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RC convert Jason Stellman’s perception of Lutheranism

26 Jul

There was some big news in the Reformed and Catholic blogosphere a few days ago about Jason Stellman, a well-known Presbyterian Church of America pastor who converted to the Roman Catholic church (see here)

Before the blog post explaining his conversion was taken down for some reason, I had commented:

“It seems to me this verse is pretty key to your argument: http://bible.cc/acts/15-28.htm

“Necessary” in what sense? In the sense that if you do not submit to this you are in certainly in danger of excluding yourself (or you automatically exclude yourself?) from the Church and Christ? Really? That seems unlikely to me. Or is it more about being respectful of those with Jewish sensibilities so the unity of faith that already had been given and existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians did not get strained (leading first to schism, *then* heresy)? If it was the first option, when were these commands rescinded? To my knowledge, we don’t say all of them must be followed now (or does Rome)? Didn’t Paul say that we could eat food sacrificed to idols but we dare not do so if it means harming a brother who was weak in faith? Where in verse 28 does it say this was an: “authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth”? I understand words like that as regards God’s pastors granting forgiveness or withholding forgiveness based on their evaluation of whether or not a person is penitent, but not in this context.

Jason – I’m curious as to whether or not you considered Confessional Lutheranism (Chemnitz’s view of Sola Scriptura is quite different, and Lutherans do not absolutely insist that the 27 NT books are all of the same authority: for more see “round 1″ referenced here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/update-on-my-humble-contributions-to-honest-ecumenical-dialogue/ ) and if not why not?”

Jason was kind enough to respond to me saying the following:

“I will let the actual Catholics here weigh in on the technical distinction between dogmas and disciplines.

I do think the context of Acts 15 indicates that one of the primary concerns was sensitivity to Jewish believers, which is why James points out that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (v. 21).”

As to whether or not he had considered Confessional Lutheranism, here is what he said:

“No, I did not consider Lutheranism, since it seems to me to fall prey to the same objections I have to Presbyterianism. We’re talking about big, paradigmatic issues here rather than mere differences over details. If Geneva and Saddleback exist in the same county, then Wittenberg is right next door.”

Interesting that he sees things like this.

For those interested in how I respond to the RC distinction between “dogmas and disciplines”, see “essential and non-essential doctrines” here (it is the last section – part VII – near the end of this very long post).

In sum, I think it is tragic when concessions which were made to preserve unity in the body of Christ (like what happened in Acts 15) become reduced to arguments for the sovereignty of just one part of the body – to whom all other parts must submit or face uncertainty as regards their salvation in Christ.

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30 Comments

Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

30 responses to “RC convert Jason Stellman’s perception of Lutheranism

  1. Joe H

    July 27, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Hi Nathan. How is Chemnitzs’ version of Sola Script “quite different”? …and different than what?

    Thanks.

    In Him,

    Joe

     
  2. Nathan

    July 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Joe H,

    Quite different than the Calvinist position. For one, there is the point of the 27 books I mention.

    Read the beginnings of this article (to about halfway down the page) and it should become clear:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/

    (sorry, no time to try and summarize now)

    +Nathan

     
  3. Joe H

    July 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Nathan. Okay. Thanks for the link. I will take a look. Stupid question, but is Chemnitz position the official Lutheran position on Sola Scrip? Or is there an official Lutheran position?

    Sorry for the ignorance. I am a LCMS Lutheran now, but came from a Reformed Church…so still learning/reading the official Lutheran confessions.

    But it seems like, from a cursory reading of Concord, that the scriptures are the sole judge/norm…whereas Chemnitzs’ list of 8 traditions (rejecting the 8th) “seems” contrary to this.

    I will read the link, perhaps this may become more clear.

     
  4. infanttheology

    July 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Joe H,

    “But it seems like, from a cursory reading of Concord, that the scriptures are the sole judge/norm…whereas Chemnitzs’ list of 8 traditions (rejecting the 8th) “seems” contrary to this.”

    Keep reading. : ) “Sola Scriptura” sure. But it all depends on how that plays out on the ground, in real life, taking things like the Fathers and the true rule of faith into consideration.

    “but is Chemnitz position the official Lutheran position on Sola Scrip? Or is there an official Lutheran position?”

    I’d argue Chemnitz’s view is what the BOC is talking about in shorthand. I’m sure others would argue against that. Maybe some day we’ll be forced to clarify….

    +Nathan

     
  5. infanttheology

    July 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Joe H,

    Oh yeah – glad you took the plunge into the Lutheran Church. I’d say “welcome home” but… : )

    See here for more on this: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/re-reformation-day-kids-dont-celebrate-divorce/ (see comments to)

    +Nathan

     
  6. Joe H

    July 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Yea, I was raised Lutheran…got a little knowledge, became non-denom, attended a baptist church in college, got married to a Lutheran Pastor kid and had to deal and research the baptizing infants issue – was convinced of the doctrine of IB mainly through RC Sproul, became Reformed…..and now a Lutheran again. So, it is like coming home!

    And for the record, I did not mean to imply that I disagree (or that Reformed folks would) with all 8 traditions. I question some however.

     
  7. Nathan

    July 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Joe H,

    Cool. If you read Chemnitz (Examen) I doubt you’d question any of them. : )

    Will check back on Monday Joe.

    God’s blessings,
    Nathan

     
    • Joe H

      July 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      I will definitely try to read it. Is there an online copy at all that you are aware of?

       
  8. Nathan

    July 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Joe,

    OK – wanted to say one more thing.

    This is very good. May help: http://issuesetc.org/2012/07/20/3-doctrinal-unity-and-liturgical-unity-pr-david-jay-webber-72012/ (intro to Chemnitz).

    Also, what I say about Acts 15 above is absolutely key. Everything hinges on this: unity in Christian freedom, essential and non-essential docs and practices (many of these are for good order, not really salvation, though not following good order can result in schism and then move on to heresy)

    You’ll probably have to get Chemnitz from a local academic library. Check here (use your zip code) and see if your local library can get it for you via ILL: http://www.worldcat.org/

    OK, now I’m really gone until Monday. : )

    +Nathan

     
    • infanttheology

      July 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Chemnitz covers the 8 traditions in volume 1.

       
  9. Joe H

    July 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    ha! great! I was just going to post and ask which volume. wow, this is a very long work!

     
  10. Nathaniel

    July 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Nathan,
    You said:
    “For those interested in how I respond to the RC distinction between ‘dogmas and disciplines’, see ‘essential and non-essential doctrines’…”

    You’ve made a category mistake here, in saying that dogma = essential doctrine, and discipline = non-essential doctrine. I want to clarify that “disciplines” (which include mandated practices that are changeable in principle) are different from “doctrines” (teachings). The Catholic Encyclopedia has articles on both dogma and ecclesiastical discipline, if you want to know more.

    I think “essential” and “non-essential” are protestant descriptors; Catholics tend to say “binding/de fide”, versus not, or maybe “dogma” versus “allowed opinion”. A teaching that today isn’t binding but is allowed (e.g. molinism) could someday be proclaimed by the Church to be true and binding. Christians would then be required to believe that teaching, not because it suddenly went from being “non-essential” to “essential” (is such a switch even possible in principle?) but because it was clarified under the protection of the Holy Spirit. The same kind of proclamation & clarification happened with the teachings of the Trinity, homoousious, union in Christ of human & divine nature, etc. in the early centuries.
    –Nathaniel

     
    • Nathan

      July 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

      Nathaniel,

      I agree with what you say – I didn’t make a category mistake, I simply thought that I covered “disciplines” in that section (perhaps I did not – if so, I should have).

      As to the rest of what you say, we are largely in agreement, I think. Essential = binding, and non-essential = allowed opinion. In either case, each Church makes distinctions such as these, but it seems to me for quite different reasons, which I cover in that section.

      +Nathan

       
  11. Nathan

    July 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Here is that whole section, lifted from that post:

    VII. Lastly, essential and non-essential doctrines

    Dave you said:

    Catholics don’t believe that anything deemed to be part of the apostolic deposit is up for grabs or merely optional (as you guys think) because it is regarded as of less importance….” (bolded parts originally italicized)

    And

    “there has to be some method to determine how many dogmas ought to be binding. We go by the judgment of the historic Church, which has decided things, just as the Jerusalem Council did, with Peter, Paul, and James present.” (bold mine)

    First of all, we in no way are saying that we think that any part of “the apostolic deposit is up for grabs or merely optional “)… because it is regarded as of less importance” (so we don’t, in fact, think this – see below). Second, the fact that you go on to talk about the Church recognizing/realizing/determining “how many dogmas out to be binding” essentially nullifies all of the following exchanges:

    Me: ….(Or: do the early church fathers explicitly [and consistently] say that [non-Lutheran] doctrines are inseparable from the Rule of Faith?)

    You: Church fathers (like the Bible and the Catholic Church) generally think all doctrines and practices are important, and don’t as readily draw fine-point distinctions along these lines that Protestants are prone to make. (note the bold, which are mine)

    Comment: So fine-point distinctions are made nonetheless…

    Me: It seems to me… that all the essential doctrines of the faith ought to be able to be clearly established, demonstrated, and proved from the Scriptures – not just for the Lutheran but for the Roman Catholic. I guess this is your calling card Dave… after all, you are the guy who literally writes the books about how, after being correctly informed about Roman Catholic teachings, one can then go back to the Scriptures and find Scriptural support for those teachings (e.g. the “Catholic verses”, etc.: “all Christian, Catholic doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly, implicitly, or deduced from same. And all Catholic doctrines are certainly harmonious with Scripture” you have said).

    You: Indeed. We can provide such corroboration. Protestants cannot when it comes to key distinctives that they invented in the 16th century.

    Comment: Inevitable implicit take-away for me: there are essential doctrines of the faith. : )

    Me: Lutherans accept that there are non-essential teachings or practices (i.e. those that cannot be clearly demonstrated from the Scriptures) that can, in principle, be present, and practiced, and even upheld in the Church (how is it upheld though?).

    You: Well, then it is the game of “essential” vs. “non-essential” that is another arbitrary Protestant tradition of men, and very difficult (if not impossible) to prove from the Bible itself. …

    Comment: If this is a tradition of men, its one we all share. I submit that at the very least it is a legitimate development of doctrine in the church.

    All of that said, let us look at this exchange:

    Me: … Note that insofar as any tradition not specifically sanctioned in Scripture does not mitigate the Gospel, it can be accepted (i.e. we are “conservative” when it comes to traditions: with Chrysostom we think that even unwritten traditions of the Church are “also worthy of credit”) – but again: only insofar as it is not insisted that these traditions be held with the same reverence as those which are clearly put forth there (i.e. stuff that was so important it found its way into the Scriptures in a way that cannot be denied: even baptism is like this: “the Promise if for you and your children”) in the Scriptures. And of course, in the background here is the idea that our very salvation depends on our keeping these traditions that Rome insisted on. Saying all this is not to say that Lutherans will never have a good, knock-down debate about what we believe among ourselves, but this is indeed our faith – which we would contend is synonymous with the Rule of Faith.

    You: Again, I would contend that the Bible itself doesn’t seem to make these distinctions of primary or essential and secondary (or optional) doctrines. About all that can be found along these lines is Romans 14; but note what Paul is discussing there: what to eat and drink and what holy days to observe. That is not even doctrine; it is practice. I devoted 20 pages in my book, 501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, to this question of so-called essential and secondary doctrines. There I provided dozens of Bible passages that don’t seem to differentiate; they merely assume a “truth” that is known and binding upon all believers:

    Comment: A) again, we are not saying that secondary doctrines are optional. B) For the RC, would it not be right to say that binding doctrine and essential doctrine are synonymous phrases? If not, why not?

    Dave, Gerhard’s main opponent, the great sainted Cardinal Bellarmine himself believed that there were essential and non-essential doctrines (Gerhard, On the Church, 224). I am guessing that we would find that most all RC theologians have believed this – I think that the challenge would be to find one who does not believe it. Does not the RC Church today not draw rather sharp lines between dogmas, disciplines, and pious opinions, for example?

    Next, I agree with you (our statements are in harmony! : ) ) that it is good, right and salutary for a person, generally speaking, to simply assent to all the commands of the church (although as Augustine pointed out, in the Creed we are talking about believing that there is a Church: faith, or trust, in the Church, while not unimportant, is not in view here at least). There are things that I tell my children to do that are really important, and there are things I tell them to do that are less so. In any case, I expect them to obey – and preferably without always asking me “Why?” (even politely) – in both cases. The reasons that I would give for each command vary, but in general, it is good to obey with those that God has placed over you for your own good and the good of your neighbor.

    Here I cite this exchange:

    Me: In other words, we are not just talking about this or that father, for instance, simply sharing how churches in their region, for example, use this or that custom [perhaps from this or that Apostle] – after all, while essential doctrines are not adiaphora, or “indifferent things”, how they are taught and encouraged though rites and ceremonies can be. Further, if you can come up with examples of them rebuking error and correcting and binding people in this way (i.e. without Scriptural demonstration), what are the reasons that they give for saying that people should believe/do these things – and what are or should be the consequences if they don’t?

    You: Because the Church says so, in turn because it had always been believed in some fashion. If we want to move forward, we’ll have to get specific and discuss one doctrine or one father at a time.

    I don’t deny that there is much truth to your first sentence above. And regarding the second sentence, we now have. Again, the point is that the Church has always recognized/realized/determined that some teachings are binding and others aren’t, i.e., that there are primary and secondary doctrines, (let’s put it this way right now, as perhaps we can be more clear about what we mean in this way). The fine Lutheran Pastor Will Weedon, always helpful in these matters, tells us to think concretely about the history of the church here: “The distinction as Lutherans practice it is based on the living experience of the Church…. The Lutherans thought out from 1 Cor. 3. There are doctrines that are part of the ‘foundation’ – other than which none can lay, which is Christ. To err in these is to ‘overthrow the foundation.’ But if one holds the foundation, it is still possible to build on it with ‘wood, hay and stubble’ rather than with ‘gold and precious stones.’ When a father erred in teaching something the Church judged to be an error on the basis of Scripture, then that father erred in a secondary doctrine [one thinks of Irenaeus and his chiliasm, for example]. These are not optional – not in the sense that they are harmless – they are still false, but they do not overthrow the foundation.”

    Think about it: councils were called, in part, because different churches had declared certain things to be of importance and others had not (think about the debates between Alexandria and Antioch for example: a monolith the early church was not). When councils finally do decide things as well, note that it is often significant how they do so: even if they decide that all should celebrate Easter at the same time (Nicea I), note that they do not “anathematize” those who would resist such a command. This can be seen as a logical extension of the principle Irenaeus had expressed long before: “Disagreement in fasting does not destroy unity in faith.” On the other hand, Arius, Pelagius and Nestorius are condemned as heretics and anathematized. Why? Although the difference with the Easter declaration may not be said in so many words (i.e. it is tacit or implicit, not explicit), it really is rather obvious, isn’t it? Because they are no longer building on the foundation, but setting up another one (I think that many times what teachings were important only became obvious in light of error). Therefore, I conclude that it is very clear that there have always been distinctions between primary and secondary doctrines (think of Hebr. 1:1, Mark 16:16, Matt. 22:34-46: the great commandment and a second that is like it, “upon whom all the law and the prophets depend.”)

    Does this mean that all “secondary doctrines” are exactly the same? Not necessarily. First of all, a distinction between primary and secondary doctrines is never intended to teach us that some of the things that God has revealed to us are unimportant (although some things that are done by human rite for the sake of love and order in the church may be, and hence we call them adiaphora, or “indifferent things”, a term that even Roman Catholics appreciate, I think: here is where we can really talk about “essentials” and “non-essentials” with no qualifications at all). On the contrary, while we would say that there is error that occurs among churches that does not overthrow the foundation of salvation (perhaps things like chialism, insisting that martyrs should not flee, denying the Scriptures are inerrant in their original manuscripts, or, to give an example Luther gave, denying that Balaam’s ass spoke), meaning that we can be confident people can still be saved in churches where such teaching occurs. Still, on matters such as these we would still insist that doctrine be entirely pure, because though we judge that these things may not immediately undermine someone’s salvation (i.e. they don’t affect the Creeds, for example), there is still the danger as some of the real or imagined implications of these teachings spread, therefore pastors denying these things should experience rebuke and possibly forms of discipline…. For the true Rule of Faith always runs back to the recognized Scriptures and treasures each precious sentence they contain – from the least of these and the greatest. We rejoice that Balaam’s ass spoke.

    At this point, let us examine the following quotation from you:

    “… It is perfectly permissible to say that truth is grounded in apostolic succession and the Church grounded therein. It is also true to say that truth is grounded in Holy Scripture. The two do not contradict. But they need not always be stated together. Chemnitz will only state them together while stressing over and over again that Scripture is over Tradition and the Church.

    But Tertullian, Irenaeus, and other Fathers saw no need to dichotomize and categorize like that. They simply didn’t think in those terms (as historians of doctrine have stressed). It requires revisionism and historical anachronism to make out that they thought like 16th century Lutherans on these issues.”

    We don’t need to think they thought just like us, but if the idea of essential and non-essential doctrines is at the very least a legitimate development of doctrine, than it is perfectly legitimate to go back and explore whether, according to Scripture, doctrines such as these are either essential or practical doctrines (for certain times) – when the Church is being told that they are, and that a denial of such results in excommunication, it must do this. Perhaps if Rome would have listened to the voice in the wilderness calling out to them, we to would have seen no need to “dichotomize and categorize” as you say.

    We need to look at this situation with our eyes wide open. The distinction between essential and non-essential doctrines is hardly a Protestant invention. It is not that the Roman Catholic church does not have essential and non-essential doctrines. Interestingly, to a certain extent, the plurality which exists within the Roman Catholic church is that their unity is not so much doctrinal, but based upon a submission to authority (well, I suppose that is the doctrine: submit to the infallible heir of Peter, the visible head of the Church!) In any case, because this is so, it is no big deal at all (I will not insist that it should be, even as I disagree with many aspects of RC monasticism) that a group of nuns in France can follow a certain set of rules, and monks and New Mexico and follow another, even as they all must submit to the authority of the church. Still, I wonder if there is an even more essential doctrine than submission to the Pope. Did not John Paul II make clear that it was love, so even if you were outside of the church – even if you did not know Christ by faith – you had a chance of entering heaven?

    After all, in Lu-men Gentium from in Vatican II we read:

    “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience— those, too, may achieve eternal salvation” (24).

    Of course, this does not nullify what Trent said which was that free will actively cooperates with grace to begin salvation. These agree with one another (related aside: they are not just in “harmony” with each other, but can really be tested against one another as stand-alone statements, and seen to agree)

    So David, this is why, when I think about these things, I grow concerned for you. Embracing an unwarranted use of the words agreement and harmony, I submit you have embraced a concept of tradition which undermines the true Rule of Faith, which always flees to the original Scriptures, and tests all things against them: for it is only responsible to conclude that everything the Apostles passed on orally will be in agreement with the Scriptures, in the sense that it will be readily found there. The RC Rule of Faith is not the true one. By insisting that all Christians adopt what are, in all honesty, doctrines that on the face of it seem less than Biblical (i.e. using any definition of “proof” it is hard to see how they are really contained in the Scriptures), the Roman Catholic Church is binding consciences in a way they ought not. They are insisting on a foundation which many devout and simple Christians, in their consciences, cannot readily embrace. When Jesus says, “it is written”, and when Paul says “do not go beyond what is written…. Test all things”, they are going to take this very, very seriously. Many so much so that they will never even consider your arguments that you present – they know their Bibles well (granted this is not the majority of those in some sense claiming the name “Evangelical” today), and they see that what you’re saying is at the very least a stretch. Now: if these doctrines were not insisted on, matters might be quite different. Again, as Gerhard said “If the confession of true doctrine and the legitimate use of the Sacraments had been left free for us, perhaps we would not have departed from the external fellowship of the Roman church.” (139)

    But as it stands now, this believer can only conclude that great deception is involved. One foundation is being swapped for another, even if remnants of the truth which save continue to preserve some within the Roman Church. I will not insist that there is nothing of the visible church in Rome, but I will say that it is like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park that has failed to abide by regulations: do you really want to take that risk? If I had grown up Roman Catholic, it was just me, and my priest upheld God’s Law and preached free grace in Christ (i.e. they did not make absolution contingent on my remembering all my sins, doing my penance exactly right, etc.), I might remain a RC-Lutheran in the Tiber, looking to learn as well as teach. But definitely not with my children. My children will hear that they are sinners and that when they call their sin sin and receive grace that they have peace with God. Period.

    Period. As Chemnitz says in one place: “Let us therefore be content with those things which were written briefly and simply because of our slowness and infirmity” (130)

    Lord have mercy.

     
  12. Nathaniel

    August 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Nathan,
    There are two points in your post where I would appreciate clarification, because I honestly am not sure of your view, and I’d like to understand better.

    1) When you say that some doctrines are “essential”, what are they essential to or for? In your confessional Lutheran faith, I mean.

    2) What do you understand to be the distinction(s) between the confessional Lutheran concept of sola scriptura and the confessional Reformed version? If I didn’t know better, I’d assume that the Reformed only hold to Chemnitz’s Trad. 1, while you Lutherans have a broader view that incorporates Trads. 2-6. But as I actually understand it, that would be ascribing what’s often called solo scriptura to the Reformed folks, and most of them reject that. As I understand the usual Reformed position, it does ascribe some authority to the church, to the early church fathers, to ancient creeds, etc.

    You’ve posted the Chemnitz Traditiones in a number of places, and indicated the fact of a distinction when you have done so; but it would be helpful if you could present the core content of that distinction. I’m not sure what the core distinction is, but it’s certainly relevant in this post.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel
    Feast of St. John Vianney, priest

     
  13. infanttheology

    August 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Very busy this week, so pardon short replies.’

    1) For preserving the foundation, which is the rule of faith (which I have explained on the “Reformation: what would you have done” post – particularly the content of that rule)

    2) Nathaniel, all I can tell you is that when I read the Reformed talk about Sola Scriptura, there is something else going on there, which I’m not sure if I can succinctly articulate, as I have with the classical Lutheran position (in some detail, updating Chemnitz for today). One of the obvious distinctions is that the Lutherans never officially tell you what is in the canon of the New Testament, while the Reformed do.

    +Nathan

     
  14. infanttheology

    August 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I’m talking about in regards to the Antilegomena books. Another distinction of course has to do with the Reformed view of the commandment about graven images (I note also that for the Reformed it often seems that if something is not commanded in Scripture, it should not be done in the Church at large as a regular practice)

    +Nathan

     
  15. Nathaniel

    August 7, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Nathan,
    So “essential” doctrines = those essential to the rule of faith.

    That doesn’t get me much more clarity. On the Reformation post you once said, “the rule of faith also contains core content, the Apostolic deposit.” If the Apostolic deposit includes (or is expressed in) doctrines, and if some of those doctrines are essential, then you’ve now defined “essential doctrines” at least partially reflexively.

    On the Lutheran-Reformed distinctions on Sola Scriptura: from my outside vantage point, after some reading and comparing, I don’t think the two understandings are very different. I do recognize the differences some reformed groups have Re: worship practices depending on what’s commanded in Scripture; I’m not sure what the implications are of the Lutheran “fuzzier edges” to the canon, for how Sola Scriptura works on the ground.

    It’s hard for me to see any Lutheran distinctive that might offer a viable alternative to a Reformed person who determines that the Reformed view of Sola Scriptura is unworkable. You told Jason that Chemnitz’s view is quite different. Can you point out where the Lutheran understanding has more to offer a struggling, exiting Reformed believer? I don’t want to mischaracterize by understanding these two as more similar than they are. But Jason himself sees Wittenberg in close proximity to Geneva & Saddleback on these central issues.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  16. Nathan

    August 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Nathaniel,

    Quick answers here.

    “So “essential” doctrines = those essential to the rule of faith.

    That doesn’t get me much more clarity….”

    Douglas W. Johnson, in His book, The Great Jesus Debates said: “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”.

    I contend that the question, “Where is the Church?” is to be thought of primarily in this context.

    This is why I said, of the rule of faith’s content, the following (a quote you have seen before):

    ““The real problem, as Chemnitz would see it, is going beyond that proper Rule of Faith, in the sense that this means insisting that certain traditions without sufficient Scriptural warrant (this does exist for infant baptism – it is unacceptable to deny the wealth of evidence implicit in Scripture, as well as the consensus of antiquity [save Tertullian] here) need to be adhered to with the same level of devotion as those revealed in the Scriptures (with the implication that, for those who know better, salvation is at stake if the Magisterium is refused). Furthermore, things become especially problematic when these said traditions clearly mitigate the Gospel comfort that God means to provide. In other words, this would, in effect, actually be mitigating the Rule of Faith itself, that central truth in the creed: that God, in His grace, promised to, and was, reconciling man to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil by the confidence-creating proclamation of His forgiveness, life and salvation won by His life, death, and resurrection (the Gospel in its narrow sense, particularly comforting to Christians who are struggling against the sin that continues to best them [see Romans 7])”

    “If the Apostolic deposit includes (or is expressed in) doctrines, and if some of those doctrines are essential, then you’ve now defined “essential doctrines” at least partially reflexively.”

    Maybe you could explain specifically why you see this as a problem. One must hit bottom somewhere, after all. For you, “bottom” is a man of God who says he is infallible and therefore reliable, and for us “bottom” are men who are infallible and speak the truth which the faithful recognize. Both claim to have the doctrine of Christ/Apostolic teaching.

    “It’s hard for me to see any Lutheran distinctive that might offer a viable alternative to a Reformed person who determines that the Reformed view of Sola Scriptura is unworkable. You told Jason that Chemnitz’s view is quite different. Can you point out where the Lutheran understanding has more to offer a struggling, exiting Reformed believer? I don’t want to mischaracterize by understanding these two as more similar than they are. But Jason himself sees Wittenberg in close proximity to Geneva & Saddleback on these central issues.”

    And Jason has how much experience exploring Lutheranism? : ) As to articulating the difference, all I can say is I think there is more than what I gave you, but what I gave you is certainly significant. I understand you aren’t convinced. Maybe I’ll come up with a more forceful articulation later.

    +Nathan

     
  17. Nathan

    August 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Did a little bit of searching, and found this:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulative_principle_of_worship

    These folks certainly don’t adhere to Chemnitz’s taxonomy! As a matter of fact, this reminds me of this show as well: http://issuesetc.org/2012/07/20/3-doctrinal-unity-and-liturgical-unity-pr-david-jay-webber-72012/

    (here Webber talks more about Chemnitz in this area).

    +Nathan

     
  18. Nathan

    August 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Not Lutheran!:

    http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Christmas%20%28web%29.htm

    Again, persons with these views (how common are they in Calvinism?) certainly don’t adhere to Chemnitz’s taxonomy!

    +Nathan

     
  19. Nathan

    August 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Nathaniel:

    Check this out: http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2011/04/to-be-steeped-in-history-is-to-cease.html

    Quote: “there is no “regulative principle of worship” in the early or medieval church. From the first century, the church functioned by means of liturgy. The church calender played a pivotal role in spiritual formation through out the second and third centuries. The church functioned under an episcopal system, without any outcry to the contrary. At least in the conservative RPCNA circles I have been a part of, it is seen as sinful to worship in any manner other than that which is directly commanded by scripture-which in this view is a Presbyterian form of government, exclusive Psalmody in worship, and no spoken or chanted liturgy. If this is the case, one must admit that there was no real worship service from 100 AD until Calvin’s Geneva.”

    I like this Jordan Cooper guy.

    +Nathan

     
  20. Nathan

    August 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Different view of justification to?: http://issuesetc.org/2012/08/08/2-different-views-of-justification-dr-jordan-cooper-8812/

    (from a former Reformed guy – the same one who provided the quote above, Jordan Cooper)

    +Nathan

     
  21. Nathaniel

    August 14, 2012 at 4:21 am

    OK, Nathan, I see that the regulative principle of worship is a strong distinctive of historic/conservative Reformed faith. So Chemnitz’s #7 is a Lutheran distinctive not traditionally held by the Reformed.

    Any other Sola Scriptura differences, on 1-6?

    Thanks for the Jordan Cooper on Justification link. I listened, and may have to listen again to better understand the reformed-Lutheran distinction.
    –Nathaniel

     
  22. Nathan

    August 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Nathaniel,

    Well, to think that having a different number 7 will not affect 1-6 is a bit hopeful, I’d say…

    Again, I have not studied this in depth – nor do I know anyone who has. Further, perhaps much of this is hard to pin down – I don’t believe that all of our tacit knowledge can all be made explicit – sometimes circumstances may arise which help us to define and clarify in helpful ways, but this does not always happen on our timetables.

    I guess I’d just point also to the differences in the statements about the canon again (this seems huge to me – why do the Lutherans think that saying what is in and not in is not something they should do?). Also the stuff on my post from August 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

    +Nathan

     
  23. Nathan

    August 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Another thing: the content of this original post. Is what I said there something that is generally upheld by the Reformed, but Jason S. was simply not aware of this interpretation? Or is it new to their ears? I honestly don’t know. But this is how our Lutheran confessions see this situtation.

    Again, here is what I am talking about specifically:

    http://bible.cc/acts/15-28.htm

    ““Necessary” in what sense? In the sense that if you do not submit to this you are in certainly in danger of excluding yourself (or you automatically exclude yourself?) from the Church and Christ? Really? That seems unlikely to me. Or is it more about being respectful of those with Jewish sensibilities so the unity of faith that already had been given and existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians did not get strained (leading first to schism, *then* heresy)? If it was the first option, when were these commands rescinded? To my knowledge, we don’t say all of them must be followed now (or does Rome)? Didn’t Paul say that we could eat food sacrificed to idols but we dare not do so if it means harming a brother who was weak in faith? Where in verse 28 does it say this was an: “authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth”? I understand words like that as regards God’s pastors granting forgiveness or withholding forgiveness based on their evaluation of whether or not a person is penitent, but not in this context.”

    +Nathan

     
  24. Nathan

    August 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    In a new nutshell: As regarding their official Confessional documents, the Lutherans did not believe they should definitively define the canon – even after Trent did so. The Reformed, on the other hand did. As regards liturgical practice (where the rubber of doctrine hits the road of worship), the Lutherans did not believe they should limit such practice to only what the Scriptures prescribed The Reformed, in general, did. This, it seems to me, suggests that traditions 2-4 are different in some way (2. the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3. the oral tradition of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the New Testament canon); 4. the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received from the Apostles and “Apostolic men”). Rome’s and evidently Stellman’s interpretation of the Acts 15 passage give us a clue, I think. As I said before, here concessions which were made to preserve unity in the body of Christ have become reduced (ossified?) to arguments for the sovereignty of just one part of the body – and all those who do not submit by definition face *some* uncertainty as regards their salvation in Christ. But the faithful men and prophets who longed to see what the disciples saw know there is something tragically wrong with this.

    +Nathan

     
  25. Nathaniel

    August 15, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Hi Nathan,
    One nit pick: you say “Rome’s … interpretation of the Acts 15 passage” as though there is an official Catholic interpretation. But I’m not sure there is. Can you point one out, or are you generalizing from what you’ve heard from individual Catholics?

    I hadn’t realized that Lutherans have an undefined canon; very interesting. What are the implications of that?
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  26. Nathan

    August 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “or are you generalizing from what you’ve heard from individual Catholics?”

    Yes. Some of the best and brightest though (I think).

    Implications of the canon thing? Not sure. Note that there are no questions about the non-Antilegomena stuff – the stuff universally recognized by all the persons claiming Christ in the first couple centuries after the Apostle’s deaths. Further, not all books are as important as other books. Luther saw books like John and Romans and Galatians as being of immense importance, for example.

    +Nathan

     

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