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!

11 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Vernon McGee, the great Protestant preacher, said he had heard it rumored that the rich young ruler's name was Saul. Of Tarsus.

I sure hope that rumor is true!

oruaseht said...

The mind is truly a funny thing. It grabs and holds so tightly to pre-conceived ideas, hermeneutical lenses, and ways of being. I am engaged by Orthodox theology and practice, history and Tradition. I am challenged. I am stretched. But my mind rebels against Orthodoxy! It is contrary to much that I have learned about sin, atonement and forgiveness. Yet it still draws me like a moth to a flame.

The struggle for the Lutheran: is Orthodoxy the Truth, or the seductive scheming of the Devil? It is a very difficult struggle.

Dixie said...

The struggle for the Lutheran: is Orthodoxy the Truth, or the seductive scheming of the Devil?

This is a GREAT question and one with which I think many converts wrestle. I am also glad you see the very real differences between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy.

The devil isn't so interested in pointing us toward anything that causes us to grow in the image and likeness of Christ, to grow in our love for Him, in our worship of Him, in our faith. So if Orthodoxy does that for you then I would think you can be fairly certain it isn't the devil!

But the devil is very good about creating fear...fear regarding our livelihoods, our families, our friends, our health...and those things that prevent us from growing in our unity with Christ.

Early on in my instruction my priest pointed out the importance of having a spiritual father who can help us discern if the devil is masquerading as an angel of light. Maybe that is something you could consider to help you with your concerns?

Nathan said...

"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."

Father Gregory, could you unpack this - what do you have in mind exactly?

~Nathan

Fr John W Fenton said...

If I may make bold to answer for Fr Gregory -- Lutheranism claims not to be the Church. It claims merely to be an assembly of believers gathered around rightly preached Word and rightly administered Sacraments. Good enough as far as it goes; but it doesn't go far enough.

When Lutheranism does, on rare ocassions, claim to be the Church, its claims are not tied to Christ or a visible communion of bishops (or churches), but to a platonic ideal called "Evangelical Lutheran Church" (or some such). Such is the great irony in Walter's essay on the True Visible Church--which points, precisely, to a correct confessional formula rather than a communion of bishops. (Btw, Loehe's essay "Three Books on the Church" runs along the same track.)

Asking your prayers...

Nathan said...

"Lutheranism claims not to be the Church. It claims merely to be an assembly of believers gathered around rightly preached Word and rightly administered Sacraments."

Obvioulsy, in the AC, it did not claim to be THE church for good reason. In the BOC, I don't think it claimed to be THE church either - I think the existence of the Churches in the East had something to do with this, and they always had a larger conversation in mind - though I'm open to being refuted.

~Nathan

Fr John W Fenton said...

Nathan, a subtle distinction between 16th century Lutherans and (later) Lutheranism is operative in my reply. I am willing to accept--and will help demonstrate to some degree--the claim that some (but not all) of the 16th century confessors truly desired and attempted to be the continuation of the catholic church in the West. One support for this thesis could be the reticence in defining the Church.

However, I also think a convincing argument can be made that within 100-150 years, Lutheranism developed and hardened; that is, a desire no longer to be the continuation of the Church but to be a protesting or reforming movement within the Church. As such, the terms have changed; and those changed terms are most clearly ecclesiological.

Fr John W Fenton said...

Oops. I neglected to add this concluding thought:

It is this Lutheranism which exists today, and therefore must to the subject of any meaningful conversation, rather than the motives of authors who wrote a document which is, to greater or lesser degree, accepted by anyone taking the name "Lutheran."

Nathan said...

"However, I also think a convincing argument can be made that within 100-150 years, Lutheranism developed and hardened; that is, a desire no longer to be the continuation of the Church but to be a protesting or reforming movement within the Church. As such, the terms have changed; and those changed terms are most clearly ecclesiological."

A protesting movement within the Church? Was that the non-LCMSers in America also prior to Krauth? Or was this the view in Germany starting around 1650-1700? Forgive my ignorance.

Boaz said...

"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."

Lutheranism is the Church as defined from Lutheran confessions, which define it as the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. The whole confessions describe the true Gospel and the correct administration of the Sacraments.

And it is insulting to the Holy Spirit to say Word and Sacrament are just a "platonic ideal." It is Christ's appointed means of Grace.

Of course you are right that Lutheranism isn't the church judging from the Orthodox view. That view being that Church=a single entity tracable to the Apostles. A self-serving definition that was not taught by Christ or the Apostles.

And that is the EO's confessional formula: It defines itself by apostolic succession and a liturgical form.

I can just as easily say that Orthodoxy isn't the church according to its own teachings because that teaching does not correspond to the true Gospel.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Boaz,

Thank you for your post. Allow me, please, to ask you a question.

Are the sacraments rightly administered when absolution is given by a layman?
How about when laymen consecrate the eucharist?
How about when what is called the blood of Christ is tossed in the trash can?

If the answer is "no," then by Lutheran lights alone, since the Church is the assembly of saints where the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, the Church is not present where such things are happening.

And, by the meaning of pulpit and altar fellowship, the Church is not present in altars and pulpits of those in fellowship with those who practice those things.

None of this requires the least commitment to Orthodoxy. It only requires that one take the words of the Lutheran Confessional writings seriously.

You are welcome to respond, if you like.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg