Two meanings of “faith”

Thanks to FWS who pointed us to this post from LCMS president Matthew Harrison quoting the German theologian and enemy of Nazism Hermann Sasse (who quotes Werner Elert):

Werner Elert repeatedly drew our attention to the fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran understandings about ecclesiastical confessions of doctrine. It consists in this, that the Roman doctrinal confession has the form of an imperative, while the Lutheran has the form of an indicative. Roman dogma is a command of faith; the Lutheran an expression of faith. There, a credendum [something which must be believed] is presented with a command to accept it. Here is expressed, what the church [already] believes: “We believe, teach, and confess.” The difference is deeply-rooted in the concept of faith. Faith, in the Catholic sense, is the supernatural virtue, by the power of which I hold for true that which the church presents to be as the content of revelation. . . .

Thus the objectum fidei, the object of faith, is defined. Corresponding to the concept of faith as “holding something to be true,” the object of faith is, for a Catholic, always dogma, for example the dogma about Christ. Corresponding to the evangelical concept of faith as fiducia, as trusting the divine promise of grace in the gospel, is the fact that, for the Lutheran, the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself; not the dogma about the Trinity, but rather the Triune God; not the Bible as such, but rather God, Who speaks to us in each word of the Scripture.

This important distinction was mis-used, by Ritschl and his school in his time, but then by the entirety of modern liberalism, in order to get rid of dogma in general.

via Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: “How far does the validity of the confession go?” Sasse.

Faith isn’t just believing that God exists.  It means trusting God.  Of course, God has to exist if we are going to trust Him–and the quotation goes on to show why “dogma” remains important–but just the truth claims are not sufficient.  This explains why atheists keep missing the point and have little impact on evangelical believers.   They keep belaboring the truth claims–”But there isn’t enough evidence!”  “We can never know for sure!”–while being oblivious to what faith actually is to those who have it.

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://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    As smart as many atheists are, they are completely in the dark concerning matters of faith. There is, unsurprisingly, a ton of truth in the maxim;” a fool says in his heart there is no God.” They really are completely blind. In limiting their scope to only what they can quantify, categorize, and systematize they have closed themselves off from a complete segment of reality. In doing so they have hobbled themselves and blinded themselves in such away they will never truly understand life.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    As smart as many atheists are, they are completely in the dark concerning matters of faith. There is, unsurprisingly, a ton of truth in the maxim;” a fool says in his heart there is no God.” They really are completely blind. In limiting their scope to only what they can quantify, categorize, and systematize they have closed themselves off from a complete segment of reality. In doing so they have hobbled themselves and blinded themselves in such away they will never truly understand life.

  • Porcell

    The Catholic Church in its Vatican II formulation, following an American Jesuit theologian, John Courtney Murray, accepted the fundamental concept of religious freedom. Catholics around the world are no longer forced by any state or religious authority to accept its dogmas, anymore than Lutherans are forced to accept its stated Confessions.

    George Weigel, a Catholic authority on John Courtney Murray, writes in a NRO article, Defending Religious Freedom in Full

    Catholic participation in the American consensus has been full and free, unreserved and unembarrassed, because the contents of this consensus — the ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law — approve themselves to the Catholic intelligence and conscience. Where this kind of language is talked, the Catholic joins the conversation with complete ease. It is his language. The ideas expressed are native to his universe of discourse. Even the accent, being American, suits his tongue.

    The LCMS president, Rev. Harrison, apparently has little understanding of the present Roman Catholic position on religious freedom.

  • Porcell

    The Catholic Church in its Vatican II formulation, following an American Jesuit theologian, John Courtney Murray, accepted the fundamental concept of religious freedom. Catholics around the world are no longer forced by any state or religious authority to accept its dogmas, anymore than Lutherans are forced to accept its stated Confessions.

    George Weigel, a Catholic authority on John Courtney Murray, writes in a NRO article, Defending Religious Freedom in Full

    Catholic participation in the American consensus has been full and free, unreserved and unembarrassed, because the contents of this consensus — the ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law — approve themselves to the Catholic intelligence and conscience. Where this kind of language is talked, the Catholic joins the conversation with complete ease. It is his language. The ideas expressed are native to his universe of discourse. Even the accent, being American, suits his tongue.

    The LCMS president, Rev. Harrison, apparently has little understanding of the present Roman Catholic position on religious freedom.

  • Porcell

    Sorry, the link above is here.

  • Porcell

    Sorry, the link above is here.

  • trotk

    Peter, do you realize that the article you quoted is referring to the freedom that Catholics enjoy in the US to participate in “the ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law?”

    In other words, it isn’t talking about the Catholic dogmas lacking an imperative?

    I know that you misunderstand the point of the post, so let me summarize it for you:

    Lutherans say, “We believe in Christ (and therefore His qualities and work)”
    Catholics say, “Accept the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

    Peter, Vatican II didn’t change this. You live in a dream world when it comes to what Catholics believe. The Catholic Church still has a set of dogma that must be confessed that includes many things outside of the basic truths of Christ’s nature and work. For example, the role of the Pope, the doctrine concerning Mary, celibacy of priests, etc, etc.

    Now, you could argue that Lutherans also have a comprehensive dogma that must be believed, as evidenced by closed communion (which, amazingly, Peter, in spite of Vatican II, Catholics still practice), and that the semantic difference between how Catholics and Lutherans express their faith is just a semantic difference, but you cannot rationally believe that Catholics view their various dogmas as optional or up to the believer.

  • trotk

    Peter, do you realize that the article you quoted is referring to the freedom that Catholics enjoy in the US to participate in “the ethical and political principles drawn from the tradition of natural law?”

    In other words, it isn’t talking about the Catholic dogmas lacking an imperative?

    I know that you misunderstand the point of the post, so let me summarize it for you:

    Lutherans say, “We believe in Christ (and therefore His qualities and work)”
    Catholics say, “Accept the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

    Peter, Vatican II didn’t change this. You live in a dream world when it comes to what Catholics believe. The Catholic Church still has a set of dogma that must be confessed that includes many things outside of the basic truths of Christ’s nature and work. For example, the role of the Pope, the doctrine concerning Mary, celibacy of priests, etc, etc.

    Now, you could argue that Lutherans also have a comprehensive dogma that must be believed, as evidenced by closed communion (which, amazingly, Peter, in spite of Vatican II, Catholics still practice), and that the semantic difference between how Catholics and Lutherans express their faith is just a semantic difference, but you cannot rationally believe that Catholics view their various dogmas as optional or up to the believer.

  • trotk

    Back to the atheists, they seem genuinely puzzled by struggles of faith. They are quick to gloat when a Christian’s struggles to believe are made public. It is as if their understanding of faith is so tiny that it cannot comprehend a person choose to trust the nature of Christ even when they don’t feel some faith feeling. In fact, that’s it. They believe that faith is a feeling alone. They complete discount that we can choose to trust someone’s intentions or actions.

    Perhaps we could blame this on modern, evangelical Christianity, which has preached that conversion occurs when you feel the feeling of faith.

  • trotk

    Back to the atheists, they seem genuinely puzzled by struggles of faith. They are quick to gloat when a Christian’s struggles to believe are made public. It is as if their understanding of faith is so tiny that it cannot comprehend a person choose to trust the nature of Christ even when they don’t feel some faith feeling. In fact, that’s it. They believe that faith is a feeling alone. They complete discount that we can choose to trust someone’s intentions or actions.

    Perhaps we could blame this on modern, evangelical Christianity, which has preached that conversion occurs when you feel the feeling of faith.

  • trotk

    Peter, I just reread that article you linked. You must not have read Veith’s post carefully, because that article has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

    So the big question I have is whether you will say, “Oops, I misread the original post,” or continue to argue that Vatican II permits Catholics to believe whatever they want.

  • trotk

    Peter, I just reread that article you linked. You must not have read Veith’s post carefully, because that article has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

    So the big question I have is whether you will say, “Oops, I misread the original post,” or continue to argue that Vatican II permits Catholics to believe whatever they want.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Of course, “modern, evangelical Christianity” also teaches that faith is a choice that humans have the agency to make, which is also an error. Ahem.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Of course, “modern, evangelical Christianity” also teaches that faith is a choice that humans have the agency to make, which is also an error. Ahem.

  • trotk

    tODD, you are correct. My grammatically incorrect statement seemed to imply that it was all in the hands of the believer. Which it isn’t. I was simply trying to highlight how little the public atheists ignore what trust or faith actually means.

    In short, Christ is Author and Perfecter of faith. Sometimes the believer has feelings of faith, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes the believer has to choose to trust, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes the conviction of faith exists regardless of emotion or choice. Christ is the Author and Perfecter.

  • trotk

    tODD, you are correct. My grammatically incorrect statement seemed to imply that it was all in the hands of the believer. Which it isn’t. I was simply trying to highlight how little the public atheists ignore what trust or faith actually means.

    In short, Christ is Author and Perfecter of faith. Sometimes the believer has feelings of faith, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes the believer has to choose to trust, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes the conviction of faith exists regardless of emotion or choice. Christ is the Author and Perfecter.

  • trotk

    excuse me:

    “how much the public atheists ignore” or “how little they know”

  • trotk

    excuse me:

    “how much the public atheists ignore” or “how little they know”

  • Porcell

    trotk, read carefully, Weigel’s article is about religious freedom, which John Courtney Murray was influential in establishing during the Vatican II proceedings. Contemporary Catholics, are free to choose accepting the Catholic Catechism and Magisterium, just as Lutherans are free to accept their Catechisms, small or large, along with the symbolic Confessions.

    The point is that Catholic people now are free to choose their faith and to adhere to the Catholic dogmas contained in its Magisterium and Catechism, just as the Lutherans are free to choose their faith and adhere to the Lutheran dogmatic Catechisms and Confessions. Within both faiths there is much discussion among theologians and lay persons regarding tenets of the faith.

    Some Catholics nowadays have become Protestants, while some Protestants have become Catholics. None of these people have been forced to accept any dogmas. They have freely chosen to accept the dogmas of their respective churches.

    Part of the problem here is the term dogma, a politically incorrect term, that is usually defined as a principle laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. Lutherans with their Confessions and Catechisms quite properly have averred their dogmas no less than Roman Catholics, though in truth both church’s theologians are not averse to questioning any of the dogmas.

  • Porcell

    trotk, read carefully, Weigel’s article is about religious freedom, which John Courtney Murray was influential in establishing during the Vatican II proceedings. Contemporary Catholics, are free to choose accepting the Catholic Catechism and Magisterium, just as Lutherans are free to accept their Catechisms, small or large, along with the symbolic Confessions.

    The point is that Catholic people now are free to choose their faith and to adhere to the Catholic dogmas contained in its Magisterium and Catechism, just as the Lutherans are free to choose their faith and adhere to the Lutheran dogmatic Catechisms and Confessions. Within both faiths there is much discussion among theologians and lay persons regarding tenets of the faith.

    Some Catholics nowadays have become Protestants, while some Protestants have become Catholics. None of these people have been forced to accept any dogmas. They have freely chosen to accept the dogmas of their respective churches.

    Part of the problem here is the term dogma, a politically incorrect term, that is usually defined as a principle laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. Lutherans with their Confessions and Catechisms quite properly have averred their dogmas no less than Roman Catholics, though in truth both church’s theologians are not averse to questioning any of the dogmas.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Bu, Todd… Doesn’t a command to have faith imply agency to choose faith? Isn’t it really the same error, but expressed a little differently?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Bu, Todd… Doesn’t a command to have faith imply agency to choose faith? Isn’t it really the same error, but expressed a little differently?

  • trotk

    Peter, I am increasingly surprised how you can read what you want to read. Weigel’s essay is about how Catholics (and others) can use natural law reasoning to strengthen the moral fabric of America. It has nothing to do with this post.

    It is true that Catholics are free to choose their faith, but if they don’t choose the Catholic version (on all the important issues), they aren’t Catholics. I know there are dissenting voices under the Catholic tent, but they are dissenting about practice, not dogma.

    Your love for Catholicism is blinding your reason, Peter.

  • trotk

    Peter, I am increasingly surprised how you can read what you want to read. Weigel’s essay is about how Catholics (and others) can use natural law reasoning to strengthen the moral fabric of America. It has nothing to do with this post.

    It is true that Catholics are free to choose their faith, but if they don’t choose the Catholic version (on all the important issues), they aren’t Catholics. I know there are dissenting voices under the Catholic tent, but they are dissenting about practice, not dogma.

    Your love for Catholicism is blinding your reason, Peter.

  • Porcell

    Trotk, anyone who knows Weigel’s thought, including the link, is well aware that that in addition to Murray’s natural-law reason to strengthen the moral fabric of America, he affirms the necessity of freedom of religion. No Catholic as well as Litheran, is forced to accept any dogma.

    I have no “blind ” love for Catholicism. I try to understand this complex religion, knowing, as Arthur Scheslinger Sr. remarked long ago, that the deepest American prejudice is that against Catholicism.

  • Porcell

    Trotk, anyone who knows Weigel’s thought, including the link, is well aware that that in addition to Murray’s natural-law reason to strengthen the moral fabric of America, he affirms the necessity of freedom of religion. No Catholic as well as Litheran, is forced to accept any dogma.

    I have no “blind ” love for Catholicism. I try to understand this complex religion, knowing, as Arthur Scheslinger Sr. remarked long ago, that the deepest American prejudice is that against Catholicism.

  • trotk

    Peter, this is becoming a silly conversation. Show me one respected/authoritative Catholic who believes that a person can still be a Catholic even if they reject the dogma of the Catholic Church, and I will acknowledge that your view of Catholicism is correct. You won’t be able to do it, but try by all means.

    Of course Catholics and Lutherans believe in freedom of religion. Of course they don’t force people to believe in their doctrines. But that is because they don’t force people to be Catholics and Lutherans. A Catholic who disagrees with the Church about essential dogma isn’t a Catholic. Even the ones who reject Vatican II or who believe in sede vacante still accept the dogma. They just believe the current leadership isn’t following it.

    Peter, I didn’t say you have

  • trotk

    Peter, this is becoming a silly conversation. Show me one respected/authoritative Catholic who believes that a person can still be a Catholic even if they reject the dogma of the Catholic Church, and I will acknowledge that your view of Catholicism is correct. You won’t be able to do it, but try by all means.

    Of course Catholics and Lutherans believe in freedom of religion. Of course they don’t force people to believe in their doctrines. But that is because they don’t force people to be Catholics and Lutherans. A Catholic who disagrees with the Church about essential dogma isn’t a Catholic. Even the ones who reject Vatican II or who believe in sede vacante still accept the dogma. They just believe the current leadership isn’t following it.

    Peter, I didn’t say you have

  • trotk

    Peter, excuse the last phrase. I had typed more, and deleted, but obviously didn’t highlight everything.

  • trotk

    Peter, excuse the last phrase. I had typed more, and deleted, but obviously didn’t highlight everything.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell, I think you and Trotk are talking past each other, mainly due to a lack of definition for the phrase “religious freedom”.

    For what it’s worth, Trotk, I don’t think Porcell is saying that Catholics may pick and choose whatever subset of RCC dogma they wish and still be members in good standing. He — or, at least, the article he linked to — is merely discussing the RCC’s embracing of the political, legal notion of “religious freedom”, whereby a citizen is not coerced by the government into believing or not believing what he wishes.

    That said, Porcell, I have to agree with Trotk that this point you appear to be making has absolutely nothing to do with Veith’s post.

    And it would be one thing if you just wanted to derail the conversation into a discussion of what the RCC thought about the freedom of religion. But you somehow managed to conclude, from the article you linked to (@2) that “The LCMS president, Rev. Harrison, apparently has little understanding of the present Roman Catholic position on religious freedom.”

    Which pretty much convinces that you did not understand what Mr. Harrison said, at all.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell, I think you and Trotk are talking past each other, mainly due to a lack of definition for the phrase “religious freedom”.

    For what it’s worth, Trotk, I don’t think Porcell is saying that Catholics may pick and choose whatever subset of RCC dogma they wish and still be members in good standing. He — or, at least, the article he linked to — is merely discussing the RCC’s embracing of the political, legal notion of “religious freedom”, whereby a citizen is not coerced by the government into believing or not believing what he wishes.

    That said, Porcell, I have to agree with Trotk that this point you appear to be making has absolutely nothing to do with Veith’s post.

    And it would be one thing if you just wanted to derail the conversation into a discussion of what the RCC thought about the freedom of religion. But you somehow managed to conclude, from the article you linked to (@2) that “The LCMS president, Rev. Harrison, apparently has little understanding of the present Roman Catholic position on religious freedom.”

    Which pretty much convinces that you did not understand what Mr. Harrison said, at all.

  • Porcell

    tODD, Rev. Harrison argues essentially that that the Roman doctrinal confession has the form of an imperative, while the Lutheran has the form of an indicative. Roman dogma is a command of faith; the Lutheran an expression of faith.

    In truth, both the Lutheran Confessions and Catechism are “imperative” of faith, as are the Catholic Magisterium and Catechism, though in both faiths theologians, within some bounds, are free to question assorted dogmas. The Protestant view that the Catholic faith is a rigid, inflexible dogma is both a prejudice and myth.

    Rev. Harrison’s view that Catholicism is involved with an” imperative,” while Lutherans are involved with an “indicative” is at best rather vague. Both confessions are serious about their theology and neither is more imperative than the other, notwithstanding the usual Protestant bias and pieties.

    Catholicism is just as much an “expression” as is Lutheranism and Calvinism. Catholicism is no more “commanding” about its faith than Lutheranism or Calvinism. All of them for good reason are well put in the category of authoritative faiths.

  • Porcell

    tODD, Rev. Harrison argues essentially that that the Roman doctrinal confession has the form of an imperative, while the Lutheran has the form of an indicative. Roman dogma is a command of faith; the Lutheran an expression of faith.

    In truth, both the Lutheran Confessions and Catechism are “imperative” of faith, as are the Catholic Magisterium and Catechism, though in both faiths theologians, within some bounds, are free to question assorted dogmas. The Protestant view that the Catholic faith is a rigid, inflexible dogma is both a prejudice and myth.

    Rev. Harrison’s view that Catholicism is involved with an” imperative,” while Lutherans are involved with an “indicative” is at best rather vague. Both confessions are serious about their theology and neither is more imperative than the other, notwithstanding the usual Protestant bias and pieties.

    Catholicism is just as much an “expression” as is Lutheranism and Calvinism. Catholicism is no more “commanding” about its faith than Lutheranism or Calvinism. All of them for good reason are well put in the category of authoritative faiths.

  • Dust

    Perhaps Harrison is just playing the role of politician and trying to motivate the LCMS with a flattering distinction between the arch enemy and competitive Catholics and his own flock of Lutherans? But seems to me to be a distinction without much of a difference?

    Would very much encourage everyone to click on the link to the entire article and in particular read 3 comment 3 posted by a Rev. Schutz. My guess is that most Lutherans won’t agree with him, simply because it’s very difficult to be self critical and see yourself as others see you, but he writes very well and raises good points in a very polite style :)

  • Dust

    Perhaps Harrison is just playing the role of politician and trying to motivate the LCMS with a flattering distinction between the arch enemy and competitive Catholics and his own flock of Lutherans? But seems to me to be a distinction without much of a difference?

    Would very much encourage everyone to click on the link to the entire article and in particular read 3 comment 3 posted by a Rev. Schutz. My guess is that most Lutherans won’t agree with him, simply because it’s very difficult to be self critical and see yourself as others see you, but he writes very well and raises good points in a very polite style :)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@17), I’m not sure where to start here. You appear to be taking Mr. Harrison’s ideas out of context and then responding to them based on meanings that you impute to the various words, not the meanings that he was using. Though I have to admit that I find Harrison’s point* to be more than a little esoteric, I still do not see in your comments a response to what is being discussed here — for instance, no one is talking about, much less disputing, who is “serious about their theology”.

    Instead, you appear to be misconstruing what is being said and using it as an opportunity to accuse one or more people of anti-Catholic prejudice.

    What’s ironic is that, to do that, you accuse people of spreading the “myth” of Catholics’ “rigid, inflexible dogma” — which myth you deny by saying that Catholic “theologians, within some bounds, are free to question assorted dogmas.” Humorously, you thereby gainsay the very words of the Catholic Church itself, which Mr. Harrison quoted in his blog:

    With the divine or catholic faith, everything must be believed, which is contained in the written or transmitted Word of God, and is presented by the church as divinely revealed thus as to be believed, whether it be in a celebrated decision of faith, or whether it be by the orderly and general office of teaching.

    That quote, in case you’re wondering, comes from the First Vatican Council (Session 3 “Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith”, Chapter 3 “On Faith”). As such, it is vastly more authoritative as to what is true about the Catholic church than your claim.

    So it would appear that you are incorrect in your assessment of what Catholics actually teach, even as you continue to miss the point of what Harrison writes*. If you want to get a handle on Harrison’s point*, I’d suggest you start with wrapping your head around this paragraph, and leaving aside for now what you think Harrison is saying* with respect to “imperatives” and “religious freedom”:

    Corresponding to the concept of faith as “holding something to be true,” the object of faith is, for a Catholic, always dogma, for example the dogma about Christ. Corresponding to the evangelical concept of faith as fiducia, as trusting the divine promise of grace in the gospel, is the fact that, for the Lutheran, the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself; not the dogma about the Trinity, but rather the Triune God; not the Bible as such, but rather God, Who speaks to us in each word of the Scripture.

    *Actually, none of those words are Harrison’s, as such. He indicates on his blog that he’s quoting from a letter by Sasse.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@17), I’m not sure where to start here. You appear to be taking Mr. Harrison’s ideas out of context and then responding to them based on meanings that you impute to the various words, not the meanings that he was using. Though I have to admit that I find Harrison’s point* to be more than a little esoteric, I still do not see in your comments a response to what is being discussed here — for instance, no one is talking about, much less disputing, who is “serious about their theology”.

    Instead, you appear to be misconstruing what is being said and using it as an opportunity to accuse one or more people of anti-Catholic prejudice.

    What’s ironic is that, to do that, you accuse people of spreading the “myth” of Catholics’ “rigid, inflexible dogma” — which myth you deny by saying that Catholic “theologians, within some bounds, are free to question assorted dogmas.” Humorously, you thereby gainsay the very words of the Catholic Church itself, which Mr. Harrison quoted in his blog:

    With the divine or catholic faith, everything must be believed, which is contained in the written or transmitted Word of God, and is presented by the church as divinely revealed thus as to be believed, whether it be in a celebrated decision of faith, or whether it be by the orderly and general office of teaching.

    That quote, in case you’re wondering, comes from the First Vatican Council (Session 3 “Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith”, Chapter 3 “On Faith”). As such, it is vastly more authoritative as to what is true about the Catholic church than your claim.

    So it would appear that you are incorrect in your assessment of what Catholics actually teach, even as you continue to miss the point of what Harrison writes*. If you want to get a handle on Harrison’s point*, I’d suggest you start with wrapping your head around this paragraph, and leaving aside for now what you think Harrison is saying* with respect to “imperatives” and “religious freedom”:

    Corresponding to the concept of faith as “holding something to be true,” the object of faith is, for a Catholic, always dogma, for example the dogma about Christ. Corresponding to the evangelical concept of faith as fiducia, as trusting the divine promise of grace in the gospel, is the fact that, for the Lutheran, the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself; not the dogma about the Trinity, but rather the Triune God; not the Bible as such, but rather God, Who speaks to us in each word of the Scripture.

    *Actually, none of those words are Harrison’s, as such. He indicates on his blog that he’s quoting from a letter by Sasse.

  • trotk

    tODD, it was as good as guaranteed that Peter would disagree with you (no matter what you said), in spite of the fact that you put the best construction on his words.

    I really do believe that he thinks (and was arguing) that the Catholic Church is an amalgamation of variously-believing Christians. Which it is, in terms of everything but core doctrine, which includes papal infallibility (which enables it to silence many critical theologians). Peter, correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of your views.

    Peter, I notice at 17 that you are now mum on the applicability of the article you linked. Good, because it had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    I think the issue of the imperative, Peter, is real, but it stems from a deep view of what sanctification is. The Catholic Church believes that man works with God to sanctify himself. The Lutheran Church doesn’t. Thus while both churches are serious about their theology, as you correctly note, there is a latent imperative in Catholicism that doesn’t exist in Lutheranism. Just as a latent imperative resides in all churches that teach total freedom of the will as opposed to those that teach complete predestination.

  • trotk

    tODD, it was as good as guaranteed that Peter would disagree with you (no matter what you said), in spite of the fact that you put the best construction on his words.

    I really do believe that he thinks (and was arguing) that the Catholic Church is an amalgamation of variously-believing Christians. Which it is, in terms of everything but core doctrine, which includes papal infallibility (which enables it to silence many critical theologians). Peter, correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of your views.

    Peter, I notice at 17 that you are now mum on the applicability of the article you linked. Good, because it had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    I think the issue of the imperative, Peter, is real, but it stems from a deep view of what sanctification is. The Catholic Church believes that man works with God to sanctify himself. The Lutheran Church doesn’t. Thus while both churches are serious about their theology, as you correctly note, there is a latent imperative in Catholicism that doesn’t exist in Lutheranism. Just as a latent imperative resides in all churches that teach total freedom of the will as opposed to those that teach complete predestination.

  • Dust

    tODD…that’s the quote that gets me scratching my very small theology brain. What does it mean that:

    “the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself”

    Just seems to me you have to “define” just what Christ you are talking about, don’t you? Is it the Christ born of a virgin and the Holy spirit? The one that turned water into wine? Or the one born like anyone else and never did any miracles?

    In that case, that sounds like some kind of dogma to me. But am not in the least a theology wonk, and perhaps there is some very fine point that makes a difference? It sure doesn’t seem that way to me….

    The Rev. Schutz in comment 3 following Harrison’s full article says it much better….cheers!

  • Dust

    tODD…that’s the quote that gets me scratching my very small theology brain. What does it mean that:

    “the objectum fidei is not the dogma about Christ, but rather Christ Himself”

    Just seems to me you have to “define” just what Christ you are talking about, don’t you? Is it the Christ born of a virgin and the Holy spirit? The one that turned water into wine? Or the one born like anyone else and never did any miracles?

    In that case, that sounds like some kind of dogma to me. But am not in the least a theology wonk, and perhaps there is some very fine point that makes a difference? It sure doesn’t seem that way to me….

    The Rev. Schutz in comment 3 following Harrison’s full article says it much better….cheers!

  • Porcell

    Todd, the Rev. Harrison’s point that the object of faith for a Catholic is always dogma including the dogma of Christ. Not really, while the Catholic Church does have a particular dogma about Christ, as does the Lutheran Church, it well understands that the object of the dogma is Christ in all His glory and mystery.

    A few months ago I reread John Paul II’s encyclical, Faith and Reason [Fides et Ratio] that makes rather clear Christians over millennia are well aware of the essential mystery of Christ that can only be partially elucidated by any form of reason or dogma and in the final analysis requires a humble faith. The Catholic Church is far from making an idol of its dogma, as Rev. Harrison suggests, though it does for good reasons make a strong effort to formulate its views, just as is the case with the Lutheran symbolical Confessions.

  • Porcell

    Todd, the Rev. Harrison’s point that the object of faith for a Catholic is always dogma including the dogma of Christ. Not really, while the Catholic Church does have a particular dogma about Christ, as does the Lutheran Church, it well understands that the object of the dogma is Christ in all His glory and mystery.

    A few months ago I reread John Paul II’s encyclical, Faith and Reason [Fides et Ratio] that makes rather clear Christians over millennia are well aware of the essential mystery of Christ that can only be partially elucidated by any form of reason or dogma and in the final analysis requires a humble faith. The Catholic Church is far from making an idol of its dogma, as Rev. Harrison suggests, though it does for good reasons make a strong effort to formulate its views, just as is the case with the Lutheran symbolical Confessions.

  • Stephen

    I have a suggestion. Here’s an article by Gerhard Forde written at the time the ELCA was formed. It links to a PDF called Radical Lutheranism from Lutheran Quarterly.

    http://www.lutheranquarterly.com/Articles/2006/Special-Issue-20-Years/02-lq_forde.pdf

    The subtitle is “Lutheran Identity in America.” For those who do not know who Forde is, he wrote one of the most highly respected books on the Heidelberg Disputations and the Theology of the Cross in English. That goes for confessional, conservative Lutherans too, even though he stayed in the ELCA. He taught at Luther seminary and died in 2005. He’s something of a major league American Luther giant.

    Anyway, I will tease you with a few quotes:

    “Who or what in this opulent religious cafeteria shall we be? Shall we be conservative, liberal, confessional, orthodox, charismatic, neo-pentecostal, fundamentalist, or ‘‘evangelical’’ (perhaps ‘‘fundagelical,’’ as someone recently put it)? Shall we be sectarian or ecumenical; protestant or catholic; high, low, or in the middle?”

    As you can see he has a bit of sense of humor. Here’s more:

    “Several people thought we should at last drop the adjective ‘‘Lutheran’’ and call ourselves ‘‘Evangelical Catholics.’’ Others thought we should probably drop both ‘‘Lutheran’’ and ‘‘Catholic’’ and just call our- selves ‘‘The Evangelical Community in Christ’’ or some other generic title. Some thought we should drop the adjective ‘‘Evangelical,’’ since it is misleading today and already redundant when put together with ‘‘Lutheran.’’ How can a Lutheran not be evangelical?”

    Do Catholic theologians talk about Rome like that, ever? Hardly. And then he levels this thought:

    “Lutheranism, we have said in the past, is not so much a denomination as a confessional movement with perhaps a proposal of dogma to make to the church catholic, a critical principle to apply over against a catholic substance. I wonder more and more of late whether such at once over-modest and pretentious estimates of self-identity will serve the radical nature of the gospel as Paul, for instance, saw it. Would Paul have been satisfied with such a description of his own mission? What is the catholic substance, after all? What if it turns out to be a fantastic universal synthesis between this age and the next which quietly ignores or disarms New Testament eschatology and absorbs it in its universal ecclesiology? What if all critical principles and proposals of dogma are benignly ordered somewhere in the hierarchy of truths and filed away in a Denzinger? Can there really be such a thing as a catholic church? Should not someone be asking whether it is not likely that the radical eschatology proclaimed especially by Paul will have to be pursued to the end of the age? Is what Lutherans have stood for a passing fancy?”

    That last one got my attention. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he sure knew what the gospel was and how to preach it. I didn’t even quote that stuff.

    Anyway, once again Porcell, if you managed to read this far, you expose that you don’t know what you are talking about. That link is utterly pointless in this discussion. And this statement to Todd:

    “Rev. Harrison’s point that the object of faith for a Catholic is always dogma including the dogma of Christ. Not really, while the Catholic Church does have a particular dogma about Christ, as does the Lutheran Church, it well understands that the object of the dogma is Christ in all His glory and mystery. ”

    That shows you haven’t got much appreciation for the distinction being drawn. Maybe an illustration will help, that of the finger pointing at the moon. The Buddha said he was not the moon but the finger pointing at the moon. Believing in Buddha is wrong-headed. He’s the finger. The Catholic Church teaches faith in it’s teaching “about” Christ. That is what matters. Believe in the finger and that it pointing correctly. Don’t worry about the moon, the finger is all you need really. It’s ordained by God to point correctly so it must be. Trust the finger. Makes sense, huh? And that is what makes you truly Christian (read: Catholic). This is an assent of Reason, and it is all worked out that way in their ecclesiology. See Forde’s 3rd quote above.

    Lutherans believe, teach and confess using that law/gospel thing called the Confessions so they do not get confused about the purpose of the finger and say “there’s the moon!!!” Believe in Christ alone, not the Church. We’re just the finger – the church, and at the tippy-tip the Word and Sacrament. The Confessions are the muscle that holds up the arm and keeps it straight (orthodox). We do not believe in the Confessions, not in any necessary way. Certainly not in the way you describe them. We believe they are a very well-toned and fit muscle though with lots of stamina that have not failed yet. They teach us what is believed. And that is Christ alone. Not Church and Christ – finger and moon, or finger over moon depending on who’s in charge.

    If you want a taste of how poorly the Catholic Church preaches Christ go here:

    https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/the-infinite-distance-is-overcome/

    Here’s a highlight from the same Christmas Eve sermon of Benedict:

    “It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God [the response to the Incarnation], as if he had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son.”

    If you read that whole thing, did it put you to sleep? I felt like I should be sucking my thumb or something. This is a lot of theological doodling if you asked me (well, no one did but I’m saying it). I suppose it could just not be to my “tastes” but what a birthday cake! I expected the baby Jesus to jump out!

    It sounds rigorous I suppose, but it’s really just playing around with images and obfuscating the real thing at work here – the church and it’s ecclesiastical authority. In other words, we cannot divide up into independent entities God and the authority of Rome’s role in salvation. Don’t be deceived by the terminology. It is the Catholic church that decides for you exactly what that freedom looks like. And it is in the hands of the pope and Catholic Tradition (that with a large “T” connoting scholasticism, natural law and the ecclesiastical authority to damn people to hell which they believe). It’s the same barrier between believer and Christ that the Reformation went at head on with the pure Gospel. It’s a counterfeit freedom because it limits and wants to manage God’s grace.

    I think that article was a diversion and had nothing to do with what Pastor Harrison said. You either do not understand that or are unwilling to say otherwise.

    And for anyone about to freak out because I used an illustration from Buddhism, calm down. Christ alone. Hope I didn’t lose my confessional street cred if I had any.

  • Stephen

    I have a suggestion. Here’s an article by Gerhard Forde written at the time the ELCA was formed. It links to a PDF called Radical Lutheranism from Lutheran Quarterly.

    http://www.lutheranquarterly.com/Articles/2006/Special-Issue-20-Years/02-lq_forde.pdf

    The subtitle is “Lutheran Identity in America.” For those who do not know who Forde is, he wrote one of the most highly respected books on the Heidelberg Disputations and the Theology of the Cross in English. That goes for confessional, conservative Lutherans too, even though he stayed in the ELCA. He taught at Luther seminary and died in 2005. He’s something of a major league American Luther giant.

    Anyway, I will tease you with a few quotes:

    “Who or what in this opulent religious cafeteria shall we be? Shall we be conservative, liberal, confessional, orthodox, charismatic, neo-pentecostal, fundamentalist, or ‘‘evangelical’’ (perhaps ‘‘fundagelical,’’ as someone recently put it)? Shall we be sectarian or ecumenical; protestant or catholic; high, low, or in the middle?”

    As you can see he has a bit of sense of humor. Here’s more:

    “Several people thought we should at last drop the adjective ‘‘Lutheran’’ and call ourselves ‘‘Evangelical Catholics.’’ Others thought we should probably drop both ‘‘Lutheran’’ and ‘‘Catholic’’ and just call our- selves ‘‘The Evangelical Community in Christ’’ or some other generic title. Some thought we should drop the adjective ‘‘Evangelical,’’ since it is misleading today and already redundant when put together with ‘‘Lutheran.’’ How can a Lutheran not be evangelical?”

    Do Catholic theologians talk about Rome like that, ever? Hardly. And then he levels this thought:

    “Lutheranism, we have said in the past, is not so much a denomination as a confessional movement with perhaps a proposal of dogma to make to the church catholic, a critical principle to apply over against a catholic substance. I wonder more and more of late whether such at once over-modest and pretentious estimates of self-identity will serve the radical nature of the gospel as Paul, for instance, saw it. Would Paul have been satisfied with such a description of his own mission? What is the catholic substance, after all? What if it turns out to be a fantastic universal synthesis between this age and the next which quietly ignores or disarms New Testament eschatology and absorbs it in its universal ecclesiology? What if all critical principles and proposals of dogma are benignly ordered somewhere in the hierarchy of truths and filed away in a Denzinger? Can there really be such a thing as a catholic church? Should not someone be asking whether it is not likely that the radical eschatology proclaimed especially by Paul will have to be pursued to the end of the age? Is what Lutherans have stood for a passing fancy?”

    That last one got my attention. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he sure knew what the gospel was and how to preach it. I didn’t even quote that stuff.

    Anyway, once again Porcell, if you managed to read this far, you expose that you don’t know what you are talking about. That link is utterly pointless in this discussion. And this statement to Todd:

    “Rev. Harrison’s point that the object of faith for a Catholic is always dogma including the dogma of Christ. Not really, while the Catholic Church does have a particular dogma about Christ, as does the Lutheran Church, it well understands that the object of the dogma is Christ in all His glory and mystery. ”

    That shows you haven’t got much appreciation for the distinction being drawn. Maybe an illustration will help, that of the finger pointing at the moon. The Buddha said he was not the moon but the finger pointing at the moon. Believing in Buddha is wrong-headed. He’s the finger. The Catholic Church teaches faith in it’s teaching “about” Christ. That is what matters. Believe in the finger and that it pointing correctly. Don’t worry about the moon, the finger is all you need really. It’s ordained by God to point correctly so it must be. Trust the finger. Makes sense, huh? And that is what makes you truly Christian (read: Catholic). This is an assent of Reason, and it is all worked out that way in their ecclesiology. See Forde’s 3rd quote above.

    Lutherans believe, teach and confess using that law/gospel thing called the Confessions so they do not get confused about the purpose of the finger and say “there’s the moon!!!” Believe in Christ alone, not the Church. We’re just the finger – the church, and at the tippy-tip the Word and Sacrament. The Confessions are the muscle that holds up the arm and keeps it straight (orthodox). We do not believe in the Confessions, not in any necessary way. Certainly not in the way you describe them. We believe they are a very well-toned and fit muscle though with lots of stamina that have not failed yet. They teach us what is believed. And that is Christ alone. Not Church and Christ – finger and moon, or finger over moon depending on who’s in charge.

    If you want a taste of how poorly the Catholic Church preaches Christ go here:

    https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/the-infinite-distance-is-overcome/

    Here’s a highlight from the same Christmas Eve sermon of Benedict:

    “It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God [the response to the Incarnation], as if he had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son.”

    If you read that whole thing, did it put you to sleep? I felt like I should be sucking my thumb or something. This is a lot of theological doodling if you asked me (well, no one did but I’m saying it). I suppose it could just not be to my “tastes” but what a birthday cake! I expected the baby Jesus to jump out!

    It sounds rigorous I suppose, but it’s really just playing around with images and obfuscating the real thing at work here – the church and it’s ecclesiastical authority. In other words, we cannot divide up into independent entities God and the authority of Rome’s role in salvation. Don’t be deceived by the terminology. It is the Catholic church that decides for you exactly what that freedom looks like. And it is in the hands of the pope and Catholic Tradition (that with a large “T” connoting scholasticism, natural law and the ecclesiastical authority to damn people to hell which they believe). It’s the same barrier between believer and Christ that the Reformation went at head on with the pure Gospel. It’s a counterfeit freedom because it limits and wants to manage God’s grace.

    I think that article was a diversion and had nothing to do with what Pastor Harrison said. You either do not understand that or are unwilling to say otherwise.

    And for anyone about to freak out because I used an illustration from Buddhism, calm down. Christ alone. Hope I didn’t lose my confessional street cred if I had any.

  • Stephen

    Porcell @ 22

    My comment @ 23 is largely a response to yours @ 22. I probably should have stuck that in there. I’ve got some stuff for you to read.

  • Stephen

    Porcell @ 22

    My comment @ 23 is largely a response to yours @ 22. I probably should have stuck that in there. I’ve got some stuff for you to read.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Stephen @ 23 – that is similar to my complaint against a certain breed of Calvinists that I had to do with in my younger days: That their message became that you are justified by believing in (the doctrine) of justification by faith (in Christ).

    No – you are justifed by faith in Christ. Thus your understanding of your faith might be off, but if your faith is in Christ, you are justified. Conversely, you might have the correct understanding, but if your faith is in your understanding, your system, and not in Christ, you are lost.

    Of course, correct doctrine plus faith in Christ is preferable by far. But let’s not confuse the former with the latter.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Stephen @ 23 – that is similar to my complaint against a certain breed of Calvinists that I had to do with in my younger days: That their message became that you are justified by believing in (the doctrine) of justification by faith (in Christ).

    No – you are justifed by faith in Christ. Thus your understanding of your faith might be off, but if your faith is in Christ, you are justified. Conversely, you might have the correct understanding, but if your faith is in your understanding, your system, and not in Christ, you are lost.

    Of course, correct doctrine plus faith in Christ is preferable by far. But let’s not confuse the former with the latter.

  • Stephen

    Louis @25

    “Of course, correct doctrine plus faith in Christ is preferable by far. But let’s not confuse the former with the latter.”

    I think you nail it. And I’m not trying to suggest that sinful Lutherans cannot make that mistake either. But I also think it is true that the character or approach of the Confessions is such as to disallow this very thing. I think this is what Pr. Harrison is saying. In other words, that’s not what happens when we are Confessional. We preach Christ and him crucified and not doctrine about those things.

  • Stephen

    Louis @25

    “Of course, correct doctrine plus faith in Christ is preferable by far. But let’s not confuse the former with the latter.”

    I think you nail it. And I’m not trying to suggest that sinful Lutherans cannot make that mistake either. But I also think it is true that the character or approach of the Confessions is such as to disallow this very thing. I think this is what Pr. Harrison is saying. In other words, that’s not what happens when we are Confessional. We preach Christ and him crucified and not doctrine about those things.

  • Stephen

    In regards to my comment @ 27 and earlier

    Confessional Lutheranism preaches Christ for faith, and teach doctrine about or toward that faith in Christ. Catholicism teaches faith for Church its doctrine (dogma) as intercessor to Christ, in which case I am not even sure one could say there is even real proclamation in Catholicism – that is, no evangelical message. The two are as far as east is from the west.

    That is not to say that there are no Christians there. Read Pieper on heterodoxy. I am talking about Catholicism as it is in its official and avowed self-description, not as God might make of it by His Spirit, which He does in, with, and under even the evil of this world. It is, after all, His world and not that of any church. That is, finally, where Catholicism is sorely missing the point.

  • Stephen

    In regards to my comment @ 27 and earlier

    Confessional Lutheranism preaches Christ for faith, and teach doctrine about or toward that faith in Christ. Catholicism teaches faith for Church its doctrine (dogma) as intercessor to Christ, in which case I am not even sure one could say there is even real proclamation in Catholicism – that is, no evangelical message. The two are as far as east is from the west.

    That is not to say that there are no Christians there. Read Pieper on heterodoxy. I am talking about Catholicism as it is in its official and avowed self-description, not as God might make of it by His Spirit, which He does in, with, and under even the evil of this world. It is, after all, His world and not that of any church. That is, finally, where Catholicism is sorely missing the point.

  • Porcell

    Stephen, your apologia for Lutheran truth is fetching, though I’m struck by the reality that two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians, Richard John Neuhaus and Reinhard Hutter, saw fit to cross the Tiber. Hutter in a January 2011 First Things article, Here The Ruins of Discontinuity, writes:

    Ultimately, what is at stake—as Augustine realized during his own lengthy struggle with the trendy theologies of his day—is our heart’s desire. We will not find what we seek in Jesus Christ unless we put ourselves under the tutelage of the “church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth,” for “great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion” (1 Timothy 3:15–16). As Newman reminds us again and again, “private judgment” cannot reliably interpret the Holy Spirit’s work in Christ’s Body

    The trouble with the Reformation is that essentially over time it tended to disastrously rely on private judgment [The Priesthood of all believers] rather than church authority, however pleasing this might be to modern romantics. Authentic churches, whether early Lutheranism or Catholicism, rely on authoritative teaching, though theologians, including Neuhaus and Hutter, see no good reason for the cacophony of Protestantism that has so badly divided Christendom.

    I appreciate your heartfelt defense of the Reformation, though both Luther and Melanchthon made it clear during the early Reformation that they wished to reform, not divide Christendom. Unfortunately, modern defenders of the Reformation lack both charity and understanding of the reform with relation to the Catholic Church. Men like Neuhaus and Hutter finally came to understand this. Neuhaus, finally a Catholic priest, Kept a portrait of Luther in his study. John made clear that among Christ’s final words was the prayer, That they might be one [ Ut unum sint].

  • Porcell

    Stephen, your apologia for Lutheran truth is fetching, though I’m struck by the reality that two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians, Richard John Neuhaus and Reinhard Hutter, saw fit to cross the Tiber. Hutter in a January 2011 First Things article, Here The Ruins of Discontinuity, writes:

    Ultimately, what is at stake—as Augustine realized during his own lengthy struggle with the trendy theologies of his day—is our heart’s desire. We will not find what we seek in Jesus Christ unless we put ourselves under the tutelage of the “church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth,” for “great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion” (1 Timothy 3:15–16). As Newman reminds us again and again, “private judgment” cannot reliably interpret the Holy Spirit’s work in Christ’s Body

    The trouble with the Reformation is that essentially over time it tended to disastrously rely on private judgment [The Priesthood of all believers] rather than church authority, however pleasing this might be to modern romantics. Authentic churches, whether early Lutheranism or Catholicism, rely on authoritative teaching, though theologians, including Neuhaus and Hutter, see no good reason for the cacophony of Protestantism that has so badly divided Christendom.

    I appreciate your heartfelt defense of the Reformation, though both Luther and Melanchthon made it clear during the early Reformation that they wished to reform, not divide Christendom. Unfortunately, modern defenders of the Reformation lack both charity and understanding of the reform with relation to the Catholic Church. Men like Neuhaus and Hutter finally came to understand this. Neuhaus, finally a Catholic priest, Kept a portrait of Luther in his study. John made clear that among Christ’s final words was the prayer, That they might be one [ Ut unum sint].

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@28), do you not see the circular reasoning involved in your declaring Neuhaus and Hutter as “two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians”? Ask yourself: does any Lutheran actually agree that they are “most exemplary”, or is it just the Catholic apologist? And if the latter, isn’t it more than a little bit likely that you consider them “most exemplary” not because they were Lutheran, or their faithfulness to what Lutheranism teaches, but rather because they “crossed the Tiber”?

    “The trouble with the Reformation is that essentially over time it tended to disastrously rely on private judgment rather than church authority.” Ah, but “church authority” is also private judgment, only on behalf of a smaller number of people, and then enforced on the people at large. The authority and teaching of men — whether the individual or the would-be leader of the world’s believers — is meaningless if it is in conflict with God’s Word, the only true authority (or, rather, the normative word of the only true Authority).

    You are making a point you have made many times before, Porcell, and you almost certainly know the replies by now. The reason Christendom is divided is because there are different beliefs. The way to external unity is for there to be true unity — the true unity that the Son shares with the Father, and for which Jesus prayed — by coming to agreement on all things that Scripture teaches. Yes, Luther, et al., “wished to reform, not divide Christendom”, but this wish was not shared — then or now — by those in the Roman church not willing to concede the problems in their theology. Given that the differences in belief were not overcome, then there was no option but for there to be a divide, since that’s what caused the divide.

    “Modern defenders of the Reformation lack both charity and understanding of the reform with relation to the Catholic Church.” So you continually tell us. And yet, when we have discussed this in the past, you have misrepresented the actual Catholic position on the matter.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@28), do you not see the circular reasoning involved in your declaring Neuhaus and Hutter as “two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians”? Ask yourself: does any Lutheran actually agree that they are “most exemplary”, or is it just the Catholic apologist? And if the latter, isn’t it more than a little bit likely that you consider them “most exemplary” not because they were Lutheran, or their faithfulness to what Lutheranism teaches, but rather because they “crossed the Tiber”?

    “The trouble with the Reformation is that essentially over time it tended to disastrously rely on private judgment rather than church authority.” Ah, but “church authority” is also private judgment, only on behalf of a smaller number of people, and then enforced on the people at large. The authority and teaching of men — whether the individual or the would-be leader of the world’s believers — is meaningless if it is in conflict with God’s Word, the only true authority (or, rather, the normative word of the only true Authority).

    You are making a point you have made many times before, Porcell, and you almost certainly know the replies by now. The reason Christendom is divided is because there are different beliefs. The way to external unity is for there to be true unity — the true unity that the Son shares with the Father, and for which Jesus prayed — by coming to agreement on all things that Scripture teaches. Yes, Luther, et al., “wished to reform, not divide Christendom”, but this wish was not shared — then or now — by those in the Roman church not willing to concede the problems in their theology. Given that the differences in belief were not overcome, then there was no option but for there to be a divide, since that’s what caused the divide.

    “Modern defenders of the Reformation lack both charity and understanding of the reform with relation to the Catholic Church.” So you continually tell us. And yet, when we have discussed this in the past, you have misrepresented the actual Catholic position on the matter.

  • Stephen

    Porcell, now that was about the most lucid thing I have ever heard you write. I still disagree, but I have to hand it to you. You did your homework and you delivered. I take my hat off to you sir.

    I would love to sit with you and talk about that John text. I have done some work on John and the epistles as well want to do more. It IS where we begin to see the emergence of the community of faith. And it is so rich and incarnational, yet actually spare in form, as if to say “here I am.” Jesus speaks a lot, but nothing like those florid sermons of the pope.

    Anyway, the thing to remember about “confession” and “confessional’ is that it is many faceted. Maybe Neuhaus and Hutter missed that. Maybe they needed, for whatever reason, a greater sense of earthly authority perhaps. Sometimes I think Neuhaus’s serious political concerns that began as Lutheran pastor pushed him to seek just that very sort of thing. But I can’t really say. It’s conjecture. He was pretty brilliant and a gift to the church universal.

    But confessional does not lose that sense of “together” in any way if we are to hear it rightly. We do this together. We confess together. It is inherent in the very word. There is no “private judgment” as it were, not really. God does deal with the heart, and we all eat and drink to our own salvation or damnation as Luther said about the sacrament, but this is not exclusive of the neighbor. It never is. That reflection we in preparation for absolution is aimed directly at our sin against our neighbor. When we baptize children, we understand that faith is present in the community of believers, the Body of Christ, and it is there that Christ makes his home so to speak, among us. We are not baptizing autonomous individuals if that is what you suggest. This baptism is Christ’s baptism being done for us, for us all, together. That is what we believe, teach and confess, together.

    “Con” as you must know means “with” and so think of all the ways that might imply that we are with each other and in Christ. Then you have some idea of what it means to be baptized into Christ as a confessional Lutheran believes, teaches and confesses. The thing is, we believe this is true for anyone baptized in the name of the Triune God – dunked, sprinkled, whatever. The institution itself is of no consequence. Christ is. Christ is all.

  • Stephen

    Porcell, now that was about the most lucid thing I have ever heard you write. I still disagree, but I have to hand it to you. You did your homework and you delivered. I take my hat off to you sir.

    I would love to sit with you and talk about that John text. I have done some work on John and the epistles as well want to do more. It IS where we begin to see the emergence of the community of faith. And it is so rich and incarnational, yet actually spare in form, as if to say “here I am.” Jesus speaks a lot, but nothing like those florid sermons of the pope.

    Anyway, the thing to remember about “confession” and “confessional’ is that it is many faceted. Maybe Neuhaus and Hutter missed that. Maybe they needed, for whatever reason, a greater sense of earthly authority perhaps. Sometimes I think Neuhaus’s serious political concerns that began as Lutheran pastor pushed him to seek just that very sort of thing. But I can’t really say. It’s conjecture. He was pretty brilliant and a gift to the church universal.

    But confessional does not lose that sense of “together” in any way if we are to hear it rightly. We do this together. We confess together. It is inherent in the very word. There is no “private judgment” as it were, not really. God does deal with the heart, and we all eat and drink to our own salvation or damnation as Luther said about the sacrament, but this is not exclusive of the neighbor. It never is. That reflection we in preparation for absolution is aimed directly at our sin against our neighbor. When we baptize children, we understand that faith is present in the community of believers, the Body of Christ, and it is there that Christ makes his home so to speak, among us. We are not baptizing autonomous individuals if that is what you suggest. This baptism is Christ’s baptism being done for us, for us all, together. That is what we believe, teach and confess, together.

    “Con” as you must know means “with” and so think of all the ways that might imply that we are with each other and in Christ. Then you have some idea of what it means to be baptized into Christ as a confessional Lutheran believes, teaches and confesses. The thing is, we believe this is true for anyone baptized in the name of the Triune God – dunked, sprinkled, whatever. The institution itself is of no consequence. Christ is. Christ is all.

  • Stephen

    Whoops! Seems tODD has different opinion. Look out!

    I agree with tODD (I’m getting tired of hitting the caps key!) that those two are not exemplary Lutherans (anymore!). I respect Neuhaus. I also respect Pannenberg, who is a Lutheran, but not a very confessional one. And I respect a lot of other theologians who are not even Lutherans, like Augustine (ha!).

    While I sensed your lean into Rome, I guess I was not aware that this had been discussed so thoroughly before. Was that booby trap? If so, I guess I’m the boob.

    And Todd (is it okay if I write it like that? I do respect you ya know?) makes a pretty good point about John. That really is it. Our unity is in Jesus Christ, not the intercessions of the Catholic Church and/or Papa, who in a very essential way places himself upon the throne where he does not belong. Shall I say more?

  • Stephen

    Whoops! Seems tODD has different opinion. Look out!

    I agree with tODD (I’m getting tired of hitting the caps key!) that those two are not exemplary Lutherans (anymore!). I respect Neuhaus. I also respect Pannenberg, who is a Lutheran, but not a very confessional one. And I respect a lot of other theologians who are not even Lutherans, like Augustine (ha!).

    While I sensed your lean into Rome, I guess I was not aware that this had been discussed so thoroughly before. Was that booby trap? If so, I guess I’m the boob.

    And Todd (is it okay if I write it like that? I do respect you ya know?) makes a pretty good point about John. That really is it. Our unity is in Jesus Christ, not the intercessions of the Catholic Church and/or Papa, who in a very essential way places himself upon the throne where he does not belong. Shall I say more?

  • Porcell

    tODD, I understand that many Lutherans regard Neuhaus and Hutter with disdain, though I find them to be serious theologians along with Braaten, Pannenberg, and Jenson who didn’t cross the Tiber.

    I stated that Neuhaus and Hutter are among the most exemplary theologians, not the most exemplary. Contrary to your view, not a few Lutherans have taken serious note of their crossing the Tiber. Neuhaus once quoted Brunner who remarked that that every Lutheran should ask themselves daily why they are not members of the holy, apostolic Catholic church. To blithely and defensively write these men off, as you do, is mistaken. One may, of course, disagree with them, though treating them lightly would be wrong.

    On the matter of private judgment, both the Lutheran Confessions and the Roman Catholic Magisterium reflect the views of competent authority, just as does the American Constitution. Private judgment, however well meaning, as Newman makes clear, cannot competently comprehend the complexity and profundity of Christianity. Newman for many years as an Anglican tried to understand the simplicity of early Christianity, only in the end to conclude that the orthodox Catholic theologians, especially Athanasius, correctly formulated the essence of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.

  • Porcell

    tODD, I understand that many Lutherans regard Neuhaus and Hutter with disdain, though I find them to be serious theologians along with Braaten, Pannenberg, and Jenson who didn’t cross the Tiber.

    I stated that Neuhaus and Hutter are among the most exemplary theologians, not the most exemplary. Contrary to your view, not a few Lutherans have taken serious note of their crossing the Tiber. Neuhaus once quoted Brunner who remarked that that every Lutheran should ask themselves daily why they are not members of the holy, apostolic Catholic church. To blithely and defensively write these men off, as you do, is mistaken. One may, of course, disagree with them, though treating them lightly would be wrong.

    On the matter of private judgment, both the Lutheran Confessions and the Roman Catholic Magisterium reflect the views of competent authority, just as does the American Constitution. Private judgment, however well meaning, as Newman makes clear, cannot competently comprehend the complexity and profundity of Christianity. Newman for many years as an Anglican tried to understand the simplicity of early Christianity, only in the end to conclude that the orthodox Catholic theologians, especially Athanasius, correctly formulated the essence of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@32), “I stated that Neuhaus and Hutter are among the most exemplary theologians, not the most exemplary,” but, more accurately, you said that they were “two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians”. And I am taking issue with the notion that they were “exemplary” Lutheran anything, given that they abandoned the scriptural precepts as taught by Lutheranism. Perhaps all you meant was that you consider them exemplary theologians who were at one point Lutheran who have since come around to agree with you.

    Either way, you name-drop Neuhaus enough on this blog that it would seem that you think he himself constitutes some sort of trump card against Lutheranism, or something to that effect. Note how you (attempt to) brush aside (@28) actual arguments made by Stephen by pointing at Neuhaus and Hutter — “Look what these guys did! And they’re smart! Why can’t the rest of you be like them! And they’re Lutheran, too!” Except, of course, that they aren’t.

    If it helps you understand, it would be the equivalent of gainsaying your every pro-American comment by referring you to the opinions of two Americans who had renounced their citizenship and moved to France, with my insisting how smart they were and that they understood America better than you do, and you should follow in their footsteps.

    Please note that I’m not disputing whether Neuhaus and Hutter are “serious theologians”, whatever that means to you. (I honestly don’t know what the adjective “serious” means to you, except that you always apply it to people or things you like.)

    But ultimately, you’re trying to combat actual arguments with mere appeals to authority. Which is very Catholic of you, but not terribly effective, you may note.

    “Every Lutheran should ask themselves daily why they are not members of the holy, apostolic Catholic church.” Yes, yes — it’s not the first time you’ve quoted that, you know. If you’d like a list of answers to that question, we Lutherans have compiled one in handy book format.

    “On the matter of private judgment, both the Lutheran Confessions and the Roman Catholic Magisterium reflect the views of competent authority.” What does that mean? On what basis are you judging “competency”?

    “Private judgment … cannot competently comprehend the complexity and profundity of Christianity.” Does this claim of yours hold true for the Pope’s private judgment, as well, then? And on what basis would you make this claim, other than perhaps the Catholic church’s say-so?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@32), “I stated that Neuhaus and Hutter are among the most exemplary theologians, not the most exemplary,” but, more accurately, you said that they were “two of the most exemplary recent Lutheran theologians”. And I am taking issue with the notion that they were “exemplary” Lutheran anything, given that they abandoned the scriptural precepts as taught by Lutheranism. Perhaps all you meant was that you consider them exemplary theologians who were at one point Lutheran who have since come around to agree with you.

    Either way, you name-drop Neuhaus enough on this blog that it would seem that you think he himself constitutes some sort of trump card against Lutheranism, or something to that effect. Note how you (attempt to) brush aside (@28) actual arguments made by Stephen by pointing at Neuhaus and Hutter — “Look what these guys did! And they’re smart! Why can’t the rest of you be like them! And they’re Lutheran, too!” Except, of course, that they aren’t.

    If it helps you understand, it would be the equivalent of gainsaying your every pro-American comment by referring you to the opinions of two Americans who had renounced their citizenship and moved to France, with my insisting how smart they were and that they understood America better than you do, and you should follow in their footsteps.

    Please note that I’m not disputing whether Neuhaus and Hutter are “serious theologians”, whatever that means to you. (I honestly don’t know what the adjective “serious” means to you, except that you always apply it to people or things you like.)

    But ultimately, you’re trying to combat actual arguments with mere appeals to authority. Which is very Catholic of you, but not terribly effective, you may note.

    “Every Lutheran should ask themselves daily why they are not members of the holy, apostolic Catholic church.” Yes, yes — it’s not the first time you’ve quoted that, you know. If you’d like a list of answers to that question, we Lutherans have compiled one in handy book format.

    “On the matter of private judgment, both the Lutheran Confessions and the Roman Catholic Magisterium reflect the views of competent authority.” What does that mean? On what basis are you judging “competency”?

    “Private judgment … cannot competently comprehend the complexity and profundity of Christianity.” Does this claim of yours hold true for the Pope’s private judgment, as well, then? And on what basis would you make this claim, other than perhaps the Catholic church’s say-so?

  • Porcell

    tODD, It’s hard to comprehend how a knowledgeable Lutheran would not realize the importance of these well respected former Lutheran theologians, Neuhaus and Hutter, who, after careful consideration, crossed the Tiber. One need not agree with these men, though one ought to try to understand them and respect the integrity of their thought and the significance of their move.

    As to authority, wise people are advised to pay attention to the leading authorities in any field. Neuhaus and Hutter are such, as well as others, including Braaten and Jenson who saw fit not to cross the Tiber.

    Just now, the Patriot players are paying careful attention to Bill Bellichick and have no illusion that they are involved in some sort of an arid logical fallacy. You might look up Chesterton on the distinction between truth and logic.

  • Porcell

    tODD, It’s hard to comprehend how a knowledgeable Lutheran would not realize the importance of these well respected former Lutheran theologians, Neuhaus and Hutter, who, after careful consideration, crossed the Tiber. One need not agree with these men, though one ought to try to understand them and respect the integrity of their thought and the significance of their move.

    As to authority, wise people are advised to pay attention to the leading authorities in any field. Neuhaus and Hutter are such, as well as others, including Braaten and Jenson who saw fit not to cross the Tiber.

    Just now, the Patriot players are paying careful attention to Bill Bellichick and have no illusion that they are involved in some sort of an arid logical fallacy. You might look up Chesterton on the distinction between truth and logic.

  • trotk

    You know, Peter, if the Patriots really are paying attention to Bellichick, the Jets will have an easy time this weekend.

    After all, Bellichick isn’t the coach of the Patriots.

  • trotk

    You know, Peter, if the Patriots really are paying attention to Bellichick, the Jets will have an easy time this weekend.

    After all, Bellichick isn’t the coach of the Patriots.

  • Porcell

    trotk, thanks for the sniveling spelling point.

  • Porcell

    trotk, thanks for the sniveling spelling point.

  • trotk

    At your service, Petter.

  • trotk

    At your service, Petter.

  • Porcell

    Oh, such rich irony with the spelling, Petter.

  • Porcell

    Oh, such rich irony with the spelling, Petter.

  • Dust

    Porcell above at 34….one of my favorite Mathematicians and maybe Einstein’s closest friend at Princeton, Kurt Godel, said “just because something can be proven logically doesn’t mean it’s true, and conversely, there are many things that are true that can never be proven logically.” Well, am sort of paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close to his words. Now you’d have to admit this is a guy that knew a little about the relationship between truth and logic (e.g. his incompleteness theorems and continuum hypothesis ) Am sure many here will be happy to know he was raised in a good Lutheran home….now that makes sense right :)

  • Dust

    Porcell above at 34….one of my favorite Mathematicians and maybe Einstein’s closest friend at Princeton, Kurt Godel, said “just because something can be proven logically doesn’t mean it’s true, and conversely, there are many things that are true that can never be proven logically.” Well, am sort of paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close to his words. Now you’d have to admit this is a guy that knew a little about the relationship between truth and logic (e.g. his incompleteness theorems and continuum hypothesis ) Am sure many here will be happy to know he was raised in a good Lutheran home….now that makes sense right :)

  • Porcell

    Dust, thanks, these Lutherans have gone mad. A friend of mine, a devout Lutheran Christian professor of mathematics at M.I.T., recently told me that even the logic of arithmetic is based on questionable assumptions. Between this and quantum physics, my mental mooring lines have parted.
    This friend remarked that modern engineering has become science; science has become mathematics, and mathematics has become theology.

  • Porcell

    Dust, thanks, these Lutherans have gone mad. A friend of mine, a devout Lutheran Christian professor of mathematics at M.I.T., recently told me that even the logic of arithmetic is based on questionable assumptions. Between this and quantum physics, my mental mooring lines have parted.
    This friend remarked that modern engineering has become science; science has become mathematics, and mathematics has become theology.

  • Porcell

    trotk, on second thought, you might have had “Petter” right. In youthful days,Iwas rather not bad at petting, though my wife tells me she had better ones.

  • Porcell

    trotk, on second thought, you might have had “Petter” right. In youthful days,Iwas rather not bad at petting, though my wife tells me she had better ones.

  • trotk

    Wow. A silly joke draws out a great deal more information than I needed.

  • trotk

    Wow. A silly joke draws out a great deal more information than I needed.


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