30 September 2009


I may have noted elsewhere that our small Orthodox parish has four former Lutheran (LCMS) clergy in it.

I just discovered that the philosophy department in which I teach also has four former Lutherans in it.


07 September 2009

Subterranean scribbling: A little child...

...approaches the Eucharist in the arms of his mother. He has been baptized in the name of the Triune God and, theologically, he is said to possess the faith in its fullness. "The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these," and unless we who are older become like him, we cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven. He has even had the "confirmation prayer" prayed over him at the end of the rite.

To each person near him come the words, "Given for you, for the forgiveness of sins."

But when the host and chalice come to him, he is passed over.

The words are Jacob's: "he is a member of the body of Christ."

But the hands are Esau's: he is not communed.

And it is useless to talk about "earlier" communion. Does baptism give what it says, or not? If it does, there is no reason to refuse what is said to be the body of Christ to those who are his members. Such communion is not 'open,' since such recipients are equally members of the parish in question as their older fellows.

This is the kind of problem that's led many away from Lutheranism, for all its good, to the Church. One can destroy forests with the trees sacrificed to books and articles on various points of theology. But such arguments arise from faith; they rarely lead to faith. What leads one to reflect and to reexamine are these crushingly existential problems. "How can I refuse one whom I say that the Lord himself has received?"

03 September 2009

The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.

There is little profit in engaging Lutheran bloggers in logomachy.

It's not our turf.

Lutheranism was born and bred in words. Ninety five theses, Heidelberg Disputations, Visitation Articles, Confessions, etc. From the womb it was quarreling, and it exists by defining itself over against 'the other'--whether that be Rome, the Reformed, or even other Lutherans.

The Church was born in power: the power of God the Word incarnate--and she lives by the divine energies, received in font and chrism, Body and Blood, and revealed in the blood of the martyrs. Less than a year after Luther died, St. Michael the breadseller was covered in sulpher by the Turks and burned alive, singing hymns till the end. While Walther was disputing about predestination, St. Joseph of Damascus was being ripped limb-from-limb by an angry unbelieving mob. While Pieper was writing his Dogmatics, St. Elizabeth was singing the Cherubimic hymn and tending the wounds of her fellow-martyrs in a mineshaft.

It's not the nature of the problem, either:

It's not the problem with Lutheranism. Most or all of us who were Lutherans and became Orthodox didn't do so because a certain formula came to be recognized as heretical. "Find me an error in the Book of Concord" is beside the point. Are there errors there? Of course there are. But one does not see that at once. "The renewing of the mind" takes years. Old patterns of thought cling to most of us, in my case doubtless till I die (though I find hope in St. Elizabeth the New Martyr). We left Lutheranism for the sake of our children.

The problem with Lutheranism is existential. It is not the Church. And that is not a judgment based on Orthodox sources. It is based on the words of the Lutheran Confessions.

The fact that some cars in that train called Lutheranism have not yet gone off the edge of the bridge can, in the end, provide but cold comfort for those further back in the train who realize that they are joined historically and confessionally to those whose cars have gone off the edge. "How can the church of Krauth have come to what it now is?" Indeed! Let every Lutheran ponder that.

It is not the problem with certain Lutheran bloggers, either.

They did not turn away from Orthodoxy because they were troubled by ambiguous truth, or unambiguous error. They turned away for, shall we say, personal reasons. They heard the Truth but walked away sorrowful because of their great possessions--or perhaps, family connections.

What do you suppose the rich young ruler did for the rest of his life?

For all this, I am sad and weep. Kyrie eleison!