23 March 2009

Revisited: "There is no Lutheran Church"

A recent poster on Gene Veith's excellent blog made oblique reference to the theses I composed some time ago, that "There is no Lutheran Church." I thought it fitting, for those who care to read, to have them available on this blog, fwiw.


Propositions concerning the Lutheran Church
1. The Augsburg Confession and those other writings assembled in the Book of Concord (1580) were initially the confession of a group of territorial churches in northern Germany.
2. These territorial churches were not merely congregations, but trans-parish entities, each united by the same administration and the same liturgy within itself, and all alike were trans-parish entities.
3. These territorial churches did not understand themselves as a new denomination, but as the continuation of the catholic Church in the west.
4. They intended their writings to be understood as an unalterable confession of faith, with which they would stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
5. These confessional writings constituted them not merely as a corporation, but as a living, organic entity, as “the churches of the Augsburg Confession.”
6. The principle of unity of the churches of the Augsburg Confession is the quia subscription to, and confession of, the articles of the Book of Concord. (To develop this point a bit: the principle of unity in Rome is the papacy. The principle of unity in the Pentecostal churches is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Other features may change, but the principle of unity is essential to each body and may not be changed without the body's being essentially changed. Remove the papacy, and Rome is no longer Rome. Remove the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and pentecostalism is no longer Pentecostalism.)
7. This act of subscription and confession is not mere intellectual assent, but the ordering of the lives of congregations according to this principle of unity.

Propositions concerning change
8. There are two sorts of change: accidental and essential.
9. Accidental change occurs when a thing is modified, yet remains what it was before. For example, when someone paints a blue chair red, it changes (color), yet it remains what it was (a chair).
10. Accidental change occurs to living entities when they grow, move, or alter in any way which still allows one to say, "It remains what it was."
11. Essential change occurs when a thing is modified in such a way that it no longer is what it was before. For example, when a chair is run over by a steamroller, it is no longer a chair, but a pile of wood, or metal, or plastic.
12. Essential change occurs to living entities when they change in such a way that one can no longer say, "It remains what it was." For example, a human being changes into a corpse at death, or (if it were possible) the humans making up Frankenstein's monster were essentially changed when they were sewn together to make the monster.
13. It is not necessary fully to know or to understand the circumstances of a substantial change in order to affirm that such a change has taken place. All that needs to happen is to show that what was essential to the being of a thing has altered.
14. In the case of a living being which appears to have undergone substantial change (i.e. death), charity requires us to make efforts to restore quickly what was lost.
15. There comes a time when those making such efforts recognize that the patient has died.

Propositions applying the latter to the former
16. The churches of the Augsburg Confession have changed since the Book of Concord was adopted.
17. Some of those changes have been accidental: they grew, they moved etc.
18. Some of those changes have been essential--i.e. the principle of unity (the Lutheran Confessions) no longer describes any existing trans-parish entity.


a. Then: "Churches" of the Augsburg Confession refers to trans-parish entities, i.e. territorial churches.
Now: "Churches" refers to congregations, but not to trans-parish entities.

b. Then: The true body and blood of Christ are present under the bread and wine.
Now: Grape juice is offered in many places as an alternative.

c. Then: Luther excommunicates a pastor who mixes consecrated wine with unconsecrated following the service.
Now: Plastic disposable cups are used widely, tossed out unwashed after the service.

d. Then: Private confession ought to be retained. Practiced as the norm. No one is admitted to the Sacrament unless he is first examined and absolved.
Now: Private confession scarcely exists; in most parishes, not at all, in some parishes, just barely. Open communion the norm.

e. Then: Only those rightly/ritely called should administer the sacraments and preach.
Now: Unordained laity do both.

f. Then: The traditional usages of the Church *ought* to be observed, which may be observed without sin. Uniformity of liturgy within territorial churches (i.e. not merely a parish-by-parish decision).
Now: The traditional usages of the Church *need not* be observed (NB: "ought" and "need not" are logically contradictory).

g. Then: The Mass (i.e. the historic liturgy) is maintained, observed with greatest reverence, and ceremonies exist to teach the unlearned.
Now: The Mass is not maintained, reverence is discouraged by creative services (See, for example, http://www.thefellowship.com /ow/outreachworship.html), and ceremonies are instituted to entertain the bored.

h. Then: The right to excommunicate belongs by divine right (a very strong phrase!) to the pastoral office, and the people are bound by divine right to follow them. (AC 28)
Now: The right to excommunicate belongs by divine right to the congregation, and the pastors are bound by divine right to announce such excommunications. (Blue Catechism)

i. Then: Mary is and remains a virgin after Christ's birth (FCSD 8.24, added by Chemnitz to reject the Reformed Peter Martyr Vermigli's denial of the semper virgo).
Now: The semper virgo is at best a pious opinion.

j. Then: Prayers for the dead are not forbidden, and are not useless. (Ap)
Now: We must not pray for the souls of the dead (Blue Catechism).

k. Then: The Scripture principle ("The Word of God alone shall establish articles of faith") is maintained in tension with the catholic principle ("In doctrine and ceremonies, we have received nothing new against Scripture OR the catholic church"). These two principles are not, of course, two "sources" of doctrine.
Now: The catholic principle is gone.

Let me add another, from my own experience. I was a doctrinal reviewer for the new hymnal (now I won't be one much longer, when this gets to the eyes of others--but I digress). In reviewing the baptismal rite, I suggested that we ought to use Luther's 1526 baptismal rite as a paradigm of what constitutes a baptism from a Lutheran point of view. No-brainer, right? After all, that rite is even included in some editions of the BOC. I was overruled, and it was said that the 1526 rite carries NO normative significance for the Lutheran Church.

19. In some cases, these aberrations can be dated, and the scope of their acceptance be fixed--e.g. the abandonment of AC 14 happened in the LCMS in 1989. In other cases, these aberrations cannot be dated, and the scope of their acceptance cannot be fixed. But it is not necessary to explain *how* a thing dies in order to affirm *that* it died. We bury people without autopsies all the time.
20. Efforts to change these aberrations and return to the teaching of the Confessions have proved fruitless. The time has come to check the clock, note the time, and call the morgue.

21. The quia subscription to, and confession of, the doctrine of the Lutheran Confessions in its fulness is the principle of unity for the churches of the Augsburg Confession, and hence is essential for their existence.
22. There exists no trans-parish Lutheran entity which maintains a quia subscription to, and confession of, the doctrine of the Lutheran Confessions in its fulness.
23. In the sense that the Confessors understood themselves as 'church'--i.e. a trans-parish entity united by a common confession--There is no Lutheran Church.

Revised April 22, 2005

22 March 2009

Who's a Pelagian?

We Orthodox have been accused of being Pelagian because of our teaching on ancestral sin.

One of St. Augustine's arguments against Pelagius was from the practice of infant communion. If infants are not sinful, why are they communed? (We, of course, would answer that infants are baptised and communed because they have ancestral sin--i.e. they are born mortal, separated from the life of God which is communicated via the mysteries: Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist.)

This morning at our altar and at Orthodox altars all around the world, baptised Orthodox infants were communed. This morning at Lutheran altars, their baptised infants were not communed.

Turn down the volume of the words that have poured forth, and judge by what you see: At Orthodox altars, baptised infants are communed. At Lutheran altars, they are turned away. Who's a Pelagian?

08 March 2009

Book meme (from Christopher Hall and Byzantine Dixie)

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down?

I've done all of them--usually I mark my place with a piece of paper.

2. Do you lend your books?
And never see many of them again... :-(

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS!
Usually I'll highlight margins. I put a star by a good passage. A few books have a few 5-star passages. Sometimes I write brief notes. I find it interesting to read annotations I wrote 10-20 years ago.

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off.
When possible, I cover dust jackets with Contac paper. It keeps the books nicer longer.

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
Hardcover is preferred; I enjoy audio too.

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines?
Dewey decimal, thank you very much! (My mom was a librarian.)

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?
I do both; the local library will have a wing someday with my name on it.

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp?
I write my name on the first sheet.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications?
Most are more recent, though I have some old gems. (I have Herman Sasse's copy of the Reformed Confessions.) :-)

10. Page edges - deckled or straight?
Straight, please.

11. How many books do you read at one time?
Oh, dear. More than I should.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
I don't remember doing that. But I have torn articles from periodicals.

13. (An added question) What subject matters do you have the most books in?

Philosophy, especially ancient.
Theology, especially dogmatics
History, especially Byzantine & American Civil War/War between the states
Russian literature

14. (Another added question) What do you have none of?


And while I'm at it, I have a few books to sell: most especially a Philadelphia edition of Luther's Works, a volume or two of Sasse and some other things like that from a former life.

03 March 2009

Why do Lutherans go east?

I notice a rise in Orthodoxy-related posts on Lutheran blogs of late. The Revds. Weedon and McCain both have some. Perhaps it's due to the recent ordination of Daniel Hackney to the holy priesthood; or perhaps they are vaguely aware of other developments. It doesn't really matter.

Why are Lutherans looking east?

Rev'd. McCain seems to think it's a 'bug,' an infection whose aetiology he does not disclose, choosing only to focus on its symptoms. For its 'cure,' in part, he endorses a reading of the church fathers--whose views, he says, are closer to Lutheranism than to Orthodoxy.

Rev'd. Weedon opines that the antidote is a good read of C.P. Krauth, the magesterial representative of another American branch of Lutheranism whose magnum opus was "The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology."

One of my former colleagues used to speak of men who esteemed preaching above the sacraments. He called such a person a "word bird" (or "avis verbalis"). It is natural for such creatures to look at problems and solutions in terms of words.

But I, for one, did not leave Lutheranism chiefly because I found some faulty formulations of dogma. Nor do I sense that to be the case with others who have left. (There are, of course, faulty formulations: the filioque comes to mind. Original guilt is another. The denial of the essence/energy distinction is still a third.)

No; what was missing in Lutheranism for me and, I suspect, for those others who have become and are becoming Orthodox is what Florensky called "Tserkovnost" or "ecclesiality." It was the recognition that Lutheranism is not Church, but a school of thought which is incarnated in various corporations. The problem is not first and foremost verbal, but existential.

St. Gregory Palamas, on the divine energies

68. The divine transcendent being is never named in the plural. But the divine and uncreated grace and energy of God is divided indivisibly according to the image of the sun's ray (Cf. Basil, De spiritu sancta 9.22.35) which gives warmth, light, life and increase, and sends its own radiance to those who are illuminated and manifests itself to the eyes of those who see. In this way, in the manner of an obscure image, the divine energy of God is called not only one but also many by the theologians. For example, Basil the Great says, "As for the energies of the Spirit, what are they? Ineffable in their grandeur, they are innumerable in their multitude. How are we to conceive what is beyond the ages? What were his energies before intelligible creation?" (Idem, 19.49.1-4) Prior to intelligible creation and beyond the ages (for also the ages are intelligible creations) no one has ever spoken or conceived of anything created. Therefore, the powers and energies of the divine Spirit are uncreated and because theology speaks of them in the plural they are indivisibly distinct from the one and altogether indivisible substance of the Spirit.

69. As it has been made clear above by Basil the Great, the theologians treat the uncreated energy of God as multiple in that it is indivisibly divided. Since therefore the divine and divinizing illumination and grace is not the substance but the energy of God, for this reason it is treated not only in the singular but also in the plural. It is bestowed proportionately upon those who participate and, according to the capacity of those who receive it, it instills the divinizing radiance to a greater or lesser degree.

70. Isaias named these divine energies as seven, but among the Hebrew the word seven indicates many: he says, "There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse and a flower shall come forth from it. And seven spirits shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, piety counsel, might, fear." Those who hold the opinions of Barlaam and Akindynos foolishly contend that these seven spirits are created. This opinion we examined and refuted with clarity in our extensive Antirrhetic Against Akindynos. But Gregory the Theologian, when he called to mind these divine energies of the Spirit, said, "Isaias was fond of calling the energies of the Spirit spirits." And this most distinguished voice among the prophets clearly demonstrated through this number not only the distinction with respect to the divine substance but also indicated the uncreated character of these divine energies by means of the word `rested upon,' for `resting upon' belongs to a pre-eminent dignity. As for those spirits that rested upon the Lord's human nature which he assumed from us, how could they be creatures?

71. According to Luke, our Lord Jesus Christ says he casts out demon by the finger of God, but according to Matthew it is by the Spirit of God." Basil the Great says that the finger of God is one of the energies of Spirit. If then one of these is the Holy Spirit, the others too certainly are, since Basil has also taught us this. But on this account there are not many Gods or many Spirits, for these realities are processions, manifestations and natural energies of the one Spirit and in each case the agent is one. When the heterodox call these creatures, they degrade the Spirit of God to creature sevenfold. But let their shame be sevenfold, for the prophet again says of the energies, "These seven are the eyes of the Lord that range over the whole earth." And when he writes in Revelation, "Grace to you t peace from God and from the seven spirits which are before the throne of God, and from Christ," he demonstrates clearly to the faithful that these are the Holy Spirit.

72. Through Micah the prophet our God and Father foretold the birth the Only-Begotten in the flesh and wishing to show as well the inoriginate character of his divinity said, "His goings forth have been from the beginning from an eternity of days." The divine Fathers explained that these 'goings forth' are the energies of the Godhead, as the powers and energies are identical for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet word is being passed around about their being created by those who eagerly hold and defend the opinions of Barlaam and Akindynos. But let those who have lately come to their senses understand who is the one from the beginning, who it was to whom David said, "From eternity (which is the same as saying from an eternity of days') and unto eternity you are." And let them consider intelligently, if they will, that God, in saying through the prophet that these goings forth are from the beginning, in no way said they came into being were made or were created. And Basil, when, in the Spirit of God, he made the theological statement, "The energies of the Spirit existed before intelligible creation and beyond the ages," did not say `they came into being.' God alone, therefore, is active and all-powerful from eternity since he possesses pre-eternal powers and energies.

73. In outright opposition to the saints, those who advocate the opinion of Akindynos say, "The uncreated is unique, namely, the divine nature, and anything whatsoever distinct from this is created." Thus do they make into a creature the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, for there is one and the same energy for the three, and that of which the energy is created cannot itself be uncreated. For this reason it is not the energy of God that is a creature—certainly not!—but rather the effect and the product of the energy. Thus, the holy Damascene taught that the energy which is distinct from the divine nature is an essential, that is, a natural movement (Cf. John Damascene, Expositio fidei 37 and 59.7-9). And since the divine Cyril said that creating belongs to the divine energy,( Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus 18) how can this be a created reality, unless it shall have been effected through another energy, and that in turn through another, and so on ad infinitum; and the uncreated cause of the energy is always being sought after and proclaimed?

74. Because the divine substance and the divine energy are inseparably present everywhere, the energy of God is accessible also to us creatures, for according to the theologians it is indivisibly divided, whereas the divine nature remains utterly indivisible according to them. Thus, the Church Father, Chrysostom, says, "A drop of grace filled all things with knowledge; through it wonders took place, sins were loosed (John Chrysostom, Expositiones in Psalmos 44.3)." When he indicated that this drop of grace was uncreated, he then hastened to show that it was an energy and not the substance; and, further, he added the distinction of the divine energy with respect to the divine substance and the hypostasis of the Spirit when he wrote: "I am speaking of this part of the operation for indeed the Paraclete is not divided." The divine grace and energy at least is accessible to each of us since it is itself divided indivisibly, but since the substance of God is utterly indivisible in itself how could it be accessible to any creature?

75. There are three realities in God, namely, substance, energy and a Trinity of divine hypostases. Since it has been shown above that those deemed worthy of union with God so as to become one spirit with him (even as the great Paul has said, "He who clings to the Lord is one spirit with him.") are not united to God in substance, and since all theologians bear witness in their statements to the fact that God is imparticipable in substance and the hypostatic union happens to be predicated of the Word and God-man alone, it follows that those deemed worthy of union with God are united to God in energy and that the spirit whereby he who clings to God is one with God is called and is indeed the uncreated energy of the Spirit and not the substance of God, even though Barlaam and Akindynos may disagree. For God foretold through the prophet not `My Spirit', but rather, "Of my Spirit I will pour out upon those who believe."

76. Maximus says, "Moses and David and those who have become fit for the divine energy by laying aside their carnal properties were moved at a sign from God"; and, "They became living icons of Christ and the same as he is, more by grace than by assimilation"; and, "The purity in Christ and in the saints is one"; and, "The radiance of our God is upon us," sings the most divine of melodists. For according to Basil the Great, "As souls that bear the Spirit are illumined by the Spirit they become spiritual themselves and send forth grace to others. Thence comes foreknowledge of the future understanding of mysteries, apprehension of things hidden, distribution o spiritual gifts, citizenship in heaven, the dance with the angels, joy without end, divine distribution, likeness to God, and the summit of our longings, namely, to become God.”

---from The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, translated by Robert E. Sinkewicz (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies) Note: I've omitted some footnotes, and put others in parentheses next to the words they refer to.

That prayer, again

On his blog "Cyberbrethren" the Rev'd. Paul McCain has cited another unnamed Lutheran blogger discussing the post-communion prayer to the Theotokos. The unnamed blogger refers to it as an "idolatrous prayer."

For those Lutherans bitten by the "Orthodox bug," as he puts it, who want to see an exegesis of that prayer, I posted a detailed explanation of it some time ago. The exegesis begins with a post of 28 August 2008.

If any Lutheran would like to discuss it, or any Orthodox for that matter, feel free to comment here.

02 March 2009

Forgive me,

dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the many ways I have offended God and you:

willingly and unwillingly,
known and unknown,
by action and omission,
by word and deed and thought.

And beseech God for me that he may have mercy on me.

The unworthy priest and fool,

Fr. Gregory