? So, yes, there may come a time to stand apart from nonsense or chaos or even a “purifying” spirit so intense that one risks purifying the body to ashes.

    And I don’t have an answer to this question of how serious doctrinal issues are resolved without fracturing the church. I know that, for me, Rome is not the answer. And Constantinople works as a model only if you’re convinced that the Holy Tradition you transmit is true in all its particulars and that you have been faithful in transmitting it.

    But I do know this: another denomination is NOT going to solve the problems those so sanguine over splits think it will solve.

  • Anthony Sacramone

    Touche, Dr. Veith!

    But on one serious note: here is the problem(s), in my opinion. Endless splits over doctrine or discipline weaken believers’ trust that there is such a thing as “the Church,” and foster the belief that such differences over same are, ultimately, mere differences of opinion, and so of no real consequence anyway — any more than that thing called the church is of any real consequence anyway. You disagree with me on Article A or Article B (or both)? Start your own church/denomination/congregation/sect/parachurch organization, TV show, etc., ad nauseum.

    Even worse, such endless splits foster the notion that Christians cannot agree on what they believe, so how on earth should they expect anyone to take them seriously when they talk about “the truth”?

    We Reformation types cannot rely on a single bishop to resolve all difficulties, nor even on a single interpretation of Scripture (baptismal regeneration, the real presence, and double predestination being good examples in which verse combats verse for the last word). So what else do we have? My tiny “church” vs. your tiny “church” — both witnessing to the world as to the truth of the Gospel we cannot define in concert? Something is not right there.

    If the liberalism of the ELCA was becoming toxic, I would like to know why aggrieved members didn’t, in fact, move to the LCMS. And if I were to join the National Letter Carriers of America, how can I be sure that five years down the line there won’t be a dissident group vying for my allegiance to start a new association of letter ferrymen? And so I’m right back where I started.

    Luther never intended to leave the Church, as we all know. It THREW HIM OUT. And so what could he do? Admit that indulgences — a medieval invention — were consonant with the free grace of the gospel so he could worship publicly again? So, yes, there may come a time to stand apart from nonsense or chaos or even a “purifying” spirit so intense that one risks purifying the body to ashes.

    And I don’t have an answer to this question of how serious doctrinal issues are resolved without fracturing the church. I know that, for me, Rome is not the answer. And Constantinople works as a model only if you’re convinced that the Holy Tradition you transmit is true in all its particulars and that you have been faithful in transmitting it.

    But I do know this: another denomination is NOT going to solve the problems those so sanguine over splits think it will solve.

  • CRB

    “If the liberalism of the ELCA was becoming toxic, I would like to know why aggrieved members didn’t, in fact, move to the LCMS.”

    In talking to many ELCA people, the main reason seems to be
    family, friends that they have worshiped with for many years.
    What seems to be next in line is the LCMS position on closed
    communion.

  • CRB

    “If the liberalism of the ELCA was becoming toxic, I would like to know why aggrieved members didn’t, in fact, move to the LCMS.”

    In talking to many ELCA people, the main reason seems to be
    family, friends that they have worshiped with for many years.
    What seems to be next in line is the LCMS position on closed
    communion.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    There is nothing wrong at all with denominations. They are, in fact, a gift from God keeping us bound by a adhering to doctrine. Mergers, in fact, have proven not to bring about unity but to bring about doctrinal disaster. I was raised German Reformed. In 1932 the Reformed Church in the US merged witht the Evangelical Synod, a doctrinally wishy washy group unable to decide if it was Lutheran or Reformed, and generally coming down on the side of neither. Well, within 10 years they began a process which led them into merger with the even more doctrinally loose Congregational Church. You see, once you make a concession, it all gets easier. So in 1958 they become the United Church in Christ in which all doctrine is tossed out as an impediment to unity. That’s why the UCC is today less the 1/2 the size it was in 1958. The peak of RCUS ministry was prior to the 1932 merger when doctrine meant something.
    Springing forward we find the ELCA, a merger of merged denominations(at least 10 I can think of off the top of my head) with no well defined ecclesiology and no well defined adhesion to tradional Lutheran doctrine. John Williamson Nevin was right, the Church serves best which sticks rigorously to its confessional statements.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    There is nothing wrong at all with denominations. They are, in fact, a gift from God keeping us bound by a adhering to doctrine. Mergers, in fact, have proven not to bring about unity but to bring about doctrinal disaster. I was raised German Reformed. In 1932 the Reformed Church in the US merged witht the Evangelical Synod, a doctrinally wishy washy group unable to decide if it was Lutheran or Reformed, and generally coming down on the side of neither. Well, within 10 years they began a process which led them into merger with the even more doctrinally loose Congregational Church. You see, once you make a concession, it all gets easier. So in 1958 they become the United Church in Christ in which all doctrine is tossed out as an impediment to unity. That’s why the UCC is today less the 1/2 the size it was in 1958. The peak of RCUS ministry was prior to the 1932 merger when doctrine meant something.
    Springing forward we find the ELCA, a merger of merged denominations(at least 10 I can think of off the top of my head) with no well defined ecclesiology and no well defined adhesion to tradional Lutheran doctrine. John Williamson Nevin was right, the Church serves best which sticks rigorously to its confessional statements.

  • Jerry

    Why would anyone want to join a church with constant bickering? If they talk about each other that way, what will they say about me? Maybe I should just settle for a friendly church where they publicly speak the Word and Sacraments, and allow the Holy Spirit to work, regardless of what the Pastor or anyone else actually believes in their heart? Of course, I’ll be holding my nose most of the time, but on this side of heaven what are the options?

  • Jerry

    Why would anyone want to join a church with constant bickering? If they talk about each other that way, what will they say about me? Maybe I should just settle for a friendly church where they publicly speak the Word and Sacraments, and allow the Holy Spirit to work, regardless of what the Pastor or anyone else actually believes in their heart? Of course, I’ll be holding my nose most of the time, but on this side of heaven what are the options?

  • Purple Kooaid

    What seems to be next in line is the LCMS position on closed
    communion. Crb 13

    Do you mean that the LCMS should do away w/ closed communion or should institute it? Half the LCMS churches around me do not practice cc. Even the president of the lcms attends a church that communes Roman Catholics.

  • Purple Kooaid

    What seems to be next in line is the LCMS position on closed
    communion. Crb 13

    Do you mean that the LCMS should do away w/ closed communion or should institute it? Half the LCMS churches around me do not practice cc. Even the president of the lcms attends a church that communes Roman Catholics.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I think I tend to agree with Anthony, this starting of new denominations is quite silly. Down the street and two blocks over an LCMC Congregation worships in the Methodist building. This congregation broke from mine 15 years ago over Women’s issues. Now they have a pastor trained in a reformed seminary, excuse me, inter denominational, but with not one Lutheran prof! Tell me how Lutheran these splinter groups want to be. Sometimes I think they suffer from nothing but Peter’s homophobia which would lead him back to Rome, as he thinks the rest of us should, if he didn’t have to forsake family heritage to do it.
    Yet when the ELCA formed 20 some years ago, there were some splinter groups, who were not sure if they agreed with the LCMS, at least one of those groups kept in dialogue with us, and is now in full Altar/pulpit fellowship. I can only hope that we find some time for honest dialogue here too. I think these church bodies probably need to reexamen where they are and how they got there, before many of them will be ready to move to altar/pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.
    But neither do I think the answer is being sans pew.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I think I tend to agree with Anthony, this starting of new denominations is quite silly. Down the street and two blocks over an LCMC Congregation worships in the Methodist building. This congregation broke from mine 15 years ago over Women’s issues. Now they have a pastor trained in a reformed seminary, excuse me, inter denominational, but with not one Lutheran prof! Tell me how Lutheran these splinter groups want to be. Sometimes I think they suffer from nothing but Peter’s homophobia which would lead him back to Rome, as he thinks the rest of us should, if he didn’t have to forsake family heritage to do it.
    Yet when the ELCA formed 20 some years ago, there were some splinter groups, who were not sure if they agreed with the LCMS, at least one of those groups kept in dialogue with us, and is now in full Altar/pulpit fellowship. I can only hope that we find some time for honest dialogue here too. I think these church bodies probably need to reexamen where they are and how they got there, before many of them will be ready to move to altar/pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.
    But neither do I think the answer is being sans pew.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    In addition to the issue of closed communion, I think that the founders of the NALC couldn’t move to the LCMS because of their differing positions on the question of the ordination of women.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    In addition to the issue of closed communion, I think that the founders of the NALC couldn’t move to the LCMS because of their differing positions on the question of the ordination of women.

  • Mole

    If the differences between denominations are based on significant and essential truths, then honesty demands seperation. If the differences are merely reflections of variations in emphasis, then the denominations are in agreement on the essential truths and are indeed unified in the only sense that really matters regardless of the separate bodies within the church visible.

  • Mole

    If the differences between denominations are based on significant and essential truths, then honesty demands seperation. If the differences are merely reflections of variations in emphasis, then the denominations are in agreement on the essential truths and are indeed unified in the only sense that really matters regardless of the separate bodies within the church visible.

  • Nathan

    Dr. Veith:

    “I’m not convinced there is anything wrong, per se, this side of eternity, with having lots of denominations.”

    I sure am. Although I do believe that God is using it for good, of course.

    I’ve reflected on this question of the church a bit lately, and wonder if any here might be interested in some of my thoughts:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    I think the comments under my post are very helpful to.

    Regards,
    Nathan

  • Nathan

    Dr. Veith:

    “I’m not convinced there is anything wrong, per se, this side of eternity, with having lots of denominations.”

    I sure am. Although I do believe that God is using it for good, of course.

    I’ve reflected on this question of the church a bit lately, and wonder if any here might be interested in some of my thoughts:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    I think the comments under my post are very helpful to.

    Regards,
    Nathan

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Anthony Sacramone @12:

    I was hoping this would call you out of your isolated cell, so thanks for answering! (Your irony had to be intentional, how in protesting all of these little churches you present yourself as forming a church that consists only of yourself.)

    The way I look at it is this: Jesus’s prayer was answered. (God wasn’t going to answer His prayer?) Christians ARE unified. Not necessarily in doctrine or in institution, but ontologically, in Christ. So I actually DO feel a unity with Catholics and Baptists and Calvinists and others who confess Christ as Lord. This is how I can read First Things. I would never agree with the various people I read there on everything, including extremely important things, and, good Missouri Synod Lutheran that I am, I would never have Communion with them. But I consider that we have a bond in the mystical union between Christ and His church.

    The Lutheran view of the church, as I understand it, is that it is real. It is not “invisible,” exactly, but it is “hidden.” It is hidden in all of these bureaucracies, committees, institutions, and fellowship dinners–which have their own necessity–but to say something is hidden (as I have said elsewhere) is to speak of its presence, which, however, we do not necessarily see.

    The locus of church is not so much the organization but the Divine Service. There you can find it. There we join with “angels and archangels and all the company of the heavenly hosts”–the dead being easier to deal with than the living, but them too–and are given the Body of Christ, which is both the sacrament and the church.

    Another thing: Bring back Luther at the Movies!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Anthony Sacramone @12:

    I was hoping this would call you out of your isolated cell, so thanks for answering! (Your irony had to be intentional, how in protesting all of these little churches you present yourself as forming a church that consists only of yourself.)

    The way I look at it is this: Jesus’s prayer was answered. (God wasn’t going to answer His prayer?) Christians ARE unified. Not necessarily in doctrine or in institution, but ontologically, in Christ. So I actually DO feel a unity with Catholics and Baptists and Calvinists and others who confess Christ as Lord. This is how I can read First Things. I would never agree with the various people I read there on everything, including extremely important things, and, good Missouri Synod Lutheran that I am, I would never have Communion with them. But I consider that we have a bond in the mystical union between Christ and His church.

    The Lutheran view of the church, as I understand it, is that it is real. It is not “invisible,” exactly, but it is “hidden.” It is hidden in all of these bureaucracies, committees, institutions, and fellowship dinners–which have their own necessity–but to say something is hidden (as I have said elsewhere) is to speak of its presence, which, however, we do not necessarily see.

    The locus of church is not so much the organization but the Divine Service. There you can find it. There we join with “angels and archangels and all the company of the heavenly hosts”–the dead being easier to deal with than the living, but them too–and are given the Body of Christ, which is both the sacrament and the church.

    Another thing: Bring back Luther at the Movies!

  • CRB

    Purple Kooaid:
    “Do you mean that the LCMS should do away w/ closed communion or should institute it?”

    I’m merely presenting what ELCA people have expressed as
    their reasons for not switching to the LCMS.
    And no, it should not be done away with, but should be practiced
    out of love for those who seek to come to the altar with a different
    confession. Those in your area who practice open communion are not in agreement with the Scriptures or with the Lutheran Confessions.

  • CRB

    Purple Kooaid:
    “Do you mean that the LCMS should do away w/ closed communion or should institute it?”

    I’m merely presenting what ELCA people have expressed as
    their reasons for not switching to the LCMS.
    And no, it should not be done away with, but should be practiced
    out of love for those who seek to come to the altar with a different
    confession. Those in your area who practice open communion are not in agreement with the Scriptures or with the Lutheran Confessions.

  • Nathan

    I agree with both Anthony Sacramone and Gene Veith’s posts (mostly). I think they should check out my post (this is both shameless self-promotion of my blog and a call for serious discussion on this most important of issues).

    If people want to talk, I will try to talk either here or there, as time allows. I think this discussion is super important.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

  • Nathan

    I agree with both Anthony Sacramone and Gene Veith’s posts (mostly). I think they should check out my post (this is both shameless self-promotion of my blog and a call for serious discussion on this most important of issues).

    If people want to talk, I will try to talk either here or there, as time allows. I think this discussion is super important.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

  • JMac

    “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21

    The intent of Christian oneness is the conversion of the world to Christ. I don’t think the perpetual development of new denominations gives the world cause to believe on Jesus Christ.

    Joe – I absolutely agree with this: “Since we are fallen men, we will disagree with each other as to exactly what it was that Christ taught about this or that.” After all, Jesus did say “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” But I think while we each pass along our respective traditions’ interpretations of what Christ taught, we should walk in the light of Christ by confessing our faults and maintaining a spirit of forgiveness.
    “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

  • JMac

    “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21

    The intent of Christian oneness is the conversion of the world to Christ. I don’t think the perpetual development of new denominations gives the world cause to believe on Jesus Christ.

    Joe – I absolutely agree with this: “Since we are fallen men, we will disagree with each other as to exactly what it was that Christ taught about this or that.” After all, Jesus did say “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” But I think while we each pass along our respective traditions’ interpretations of what Christ taught, we should walk in the light of Christ by confessing our faults and maintaining a spirit of forgiveness.
    “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

  • kerner

    Peter @ 10:

    You say that Jesus gave Peter, singularly and personally, authority over the Church. The passage you rely on is Matthew 16: 17-21. But the parallel passage in Mark 8: 27-30 recordsthe same conversation, but omits the language that purports to grant Peter personal, individual, authority. This is significant because, as I understand it, St. Mark was more or less acting as St. Peter’s scribe when he wrote his Gospel. I am NOT suggesting that Jesus never said the words recorded in Matthew; I sure he said them. But I AM suggesting that Peter himself didn’t consider those words significant enough to record. One would think that, if Peter considered himself to have been granted personal, individual, authority over the entire Curch, he would have at least made sure that St. Mark recorded the words of Jesus that put him at the top of the pyramid.

    Can anyone here find any passage that indicates that St. Peter considered himself to be the “head” of the Church, with greater individual authority that the other Apostles, or a verse indicating that the other Apostles thought of St. Peter that way? If such a passage exists, I don’t know of it.

  • kerner

    Peter @ 10:

    You say that Jesus gave Peter, singularly and personally, authority over the Church. The passage you rely on is Matthew 16: 17-21. But the parallel passage in Mark 8: 27-30 recordsthe same conversation, but omits the language that purports to grant Peter personal, individual, authority. This is significant because, as I understand it, St. Mark was more or less acting as St. Peter’s scribe when he wrote his Gospel. I am NOT suggesting that Jesus never said the words recorded in Matthew; I sure he said them. But I AM suggesting that Peter himself didn’t consider those words significant enough to record. One would think that, if Peter considered himself to have been granted personal, individual, authority over the entire Curch, he would have at least made sure that St. Mark recorded the words of Jesus that put him at the top of the pyramid.

    Can anyone here find any passage that indicates that St. Peter considered himself to be the “head” of the Church, with greater individual authority that the other Apostles, or a verse indicating that the other Apostles thought of St. Peter that way? If such a passage exists, I don’t know of it.

  • Nathan

    “One would think that, if Peter considered himself to have been granted personal, individual, authority over the entire Curch, he would have at least made sure that St. Mark recorded the words of Jesus that put him at the top of the pyramid.”

    On the other hand, I’m a dad, and just because I know I’ve been given authority over my children doesn’t mean that I am constantly reminding them of it (though I do remind them to obey authorities in their life). What I find fascinating is that in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession is that it says that even if the Pope has authority over the Church by Divine Rite, they would still need to disobey him! To me, this is the most interesting thing: what happens when we concede to Rome that God means for there to be a leader who has Peter’s seat (just as today there are pastors who inherited the Apostle’s seats) – but that we still must disobey if the man filling the office will not confess the doctrine of justifcation?

    I’ll confess, when I look at how the early church fathers talked about the seat of Peter and the Bishop of Rome, it makes me wonder how they could have said some of the things they said (“what possible other context might there have been for these words…”) if they did not believe the successor of Peter had some sort of authority (primacy of honor, jurisdiction, etc) in the church and that Matthew 16 spoke not only of building a church on a confession, but a man speaking the confession.

    No, I’m not ready to go to Rome, like Anthony. Nor EO.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    “One would think that, if Peter considered himself to have been granted personal, individual, authority over the entire Curch, he would have at least made sure that St. Mark recorded the words of Jesus that put him at the top of the pyramid.”

    On the other hand, I’m a dad, and just because I know I’ve been given authority over my children doesn’t mean that I am constantly reminding them of it (though I do remind them to obey authorities in their life). What I find fascinating is that in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession is that it says that even if the Pope has authority over the Church by Divine Rite, they would still need to disobey him! To me, this is the most interesting thing: what happens when we concede to Rome that God means for there to be a leader who has Peter’s seat (just as today there are pastors who inherited the Apostle’s seats) – but that we still must disobey if the man filling the office will not confess the doctrine of justifcation?

    I’ll confess, when I look at how the early church fathers talked about the seat of Peter and the Bishop of Rome, it makes me wonder how they could have said some of the things they said (“what possible other context might there have been for these words…”) if they did not believe the successor of Peter had some sort of authority (primacy of honor, jurisdiction, etc) in the church and that Matthew 16 spoke not only of building a church on a confession, but a man speaking the confession.

    No, I’m not ready to go to Rome, like Anthony. Nor EO.

    ~Nathan

  • DonS

    As a non-Lutheran, I am in full agreement with Dr. Veith’s two posts, and have expressed similar sentiments in earlier threads, particularly in my past discussions with Bror. We do need to worship and fellowship with those who are in more or less full agreement with our interpretation of Scripture, for unity’s sake. But, we also need to be mindful of our greater unity as part of the Body of Christ, and to rejoice in our oneness because of our mutual confession of Christ as Lord. We will rejoice in the grace of Christ together one day, and our unity will be completed in that perfect world.

  • DonS

    As a non-Lutheran, I am in full agreement with Dr. Veith’s two posts, and have expressed similar sentiments in earlier threads, particularly in my past discussions with Bror. We do need to worship and fellowship with those who are in more or less full agreement with our interpretation of Scripture, for unity’s sake. But, we also need to be mindful of our greater unity as part of the Body of Christ, and to rejoice in our oneness because of our mutual confession of Christ as Lord. We will rejoice in the grace of Christ together one day, and our unity will be completed in that perfect world.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, my principled position on the subject of homosexuality has little to do with favoring a serious Protestant ecumenical approach to Rome, though one does appreciate Rome’s carefully reasoned position on the subject. Your characterization of my position on homosexuality as “homophbic” is shallow, quite mistaken, and rather irrelevant to the issue under discussion on this thread.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, my principled position on the subject of homosexuality has little to do with favoring a serious Protestant ecumenical approach to Rome, though one does appreciate Rome’s carefully reasoned position on the subject. Your characterization of my position on homosexuality as “homophbic” is shallow, quite mistaken, and rather irrelevant to the issue under discussion on this thread.

  • Joe

    Kerner – The opposite is found in scripture. At the first council of Jerusalem (recorded in Acts Ch. 15) we see Peter in action. At that council he does not take leadership of the church nor issue a papal bull. Instead, he acts as an equal to James and the elders of the church. He pleads his case, and ultimately, the council reaches a decision – Peter makes no proclamation and issues no decree. Very unpope like.

    If one where to try to read the account of this first council as anything other than a gathering of equals, the only elder/apostle who takes a leadership role is James. Verse 19: “It is my judgment …” NIV. “It is my sentence therefore” KJV.

  • Joe

    Kerner – The opposite is found in scripture. At the first council of Jerusalem (recorded in Acts Ch. 15) we see Peter in action. At that council he does not take leadership of the church nor issue a papal bull. Instead, he acts as an equal to James and the elders of the church. He pleads his case, and ultimately, the council reaches a decision – Peter makes no proclamation and issues no decree. Very unpope like.

    If one where to try to read the account of this first council as anything other than a gathering of equals, the only elder/apostle who takes a leadership role is James. Verse 19: “It is my judgment …” NIV. “It is my sentence therefore” KJV.

  • http://www.utahlutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Then perhaps you should give us better reasons for dialoguing with Rome, or even joining hands with Rome, than this culture war you are so intent on waging. Perhaps you should try to find some other reason us Lutherans should compromise with Rome than a list of social evils, and some agreement as to the ten commandments.

  • http://www.utahlutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Then perhaps you should give us better reasons for dialoguing with Rome, or even joining hands with Rome, than this culture war you are so intent on waging. Perhaps you should try to find some other reason us Lutherans should compromise with Rome than a list of social evils, and some agreement as to the ten commandments.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    A very thought provoking post and good discussion. This topic is very confusing for the non-Christian and in fact for many Christians too. I really like Veith’s response (21) and explanation, but it seems so intellectual and unreal, though the unity Christ has accomplished is as real as His bloody death on the cross and the resurrection. We are unified ontologically, true, however it seems to many that we’re saying that we can’t act or live that way. I completely disagree with that opinion, but the close guarding of altar and pulpit fellowship (as seen in the LCMS and WELS) seems to many (in the ELCA and in other branches of protestantism) a deep contradiction. And many cannot get over how bad it feels to not be allowed to commune (or to not let their loved one’s commune) no matter how many times and ways we explain how loving and faithful we are trying to be. We are not naturally okay with the hiddenness of Christ’s kingdom.

    This is why in any contemporary reformation (including splits and restructuring and ecumenicism) Lutherans must insist on and put forward principally the theology of the cross and the Lutheran confessions (those things that are most clear and unhidden among us). I think this is refreshingly Lutheran and honest and so might serve Christ’s kingdom as a real rallying point for a real reformation also of other “Christian” bodies in our day (perhaps including in the future the ELCA and its splinter groups – might it be true that even the ELCA might be reformable?!). Though certainly, it seems to me that for now this latest fracturing among the ELCA falls far short of that ideal – perhaps that is why it seems so shallow and unimportant. But then again perhaps God will use the weakness of their struggle to call them back to Christ and His cross. Let us hope and pray for that.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    A very thought provoking post and good discussion. This topic is very confusing for the non-Christian and in fact for many Christians too. I really like Veith’s response (21) and explanation, but it seems so intellectual and unreal, though the unity Christ has accomplished is as real as His bloody death on the cross and the resurrection. We are unified ontologically, true, however it seems to many that we’re saying that we can’t act or live that way. I completely disagree with that opinion, but the close guarding of altar and pulpit fellowship (as seen in the LCMS and WELS) seems to many (in the ELCA and in other branches of protestantism) a deep contradiction. And many cannot get over how bad it feels to not be allowed to commune (or to not let their loved one’s commune) no matter how many times and ways we explain how loving and faithful we are trying to be. We are not naturally okay with the hiddenness of Christ’s kingdom.

    This is why in any contemporary reformation (including splits and restructuring and ecumenicism) Lutherans must insist on and put forward principally the theology of the cross and the Lutheran confessions (those things that are most clear and unhidden among us). I think this is refreshingly Lutheran and honest and so might serve Christ’s kingdom as a real rallying point for a real reformation also of other “Christian” bodies in our day (perhaps including in the future the ELCA and its splinter groups – might it be true that even the ELCA might be reformable?!). Though certainly, it seems to me that for now this latest fracturing among the ELCA falls far short of that ideal – perhaps that is why it seems so shallow and unimportant. But then again perhaps God will use the weakness of their struggle to call them back to Christ and His cross. Let us hope and pray for that.

  • Nathan

    Joe:

    “Instead, he acts as an equal to James and the elders of the church. He pleads his case, and ultimately, the council reaches a decision – Peter makes no proclamation and issues no decree. Very unpope like.”

    At the same time, I believe that James makes his decision right after Peter speaks. I’d say the evidence from Acts 15 is rather inconclusive. Just because Peter does not issue explicitly announce that he is speaking authoritatively does not mean that he was not recognized as speaking on behalf of all the Apostles or the Church – even as their head. Again, just because someone does not feel the need to assert their authority does not mean that they do not have it. Even today, the Pope would prefer not to interject himself into local disputes if he can at all help it…

    All that said, I am indeed a Lutheran and even if the man filling the office of Pope is who he says he is by divine rite, I must obey God rather than men…

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Joe:

    “Instead, he acts as an equal to James and the elders of the church. He pleads his case, and ultimately, the council reaches a decision – Peter makes no proclamation and issues no decree. Very unpope like.”

    At the same time, I believe that James makes his decision right after Peter speaks. I’d say the evidence from Acts 15 is rather inconclusive. Just because Peter does not issue explicitly announce that he is speaking authoritatively does not mean that he was not recognized as speaking on behalf of all the Apostles or the Church – even as their head. Again, just because someone does not feel the need to assert their authority does not mean that they do not have it. Even today, the Pope would prefer not to interject himself into local disputes if he can at all help it…

    All that said, I am indeed a Lutheran and even if the man filling the office of Pope is who he says he is by divine rite, I must obey God rather than men…

    ~Nathan

  • kerner

    Joe:

    Right! And what about St. Paul pointing out that he rebuked Peter to his face when he thought Peter was wrong? I’m sure that Peter’s word was greatly respected, but I don’t see much evidence that he was considered the supreme head of the Church by anyone else in it.

    Also, in Matthew 18: 18, Jesus gives the same authority as to binding and loosing on earth that which will be bound and loosed in heaven to all the Apostles generally, which pretty well negates any argument that this is authority given to any single person. We can, and do, debate whether this authority is given to the clergy, or the whole Church generally, but I don’t know how anyone can argue that it is given only to one individual.

  • kerner

    Joe:

    Right! And what about St. Paul pointing out that he rebuked Peter to his face when he thought Peter was wrong? I’m sure that Peter’s word was greatly respected, but I don’t see much evidence that he was considered the supreme head of the Church by anyone else in it.

    Also, in Matthew 18: 18, Jesus gives the same authority as to binding and loosing on earth that which will be bound and loosed in heaven to all the Apostles generally, which pretty well negates any argument that this is authority given to any single person. We can, and do, debate whether this authority is given to the clergy, or the whole Church generally, but I don’t know how anyone can argue that it is given only to one individual.

  • Joe

    Nathan – I did not claim it was conclusive but if you read the chapter from front to back it is almost impossible to end with the impression that Peter was in charge.

    James issued the decree after Peter spoke but Barnabas and Paul spoke after Peter and before James issued his judgment. Peter’s arguement certainly was on the winning side but that is more in line with the Lutheran position. Christ built the Church on the statement of faith that Peter made – not to on the man named Peter.

  • Joe

    Nathan – I did not claim it was conclusive but if you read the chapter from front to back it is almost impossible to end with the impression that Peter was in charge.

    James issued the decree after Peter spoke but Barnabas and Paul spoke after Peter and before James issued his judgment. Peter’s arguement certainly was on the winning side but that is more in line with the Lutheran position. Christ built the Church on the statement of faith that Peter made – not to on the man named Peter.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Denominations have always been essential, as local congregations can never consider themselves to be independent. A church longs to express love and unity with others to the extent that we are physically able, and within the convictions of conscience. Christ is now our first love, and faithfulness to him is our duty above all others. This extends to faithfulness to the company of saints where he has gathered us; and from there to the whole communion of saints from times and places that we haven’t seen.

    Denominations are based on the humble recognition of the imperfection of our knowledge and wisdom, which leads inevitably to conscientious disagreements with other Christians. Despite our weakness, the Holy Spirit is fitting us, “like living stones” into God’s household. Denominations are a sign of the presence of the Spirit’s work in the church. Where there are no denominations there is coercion and persecution intending to snuff them out and quenching the Spirit.

    Denominations serve the local church, with the warrant of the congregations, by formally recognizing and approving ministers. But if the denomination and the congregation can no longer agree on the criteria for ordination, then, in the absence of coercion, the only alternative is separation. The congregation is the local expression of the church, and the denomination has ceased to be useful to it. While the issues of qualifications for ordination are indeed secondary to the gospel, they bear on the very reason for the existence of the denominational association. As an outsider, it seems to me that the NALC separation is warranted, and their initiative to form a new denomination of like-minded churches is commendable.

    Local congregations need to keep full responsibility for the selection of their ministers. Even in denominations that are less centralized, de facto control by the denomination can be exerted when they decide on the selection of students for training in the gospel ministry to the churches.

    When faithfulness to Christ and his church is exchanged for institutional loyalty to a denomination, barriers to Christian fellowship are erected on the basis of human traditions. If denominational distinctives are added to the gospel as essentials, then the denomination is fostering sectarianism, rather than fellowship, in the church. Too readily unity is established based on adiaphora; a false unity, and no true substitute for the unity of the Holy Spirit. This is not the inevitable result of denominational associations. But local churches need discernment to recognize hindrances to the gospel, which must be opposed, even to the point of separation if necessary.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Denominations have always been essential, as local congregations can never consider themselves to be independent. A church longs to express love and unity with others to the extent that we are physically able, and within the convictions of conscience. Christ is now our first love, and faithfulness to him is our duty above all others. This extends to faithfulness to the company of saints where he has gathered us; and from there to the whole communion of saints from times and places that we haven’t seen.

    Denominations are based on the humble recognition of the imperfection of our knowledge and wisdom, which leads inevitably to conscientious disagreements with other Christians. Despite our weakness, the Holy Spirit is fitting us, “like living stones” into God’s household. Denominations are a sign of the presence of the Spirit’s work in the church. Where there are no denominations there is coercion and persecution intending to snuff them out and quenching the Spirit.

    Denominations serve the local church, with the warrant of the congregations, by formally recognizing and approving ministers. But if the denomination and the congregation can no longer agree on the criteria for ordination, then, in the absence of coercion, the only alternative is separation. The congregation is the local expression of the church, and the denomination has ceased to be useful to it. While the issues of qualifications for ordination are indeed secondary to the gospel, they bear on the very reason for the existence of the denominational association. As an outsider, it seems to me that the NALC separation is warranted, and their initiative to form a new denomination of like-minded churches is commendable.

    Local congregations need to keep full responsibility for the selection of their ministers. Even in denominations that are less centralized, de facto control by the denomination can be exerted when they decide on the selection of students for training in the gospel ministry to the churches.

    When faithfulness to Christ and his church is exchanged for institutional loyalty to a denomination, barriers to Christian fellowship are erected on the basis of human traditions. If denominational distinctives are added to the gospel as essentials, then the denomination is fostering sectarianism, rather than fellowship, in the church. Too readily unity is established based on adiaphora; a false unity, and no true substitute for the unity of the Holy Spirit. This is not the inevitable result of denominational associations. But local churches need discernment to recognize hindrances to the gospel, which must be opposed, even to the point of separation if necessary.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Geoff (@6), that Sasse quote is good!

    Peter (@10), you make a key error when you say that “we may reasonably assume that [Christ] was talking about a holy, apostolic, catholic church with serious authority, not a cacophonous, tribal bunch of churches that have historically diluted the authority of Christendom.” You seem to think that authority comes from what we do on earth. It does not. It comes from God, and from his Word, which is given not to any one person, but to all believers. The binding/loosing verse you allude to in Matthew 16 is paralleled in Matthew 18, except there, Jesus’ words clearly refer to a plural audience, which the text identifies as the disciples.

    “Lutherans and other Protestant denominations would be better served by focusing on ecumenism than to carry on with their ubiquitous tribal imbroglios.” This makes the mistake of assuming that there are no “tribal imbroglios” in the Catholic church. One can only believe this if he doesn’t know much about that church. Catholics are united in name only (and maybe in a few doctrines about the Pope). If the Catholic church were to split its members along the lines of doctrinal beliefs, it would exactly mirror the rest of Christianity. And if the rest of Christians were to join the Catholic church, we would gain nothing, but lose a lot of truth.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Geoff (@6), that Sasse quote is good!

    Peter (@10), you make a key error when you say that “we may reasonably assume that [Christ] was talking about a holy, apostolic, catholic church with serious authority, not a cacophonous, tribal bunch of churches that have historically diluted the authority of Christendom.” You seem to think that authority comes from what we do on earth. It does not. It comes from God, and from his Word, which is given not to any one person, but to all believers. The binding/loosing verse you allude to in Matthew 16 is paralleled in Matthew 18, except there, Jesus’ words clearly refer to a plural audience, which the text identifies as the disciples.

    “Lutherans and other Protestant denominations would be better served by focusing on ecumenism than to carry on with their ubiquitous tribal imbroglios.” This makes the mistake of assuming that there are no “tribal imbroglios” in the Catholic church. One can only believe this if he doesn’t know much about that church. Catholics are united in name only (and maybe in a few doctrines about the Pope). If the Catholic church were to split its members along the lines of doctrinal beliefs, it would exactly mirror the rest of Christianity. And if the rest of Christians were to join the Catholic church, we would gain nothing, but lose a lot of truth.

  • kerner

    Nathan @32:

    Again, I agree with Joe. You can also look at Acts 11, in which the circucised believers criticize Peter for associating with Gentiles. The impression I get is that these people did not consider Peter their hierachical leader and felt perfectly justified in criticizing him and demanding an explanation.

    Look, I agree with you that good leaders do not constantly assert their authority, so I would not expect to find Peter constantly “pulling rank” to get his way. But what I would expect is for there to be SOME instance in which there was a disagreement after which the other believers yielded to Peter’s authority (not his persuasion, his authority). In the alternative, I would expect to read some affirmative statement from Paul or John or some other Apostle to the effect that Peter had some kind of decision making authority that the other Apostles did not have, and to which the other Apostles were subject. But you never see that. Nobody in the New Testament ever says, “Well, I know we all have our own opinions, but Jesus left Peter in charge, so we’d better do things Peter’s way.” I search in vain for any indication that anyone in the Apostolic Church believed that.

    While this may not be conclusive, it is impossible to conclusively prove a negative. But in the absence of any proof that Peter was actually the supreme leader of the early Church, I see no reason to structure the organization of the modern Church as though Peter was a supreme leader with supreme successors.

  • kerner

    Nathan @32:

    Again, I agree with Joe. You can also look at Acts 11, in which the circucised believers criticize Peter for associating with Gentiles. The impression I get is that these people did not consider Peter their hierachical leader and felt perfectly justified in criticizing him and demanding an explanation.

    Look, I agree with you that good leaders do not constantly assert their authority, so I would not expect to find Peter constantly “pulling rank” to get his way. But what I would expect is for there to be SOME instance in which there was a disagreement after which the other believers yielded to Peter’s authority (not his persuasion, his authority). In the alternative, I would expect to read some affirmative statement from Paul or John or some other Apostle to the effect that Peter had some kind of decision making authority that the other Apostles did not have, and to which the other Apostles were subject. But you never see that. Nobody in the New Testament ever says, “Well, I know we all have our own opinions, but Jesus left Peter in charge, so we’d better do things Peter’s way.” I search in vain for any indication that anyone in the Apostolic Church believed that.

    While this may not be conclusive, it is impossible to conclusively prove a negative. But in the absence of any proof that Peter was actually the supreme leader of the early Church, I see no reason to structure the organization of the modern Church as though Peter was a supreme leader with supreme successors.

  • J

    Irony: Today on the liturgical calendar it’s the feast of the chair of St. Peter.

    Luther discovered quickly that once his conscience compelled him to reject the authority of the magisterium, others had little trouble rejecting his (and anyone else’s) authority. Denominations flourish in prostestantism because every man is ultimately his own pope.

    Why do Lutherans, who are not united, criticize other Lutherans for wanting to form yet another synod? Why is Missouri still at odds with Wisconsin, and vice versa? So much so that they aren’t even in ‘prayer fellowship,’ though they say their beliefs are virtually identical? Why would Lutherans from other synods want to join yours?

  • J

    Irony: Today on the liturgical calendar it’s the feast of the chair of St. Peter.

    Luther discovered quickly that once his conscience compelled him to reject the authority of the magisterium, others had little trouble rejecting his (and anyone else’s) authority. Denominations flourish in prostestantism because every man is ultimately his own pope.

    Why do Lutherans, who are not united, criticize other Lutherans for wanting to form yet another synod? Why is Missouri still at odds with Wisconsin, and vice versa? So much so that they aren’t even in ‘prayer fellowship,’ though they say their beliefs are virtually identical? Why would Lutherans from other synods want to join yours?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jeff (@11), excellent points. God has made us one, through his Son, just as Jesus prayed.

    Kerner (@25), the last time we talked about apostle Peter’s supremacy, someone (Bror, perhaps?) noted that he certainly didn’t seem superior to Paul when Paul confronted him (Galatians 2).

    And, now that I’m catching up on the comments, I see that Kerner has already said many of these things (@33). So, um, ditto.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jeff (@11), excellent points. God has made us one, through his Son, just as Jesus prayed.

    Kerner (@25), the last time we talked about apostle Peter’s supremacy, someone (Bror, perhaps?) noted that he certainly didn’t seem superior to Paul when Paul confronted him (Galatians 2).

    And, now that I’m catching up on the comments, I see that Kerner has already said many of these things (@33). So, um, ditto.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, the reason to dialog with Rome is to heal the tragic breach among Christian orthodox faiths. Mr. Sacramone claims that Rome is not the answer, though after rightly criticizing the tribal tendency of assorted Christian sectarians, all he can contribute, however frivolously and ironically, is a sulk during Lent to become a Lutheran sans pew.

    Richard John Neuhaus, born and bred a Missouiri Synod Lutheran, explained in a First Things article, How I Became the Catholic I Was ,explains in part how he found his way across the Tiber:

    Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. I have never found it in his writings, but a St. Louis professor who had been his student told me that the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran. That impressed me very deeply. I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others. And so I discovered not so much that I had made the decision as that the decision was made, and I have never looked back, except to trace the marks of grace, of sola gratia, each step of the way.

    Fr. Neuhaus, far better than Mr. Sacramone, found an effective way to deal with Christian tribalism.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, the reason to dialog with Rome is to heal the tragic breach among Christian orthodox faiths. Mr. Sacramone claims that Rome is not the answer, though after rightly criticizing the tribal tendency of assorted Christian sectarians, all he can contribute, however frivolously and ironically, is a sulk during Lent to become a Lutheran sans pew.

    Richard John Neuhaus, born and bred a Missouiri Synod Lutheran, explained in a First Things article, How I Became the Catholic I Was ,explains in part how he found his way across the Tiber:

    Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. I have never found it in his writings, but a St. Louis professor who had been his student told me that the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran. That impressed me very deeply. I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others. And so I discovered not so much that I had made the decision as that the decision was made, and I have never looked back, except to trace the marks of grace, of sola gratia, each step of the way.

    Fr. Neuhaus, far better than Mr. Sacramone, found an effective way to deal with Christian tribalism.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Sorry, the link above is here.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Sorry, the link above is here.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@40), can you spell out what, exactly, is the “tragic breach” you speak of? Because if it’s merely the existence of different denominations (objecting only to the lack of a unified front), then I once again must ask you why you yourself are perpetuating this breach by not joining with Rome.

    However, if the breach boils down to actual, serious theological disagreements, then there are only three ways to heal that breach, which I will spell out only in terms of Catholics and Lutherans:

    1) The Lutherans can agree that they were wrong and that Rome was right. This is the path that Neuhaus apparently took, and seemingly what you are urging us all to do. In order for this path to be the right one, you would have to show that, in all disagreements between Lutherans and Catholics, the Lutherans were and are wrong.

    2) The Catholics can agree that they were wrong and that Lutherans are right. Oddly, this path never seems to come up much from you or Rome when it comes to actual theology.

    3) The Lutherans and Catholics can agree that what they were disagreeing about doesn’t actually matter, accepting two opposing views as equally valid. This is what ecumenism almost always actually looks like. If this path were to be carried out by all Christian denominations, I’m not sure we’d have any truth left at the end.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@40), can you spell out what, exactly, is the “tragic breach” you speak of? Because if it’s merely the existence of different denominations (objecting only to the lack of a unified front), then I once again must ask you why you yourself are perpetuating this breach by not joining with Rome.

    However, if the breach boils down to actual, serious theological disagreements, then there are only three ways to heal that breach, which I will spell out only in terms of Catholics and Lutherans:

    1) The Lutherans can agree that they were wrong and that Rome was right. This is the path that Neuhaus apparently took, and seemingly what you are urging us all to do. In order for this path to be the right one, you would have to show that, in all disagreements between Lutherans and Catholics, the Lutherans were and are wrong.

    2) The Catholics can agree that they were wrong and that Lutherans are right. Oddly, this path never seems to come up much from you or Rome when it comes to actual theology.

    3) The Lutherans and Catholics can agree that what they were disagreeing about doesn’t actually matter, accepting two opposing views as equally valid. This is what ecumenism almost always actually looks like. If this path were to be carried out by all Christian denominations, I’m not sure we’d have any truth left at the end.

  • J

    tODD or anyone else, answer the smaller question first of why WELS and LCMS can’t get along. I’m not sure it’s right to speak of a Lutheran/Catholic breach since there’s no such thing as the ‘Lutheran’ church. There are various synods that subscribe to various confessional statements, some more strictly than others. And they have little to do with each other.

  • J

    tODD or anyone else, answer the smaller question first of why WELS and LCMS can’t get along. I’m not sure it’s right to speak of a Lutheran/Catholic breach since there’s no such thing as the ‘Lutheran’ church. There are various synods that subscribe to various confessional statements, some more strictly than others. And they have little to do with each other.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, when it comes to ecumenism it is best to be forgiving of the imperfections of both the Catholic and Lutheran or other churches, as well as to appreciate their strengths. Historically the Catholic church has an excellent claim to be first among equals among the various bishoprics, dioceses, and severed churches; also, the best minds among Catholic ecumenists are well aware of both their own church’s weaknesses and Orthodox/Protestant strengths.

    The late Father Neuhaus in his last article for First Things, The One True Church, addressed this as follows:

    …The second and related stipulation is that we are not comparing an ideal depiction of the state of Catholicism with less flattering depictions of other communities—or vice versa. It is not a matter of what we like or dislike in this community or that. I have decided views on certain Orthodox and Protestant virtues that Catholics might well emulate. As Malloy writes, in reflecting on the uniqueness of the Catholic Church “one can affirm both the essential fullness of the ecclesial reality of the Catholic Church and the concrete poverty and woundedness of her lived life, together with her practical need of the expressive ecclesial riches found outside her visible boundaries.” Not only can one affirm both, one must affirm both.

    As to the tragic breach, it seems rather evident that Christendom at present is a classic example of Lincoln’s felicitous axiom that united institutions succeed and divided they fall. Its great to have competition among economic entities, though dubiously so among cacophonous Christendom. That’s probably why Christ gave the Kingdom keys to Peter, who did in fact assume authority as Paul certainly and probably James well knew.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, when it comes to ecumenism it is best to be forgiving of the imperfections of both the Catholic and Lutheran or other churches, as well as to appreciate their strengths. Historically the Catholic church has an excellent claim to be first among equals among the various bishoprics, dioceses, and severed churches; also, the best minds among Catholic ecumenists are well aware of both their own church’s weaknesses and Orthodox/Protestant strengths.

    The late Father Neuhaus in his last article for First Things, The One True Church, addressed this as follows:

    …The second and related stipulation is that we are not comparing an ideal depiction of the state of Catholicism with less flattering depictions of other communities—or vice versa. It is not a matter of what we like or dislike in this community or that. I have decided views on certain Orthodox and Protestant virtues that Catholics might well emulate. As Malloy writes, in reflecting on the uniqueness of the Catholic Church “one can affirm both the essential fullness of the ecclesial reality of the Catholic Church and the concrete poverty and woundedness of her lived life, together with her practical need of the expressive ecclesial riches found outside her visible boundaries.” Not only can one affirm both, one must affirm both.

    As to the tragic breach, it seems rather evident that Christendom at present is a classic example of Lincoln’s felicitous axiom that united institutions succeed and divided they fall. Its great to have competition among economic entities, though dubiously so among cacophonous Christendom. That’s probably why Christ gave the Kingdom keys to Peter, who did in fact assume authority as Paul certainly and probably James well knew.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    J (@43), I don’t know where you’re coming from to know how to answer your question. Are you a member of one of those denominations and you want to know why they can’t “get along” in terms of why haven’t their differences been resolved, or are you not sure what those differences are in the first place? As to the latter, a quick Google search turns up several pages that explain the differences from both sides:

    * lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2149
    * wels.net/what-we-believe/questions-answers/religions/christian/other-lutherans (not a thorough answer, but points to better resources)
    * livingbold.net/welsspace/reallife/spiritual/lutherandifference (this is a WELS Web site that is more informative than the former)

    And while, strictly speaking, there isn’t a single Lutheran church, I’m pretty certain that most Lutheran denominations (except ELCA, it would seem) agree that the Lutheran confessions are normative for Lutheranism.

    However, your claim that these synods “have little to do with each other” is hardly accurate. I grew up in the LCMS and became a WELS member with little trouble. The membership class I took was, with a few exceptions obviously, almost entirely a review of what I learned in the LCMS. If you wanted to enumerate the beliefs they have in common and those that divide them, the former would dwarf the latter.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    J (@43), I don’t know where you’re coming from to know how to answer your question. Are you a member of one of those denominations and you want to know why they can’t “get along” in terms of why haven’t their differences been resolved, or are you not sure what those differences are in the first place? As to the latter, a quick Google search turns up several pages that explain the differences from both sides:

    * lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2149
    * wels.net/what-we-believe/questions-answers/religions/christian/other-lutherans (not a thorough answer, but points to better resources)
    * livingbold.net/welsspace/reallife/spiritual/lutherandifference (this is a WELS Web site that is more informative than the former)

    And while, strictly speaking, there isn’t a single Lutheran church, I’m pretty certain that most Lutheran denominations (except ELCA, it would seem) agree that the Lutheran confessions are normative for Lutheranism.

    However, your claim that these synods “have little to do with each other” is hardly accurate. I grew up in the LCMS and became a WELS member with little trouble. The membership class I took was, with a few exceptions obviously, almost entirely a review of what I learned in the LCMS. If you wanted to enumerate the beliefs they have in common and those that divide them, the former would dwarf the latter.

  • http://ww.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    J,
    Not sure that is a smaller question. The history between WELS and the LCMS is a long one. One could read the book “a Tale of Two Synods” but I haven’t.
    Lutheranism means different things to different Lutherans, and the trademark on the name ran out. Sometimes I think I see though a greater unity among the laity of these different synods then perhaps the hiearchies would like. tODD and I atleast get along, and if we cant share an altar, we have shared beer!

  • http://ww.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    J,
    Not sure that is a smaller question. The history between WELS and the LCMS is a long one. One could read the book “a Tale of Two Synods” but I haven’t.
    Lutheranism means different things to different Lutherans, and the trademark on the name ran out. Sometimes I think I see though a greater unity among the laity of these different synods then perhaps the hiearchies would like. tODD and I atleast get along, and if we cant share an altar, we have shared beer!

  • DonS

    Peter, I am all for churches of various traditions and denominations working together in common cause where that is appropriate. For example, our church has worked with Catholics on many right to life issues, and it is a blessing to do so. I hate it when Christians refuse to associate with other Christians because of doctrinal differences, when those doctrinal differences are not vital to the reason for associating. But, I cannot see how Catholics and Protestants can have a meeting of the minds regarding faith when a central Catholic tenet is that salvation is earned through faith in Christ, plus works. This is a dangerous view, and while I believe that we will be in heaven with many Catholics who share with us a saving faith in Christ, I believe there are many others who have been misled by the Church into reliance on their own works, rather than belief in Christ’s redemptive work on their behalf, for their salvation.

  • DonS

    Peter, I am all for churches of various traditions and denominations working together in common cause where that is appropriate. For example, our church has worked with Catholics on many right to life issues, and it is a blessing to do so. I hate it when Christians refuse to associate with other Christians because of doctrinal differences, when those doctrinal differences are not vital to the reason for associating. But, I cannot see how Catholics and Protestants can have a meeting of the minds regarding faith when a central Catholic tenet is that salvation is earned through faith in Christ, plus works. This is a dangerous view, and while I believe that we will be in heaven with many Catholics who share with us a saving faith in Christ, I believe there are many others who have been misled by the Church into reliance on their own works, rather than belief in Christ’s redemptive work on their behalf, for their salvation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter, I can’t help but think that you’re ignoring an awful lot of the foregoing questions and comments in your response (@44).

    For instance, several people provided quite a number of Biblical references that show Peter not acting like Pope (Galatians 2 being clearest to me). And they asked for any Biblical evidence whatsoever that Peter was unique among the apostles as to his authority. All you’ve done in response, however, is to restate your original claim. Which is to read Matthew 16 and ignore Matthew 18, among others. Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to all his disciples. Yes, that includes Peter, but certainly not uniquely. Will you address this at some point in your response? You do not need to further restate your original position.

    As to Lincoln’s axiom that you mentioned, it is axiomatic that he was speaking of political unity, and therefore political success. Confusing the church with political entities would be a disastrous mistake, one I have already addressed elsewhere. Suffice it to say that if you think that politics (and the compromise it necessarily involves) gives rise to truth, you’re in a sorry state.

    It should also be noted, with just a hint of irony, that Lincoln’s axiom was actually a reference to Jesus’s speech in Mark 3:25, in which the “house” being referred to was that of Satan. Jesus was rebutting those who claimed that he had satanic powers. Context matters.

    I’d still really like an answer to my question (@42). What path do you think is required to achieve ecumenism? And if even you cannot suggest one, then how exactly is it to be achieved?

    “It is best to be forgiving of the imperfections of both the Catholic and Lutheran or other churches.” So a man or a church can unrepentantly gainsay God’s Word, and, rather than be chastised, you think we should say all is well? What heresy would not be tolerated under this guideline of yours?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter, I can’t help but think that you’re ignoring an awful lot of the foregoing questions and comments in your response (@44).

    For instance, several people provided quite a number of Biblical references that show Peter not acting like Pope (Galatians 2 being clearest to me). And they asked for any Biblical evidence whatsoever that Peter was unique among the apostles as to his authority. All you’ve done in response, however, is to restate your original claim. Which is to read Matthew 16 and ignore Matthew 18, among others. Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to all his disciples. Yes, that includes Peter, but certainly not uniquely. Will you address this at some point in your response? You do not need to further restate your original position.

    As to Lincoln’s axiom that you mentioned, it is axiomatic that he was speaking of political unity, and therefore political success. Confusing the church with political entities would be a disastrous mistake, one I have already addressed elsewhere. Suffice it to say that if you think that politics (and the compromise it necessarily involves) gives rise to truth, you’re in a sorry state.

    It should also be noted, with just a hint of irony, that Lincoln’s axiom was actually a reference to Jesus’s speech in Mark 3:25, in which the “house” being referred to was that of Satan. Jesus was rebutting those who claimed that he had satanic powers. Context matters.

    I’d still really like an answer to my question (@42). What path do you think is required to achieve ecumenism? And if even you cannot suggest one, then how exactly is it to be achieved?

    “It is best to be forgiving of the imperfections of both the Catholic and Lutheran or other churches.” So a man or a church can unrepentantly gainsay God’s Word, and, rather than be chastised, you think we should say all is well? What heresy would not be tolerated under this guideline of yours?

  • J

    While I don’t suggest WELS and LCMS are at war, I do wonder why, despite all the similiarities, the difference(s) are so grave that the two synods do not fellowship. Thus, it doesn’t matter, ultimately, how sincerely they all subscribe to the Book of Concord; something larger or more important than the Book of Concord keeps them apart. The confessions are therefore not normative.

    There is no such thing as ‘the’ Lutheran church, just as there is no such thing as ‘the’ Baptist church or ‘the’ Presbyterian church. You’ve got to investigate each individual church to figure out what’s being taught.

    My point wasn’t to get into the finer points of ‘unionism,’ but rather to point out how strange it is to see “Lutherans” argue over whether another group of “Lutherans” should form yet another synod. You’re all so fractured that one more break won’t matter, will it? And if this ELCA break away group goes to Missouri, it therefore can’t pray with Wisconsin, and vice versa. So can you blame them for wanting their own synod?

    My comments aren’t meant as a slam against any Lutheran or synod. It’s just that when you lose the teaching authority of the church, you lose unity.

  • J

    While I don’t suggest WELS and LCMS are at war, I do wonder why, despite all the similiarities, the difference(s) are so grave that the two synods do not fellowship. Thus, it doesn’t matter, ultimately, how sincerely they all subscribe to the Book of Concord; something larger or more important than the Book of Concord keeps them apart. The confessions are therefore not normative.

    There is no such thing as ‘the’ Lutheran church, just as there is no such thing as ‘the’ Baptist church or ‘the’ Presbyterian church. You’ve got to investigate each individual church to figure out what’s being taught.

    My point wasn’t to get into the finer points of ‘unionism,’ but rather to point out how strange it is to see “Lutherans” argue over whether another group of “Lutherans” should form yet another synod. You’re all so fractured that one more break won’t matter, will it? And if this ELCA break away group goes to Missouri, it therefore can’t pray with Wisconsin, and vice versa. So can you blame them for wanting their own synod?

    My comments aren’t meant as a slam against any Lutheran or synod. It’s just that when you lose the teaching authority of the church, you lose unity.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@46), if you coin the phrase “beer fellowship”, so help me, … ;)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@46), if you coin the phrase “beer fellowship”, so help me, … ;)

  • Adam

    DonS, I’m a Catholic, and I have never heard the Church teach that salvation comes by works. It’s by faith in Christ. Check out the cathecism. At the very least read Richard Neuhaus’ letter to Lutherans when he came to Rome (easily found on line). It’s as good a description of the gospel and can be found. And Neuhaus knew well that Rome taught it.

  • Adam

    DonS, I’m a Catholic, and I have never heard the Church teach that salvation comes by works. It’s by faith in Christ. Check out the cathecism. At the very least read Richard Neuhaus’ letter to Lutherans when he came to Rome (easily found on line). It’s as good a description of the gospel and can be found. And Neuhaus knew well that Rome taught it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Adam, you say (@51) that Catholics teach that salvation is “by faith in Christ.” In contrast, here is what the Catholic church dictated at the Council of Trent:

    If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

    Doesn’t seem like what you’ve heard in your church, for which I am all too glad! And yet, on the question of what the Catholic church teaches, we must defer to the church itself, and not your personal experience.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Adam, you say (@51) that Catholics teach that salvation is “by faith in Christ.” In contrast, here is what the Catholic church dictated at the Council of Trent:

    If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

    Doesn’t seem like what you’ve heard in your church, for which I am all too glad! And yet, on the question of what the Catholic church teaches, we must defer to the church itself, and not your personal experience.

  • DonS

    Adam @ 51: I am certainly in no position to argue with your understanding of your own faith. But I know that when we recently prepared a Statement of Faith for a new non-denominational Christian organization we were forming, we had to really negotiate the language carefully with Catholics in the group. The book of James is a very important one to Catholics, and salvation seems to be keyed in some way to evidence of works as specified in James. Also, there’s the doctrine of purgatory, which is clearly works-based. Catholic funerals I have attended emphasizes the issue of good works in connection with a person’s eternal, or at least intermediate, destiny.

    At root, I believe you’re right that Catholic doctrine specifies salvation through faith in Christ. But, I’m not sure Catholics would agree with the statement “salvation by faith alone in Christ alone”. And, as I said earlier, in my experience it seems that many Catholics misunderstand their own faith to require their own good works for salvation.

  • DonS

    Adam @ 51: I am certainly in no position to argue with your understanding of your own faith. But I know that when we recently prepared a Statement of Faith for a new non-denominational Christian organization we were forming, we had to really negotiate the language carefully with Catholics in the group. The book of James is a very important one to Catholics, and salvation seems to be keyed in some way to evidence of works as specified in James. Also, there’s the doctrine of purgatory, which is clearly works-based. Catholic funerals I have attended emphasizes the issue of good works in connection with a person’s eternal, or at least intermediate, destiny.

    At root, I believe you’re right that Catholic doctrine specifies salvation through faith in Christ. But, I’m not sure Catholics would agree with the statement “salvation by faith alone in Christ alone”. And, as I said earlier, in my experience it seems that many Catholics misunderstand their own faith to require their own good works for salvation.

  • Adam

    tODD, no, my personal experience has value, but it is not the teaching authority of the Church. For that, I’d refer you to the cathecism and the Vatican II documents. Trent was a legitimate council, from which much good came.

  • Adam

    tODD, no, my personal experience has value, but it is not the teaching authority of the Church. For that, I’d refer you to the cathecism and the Vatican II documents. Trent was a legitimate council, from which much good came.

  • Joe

    Adam, try Cannon 32 from the Council of Trent:

    Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (of whom one is a living member), the justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, and eternal life, provided that one dies in the state of grace, the attainment of this eternal life, as well as an increase in glory, let him be anathema.

    Expounding on this the Catholic Encyclopedia states:

    The Council of Trent describes the process of salvation from sin in the case of an adult with great minuteness (Sess. VI, v-vi).

    It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner’s heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God, he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man’s free will.

    Thus assisted the sinner is disposed for salvation from sin; he believes in the revelation and promises of God, he fears God’s justice, hopes in his mercy, trusts that God will be merciful to him for Christ’s sake, begins to love God as the source of all justice, hates and detests his sins.

    This disposition is followed by justification itself, which consists not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God’s grace and gifts, whence a man becomes just instead of unjust, a friend instead of a foe and so an heir according to hope of eternal life. This change happens either by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance according to the condition of the respective subject laden with sin. The Council further indicates the causes of this change. By the merit of the Most Holy Passion through the Holy Spirit, the charity of God is shed abroad in the hearts of those who are justified.

    Against the heretical tenets of various times and sects we must hold

    - that the initial grace is truly gratuitous and supernatural;
    - that the human will remains free under the influence of this grace;
    - that man really cooperates in his personal salvation from sin;
    - that by justification man is really made just, and not merely declared or reputed so;
    - that justification and sanctification are only two aspects of the same thing, and not ontologically and chronologically distinct realities;
    - that justification excludes all mortal sin from the soul, so that the just man is no way liable to the sentence of death at God’s judgment-seat.

  • Joe

    Adam, try Cannon 32 from the Council of Trent:

    Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (of whom one is a living member), the justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, and eternal life, provided that one dies in the state of grace, the attainment of this eternal life, as well as an increase in glory, let him be anathema.

    Expounding on this the Catholic Encyclopedia states:

    The Council of Trent describes the process of salvation from sin in the case of an adult with great minuteness (Sess. VI, v-vi).

    It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner’s heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God, he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man’s free will.

    Thus assisted the sinner is disposed for salvation from sin; he believes in the revelation and promises of God, he fears God’s justice, hopes in his mercy, trusts that God will be merciful to him for Christ’s sake, begins to love God as the source of all justice, hates and detests his sins.

    This disposition is followed by justification itself, which consists not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God’s grace and gifts, whence a man becomes just instead of unjust, a friend instead of a foe and so an heir according to hope of eternal life. This change happens either by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance according to the condition of the respective subject laden with sin. The Council further indicates the causes of this change. By the merit of the Most Holy Passion through the Holy Spirit, the charity of God is shed abroad in the hearts of those who are justified.

    Against the heretical tenets of various times and sects we must hold

    - that the initial grace is truly gratuitous and supernatural;
    - that the human will remains free under the influence of this grace;
    - that man really cooperates in his personal salvation from sin;
    - that by justification man is really made just, and not merely declared or reputed so;
    - that justification and sanctification are only two aspects of the same thing, and not ontologically and chronologically distinct realities;
    - that justification excludes all mortal sin from the soul, so that the just man is no way liable to the sentence of death at God’s judgment-seat.

  • Adam

    DonS.
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
    While many Catholics sadly can’t explain properly what they believe, they can point to an authoritative teaching authority that can. Protestants, in my experience, cannot do that because they lack such an authority. Some point to the Bible, to be sure, but then why did sola Scriptura divide Luther from Calvin?
    I’m not arguing theology here; rather, I’m pointing out the authority for it. A protestant, in my experience, can say what he believes, and certainly means it, but he can’t really put it forth as authoritative, without referring in some measure to what the Catholic Church long ago decided. For Lutherans, wasn’t it Sasse who said that Lutherans were really medieval Catholics, purged of what he called heresies and abuses? While I disagree with his characterization, he all but deprived Lutherans of being able to say ‘sola scriptura.’ Lutherans are heavily dependent on Church tradition.

  • Adam

    DonS.
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
    While many Catholics sadly can’t explain properly what they believe, they can point to an authoritative teaching authority that can. Protestants, in my experience, cannot do that because they lack such an authority. Some point to the Bible, to be sure, but then why did sola Scriptura divide Luther from Calvin?
    I’m not arguing theology here; rather, I’m pointing out the authority for it. A protestant, in my experience, can say what he believes, and certainly means it, but he can’t really put it forth as authoritative, without referring in some measure to what the Catholic Church long ago decided. For Lutherans, wasn’t it Sasse who said that Lutherans were really medieval Catholics, purged of what he called heresies and abuses? While I disagree with his characterization, he all but deprived Lutherans of being able to say ‘sola scriptura.’ Lutherans are heavily dependent on Church tradition.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Adam: Lutherans are heavily dependent on Church tradition.

    Yes, this is exactly what Fr. Neuhaus came to understand. In his letter to Lutheran friends and clergy he wrote:

    Under the guidance of the Spirit promised to the Church, apostolic Scripture is joined to apostolic order in the faithful transmission and interpretation of revealed truth. The Gospel is the proclamation ofGod’s grace in Christ and His body in the Church. It is for the sake of that Gospel, and the unity of the Church gathered by that Gospel, that I am today a Roman Catholic. I cannot begin to express adequately my gratitude for all the goodness I have known in the Lutheran communion. There I was baptized,there I learned my prayers, there I was introduced to Scripture and creed, there I was nurtured by Christ on Christ, there I came to know the utterly gratuitous love of God by which we live astonished. For my theological formation, for friendships beyond numbering. for great battles fought, for mutual consolations in defeat, for companionships in ministry–for all this I give thanks and know that I will forever be in debt to the church called Lutheran. Most especially am I grateful for my 30 years as a pastor. There is nothing in that ministry that Iwould repudiate, except my many sins and shortcomings. My becoming a priest in the Roman Catholic Church will be the completion and right ordering of what was begun 30 years ago. Nothing that was good is rejected, all is fulfilled.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Adam: Lutherans are heavily dependent on Church tradition.

    Yes, this is exactly what Fr. Neuhaus came to understand. In his letter to Lutheran friends and clergy he wrote:

    Under the guidance of the Spirit promised to the Church, apostolic Scripture is joined to apostolic order in the faithful transmission and interpretation of revealed truth. The Gospel is the proclamation ofGod’s grace in Christ and His body in the Church. It is for the sake of that Gospel, and the unity of the Church gathered by that Gospel, that I am today a Roman Catholic. I cannot begin to express adequately my gratitude for all the goodness I have known in the Lutheran communion. There I was baptized,there I learned my prayers, there I was introduced to Scripture and creed, there I was nurtured by Christ on Christ, there I came to know the utterly gratuitous love of God by which we live astonished. For my theological formation, for friendships beyond numbering. for great battles fought, for mutual consolations in defeat, for companionships in ministry–for all this I give thanks and know that I will forever be in debt to the church called Lutheran. Most especially am I grateful for my 30 years as a pastor. There is nothing in that ministry that Iwould repudiate, except my many sins and shortcomings. My becoming a priest in the Roman Catholic Church will be the completion and right ordering of what was begun 30 years ago. Nothing that was good is rejected, all is fulfilled.

  • Pr. Tom Fast

    I most certainly do not think it a good thing that we manifest disunity at the Table. That is surely an evil. We ought never to settle for it. How can the fact that I don’t commune with other brothers and sisters in Christ be considered a sign of unity or an expression of anything good? At the same time I firmly believe in the practice of Closed Communion and think it is an important impetus toward the unification of the Church.

    So I sympathize with the concerns of Mr. Sacramone.

  • Pr. Tom Fast

    I most certainly do not think it a good thing that we manifest disunity at the Table. That is surely an evil. We ought never to settle for it. How can the fact that I don’t commune with other brothers and sisters in Christ be considered a sign of unity or an expression of anything good? At the same time I firmly believe in the practice of Closed Communion and think it is an important impetus toward the unification of the Church.

    So I sympathize with the concerns of Mr. Sacramone.

  • fws

    True unity is faith in Jesus Christ. Yet another denomination formed that preaches faith in christ. praise God! And this invisible Righteousness of Faith, which ALONE makes us part of the kingdom also means that the church is , in fact, invisible. and united. this is about believing and not seeing.

    But to hold fast to this truth, we must know that there is another kind of righteousness that is also pleasing to God. This is earthly visible righteousness that looks like self-discipline/restraint that enables our Old Adams to love our neighbor, that is, take actions that make the lives of others better. This righteousness will perish with the earth along with all the religious who look for a life of being religious. This righteousness too is necessary in the church. Life and church life could not happen without this earthly visible righteousness. It is utterly necessary. all 1st article/4th petition gifts depend completely on this visible perishable righteousness.

    So in the church we have that Righteousness that is alone faith, and so is truly invisible (sorry I disagree Dr Vieth). This faith alone puts one inside of our outside of the ark of baptism. Alone.

    This is along side of that other visible righteousness where God is pleased when we control ourselves (mortification of the flesh) in order to focus then wholey on the needs of others. We can stop being religious, even in church, and focus on our neighbors needs. Even in the Divine Service this is in full evidence. We go and hear the word which creates invisible faith. For those of us who trust this we can at the same time focus on the stranger in the pew next to us. Helping him through the service actually helps us maybe see things anew and pay better attention. You talked about people being introverts/extroverts in a previous post. we can ponder this here eh? This is pastoral theology as opposed to what theology wonks dig.

    So how do these two kinds of righteousness interplay in the church?

    Churches are alot like individuals here, (since they are composed of them eh?). Those who aim to be served and fed by anything other than the Bread of Life end up pewless. No one measures up to such standards. Or they they make like a baptist church and split. It is about me. The needs of others are not very urgent. Or , they threaten the church (false doctrine, lifestyles, post modernism, culture wars, etc etc..). So it all depends on us to circle the wagons and preserve the church.

    Those who trust that it is God alone, alone through the Gospel, and alone in truly invisible faith, who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifieds the church and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” are free to focus visibly on how and what they do can serve others.
    An individual christian will look for a church that confesses what he or she does. He or she will overlook alot of practices. He can continue to debate and object, but he will truly and sincerely conform for the sake of unity and love. It will be about Jesus. It will not be about him or her. Imagine. I am a gay man. I am also a member of an LCMS affiliated congregation. I live this every day. It is about Him. So then it is also only about the needs of others. Even when sometimes those others don´t want or feel they need you. They would rather exclude you.

    For congregations and denominations this looks like finding the closest fit, and not then joining that group as a trojan horse with an agenda but rather continuing to dialog. It means conforming to certain practices like closed communion and no women pastors maybe for the sake of love and unity. This trusting that Christ can work with this. It means trusting in the Gospel as the power of God not only for justification, but also sanctification. and trusting that mortification and earthly righteousness too will simply happen because God makes that so, in the old adams of everyone.

    I find it wierd that these groups seemed to have split over the homosexual issue, and I have been fully accepted as a brother christian who happens to be a homosexual in the LCMS.

    This can only happen for those who are just living by faith alone. This righteousness matters only to God. It does nothing for our neighbor in an earthly sense. And those also then recognize that there is that second kind of righteousness that pleases God and is only about serving the needs of our neighbors.

    We start by confessing our sins and shortcomings to one another and then doing things that show we care about them as we would our own family members. But we don´t seek our life there. That can only be found in the Bread of Life.

  • fws

    True unity is faith in Jesus Christ. Yet another denomination formed that preaches faith in christ. praise God! And this invisible Righteousness of Faith, which ALONE makes us part of the kingdom also means that the church is , in fact, invisible. and united. this is about believing and not seeing.

    But to hold fast to this truth, we must know that there is another kind of righteousness that is also pleasing to God. This is earthly visible righteousness that looks like self-discipline/restraint that enables our Old Adams to love our neighbor, that is, take actions that make the lives of others better. This righteousness will perish with the earth along with all the religious who look for a life of being religious. This righteousness too is necessary in the church. Life and church life could not happen without this earthly visible righteousness. It is utterly necessary. all 1st article/4th petition gifts depend completely on this visible perishable righteousness.

    So in the church we have that Righteousness that is alone faith, and so is truly invisible (sorry I disagree Dr Vieth). This faith alone puts one inside of our outside of the ark of baptism. Alone.

    This is along side of that other visible righteousness where God is pleased when we control ourselves (mortification of the flesh) in order to focus then wholey on the needs of others. We can stop being religious, even in church, and focus on our neighbors needs. Even in the Divine Service this is in full evidence. We go and hear the word which creates invisible faith. For those of us who trust this we can at the same time focus on the stranger in the pew next to us. Helping him through the service actually helps us maybe see things anew and pay better attention. You talked about people being introverts/extroverts in a previous post. we can ponder this here eh? This is pastoral theology as opposed to what theology wonks dig.

    So how do these two kinds of righteousness interplay in the church?

    Churches are alot like individuals here, (since they are composed of them eh?). Those who aim to be served and fed by anything other than the Bread of Life end up pewless. No one measures up to such standards. Or they they make like a baptist church and split. It is about me. The needs of others are not very urgent. Or , they threaten the church (false doctrine, lifestyles, post modernism, culture wars, etc etc..). So it all depends on us to circle the wagons and preserve the church.

    Those who trust that it is God alone, alone through the Gospel, and alone in truly invisible faith, who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifieds the church and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” are free to focus visibly on how and what they do can serve others.
    An individual christian will look for a church that confesses what he or she does. He or she will overlook alot of practices. He can continue to debate and object, but he will truly and sincerely conform for the sake of unity and love. It will be about Jesus. It will not be about him or her. Imagine. I am a gay man. I am also a member of an LCMS affiliated congregation. I live this every day. It is about Him. So then it is also only about the needs of others. Even when sometimes those others don´t want or feel they need you. They would rather exclude you.

    For congregations and denominations this looks like finding the closest fit, and not then joining that group as a trojan horse with an agenda but rather continuing to dialog. It means conforming to certain practices like closed communion and no women pastors maybe for the sake of love and unity. This trusting that Christ can work with this. It means trusting in the Gospel as the power of God not only for justification, but also sanctification. and trusting that mortification and earthly righteousness too will simply happen because God makes that so, in the old adams of everyone.

    I find it wierd that these groups seemed to have split over the homosexual issue, and I have been fully accepted as a brother christian who happens to be a homosexual in the LCMS.

    This can only happen for those who are just living by faith alone. This righteousness matters only to God. It does nothing for our neighbor in an earthly sense. And those also then recognize that there is that second kind of righteousness that pleases God and is only about serving the needs of our neighbors.

    We start by confessing our sins and shortcomings to one another and then doing things that show we care about them as we would our own family members. But we don´t seek our life there. That can only be found in the Bread of Life.

  • dave

    This is a fascinating and terrific thread to read. Seriously.

  • dave

    This is a fascinating and terrific thread to read. Seriously.

  • fws

    Adam @56

    Tradition is a great anchor for the Roman Catholic Church. I live here in brasil. You are right Adam. Many Roman Catholics don´t feel confident talking about their faith here. And they are critical of the errors and abuses they find in Rome.

    I have the joy with Roman Catholics of pointing them back to their baptism and of pointing them to the creeds and the Our Father that they mostly know by heart. In those things they have everything a christian needs to know. I get to tell them to stop focusing on the errors in their church and just ignore those things and focus on Jesus on the cross. I can tell them that their baptism confirms that Jesus died for them by name. It is such a pleasure to see a face start to radiate when they hear this simple message, often for the first time with that simple clarity.

    I note that here in Brasil, often Roman Catholics cannot quote chapter and verse like the Penticostal/Evangelicals can, but they have things mostly right. Little things… ahem.. like the bodily resurrection… and many penticostals here have been taught that not even Jesus bodily rose from the dead. True.

    So dear brother Adam. As a Lutheran christian, I get to have the joy of not only recognizing the unity of faith with Roman Catholics, I get to reconfirm them in their faith. Imagine that. Please. Imagine that.

    I know this is not about your version of Rome-as-the-only-true-church, but what I get to do as a Lutheran has made a difference in the lives of the Roman Catholics I meet here. They often start going back to mass after a long absence. My pastor here in fact is was raised Roman Catholic. That has informed his Lutheranism in a wonderful way I think.

  • fws

    Adam @56

    Tradition is a great anchor for the Roman Catholic Church. I live here in brasil. You are right Adam. Many Roman Catholics don´t feel confident talking about their faith here. And they are critical of the errors and abuses they find in Rome.

    I have the joy with Roman Catholics of pointing them back to their baptism and of pointing them to the creeds and the Our Father that they mostly know by heart. In those things they have everything a christian needs to know. I get to tell them to stop focusing on the errors in their church and just ignore those things and focus on Jesus on the cross. I can tell them that their baptism confirms that Jesus died for them by name. It is such a pleasure to see a face start to radiate when they hear this simple message, often for the first time with that simple clarity.

    I note that here in Brasil, often Roman Catholics cannot quote chapter and verse like the Penticostal/Evangelicals can, but they have things mostly right. Little things… ahem.. like the bodily resurrection… and many penticostals here have been taught that not even Jesus bodily rose from the dead. True.

    So dear brother Adam. As a Lutheran christian, I get to have the joy of not only recognizing the unity of faith with Roman Catholics, I get to reconfirm them in their faith. Imagine that. Please. Imagine that.

    I know this is not about your version of Rome-as-the-only-true-church, but what I get to do as a Lutheran has made a difference in the lives of the Roman Catholics I meet here. They often start going back to mass after a long absence. My pastor here in fact is was raised Roman Catholic. That has informed his Lutheranism in a wonderful way I think.

  • Nathan

    Joe:

    “Also, in Matthew 18: 18, Jesus gives the same authority as to binding and loosing on earth that which will be bound and loosed in heaven to all the Apostles generally, which pretty well negates any argument that this is authority given to any single person.”

    But note that in Matthew 16, Peter is given the keys as well (just like the prime minister mentioned in Isaiah 22, the Catholic apologists say) – this is not something that is given to all the Apostles.

    Kerner:

    “But what I would expect is for there to be SOME instance in which there was a disagreement after which the other believers yielded to Peter’s authority (not his persuasion, his authority).”

    But if it would have been on a matter of doctrine that Peter was wrong on, he would have to be disobeyed – head of the Church or no (hence Galatians 2)

    Kerner:

    “I would expect to read some affirmative statement from Paul or John or some other Apostle to the effect that Peter had some kind of decision making authority that the other Apostles did not have, and to which the other Apostles were subject. But you never see that.”

    I’m not so sure about this. I find it interesting that Peter is always speaking for the disciples in the Gospels, and that he is always listed first, and even seems the first of the inner circle. Again, even if he didn’t assert his leadership, people seemed to follow him. I’ll admit the strongest evidence for the RC position – if it is true – would have to be Matt 16 (see above).

    tODD:

    “However, if the breach boils down to actual, serious theological disagreements, then there are only three ways to heal that breach, which I will spell out only in terms of Catholics and Lutherans”

    4) The Lutherans and Catholics can agree that what were disagreeing about does actually matter, and that they were both wrong regarding this or that. Lutherans can still maintain that they are a true church, though not infallible.

    J:

    “The confessions are therefore not normative.”

    J, I think the WELS strays from the Confessions re: the office of the ministry, at least. And yes, I do think there is a true Lutheran church and that others are schismatics. This doesn’t mean there are no Christians there. J, another point is that if you look at the history of denominations, I’m quite sure there are more Lutheran denominations coming together – forming fellowship with each other – than from other Protestant groups. This is not to deny the fracturing that is still there.

    fws:

    “I find it wierd that these groups seemed to have split over the homosexual issue, and I have been fully accepted as a brother christian who happens to be a homosexual in the LCMS. ”

    fws, maybe you are a regular on this blog, and others know you well. I don’t though, and I’m not saying that persons who have homosexual inclinations cannot be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. When you say you are *a homosexual* though, it seems you are saying something different. Am I wrong in assuming this?

    Kind regards,
    Nathan

  • Nathan

    Joe:

    “Also, in Matthew 18: 18, Jesus gives the same authority as to binding and loosing on earth that which will be bound and loosed in heaven to all the Apostles generally, which pretty well negates any argument that this is authority given to any single person.”

    But note that in Matthew 16, Peter is given the keys as well (just like the prime minister mentioned in Isaiah 22, the Catholic apologists say) – this is not something that is given to all the Apostles.

    Kerner:

    “But what I would expect is for there to be SOME instance in which there was a disagreement after which the other believers yielded to Peter’s authority (not his persuasion, his authority).”

    But if it would have been on a matter of doctrine that Peter was wrong on, he would have to be disobeyed – head of the Church or no (hence Galatians 2)

    Kerner:

    “I would expect to read some affirmative statement from Paul or John or some other Apostle to the effect that Peter had some kind of decision making authority that the other Apostles did not have, and to which the other Apostles were subject. But you never see that.”

    I’m not so sure about this. I find it interesting that Peter is always speaking for the disciples in the Gospels, and that he is always listed first, and even seems the first of the inner circle. Again, even if he didn’t assert his leadership, people seemed to follow him. I’ll admit the strongest evidence for the RC position – if it is true – would have to be Matt 16 (see above).

    tODD:

    “However, if the breach boils down to actual, serious theological disagreements, then there are only three ways to heal that breach, which I will spell out only in terms of Catholics and Lutherans”

    4) The Lutherans and Catholics can agree that what were disagreeing about does actually matter, and that they were both wrong regarding this or that. Lutherans can still maintain that they are a true church, though not infallible.

    J:

    “The confessions are therefore not normative.”

    J, I think the WELS strays from the Confessions re: the office of the ministry, at least. And yes, I do think there is a true Lutheran church and that others are schismatics. This doesn’t mean there are no Christians there. J, another point is that if you look at the history of denominations, I’m quite sure there are more Lutheran denominations coming together – forming fellowship with each other – than from other Protestant groups. This is not to deny the fracturing that is still there.

    fws:

    “I find it wierd that these groups seemed to have split over the homosexual issue, and I have been fully accepted as a brother christian who happens to be a homosexual in the LCMS. ”

    fws, maybe you are a regular on this blog, and others know you well. I don’t though, and I’m not saying that persons who have homosexual inclinations cannot be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. When you say you are *a homosexual* though, it seems you are saying something different. Am I wrong in assuming this?

    Kind regards,
    Nathan

  • Joe

    Adam – the role of tradition for a Lutheran is not authoritative but it certainly is a guide. We start with the Solas and then we also are willing to look to what the early church did to help guide us in dealing with adiophoric issues. Tradition does not set doctrine for Lutherans.

    Sola Scriputra divided Luther and Calvin becuase Calvin taught that each man , using the reason he was given by God was the final interpreter of what scripture. Lutherans believe teach and confess that scripture interprets scripture.

  • Joe

    Adam – the role of tradition for a Lutheran is not authoritative but it certainly is a guide. We start with the Solas and then we also are willing to look to what the early church did to help guide us in dealing with adiophoric issues. Tradition does not set doctrine for Lutherans.

    Sola Scriputra divided Luther and Calvin becuase Calvin taught that each man , using the reason he was given by God was the final interpreter of what scripture. Lutherans believe teach and confess that scripture interprets scripture.

  • http://www.utah-luthean.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Why would you coin a phrase as awful as that one. True not quite as bad as Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” quip but quite awful. Shame on you. No we Lutherans have a better term for this “Gemütlichkeit.” And it is trendy in an 80′s sort of way because you get to use umlauts.

  • http://www.utah-luthean.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Why would you coin a phrase as awful as that one. True not quite as bad as Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” quip but quite awful. Shame on you. No we Lutherans have a better term for this “Gemütlichkeit.” And it is trendy in an 80′s sort of way because you get to use umlauts.

  • http://www.utah-luthean.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nathan,
    I would like to point out that in Matthew 16 Peter is not actually given the keys. Jesus promises to give him keys, but he does not give them until Matthew 18, and there he gives them to all the disciples. Rome’s claim to authority through Peter is dubious on many grounds. And a cursory reading of church history will show that no one but the pope ever took it very seriously.
    I’ll let fw answer for himself, but I wouldn’t read anymore into his statements than are actually there.

  • http://www.utah-luthean.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nathan,
    I would like to point out that in Matthew 16 Peter is not actually given the keys. Jesus promises to give him keys, but he does not give them until Matthew 18, and there he gives them to all the disciples. Rome’s claim to authority through Peter is dubious on many grounds. And a cursory reading of church history will show that no one but the pope ever took it very seriously.
    I’ll let fw answer for himself, but I wouldn’t read anymore into his statements than are actually there.

  • DonS

    Adam @ 56: Clearly, there is truth in what you say. Today’s church, whether Catholic or Protestant, rests on a foundation established by the Catholic church. And it is manifest that Protestants, while asserting a reliance solely on Scripture for their authority, necessarily rely on the interpretation of that Scripture by their forefathers, some of them Catholic, to inform their theological understanding. But we do have to be personally responsible for our understanding of Scripture as well, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, Who promises us discernment, because no human authority is infallible. This is obvious when a particular denomination announces a sudden new understanding of Biblical teaching, as has been the case in many mainline Protestant denominations, or in the Catholic faith as well (Vatican II). Such new encyclicals must be viewed critically, because God doesn’t change.

    What I am saying is that Catholics, as well as Protestants, cannot put their entire trust in their denominations and human spiritual authority, without reservation or discernment. Each teaching must be measured against Scripture, which is the ultimate authority.

  • DonS

    Adam @ 56: Clearly, there is truth in what you say. Today’s church, whether Catholic or Protestant, rests on a foundation established by the Catholic church. And it is manifest that Protestants, while asserting a reliance solely on Scripture for their authority, necessarily rely on the interpretation of that Scripture by their forefathers, some of them Catholic, to inform their theological understanding. But we do have to be personally responsible for our understanding of Scripture as well, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, Who promises us discernment, because no human authority is infallible. This is obvious when a particular denomination announces a sudden new understanding of Biblical teaching, as has been the case in many mainline Protestant denominations, or in the Catholic faith as well (Vatican II). Such new encyclicals must be viewed critically, because God doesn’t change.

    What I am saying is that Catholics, as well as Protestants, cannot put their entire trust in their denominations and human spiritual authority, without reservation or discernment. Each teaching must be measured against Scripture, which is the ultimate authority.

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I’m not sure if you can say that what is promised specifically to Peter (i.e. loosing and binding Roman C. apologists

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I’m not sure if you can say that what is promised specifically to Peter (i.e. loosing and binding Roman C. apologists

  • fws

    Nathan @ 62

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. When you say you are *a homosexual* though, it seems you are saying something different. Am I wrong in assuming this?”

    I sin daily and confess corporately and and I make a private confession as Lutherans are urged to do. I not only want forgiveness for those sins, I trust that I have forgiveness in Jesus.

    We are told Judas did all three things you mention and he was sadly still not saved.

    On the other hand…the bible says “cleanse thou me from secret sins” and “who knows the darkness of his own heart?”

    I was not making a point about homosexuality in what I said Nathan.

    I trust that I have fully answered all your questions. If not, then I suspect we have a different understanding of that 100 year old medical term “homosexual”. I think the APA does an ok job of defining what is generally understood today by this term. Feel free to disagree. Here disagreement has nothing to do with Holy Scriptures for the modern definition of this term would be pure anachronism in a scriptural context. It appears nowhere in scripture of course being such a new and medical term.

    If you would like to discuss this more, I suggest we take things offline. I can give you my email for that end.

    peace.

  • fws

    Nathan @ 62

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. When you say you are *a homosexual* though, it seems you are saying something different. Am I wrong in assuming this?”

    I sin daily and confess corporately and and I make a private confession as Lutherans are urged to do. I not only want forgiveness for those sins, I trust that I have forgiveness in Jesus.

    We are told Judas did all three things you mention and he was sadly still not saved.

    On the other hand…the bible says “cleanse thou me from secret sins” and “who knows the darkness of his own heart?”

    I was not making a point about homosexuality in what I said Nathan.

    I trust that I have fully answered all your questions. If not, then I suspect we have a different understanding of that 100 year old medical term “homosexual”. I think the APA does an ok job of defining what is generally understood today by this term. Feel free to disagree. Here disagreement has nothing to do with Holy Scriptures for the modern definition of this term would be pure anachronism in a scriptural context. It appears nowhere in scripture of course being such a new and medical term.

    If you would like to discuss this more, I suggest we take things offline. I can give you my email for that end.

    peace.

  • fws

    Nathan @ 62

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. ”

    Nathan, curious: do you personally manage to always do this? what if you don´t?

  • fws

    Nathan @ 62

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. ”

    Nathan, curious: do you personally manage to always do this? what if you don´t?

  • Nathan

    fws,

    I am not saying I always manage to do this, no. But if I can’t call what I do “sin” when clearly confronted with it, then what hope of salvation can I have : how will I want forgiveness if I don’t think I need it?

    Good point about Judas. The Pharisees should have absolved him, as was their job. We can snuff out the smoldering wick.

    fws, I’m not going to quibble with you about the term “homosexual” – I am trusting from what you said ealier that you don’t want it. In that case, if I were you, I just wouldn’t speak like you did, in order to avoid misunderstanding.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    fws,

    I am not saying I always manage to do this, no. But if I can’t call what I do “sin” when clearly confronted with it, then what hope of salvation can I have : how will I want forgiveness if I don’t think I need it?

    Good point about Judas. The Pharisees should have absolved him, as was their job. We can snuff out the smoldering wick.

    fws, I’m not going to quibble with you about the term “homosexual” – I am trusting from what you said ealier that you don’t want it. In that case, if I were you, I just wouldn’t speak like you did, in order to avoid misunderstanding.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I keep trying to reply, but its not taking my messages.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I keep trying to reply, but its not taking my messages.

    ~Nathan

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nathan,
    Don’t worry it is just a Roman Catholic plot to keep you from discussing the truth concerning the office of the keys.
    But as regarding the promise being given specifically to Peter, who cares? It obviously wasn’t meant to be a promise that excluded the other disciples. He wa merely talking directly to Peter. As is noted already when he actually gave the keys (matthew 18, and John 20) he gave them to all the disciples.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nathan,
    Don’t worry it is just a Roman Catholic plot to keep you from discussing the truth concerning the office of the keys.
    But as regarding the promise being given specifically to Peter, who cares? It obviously wasn’t meant to be a promise that excluded the other disciples. He wa merely talking directly to Peter. As is noted already when he actually gave the keys (matthew 18, and John 20) he gave them to all the disciples.

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I note that Peter was promised the keys. Whether or not the binding and loosing is something all of the disciples got in Matthew 18 is not clear to me.

    Check out the following:

    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ASo2pGgI4_Z0ZGN6NGc1cThfMjczaHFkenp2Z3E&hl=en

    Also this:

    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/CarlsonPrimacy.shtml

    Again, I just want this kind of stuff better explained.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I note that Peter was promised the keys. Whether or not the binding and loosing is something all of the disciples got in Matthew 18 is not clear to me.

    Check out the following:

    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ASo2pGgI4_Z0ZGN6NGc1cThfMjczaHFkenp2Z3E&hl=en

    Also this:

    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/CarlsonPrimacy.shtml

    Again, I just want this kind of stuff better explained.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I meant to say whether the keys are something the disciples all got in Matthew 18 (they definitely got the binding and loosing) is what is not clear to me. How do we know these are not two *somewhat different* things?

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Bror,

    I meant to say whether the keys are something the disciples all got in Matthew 18 (they definitely got the binding and loosing) is what is not clear to me. How do we know these are not two *somewhat different* things?

    ~Nathan

  • fws

    Nathan @ 74

    I am curious brother Nathan:

    are you thinking that this power was bestowed personally as the personal property so to speak of peter or of peter and each disciple?

    are you thinking that palm on pate is how this magical apostolic or petrine power is passed on to others? Where does the bible say anywhere that this power gets to be passed on this way? Why would it be wrong to assume that this power of the keys died with the apostles?

    For that matter, what exactly is the power you are talking about? For example , if I hear that Jesus paid for my sins and trust that, then does this power you are talking about mean that I am still not forgiven until one of the 12 apostles personally tells me I am forgiven? how does that work in your mind?

  • fws

    Nathan @ 74

    I am curious brother Nathan:

    are you thinking that this power was bestowed personally as the personal property so to speak of peter or of peter and each disciple?

    are you thinking that palm on pate is how this magical apostolic or petrine power is passed on to others? Where does the bible say anywhere that this power gets to be passed on this way? Why would it be wrong to assume that this power of the keys died with the apostles?

    For that matter, what exactly is the power you are talking about? For example , if I hear that Jesus paid for my sins and trust that, then does this power you are talking about mean that I am still not forgiven until one of the 12 apostles personally tells me I am forgiven? how does that work in your mind?

  • fws

    Brother Nathan: I read your articles. It appears that you are mostly interested who, and where.

    It looks like Bror is focused on what: The forgiveness of sins and how we can be sure we have that.

    are you saying there is no forgiveness of sins and no Jesus for anyone unless they are given those things by someone you feel has authority to give it?

    that would mean that all of us who are not catholics would be damned to hell would it not? correct me if my logic here is missing something.

    Nathan, could you please share your spiritual biography with us here so we can dialog with you more to the point? that would be really helpful. I was born Lutheran. so was bror.

  • fws

    Brother Nathan: I read your articles. It appears that you are mostly interested who, and where.

    It looks like Bror is focused on what: The forgiveness of sins and how we can be sure we have that.

    are you saying there is no forgiveness of sins and no Jesus for anyone unless they are given those things by someone you feel has authority to give it?

    that would mean that all of us who are not catholics would be damned to hell would it not? correct me if my logic here is missing something.

    Nathan, could you please share your spiritual biography with us here so we can dialog with you more to the point? that would be really helpful. I was born Lutheran. so was bror.

  • Nathan

    Fws,

    First of all, pardon my terse posts to you: time is short for me, and I’m sorry if I come off as insensitive.

    I do not believe the office of the keys, or the power to bind in loose, whether they be synonyms or describe something different are the “personal property” of anyone. Today, I do believe pastors are given authority to bind and loose, to forgive and retain sins, although I believe that this is also the responsibility of every Christian. The office of the ministry is given for our comfort, as well as good order in the Church. If the papacy is in any sense something that is by divine rite (again: the Confessions say that even if the pope had his office by divine rite, we would still need to disobey him if he would not speak the gospel), the same would hold true.

    I am not really interested in where (Rome). Nor do I think are the most sophisticated Roman apologists. As to being sure of forgiveness, if a man is given the certainty of faith through the words of a child, glory be to God. Here’s the crux of the issue, I think: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ (again, this is my blog – if you’d like to know more about what I think, this is a great place to get an idea : ) )

    I’m not saying all who are not Catholics are damned to hell. I’m a Lutheran (lifelong) : )

    I would like to talk more, but my time is short. I can do so at this posting in one week (if we can still post) – that is when I will write again (I will read before than).

    In Christ,
    Nathan

    P.S. I’ll be taking down the link to the papacy stuff soon. I don’t want Catholic Answers to come after me for copyright violations. : )

  • Nathan

    Fws,

    First of all, pardon my terse posts to you: time is short for me, and I’m sorry if I come off as insensitive.

    I do not believe the office of the keys, or the power to bind in loose, whether they be synonyms or describe something different are the “personal property” of anyone. Today, I do believe pastors are given authority to bind and loose, to forgive and retain sins, although I believe that this is also the responsibility of every Christian. The office of the ministry is given for our comfort, as well as good order in the Church. If the papacy is in any sense something that is by divine rite (again: the Confessions say that even if the pope had his office by divine rite, we would still need to disobey him if he would not speak the gospel), the same would hold true.

    I am not really interested in where (Rome). Nor do I think are the most sophisticated Roman apologists. As to being sure of forgiveness, if a man is given the certainty of faith through the words of a child, glory be to God. Here’s the crux of the issue, I think: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ (again, this is my blog – if you’d like to know more about what I think, this is a great place to get an idea : ) )

    I’m not saying all who are not Catholics are damned to hell. I’m a Lutheran (lifelong) : )

    I would like to talk more, but my time is short. I can do so at this posting in one week (if we can still post) – that is when I will write again (I will read before than).

    In Christ,
    Nathan

    P.S. I’ll be taking down the link to the papacy stuff soon. I don’t want Catholic Answers to come after me for copyright violations. : )

  • Nathan

    Me:

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. ”

    fws:

    Nathan, curious: do you personally manage to always do this? what if you don´t?

    fws,

    Something else you may appreciate (not for the sad attempt at poetry, but for the biography):

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/transformation-failure-3/

  • Nathan

    Me:

    ” I’m [saying] saying that persons…[can] be members in good standing in Churches – so long as they call their sin “sin”, not wanting it, and wanting forgiveness for it. ”

    fws:

    Nathan, curious: do you personally manage to always do this? what if you don´t?

    fws,

    Something else you may appreciate (not for the sad attempt at poetry, but for the biography):

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/transformation-failure-3/

  • fws

    nathan @ 78
    good. I do appreciate the link. Notice that I cut out the homosexual part with elipsis when I quoted you. It doesn´t change the meaning of what you wrote in even the slightest does it?

    We should not ask homosexuals to repent in any way different than we expect others to.

    I would hate to have to think that people I know are going to hell because they don´t recognize their materialism or covetousness as sin and even brag about it as virtue or because they are fat because they are gluttons but would resent comments on those facts, or calvinists who deny so many doctrines and proselytize others with their error.

    Many gay christians simply do not see having an adult relationship as being sinful. They dont see it in the bible. and they are not being any more stubborn than my calvinist friends or for different reasons really.

    How do we repair this situation?

    we welcome these people into the church. We don´t say.. “well when you confess that particular sin we are calling you on, THEN you are welcome. ” isn´t it the hearing of the gospel that alone works true repentence, which includes faith in Christ? why would we ever want to cut anyone off from that?

    Now if someone wants to belong to a church where the pastor politely tells them that they are sinning in a certain area, that is a good thing right? even better if that pastor trust that it is the gospel alone that works true repentence , faith and sanctification and not something we need to do.

    So where does the law fit in in all of this? There is a necessary visible righteousness that God requires and is pleased with. Life in the church and on earth would not be possible without this. that is why it is necessary. That is there purely to serve our neighbor in his needs and not to please God. God doesnt need it.

    So we must insist that people exercise self discipline at least sufficient to not harm and to be able to help others in our church community. Beyond that, what they do privately, we simply pray for them and tell them to keep coming back and hear of God´s love in christ. We trust too that continued contact with the word and risen Lord will have the effect God wills.

  • fws

    nathan @ 78
    good. I do appreciate the link. Notice that I cut out the homosexual part with elipsis when I quoted you. It doesn´t change the meaning of what you wrote in even the slightest does it?

    We should not ask homosexuals to repent in any way different than we expect others to.

    I would hate to have to think that people I know are going to hell because they don´t recognize their materialism or covetousness as sin and even brag about it as virtue or because they are fat because they are gluttons but would resent comments on those facts, or calvinists who deny so many doctrines and proselytize others with their error.

    Many gay christians simply do not see having an adult relationship as being sinful. They dont see it in the bible. and they are not being any more stubborn than my calvinist friends or for different reasons really.

    How do we repair this situation?

    we welcome these people into the church. We don´t say.. “well when you confess that particular sin we are calling you on, THEN you are welcome. ” isn´t it the hearing of the gospel that alone works true repentence, which includes faith in Christ? why would we ever want to cut anyone off from that?

    Now if someone wants to belong to a church where the pastor politely tells them that they are sinning in a certain area, that is a good thing right? even better if that pastor trust that it is the gospel alone that works true repentence , faith and sanctification and not something we need to do.

    So where does the law fit in in all of this? There is a necessary visible righteousness that God requires and is pleased with. Life in the church and on earth would not be possible without this. that is why it is necessary. That is there purely to serve our neighbor in his needs and not to please God. God doesnt need it.

    So we must insist that people exercise self discipline at least sufficient to not harm and to be able to help others in our church community. Beyond that, what they do privately, we simply pray for them and tell them to keep coming back and hear of God´s love in christ. We trust too that continued contact with the word and risen Lord will have the effect God wills.

  • Tickletext

    FWS wrote:

    are you thinking that palm on pate is how this magical apostolic or petrine power is passed on to others?

    A pleasantly phrased patch of prose, possibly perfect, pace Peter.

  • Tickletext

    FWS wrote:

    are you thinking that palm on pate is how this magical apostolic or petrine power is passed on to others?

    A pleasantly phrased patch of prose, possibly perfect, pace Peter.

  • http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/search/label/33000%20denominations Rhology

    John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

    Our friends in Rome like to point out that Jesus prayed in His “high priestly prayer” at the Last Supper that His followers would be in “complete unity”, that they would “all…be one, Father…” So, they ask, why aren’t Sola Scripturists joined together in perfect unity, as one institution, the Church? Did Jesus’ prayer fail? Don’t you Calvinists always say that God’s will is always performed successfully?

    We respond that the unity Christ prayed for was not organisational or institutional in nature, but rather spiritual, as God builds together the Body of Christ into spiritual union with Christ. Presumably, RCs and Eastern Orthodox do not accept this identification of the unity Christ prayed for, but rather insist that the unity is institutional and organisational in nature. But,

    1) It has been proven over and over again that this claimed unity within Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome does not exist in reality.
    2) Our opponents criticise the Calvinistic doctrine of God’s preservation of His saints, once justified, as a violation of the free will of each person (not to mention other points of Calvinism, such as irresistible grace). Yet the very building of an institutional unity into a group of disparate and different people who have sinful tendencies, in order to bring an answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus, would require “violation” of their free will. I mean, Protestants are creatures “blessed” with free will, and just look how organised they are, in their sin! (There are RCs who are more Augustinian and who are less; this would be an argument against the latter and against EO-dox.)
    3) On that same topic, take a look at John 17:15 – “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
    Isn’t it RC and EO dogma that God does not preserve His believers, but that they can in fact fall out of a state of grace? Didn’t Jesus’ prayer thus fail here (on RC and EO presuppositions)?
    4) More pointedly, apparently the fact that we Sola Scripturists are not in communion with the RCC or the EOC is not an obstacle to our eventually landing in Heaven. Read Lumen Gentium.

    Now, since we are united with Christ but not in communion with institutional RCC or EOC, since Christ prayed that His disciples would be united with Him, and since the RC and EO claim that Christ’s prayer for unity would certainly not fail to be granted, we can conclude that Christ’s prayer has either not yet been granted or that the unity He had in mind was not institutional / organisational unity. Either of these conclusions declaws the original argument.

  • http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/search/label/33000%20denominations Rhology

    John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

    Our friends in Rome like to point out that Jesus prayed in His “high priestly prayer” at the Last Supper that His followers would be in “complete unity”, that they would “all…be one, Father…” So, they ask, why aren’t Sola Scripturists joined together in perfect unity, as one institution, the Church? Did Jesus’ prayer fail? Don’t you Calvinists always say that God’s will is always performed successfully?

    We respond that the unity Christ prayed for was not organisational or institutional in nature, but rather spiritual, as God builds together the Body of Christ into spiritual union with Christ. Presumably, RCs and Eastern Orthodox do not accept this identification of the unity Christ prayed for, but rather insist that the unity is institutional and organisational in nature. But,

    1) It has been proven over and over again that this claimed unity within Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome does not exist in reality.
    2) Our opponents criticise the Calvinistic doctrine of God’s preservation of His saints, once justified, as a violation of the free will of each person (not to mention other points of Calvinism, such as irresistible grace). Yet the very building of an institutional unity into a group of disparate and different people who have sinful tendencies, in order to bring an answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus, would require “violation” of their free will. I mean, Protestants are creatures “blessed” with free will, and just look how organised they are, in their sin! (There are RCs who are more Augustinian and who are less; this would be an argument against the latter and against EO-dox.)
    3) On that same topic, take a look at John 17:15 – “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
    Isn’t it RC and EO dogma that God does not preserve His believers, but that they can in fact fall out of a state of grace? Didn’t Jesus’ prayer thus fail here (on RC and EO presuppositions)?
    4) More pointedly, apparently the fact that we Sola Scripturists are not in communion with the RCC or the EOC is not an obstacle to our eventually landing in Heaven. Read Lumen Gentium.

    Now, since we are united with Christ but not in communion with institutional RCC or EOC, since Christ prayed that His disciples would be united with Him, and since the RC and EO claim that Christ’s prayer for unity would certainly not fail to be granted, we can conclude that Christ’s prayer has either not yet been granted or that the unity He had in mind was not institutional / organisational unity. Either of these conclusions declaws the original argument.

  • Nathan

    Rhology,

    “We respond that the unity Christ prayed for was not organisational or institutional in nature, but rather spiritual, as God builds together the Body of Christ into spiritual union with Christ. ”

    Why should the spiritual unity of the Church preclude material, on-the-ground factors, such as the necessity for organization (order). Is the institution of marriage, which certainly has an empirical aspect, not a spiritual union? Why the either/or? Again, I invite persons to consider my post here, as well as the comments:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    Part III in the series is also relevant to the points I make above:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/babies-in-church-part-iii-the-unattractive-body/

    By the way, Lutherans also believe we can fall away from the faith. Also, our view of “sola scriptura” is actually a bit more nuanced than is often imagined.

    For example, look what Chemnitz wrote in responding to Trent:

    “The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted
    verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of
    traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of
    eight different types of traditiones as Scripture itself, i.e. the things that
    Christ and the Apostles preached orally and were later written down. Then
    follows: 2) the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3) the oral tradition
    of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the
    New Testament canon); 4) the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received
    from the Apostles and “Apostolic men”; 5) dogmas that are not set forth in so
    many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts; 6)
    the consensus of true and pure antiquity; 7) rites and customs that are edifying
    and believed to be Apostolic, but cannot be proved from Scripture. Chemnitz
    rejects only the eighth kind of tradition: 8) traditions pertaining to faith and
    morals that cannot be proved with any testimony of Scripture; but which the
    Council of Trent commanded to be accepted and venerated with the same reverence
    and devotion as the Scripture. The important element of this last of the
    traitiones appears not to be the fact that such traditions of faith and morals
    not provable from Scripture actually existed, but that their status of equality
    with Scripture was foisted upon the church by the Council of Trent.” P. Strawn,
    Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der
    Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg.
    v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999, p. 213-14.

    Let’s talk.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Rhology,

    “We respond that the unity Christ prayed for was not organisational or institutional in nature, but rather spiritual, as God builds together the Body of Christ into spiritual union with Christ. ”

    Why should the spiritual unity of the Church preclude material, on-the-ground factors, such as the necessity for organization (order). Is the institution of marriage, which certainly has an empirical aspect, not a spiritual union? Why the either/or? Again, I invite persons to consider my post here, as well as the comments:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    Part III in the series is also relevant to the points I make above:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/babies-in-church-part-iii-the-unattractive-body/

    By the way, Lutherans also believe we can fall away from the faith. Also, our view of “sola scriptura” is actually a bit more nuanced than is often imagined.

    For example, look what Chemnitz wrote in responding to Trent:

    “The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted
    verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of
    traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of
    eight different types of traditiones as Scripture itself, i.e. the things that
    Christ and the Apostles preached orally and were later written down. Then
    follows: 2) the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3) the oral tradition
    of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the
    New Testament canon); 4) the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received
    from the Apostles and “Apostolic men”; 5) dogmas that are not set forth in so
    many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts; 6)
    the consensus of true and pure antiquity; 7) rites and customs that are edifying
    and believed to be Apostolic, but cannot be proved from Scripture. Chemnitz
    rejects only the eighth kind of tradition: 8) traditions pertaining to faith and
    morals that cannot be proved with any testimony of Scripture; but which the
    Council of Trent commanded to be accepted and venerated with the same reverence
    and devotion as the Scripture. The important element of this last of the
    traitiones appears not to be the fact that such traditions of faith and morals
    not provable from Scripture actually existed, but that their status of equality
    with Scripture was foisted upon the church by the Council of Trent.” P. Strawn,
    Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der
    Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg.
    v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999, p. 213-14.

    Let’s talk.

    ~Nathan

  • http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/search/label/33000%20denominations Rhology

    Nathan,

    Oh, definitely! It should NOT preclude it, but we must also recognise that nobody has perfect material on-the-ground factors. Nobody. The spiritual unity that Christ creates thru spiritual union with Him in the Holy Spirit IS perfect, and the visible church is an IMPERFECT reflection of that. Does that make sense?

    Also, thank you for the insight into Lutheran theology. I left them out along with tons of other Sola Scripturist groups b/c they don’t generally make arguments along the lines of “You Sola Scripturists have lots of denominations. Ergo, Sola Scriptura is false” like our naive and shallow RC and EO friends do.

    Grace and peace,
    Rhology

  • http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/search/label/33000%20denominations Rhology

    Nathan,

    Oh, definitely! It should NOT preclude it, but we must also recognise that nobody has perfect material on-the-ground factors. Nobody. The spiritual unity that Christ creates thru spiritual union with Him in the Holy Spirit IS perfect, and the visible church is an IMPERFECT reflection of that. Does that make sense?

    Also, thank you for the insight into Lutheran theology. I left them out along with tons of other Sola Scripturist groups b/c they don’t generally make arguments along the lines of “You Sola Scripturists have lots of denominations. Ergo, Sola Scriptura is false” like our naive and shallow RC and EO friends do.

    Grace and peace,
    Rhology

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Well, since I forgot that I was fasting from this blog (good self-discipline, huh?), I should probably say something to you as well. : )

    I think that if you and I were to keep talking, we would find that we are in substantial agreement. If I suspected it, I would not immediately assume that the young LC-MS couple who, looking for a church, starts coming to my church (and had a baby) was not living together… (assume the best, best construction). Still, there may come a time when there is no other conclusion to come to, and then, very carefully and with compassion, there must be confrontation (by the pastor, preferrably) – and possible disciplinary measures if needed.

    The same should hold true for persons who are clearly greedy for example, although these situations might be a bit more difficult to discern, as there is obviously a bit more subjectivity involved. These persons need to be confronted not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of others in the congregation, even as they are told to always put the best construction on all things (as we are also told to avoid the appearance of evil).

    Now, I really am fasting: but only until next Tuesday. : )

    Love in Christ,
    Nathan

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Well, since I forgot that I was fasting from this blog (good self-discipline, huh?), I should probably say something to you as well. : )

    I think that if you and I were to keep talking, we would find that we are in substantial agreement. If I suspected it, I would not immediately assume that the young LC-MS couple who, looking for a church, starts coming to my church (and had a baby) was not living together… (assume the best, best construction). Still, there may come a time when there is no other conclusion to come to, and then, very carefully and with compassion, there must be confrontation (by the pastor, preferrably) – and possible disciplinary measures if needed.

    The same should hold true for persons who are clearly greedy for example, although these situations might be a bit more difficult to discern, as there is obviously a bit more subjectivity involved. These persons need to be confronted not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of others in the congregation, even as they are told to always put the best construction on all things (as we are also told to avoid the appearance of evil).

    Now, I really am fasting: but only until next Tuesday. : )

    Love in Christ,
    Nathan

  • Nathan

    After this:

    Rhology:

    “The spiritual unity that Christ creates thru spiritual union with Him in the Holy Spirit IS perfect, and the visible church is an IMPERFECT reflection of that. Does that make sense?”

    Yes, but I’d add some more nuance about what that realization means, and how we are to act in light of this truth (in my blog posts). After all, the spiritual union we have with Christ that is perfect is also not devoid of material realities, since Jesus has never stopped being a man.

    OK – over and out! Checking back this Tuesday.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    After this:

    Rhology:

    “The spiritual unity that Christ creates thru spiritual union with Him in the Holy Spirit IS perfect, and the visible church is an IMPERFECT reflection of that. Does that make sense?”

    Yes, but I’d add some more nuance about what that realization means, and how we are to act in light of this truth (in my blog posts). After all, the spiritual union we have with Christ that is perfect is also not devoid of material realities, since Jesus has never stopped being a man.

    OK – over and out! Checking back this Tuesday.

    ~Nathan

  • fws

    why don´t all the lutheran synods work together to make pastors pensions and other benefits fully transferrable to another synod?

    that way pastors would be more free to move from synod to synod and be in the synod that best represents where their confessional leanings are. It would be a healthy move for ever single synod.

  • fws

    why don´t all the lutheran synods work together to make pastors pensions and other benefits fully transferrable to another synod?

    that way pastors would be more free to move from synod to synod and be in the synod that best represents where their confessional leanings are. It would be a healthy move for ever single synod.

  • fws

    nathan @85

    you still haven´t answered my simple question:

    what gave apostles or us to do an apostolic succession? maybe the ministry of the keys and the apostolic authority died with the apostles in that case? Where in the bible is there a command for apostolic succession?

  • fws

    nathan @85

    you still haven´t answered my simple question:

    what gave apostles or us to do an apostolic succession? maybe the ministry of the keys and the apostolic authority died with the apostles in that case? Where in the bible is there a command for apostolic succession?

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Will answer next Tuesday. Busy, busy.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Will answer next Tuesday. Busy, busy.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Oh, what the heck. I am not sure what you mean by Apostolic Succession (i.e. what is its significance): I believe in the continuation of the Apostolic ministry through the pastoral office, which I don’t think Scripture gives us the permission to think is optional, or merely some functional thing. If the papacy were in fact an office given by divine rite, it would simply be the head pastoral office.

    OK, more later.

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    fws,

    Oh, what the heck. I am not sure what you mean by Apostolic Succession (i.e. what is its significance): I believe in the continuation of the Apostolic ministry through the pastoral office, which I don’t think Scripture gives us the permission to think is optional, or merely some functional thing. If the papacy were in fact an office given by divine rite, it would simply be the head pastoral office.

    OK, more later.

    ~Nathan


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