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Luther, Zwingli, and the Hermeneutical Principles of the Lutheran (Christian!) Church

This post features an extended quotation from this fine book.  Learn more here.

This post features an extended quotation from this fine book. Learn more here.

I think one of the more entertaining Martin Luther quotes I have read that pertains to the matter of biblical interpretation is this one:

“This is certainly an extraordinary situation! It is just as if I denied that God had created the heavens and the earth, and asserted with Aristotle and Pliny and other heathen that the world existed from eternity, but someone came and held Moses under my nose, Genesis 1 [:11] “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; I would try to make the text read: “God” now should mean the same as “cuckoo,” “created” the same as “ate,” and “the heavens and the earth” the same as “the hedge sparrow, feathers and all.” The word of Moses thus would read according to Luther’s text, “In the beginning the cuckoo ate the hedge sparrow, feathers and all,” and could not possibly mean, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What a marvelous art this would be—one with which rascals are quite familiar! Or, if I denied that the Son of God had become man, and someone confronted me with John 1 [:14], “The word became flesh,” suppose I were to say: Let “Word” mean “a gambrel” and “flesh” “a mallet,” and thus the text must now read, “The gambrel became a mallet.” And if my conscience tried to reproach me, saying, “You take a good deal of liberty with your interpretation, Sir Martin, but—but—” etc., I would press until I became red in the face, and say, “Keep quiet, you traitor with your ‘but,’ I don’t want the people to notice that I have such a bad conscience!” Then I would boast and clap my hands, saying, “The Christians have no Scripture which proves that God’s Word became flesh.” But I would also turn around and, bowing low in humility, offer gladly to be instructed, if they would show me with the Scripture that I have just finished twisting around. Ah, what a rumpus I would stir up among Jews and Christians, in the New and the Old Testaments, if such brazenness were allowed me! ” (Luther, Martin. “That These Words of Christ, ‘This Is My Body,’ etc. Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics” in Luther’s Works, The American Edition, volume 37. Fortress Press, Philadelphia. Pp. 30-31)*

I was recently reminded of this quote as I was reading about the conflict that arose early on in the Reformation regarding matters of biblical interpretation. It was in an excellent essay called “Why Am I a Lutheran?” by Lutheran historian Martin Noland, published in a festschrift in Pastor Daniel Preus’ (one of the current Vice Presidents of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod) honor.  I highly recommend the essay, and you can order the whole book, “Propter Christum: Christ at the Center” here or get a PDF file of the book here.

Ulrich Zwingli: “Christ abolished external things”… “No external thing can make us pure or righteous”!

Ulrich Zwingli: “Christ abolished external things”… “No external thing can make us pure or righteous.”

In the essay**, Noland writes:

Ulrich Zwingli was Martin Luther’s main competitor, in his own lifetime, for the hearts and minds of the Protestants. Like Luther, Zwingli saw his theology as being sola Scriptura. Unlike Luther, Zwingli was willing to set forth doctrines that never had been accepted in the church. In a treatise defending his view of baptism, written in 1525, Zwingli wrote:

“In this matter of baptism – if I may be pardoned for saying it – I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles… [F]or all the doctors have ascribed to the water a power which it does not have and the holy apostles did not teach. They have also misunderstood the saying of Christ about water and the Holy Ghost in John 3….

When he took upon himself the curse of the Law, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, deprived us of all external justification. Therefore no external thing can make us pure or righteous…. These verses [in Hebrews 9:9-10] tell us, however, that Christ abolished external things, so that we are not to hope in them or to look to them for justification. Certainly we are not to ascribe cleansing to the external things which are still left. For if in the Old Testament they were only carnal and outward, not being able to cleanse us or to give us peace or to assure the conscience, how much less are they able to accomplish anything in Christ, in whom it is the Spirit alone that quickeneth.”

This treatise was written by Zwingli to oppose the rising tide of Anabaptism in the city of Zurich. It is useful today for seeing Zwingli’s chief concerns before his conflict with Luther. “No external thing can make us pure or righteous” is the basic principle that Zwingli deployed to eradicate the seven sacraments of the medieval church. In the place of the external things, which Lutherans call the “means of grace”, Zwingli posited that “it is the Spirit alone that quickeneith.” This basic principle still echoes today throughout all branches of the Reformed Protestant church.

The problem Zwingli encountered in his debate with Luther about the sacrament of the altar was that his basic principle was not enunciated in Scripture. The “abrogation of all external things in the Christian religion” seemed to be a logical extrapolation of Christ’s abrogation of the Old Testament sacrificial system, as explained in the book of Hebrews; however there were no biblical texts that supported Zwingli’s principle per se. That forced Zwingli, and the other Reformed theologians, to find other biblical texts and “turn” them toward this purpose.

Luther’s response to the challenge posed by Zwingli and the Reformed theologians was his treatise That These Words of Christ, “This is My Body,” etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics (AE 37:13-150). In this treatise, Luther laid out his own hermeneutical principles that prevented him from “turning” biblical texts towards his own purposes or ideas and that lent consistency to his interpretation of the Bible.

Luther started out with a warning to all theologians:

Woe betide all our teachers and authors, who go their merry way and spew forth whatever is uppermost in their minds, and do not first turn a thought over ten times to be sure it is right in the sight of God! These think the devil is away for a while in Babylon, or asleep a their side like a dog on a cushion. They do not consider that he is round about them with all his venomous flaring darts which he puts into them, such superlatively beautiful thoughts adorned with Scripture that they are unaware of what is happening… He who does not know this, let him try and see. I have had some experience in this matter. (AE 37:17-18)

Next Luther explained to his readers the overarching strategy of the Reformed theologians:

“They wish first of all to change the natural words and meanings of the Scriptures into their own words and meanings; then they boast that we do not have Scriptures, in order that the devil may make a laughingstock of us, or rather, may safely strangle us as defenseless enemies [emphasis added]. (AE 37:32)

(pp. 232-233***, bold italicized in original quotation)

16th century Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz: "We hold that no dogma that is new in the churches and in conflict with all of antiquity should be accepted." (Examination of the Council of Trent)

16th century Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz: “We hold that no dogma that is new in the churches and in conflict with all of antiquity should be accepted.” (Examination of the Council of Trent)

In this section of the article, “hermeneutical consistency”, Noland talks about three principles Luther goes on to talk about, and that “became a part of the Lutheran canons of interpretation”:

*“Using sources in the original languages to determine the natural meanings of words and phrases” (“explicated by Johann Gerhard in his Loci theologici in Commonplace I, chapter 25, section 534.5, where he quoted Basil the Great in support of it.”)

*“Conforming one’s interpretation to the articles of faith” (“explicated by Johann Gerhard in his Loci theologici in Commonplace I, chapter 25, section 532.2, where he quoted Irenaeus and Augustine in support of it.”)

*“Using the context to determine whether a figurative meaning is intended by the author” (“explicated by Johann Gerhard in his Loci theologici in Commonplace I, chapter 25, section 536.6, where he quoted Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Theodoret, Hilary of Poiteiers, Jerome, Augustine, and Nicholas of Lyra in support of it.”)

Noland concludes this section of his article by saying: “This led the way for [Luther’s] orthodox followers to continue on the path of hermeneutical consistency**** – the path that was true to the Scriptures themselves.” (p. 235)***

(coming full circle, I noticed as I was doing this post that the Luther quote I begin with also came from the same essay by Luther that Dr. Noland discussed in his essay.  I guess I was reminded of the quote for good reason…)

FIN

 

Notes:

* Note also the following quote, addressing again the issue of the Lord’s Supper, from one of Luther’s last sermons (AE 51:376-377):

“Therefore, see to it that you hold reason in check and do not follow her beautiful cogitations. Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly. Don’t you remember the mystery of the holy Trinity and the blood of Jesus Christ with which you have been washed of your sins? Again, concerning the sacrament, the fanatical antisacramentalists say, ‘What’s the use of bread and wine? How can God the Almighty give his body in bread?’ I wish they had to eat their own dirt. They are so smart that nobody can fool them. If you had one in a mortar and crushed him with seven pestles his foolishness still would not depart from him. Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, ‘Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.’ If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, ‘You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?’ That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God.

So let us deal with the fanatics as the prophets dealt with the spiritual harlots, the idolaters, the wiseacres, who want to do things better than God does. We should say to them, ‘I have a Bridegroom, I will listen to him. Your wisdom is utter foolishness. I destroy your wisdom and trample it under foot.’ This struggle will go on till the last day. This is what Paul [in Rom. 12:3] wants; we are to quench not only the low desires but also the high desires, reason and its high wisdom. When whoredom invades you, strike it dead, but do this far more when spiritual whoredom tempts you. Nothing pleases a man so much as self-love, when he has a passion for his own wisdom. The cupidity of a greedy man is as nothing compared with a man’s hearty pleasure in his own ideas. He then brings these fine ideas into the Scriptures, and this is devilishness pure and simple. This sin is forgiven, but when it reigns in one’s nature, not yet fully purged, then assuredly the true doctrine is soon lost, however willingly one preaches and willingly one listens. Then Christ is gone. Then they fall down before the devil on the mountain and worship him (Matt. 4 [:8–10]).”

** Quoted with permission from Luther Academy, publisher of the book the essay is from. I have left out the footnotes from the quote.

*** Preus, Daniel, Scott R. Murray, Aaron M. Moldenhauer, Carl D. Roth, Richard A. Lammert, Martin R. Noland, Charles L. Cortrright, and Michael J. Albrecht. Propter Christum: Christ at the Center : Essays in Honor of Daniel Preus. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Luther Academy, 2013.

**** To read more about one of those followers and his battle against the highly sophisticated Reformation radical Caspar Schwenckfeld, see this post.

 

 

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part VIII of VIII)

Worship as Repentance?!

Worship as Repentance?!

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

in their new book, Christian Worship: the Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel, Pastors Paul Strawn and Holger Sonntag give current examples of “When Different Ceremonies Give the Appearance of a Different Theology”:

What instances of current worship practices did we have in mind when we wrote that changing the forms, rites, and ceremonies gives the appearance of a different theology? Obviously, there are first and foremost the divinely instituted forms, rites, and ceremonies: If these are changed, then definitely the appearance of a clearly different theology is given. Examples include women’s ordination; open communion (often made worse by weak or wrong communion statements in the worship folder); “lay ministers;” the use of juice in the sacrament; changes in the formulae of administration of the sacraments; the omission of the words of consecration in the Lord’s Supper; the mere “blessing” of infants; a service without preaching.

Then there are ceremonies that in and by themselves militate against the humble nature of the means of grace by offering a dazzling spectacle to those in attendance. Here one might think for instance of major musical productions during the service (regardless of the preferred style used) that for some, at least in part due to the major emotional “lift” derived from them, have come to be the only reason why they attend church, and have come to be what they seek in a church, regardless of that church’s actual teaching and confession (which is then why they, when they move away, do not necessarily rejoin an LCMS congregation). Furthermore, the usage of praise choruses to begin the service, or to introduce a sermon, “to pump up” the crowd.

Then there is also the usage of “worship leaders” who do not simply sing, or lead singing, but must speak as well. And these “leaders” (they are not pastors) and musicians – all of them preferably young and esthetically pleasing to the eye to communicate the vitality and viability of a given congregation to prospective new members – are placed in the front of the church to be seen by all (and thus quite in keeping with Luther’s diagnosis of the appealing services of the papacy that belong to the visual kingdom of the world, not to the aural kingdom of God). However, one also needs to include elaborate vestments at variance with the customarily simple ones in current use among us as another example.

What perhaps best captures this “progress” from simple and insignificant to elaborate and pompous is the simple yet odd example of the simple hymn, which was first sung from memory, then from a hymnal, then printed in a bulletin, then projected on a screen, then projected line by line on a screen, then projected line by line on a screen in front of a beautiful picture. And now it is displayed on a large digital television line by line in front of a movie or video of whatever else is deemed to capture the attention of those singing long enough to get them to the end of the hymn. In keeping with this visualization of the hymn’s words, a more emotionally appealing arrangement of the hymn’s tune is often used as well.

Clearly, these and other things seem to be introduced mostly with the casual visitor or the lukewarm Christian in mind, not with what Christ has given his church in the means of grace as standard. At any rate, the impression is given that a different theology is driving these decisions: After all, why do other pastors / congregations not do things in this way? Perhaps because the changes betray a different theology not shared by those other pastors and congregations?

There are other ceremonies that, today, have taken on the character of “confessional ceremonies,” that is, of ceremonies that, while free in and by themselves, have come to be perceived as being associated with a certain controversial theological position. Observing them or not observing them is a case of confession, as outlined in FC X. Examples include the omission of the general confession and absolution at the beginning of the service; the removal of the pulpit and preaching from the aisle; the removal of a fixed altar; the removal of a baptismal font; the refusal by the pastor to wear any traditional vestments. Again, the impression of a different theology is given, here even to the point of suggesting far-reaching agreement with those who clearly do not believe as we do.

Then there are, as a general violation of Christian love, major changes that are introduced here and there without seeking agreement with (at least) the neighboring congregations of our Synod. Is this not also indicative of a different theology, one which no longer teaches, let alone practices, loving concern for the fellow believer?

Given that for Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, doctrinal agreement should ordinarily be expressed by uniformity in worship, it seems to us that the burden of proof lies with those who wish to deviate from the once-enjoyed uniformity in our Synod. They need to show not just that doing things differently is theologically possible (the Theses do offer a rationale for this), but that what they are doing differently is actually theologically warranted, i.e., necessary and not just possible. And if they are right, then all of us should do likewise! In most cases, however, a clear public theological justification is not provided. Requests for such are regularly denied with an attitude of “well, who made you my keeper?” or “the Confessions aren’t the Bible.”

In summary, it is clear that the technological possibilities that are readily available at the local parish level today (internet, computers, printers, copy machines, large screens, projection devices, stage lighting, etc.) facilitate and accelerate change in an unprecedented way. However, this acceleration is not just a result of technological change. To us, it appears to be driven chiefly by a theology that is markedly different from that of our father and mothers in the faith. Having pondered these issues for several years now in light of the Scriptures, the Confessions, and Luther’s pertinent writings, it seems to us that one of the major factors in the current proliferation of change is indeed a lack of understanding of the importance of love when it comes to worship in particular and being the church in general.

In this, to be sure, our time is no different than Luther’s or Paul’s: we know freedom but we, puffed up by this knowledge, do not use it properly in our relationship with fellow Christians, that is, tempered by love and for their edification.

We believe, however, that the problem today does not simply lie in not translating what is clearly confessed and believed by all into an equally clear practice. Lutherans have always acknowledged that there will always be unfortunate shortcomings of this practical kind in this life (cf. only AE 41:216-217). Consequently, also the uniformity in our worship practices will never be complete on earth.

Yet when reading through various materials on worship, the glaring absence of any mention of love in this context (that is, on a theological/doctrinal level) points to a different theology that is afoot among us. This theology allows the resultant absence of uniformity in worship to be affirmed. In this sense, then, we must say that the Theses, even though there naturally was “no desire” to do so, do provide or at least strongly endorse “a new theology of worship.”

They then immediately go on to say, in the following section, “The LCMS Orders of Service Are not the Only Christian Forms of Worship”, that:

It is a standard concern that is raised with regularity against this position by some: “I am not sure if you are saying this but some seem to be saying that the liturgy as it is expressed in the current or former hymnals of the LCMS is the only proper form of worship for Christians.” We are not sure why this concern is expressed. For if we said or believed that, why would TUFOTG contain a lengthy section dedicated explicitly to “devising new ceremonies” (p. 76-86, emphasis in original)? Since this speaks for itself,  this cautiously voiced concern almost sounds like the “concern” voiced by others who assert that our emphasis on distinguishing orthodoxy from heterodoxy or our practice of closed communion somehow means that we believe that LCMS Lutherans will be the only people in heaven….

(pp. 70-73, all unitalicized words italicized in original ; all bold mine)

To close this series, I will leave you a couple final important thoughts from Pastor Sonntag:

In other words, only if we properly love the members of the household of faith who believe as we do and present a unified “front” to those on the outside can we also properly love those who are not yet members of our churches and call them to repentance, without giving them some mixed message culminating in “open communion.”….

… some might think today, if we could only go along with what everybody, or at least almost everybody, else is doing in worship, would we then not have ended the “worship wars” in our denomination? We might have done so but, according to the Christian Book of Concord, we would also have betrayed Christian faith and Christian love. Both faith and love compel us to express simply, clearly, and accurately our Christian confession by means of our worship service for the glory of Christ our one Redeemer and for the salvation of those who believe like we do and of those who believe differently.

(From materials received at the 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference: “The Character of Christian Worship: It May Not Be What You Think”, which took place on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN (full audio available here) ; pp. 102, 103 ; all unitalicized words italicized in original ; all bold mine)

FIN

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part VII of VIII)

The best answer for CCM?

The best answer for CCM?

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

So what prompted all of the theological reflection from the previous six parts of this series?  This is what will be addressed in the final two posts of this series.

Below, Pastor Paul Strawn gives us a brief history of recent developments in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod regarding the issues surrounding worship (from the introduction to Christian Worship: Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel ; to order e-mail at bookorders@lutheranpress.com).  All the bold is mine:

Do the Lutheran confessions—the documents contained in the Christian Books of Concord—have anything to say about Christian worship? This was the question raised in September (19-22) of 2009, by the Council of Presidents (CP) of the 35 districts of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), meeting in St. Louis, when they made the unprecedented move of unanimously approving[1] and then making available electronically to the over 8000 pastors of the synod, a theological statement addressing Christian worship.[2] There the impression was created that what was approved by the CP was in fact understood to be an accurate description of the theology of worship of the Lutheran confessions.[3] The appearance of the statement was followed quickly by a theological conference four months later (January 11-13, 2010), also in St. Louis, sponsored by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the LCMS, and the Commission on Worship (CW), to which the CP was invited.[4] And later that same year, a resolution (2-05) to the synodical convention convened in Houston was passed, commending both the statement of the CP and the conference of the CTCR and CW, and encouraging further study of the issue.[5] So within less than a year, a document was created, approved by the CP, and recommended for further study by the synodical convention, which purported to represent the theology of worship within the Lutheran confessions.

Of course, the document of the CP was not created on a whim, but came at the end of almost a decade of discussion, occasioned by the anticipated publication of a new synodical hymnal in 2006. Already in April of 2000, Concordia University, Wisconsin, had publicized in the synod’s official newspaper The Reporter, a statement approved by its Board of Regents governing the practices of worship in its daily chapel services.[6] This statement was doubtlessly shaped by the massive (605 pages) textbook Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, written by one of its professors, Dr. Timothy H. Maschke, and published by the synod’s Concordia Publishing House (CPH), in 2003 (and then again in 2009). Also in 2003, CPH reprinted the English translation of the Heidelberg systematician Peter Brunner’s (1900-1981) Worship in the Name of Jesus, a work originally appearing in 1954,[7] and then in English translation in 1968. In 2005, a parish pastor in Michigan, Dr. Alan Waddell, published The Struggle to Reclaim the Liturgy in the Lutheran Church: Adiaphora in Historical, Theological and Practical Perspective (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen), and followed it, also in 2009, with an overview of the work entitled A Simplified Guide to Worshiping as Lutherans (Eugene: Wipf and Stock). In 2006, Lutheran Service Book (CPH), the newest hymnal for the LCMS was published, having been prepared by the CW, with its theology more completely explained two years later (2008) by Arthur A. Just, professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, under the title Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service (CPH). So by the time the CP of the LCMS disseminated its statement on worship in 2009, various individual members and entities of the synod had weighed in on the matter in one form or another.

By publishing its statement, and linking its content to that of the Lutheran confessions, the CP had hoped to provide a theological framework within which the topic of worship could continue to be discussed throughout the synod.[8] This does not appear to have happened. Instead, subsequent theological conferences addressing worship (Michigan 2011,[9] Texas 2013[10]), as well as the first sponsored by the CTCR and CW in St. Louis in 2010, ignored the statement of the CP altogether.[11] In fact, since the appearance of the statement, somewhat of a framework-less theological discussion has ensued in which the theology of worship within the Lutheran confessions has played little or no role whatsoever. Yes, the confessions are referenced, but only to demonstrate support for conclusions reached on the basis of assumptions foreign to the confessions themselves.

Still, a careful reading of the books and presentations that have been published in one form or another since 2009 reveals that three schools of thought, each with a starting point other than that of the Lutheran confessions, have gradually emerged. The first seems to be somewhat of a pragmatic approach, which asks the simple question: “What kind of theology of worship can be created to prevent the congregations, colleges, seminaries, pastors, teachers and missionaries of the synod from being driven apart by their various worship practices?” In other words: How can the diversity of worship practices within the synod be reconciled theologically? This was the question behind the statement of the faculty of Concordia Wisconsin, the statement of the CP, the title of the conference on worship sponsored by the CTCR and CW, the convention resolution, and the works of Maschke and Waddell. Simplified even further, it is the quest for a theology of worship which will maintain the institution which is the LCMS, its entities such as its colleges and seminaries, and chiefly, the relationships of its congregations and pastors with one another.

A second school of thought is that borrowed initially from modern Evangelicalism, and more recently from the so-called emergent church movement. It asks the question: “How can Christian worship be shaped to reach out to non-Christians?” Put another way: How can the setting aside of traditional Christian worship forms be reconciled theologically with the assertion that what is being done in a particular worship service is, in fact, Christian? Such a theology of worship is being forwarded by pastors and congregations, and seems to be based, ultimately, on the assertion that since pastors and congregations are in fact actively seeking to reach out to non-Christians in such a way, what they are doing must be considered by others within the synod to in fact, be Christian, and in agreement with the theology of the Lutheran confessions. Unfortunately, this school of thought is not represented with the same frequency as the others in print-matter and at conferences, as the theology itself promotes a reluctance to participate in academic introspection.

The third school of thought also promotes a theology of worship based upon how Christians worship, but Christians who have lived in the past. This theology of worship is driven chiefly by professors at seminaries who have been called by the synod to do just that: To teach future pastors what in fact Christian worship has been in the past (Cf. the work of Just). Here the concern has more recently become the theological justification for remaining with what is known as the historic liturgy. Extensive theological support for such a position, however, must be found outside of the Lutheran tradition, in Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox liturgical theologies. Why? The shape of Lutheran worship is not based upon church tradition, but upon the theology of the Lutheran confessions, that is, the theology of the Lutheran reformation.[12]

So in summary, it could be asserted that these three schools of thought—these various theologies of worship—present within the LCMS that have now been articulated in one form or another, are driven by either the need to maintain the entity which is the synod, the need to reach the lost, or the need to retain what is thought to be what the church has always done. None, however, begin with the question: Do the Lutheran confessions have anything to say about Christian worship?

Why is this such an important question? The simple answer is that members of the Missouri Synod, that is, its congregations and pastors, have

sworn to uphold, that is, to live by, to believe, teach and confess the theology of the Lutheran confessions. The existence of the synod itself is based upon that oath. It would therefore stand to reason, that the worship of the synod should be informed and shaped by the theology of the Lutheran confessions, and not some other primary concern, no matter how profound that primary concern may seem to be. As stated above, the

statement of the CP seems to have had little effect. But the reason that is so is not because it sought to represent the theology of worship as it is found in the Lutheran confessions. Indeed, if it had actually done that, something truly monumental and unifying may have occurred. For if anything, the presence of multiple theologies of worship within the synod has caused confusion, resulting in a situation where Lutheran worship has become a cacophony of “indistinct sounds”, reminiscent of that referenced by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 (7-8).

This was the impetus for the work written by theologian Holger Sonntag soon after the appearance of the worship statement of the CP entitled The

To order, email at bookorders@lutheranpress.com

To order, email at bookorders@lutheranpress.com

Unchanging Forms of the Gospel (Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2010). There Sonntag briefly and clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the statement of the CP in view of the Lutheran confessions. Privately, the publication of The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel precipitated a highly beneficial fraternal exchange between Sonntag, myself, and the author of the statement of the CP, Rev. Terry Forke, president of the Montana District of the LCMS. That exchange allowed us to refine and sharpen Sonntag’s original critique, and offer in the place of the statement of the CP, a set of 46 theses which we believe more accurately reflect the theology of worship within the Lutheran confessions.

So that is the content of this work. First, a refined explanation of the argument of The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel, and then 46 theses which we believe represent the theology of worship of the Lutheran confessions. We offer them here to both the members of LC-MS, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church at large for further discussion.

Paul Strawn

Minneapolis, Minnesota

June 5th, 2013

(unitalicized words italicized in original; bold mine)

Again, those 46 theses described above were the content of yesterday’s post (sections 1.1-3.3)

FIN

Part VIII 

Notes

[1] “COP adopts worship ‘theses’”, posted Oct. 6, 2009 at http://www.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=15851.

[2] Available at http://worship.lcms.org/theses.

[3] The very first thesis (“Worship is not an adiaphoron”) directly references the category of “adiaphora” established by the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration X, “The Ecclesiastical Rites that are Called Adiaphora or Things Indifferent” (cf. The Book of Concord, Trans. and Ed. by Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), p. 610 ff. Then thesis II is the sweeping statement: “The Scriptures and Confessions give the people of God considerable freedom in choosing those forms, rites, and ceremonies that aid the worship of God.”

[4] Cf. “Worship conference planners seek ‘collegial’ input,” posted on Nov. 11, 2009 at http://www.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=16038, and Joe Isenhower Jr., “Response to model theological conference on worship ‘positive’,” posted on Jan 27, 2010 at http://www.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=16486.

[5] “LCMS delegates adopt worship, reformation study and compensation resolutions,” posted July 17th, 2010 at http://www.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=17382.

[6] “Worship Theses in a Collegiate Setting” in Timothy H. Maschke, Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: CPH, 2009), p. 540 ff.

[7] Brunner’s work first appeared in 1954 within the first volume of a series of tomes on the liturgy (Leiturgia; Handbuch des evangelischen Gottesdienstes, ed. by Karl Ferdinand Müller; Walter Blankenburg, Kassel: Johannes Stauda-Verlag: 1954-70, Vol. 1, pp. 81-361) in connection with the publication of the Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch (EKG) in 1950.

[8] Larry Stoterau, “Theses on Worship: Dr. Larry Stoterau”, digitally recorded remarks made January 11th, 2010 in St. Louis at “A Model Theological Conference: Toward a Theology of Worship That is…”, available at http://media.lcms.org/Worship/model/disc1/4c.mp3.

[9] “Come, Let Us Worship … the Lord Our Maker,” Jan. 29: Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Jenison, Michigan; Feb. 12: Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Birmingham, Michigan; Feb. 26: Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Saginaw, Michigan, 2011.

[10] “Christ For Us: The Divine Service, ” April 13-16, 2013, Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas.

[11] In the six presentations given at the conference, the CP’s statement on worship was mentioned in passing only twice. For more on this conference in relationship to the CP’s statement see Paul Strawn, “A Response to Resolution 2-05, “To Commend Theses on Worship and Model Theological Conference on the Theology of Worship,” Adopted by the 64th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Houston, Texas, July 10th-17th , 2010,” in The Lutheran Clarion, Vol. 4, Iss. 1, Sept. 2011, p. 2 ff.; Iss. 2, Nov. 2011, p. 3 ff.

[12] This point is made elegantly by Walter Sundberg, Prof. of Church History at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, writing in the preface to Oliver Olson’s Reclaiming the Lutheran Liturgical Heritage: “More than thirty-five years ago, Oliver Olson defended an interpretation of liturgy that grounded itself in the principles of the Reformation. Olson called into question the then dominant trend to privilege liturgical practices of the fifth and sixth centuries as filtered through the specious historical and theological arguments of scholars motivated by an anti-Protestant ideology. A few years later, his arguments were recognized as valid by a preeminent Anglican liturgical scholar, Bryan Spinks of Cambridge University; not that it made any difference to those Lutherans who have controlled the preparation of worship materials for the ELCA and its predecessor bodies.” Blue Papers, vol. 1, ed. by Mark L. Johnson (Minneapolis: Reclaim Resources, 2007), p. 1.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part VI of VIII)

The theses below are from the new book following up this one, The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel.  Read more here.

The theses below are from the new book following up this one, The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel. Read more on the book pictured here.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

The following post is perhaps the most important in this entire series, not least of all because it can stand by itself well. It is a summary, by Pastor Paul Strawn and Pastor Holger Sonntag themselves, of the main points of their arguments. These summaries are found in both of the resources that we have been quoting from up to this point (in the new book, mentioned yesterday, they are found in the form of theses at the end of the book, summing up its arguments – see order information below*).

The links below are the accompanying audio (not the best quality – I believe the quality does get better as it goes on) from the conference in which they discussed the following arguments/theses (hear the opening remarks from Pastor Sonntag here).  Please note that clicking on them will open up the audio immediately (you can also go to this page, on the blog of Pastor Bruce A. Timm, in order to see all of the original links to the audio).

I. What Really is Christian Worship?

1.1 – Why do Christians Worship? (conference audio part 1 and part 2)

Christian worship – that is, worship after man’s fall into sin and after the giving of the promise of the Savior in Gen. 3:15 – is fundamentally rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For every Christian activity, in order to be truly pleasing to God despite man’s sinfulness, must flow from faith in this gospel. Such faith is created by this gospel itself. In that this faith rightly acknowledges God as truthful and Savior, and thus lets God be God, it is the highest worship (First Commandment). Genuine faith is active in love of God and neighbor. Praying to God as well as praising and thanking God in worship, as well as studying and following his Word, are the chief works of love of God after faith itself (Second and Third Commandments). Serving the neighbor in one’s vocations according to the remaining Ten Commandments is, because it is a fruit of faith in the gospel, also part of the Christian’s worship and thanksgiving to God.

1.2 – How do Christians Worship? (conference audio)

In the age of the New Testament, the gospel has been instituted by Christ in the specific forms, rites, and ceremonies of the NT’s specific ceremonial law, namely, the means of grace: the word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The pastoral office has been established by Christ to administer the gospel in these forms also in the public worship service. Administering and partaking of the gospel according to these forms are acts of love which, when proceeding from genuine faith in the gospel, are also acts of worship pleasing to God. When considered as God’s saving work for us, the means of grace take on a “sacramental” meaning. When considered as our serving actions for God and neighbor, the means of grace take on a “sacrificial” meaning. Due to the alone-saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the only legitimate function for sacrifice in the Christian worship service is to express the Christians’ praise and thanksgiving for their being saved by Christ.

1.3 – Does Christian Worship have a Unique Character? (conference audio)       

The forms, rites, and ceremonies of the gospel have a specific God-given character in that they are not only unchanging but also humble and simple in nature. For they offer God’s almighty grace and power under the simple, humble, weak forms of human words, water, as well as bread and wine. When considered by the old Adam without God’s word, this humility and weakness is despised as utter foolishness. When considered by the new man according to God’s word, this simplicity and weakness is recognized as God’s wisdom and power. The pastoral office shares in this humble form in that it faithfully and simply proclaims the word of the cross in its divinely instituted forms, the means of grace.

II. What Does Christian Worship Have to do with Christ?

2.1 – How is Christian Worship Like Christ? (conference audio

The humble nature of the gospel and the pastoral office reflects the humility of Christ’s life on earth. While he always possessed all the attributes of his divine nature, he only rarely used them openly. For the most part, he kept them hidden under his servant form. His humble external form as well as the humble external form of the gospel serve the key purpose of his mission: to bring his forgiveness to sinners terrified and humbled by the law. For such sinners need to be approached in a humble, gentle manner lest they be terrified further.

2.2 – How is Christian Worship Related to Christian Freedom in Christ? (conference audio)        

After the end of the comprehensive ceremonial law of the OT, Christians are free to add humanly devised ceremonies (“adiaphora”) to the ceremonies of the gospel Christ has established already. Lest these ceremonies contradict the ceremonies of the gospel itself, they must conform to the gospel in both content and form. This means, they need to proclaim the gospel and be humble and simple in nature. By doing so, they agree with the Christian faith (doctrine) and further faith in Christ as the highest worship. By doing so, they also agree with the simplicity of worship in paradise before man’s fall into sin.

2.3 – How is Christian Worship Related to Love? (conference audio)       

However, these ceremonies also need to be in agreement with Christian love, the chief fruit of faith and the fulfillment of the law, as one of their chief purposes is to serve the neighbor. These ceremonies will be in agreement with Christian love when they are created and observed jointly by churches sharing the same confession. In that such is the way of humility and service, ceremonies created and observed in this way conform to the humble form of the gospel also by the very way they are created and observed. In that such humility is also in keeping with Christ’s humble life of service on earth, they are part and parcel of the Christians’ humble way of life and service that puts the needs of the neighbor first. In this way love restrains the freedom that is indeed ours by faith in the gospel.

To order, email at bookorders@lutheranpress.com

To order, email at bookorders@lutheranpress.com

III. What does Christian Worship have to do with Christians?

3.1 – As Lords and Servants, Old Adam and New Man? (conference audio)          

For the Christian is not only by faith a free lord over all things in his relationship to God; he is also by love a most dutiful servant in relation to his neighbor. Such an approach to worship does full justice to the fact that the Christian is both saint and sinner, both new man and old Adam. For the fact that the Christian is not fully renewed in this life makes love, patience and humility necessary, also and especially when it comes to the joint creation and observing of orders of worship. The fact that the Christian is beginning to be renewed in this life by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace makes incipient love, patience, and humility a reality, also and especially when it comes to the joint creation and observing of orders of worship.

3.2 – Being Justified by Faith (conference audio)                              

The doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone does not result in antinomianism because it does not militate against such humble works of love and service, but only against the belief that such works contribute to man’s justification before God. The doctrine of justification, therefore, does not negate the necessity of Christian love for keeping Christian doctrine pure, which exists due to the Christians’ ongoing sinfulness. It therefore does not negate the necessity of love for keeping the church united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. For where the purity of doctrine has been lost, there the unity of the church in the truth has been lost. In heaven, when the Christian will be fully renewed, worship will still be corporate and uniform. For then the Spirit will have fully consumed old Adam’s desire to be an individual and do his own thing.

3.3 – In our Relationship with other Congregations, Synods and Churches? (conference audio)

In that ceremonies of worship traditionally have been observed jointly by those sharing the same confession, ceremonies of both human and divine origin play a role as boundary markers of those communities. Differences and changes in ceremonies therefore always give the impression of a changed and hence different confession. This is why changes in (humanly devised) ceremonies must be theologically warranted lest the wrong impression of theological agreement is given where no such agreement exists.

FIN

Part VII

Part VIII

*To order a copy of Christian Worship: Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel e-mail at bookorders@lutheranpress.com

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part V of VIII)

Is this the most misunderstood article in the Lutheran Confessions?  Read Article X of the FC here.

Is this the most misunderstood article in the Lutheran Confessions? Read Article X of the FC here.

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Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Today, an extended quote from Pastor Paul Strawn and Pastor Holger Sonntag’s new book “Christians Worship: Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel” (CWAUFOTGJ), where they deal with Article X of the Formula of Concord, on the topic of Adiaphora:

There are certainly those who use Luther in support of opting for much freedom when it comes to devising new ceremonies. However, Rev. Sonntag, in his 2009 piece on Luther’s distinction of faith and love in liturgical matters (a printed version in LOGIA is referenced in footnote 14 on p. 79 of TUFOTG….), provides a much more nuanced reading of Luther on forms of worship because it is based on a more representative sampling of texts, some of which were reprinted in TUFOTG, p. 80-85.

Sonntag demonstrated the following: Luther, beginning with his foundational 1520 treatise on Christian liberty, assigns freedom to man’s relationship to God (faith), while bondage is what characterizes man’s relationship to his neighbor (love). And, also beginning with that treatise, matters of creating and observing ceremonies are handled according to love, not faith. This means that, of course, Luther articulates freedom in worship forms in a very vocal manner when it comes to man’s relationship with God – in other words, when their observance is made a matter of meriting one’s salvation. But he is also quick to temper this freedom in man’s relationship to his neighbor by love.

Luther wrote to the Livonians in 1525 (AE 53:47-48):

For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at any time, yet from the viewpoint of love, you are not free to use this liberty, but bound to consider the edification of the common people, as St. Paul says, I Corinthians 14 [:40], “All things should be done to edify,” and I Corinthians 6 [:12], “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” and I Corinthians 8 [:1], “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Think also of what he says there about those who have a knowledge of faith and of freedom, but who do not know how to use it; for they use it not for the edification of the people but for their own vainglory.

Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others. By faith be free in your conscience toward God, but by love be bound to serve your neighbor’s edification, as also St. Paul says, Romans 14 [15:2], “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also pleased not himself, but us all.

Is this not exactly what SD X, 9 says?

We further believe, teach, and confess that the community of God in every place and at every time has the right, authority, and power to change, to reduce, or to increase ceremonies according to its circumstances [“from the viewpoint of faith”], as long as it does so without frivolity and offense but in an orderly and appropriate way, as at any time may seem to be most profitable, beneficial, and salutary for good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the church [“from the viewpoint of love”]. Paul instructs us how we can with a good conscience give in and yield to the weak in faith in such external matters of indifference (Rom. 14) and demonstrates it by his own example (Acts 16:3; 21:26; 1 Cor. 9:10).

It seems to us that too often, SD X, 9 is quoted only with a focus on “the viewpoint of faith,” because freedom (and change) is what is to be promoted today. The [Eight] Theses [on Worship] [see part I], unfortunately, perpetuate what clearly seems to be a misuse of this fine text because they quote it under thesis II.A, which, according to the flow of the theses, is about “freedom.”[1]The viewpoint of love” is left unmentioned, perhaps because it would truly get in the way of providing a rationale for freedom and change, but also perhaps because it does not seem to be very specific here in SD X. However, when read in the context of Luther’s very clear advice to the Livonians, it truly regains its original depth for us today.

In other words, hearing Luther out helps us to understand certain abbreviated expressions in the Confessions which were understood back when they were written, but which, due to their short-hand nature, are easily misunderstood today when we read them without their original theological context in mind.

It is typically granted that men abuse freedom when it comes to matters of worship (e.g., by holding that “worship is an adiaphoron”). This, perhaps, is the particular burden we as the church of Jesus Christ in the “land of the free” have to bear. Now, the solution is not to eliminate freedom altogether, but to define its meaning and use carefully: in what relationships does it exist? Where does it need to be tempered by love’s willing bondage of service and humble restraint? Here Luther and the Lutheran Confessions are our allies, because such abuses of freedom are really nothing new in the history of the church of children of the free (cf. Gal. 4:31; 5:1, 13).

if we can’t even agree upon and abide by common, uniform orders of service in the realm of love, how much do we really care about one another in Synod (cf. Matth. 24:12)? Do we care that our worship practices might negatively affect our neighboring congregations, even to the point of luring away members or driving out faithful pastors? Do we also care that members are confused when they visit LCMS congregations in the same circuit or district, or when they, perhaps to visit family or to spend the winter, attend congregations in other districts where they encounter markedly different worship practices?

In general, this seems to raise the question of what it means to follow humbly the humble Christ according to Phil. 2. Based on the work we did in TUFOTG, it is not surprising at all that Luther uses this text – the traditional epistle lesson for Palm Sunday in the West – both in his booklet on Christian freedom (cf. AE 31:365-367) and to open his admonition to the Livonians to come up with uniform ceremonies in all humility (cf. AE 53:46-47).

(pp. 44-46: CWATUFOTG, bold mine)

FIN

Part VI

Notes:

[1] Thesis II and sub-thesis A read: “II. The Scriptures and Confessions give the people of God considerable freedom in choosing those forms, rites, and ceremonies that aid the worship of God.

  1. Neither the Scriptures nor the Confessions prescribe forms, rites or ceremonies for worship.
 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part IV of VIII)

"Alone together" - An apt description of the church’s worship today?

“Alone together” – An apt description of the church’s worship today?

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

What does it mean to grow in one’s sanctification?  It simply means to grow in fear, love and trust in God and to grow in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.  And of course here, the most basic and concrete picture of this is the 10 commandments – which our Lord not only perfectly explained, but perfectly lived out.

And of course here, we can talk about this in great concrete and practical detail.  Someone who gets married needs to – out of love – limit even the activities they did as a single person without sin because of their new situation. In like fashion, it does the Christian well to realize that we not only are to avoid evil, but its appearance (as even our Lord Jesus, according to his human nature, seems to have learned – see here).  We also should keep in mind that while any number of activities may be pursued without sin, sometimes one route is an overall better choice than the other (as Paul argues in I Cor. 7).  Finally, we are also to avoid certain activities that we, while free to do without sin we should not do – lest we cause our brothers in the faith to stumble (see Rom. 14 and 15).  Taking all of this into account then, what does it mean for the Church as a whole, the Bride of Christ, to grow in her sanctification… to grow in true love?  Where should we start when we talk about this?

Again, Pastor Holger Sonntag’s words follow.  The bold is all mine, and again, pay particular attention to what I have bolded in blue:

“Church,” as Luther lamented, is really a pretty meaningless word.[1] It would be better to speak of “a Christian holy people” to get to the full meaning more clearly, especially to that other aspect of being church: For by faith in Christ, we’re not only saved. We’re also placed in a new relationship with our neighbor. We’re made members of Christ’s holy people. This new relationship to our neighbors we call “love,” the automatic and necessary fruit of faith in Christ.

In other words, “church” is never just about “me and Jesus.” It is about that first of all, of course. But then it is also about “you and I together.” It’s not just about faith. It is also about love. While we’re saved by faith alone – made members of Christ’s church on earth by faith alone – genuine faith is never alone. It is never without love. So also, we cannot have Christ as our Savior by faith without serving our fellow redeemed by love.

What does this mean for church unity in general and worship in particular? If, as we said, faith is the highest worship and already reading or meditating on the word of God is an act of worship, then there evidently is a kind of outward worship that can be “performed” by an individual Christian for his or her own edification. In fact, we all need to be engaged in this type of worship at all times for our own salvation!

However, as here our focus is more on the joint worship service, we realize that it is an event where more than just Jesus and I are present. Other Christians are there, even if it is just the small communion service for the homebound or hospitalized Christian. We’re doing it together, to put it as simply as possible.

To do one thing together, instead of doing different things at the same time, you need love, because you need the humility to say: let’s come up with a plan of what we’re going to do together. According to the bible, humility is a key form of love: This is how our Savior loved us all the way to the cross. This is how we love one another, just like Christ, not just when it comes to worship. That’s all spelled out in Phil. 2, the epistle reading for Palm Sunday.

This means: we can’t play off faith against love, freedom against service to the neighbor by insisting that we’re justified by faith alone, set free! This is why we need not consider the neighbor when worshiping God or, for that matter, doing anything. Luther said: Not so! Freedom and faith – that’s how we relate to God. Service and love – that’s how we relate to the neighbor. And because in worship we definitely relate both to God and the neighbor, we need to consider both faith and love.

Considering faith, as we’ve already said, ensures that we, first of all, distinguish our human additions from Christ’s means of grace and that, second of all, those additions are of a generally simple form and promote the gospel of Christ. Considering love ensures that our human additions to Christ’s means of grace not only humbly serve the neighbor by promoting the gospel in form and content, but also serve him by not confusing him by offering a bewildering, ever-changing variety of additions that prevent any kind of learning of the faith. In other words, one of the primary considerations of love is: Hey, let’s do this worship thing together lest our people get confused, get antagonized, and ultimately are driven from the gospel.

For this is what the absence of love can do: it can create schisms and heresies out of envy or mistrust. It can also, in the very least, give the powerful impression of schisms and heresies to those on the outside and on the inside. Without love, then, the church’s unity in the faith is doomed.

That’s why Luther, the more experience he gained in leading the church, the more he insisted that churches in one region or area use uniform orders of worship in Christian love. Out of love for his people, not because he was antiquarian by nature, he also kept many of the old elements of worship: People were used to them and there was nothing doctrinally wrong with them. So why confuse them with novelty when they could instead be built up in love?

Traditionally, our Synod has acted on this key insight of the Lutheran theology of worship, even though the insight as such was not always clearly articulated. More recently, that insight has been lost, ignored, or possibly even denied, at least in practice.”

(Sonntag, pp. 48-52 bold mine, non-italicized words originally italicized ; again, from the materials given out at the 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference: “The Character of Christian Worship: It May Not Be What You Think” – Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN.  Full audio available here)

It would not hurt to repeat the Luther quotations from part I here as well…

Again, in one his last sermons, on Rom. 12:3, Luther stated about a month before his death (AE 51:376-377):

“Therefore, see to it that you hold reason in check and do not follow her beautiful cogitations. Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly. Don’t you remember the mystery of the holy Trinity and the blood of Jesus Christ with which you have been washed of your sins? Again, concerning the sacrament, the fanatical antisacramentalists say, ‘What’s the use of bread and wine? How can God the Almighty give his body in bread?’ I wish they had to eat their own dirt. They are so smart that nobody can fool them. If you had one in a mortar and crushed him with seven pestles his foolishness still would not depart from him. Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, ‘Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.’ If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, ‘You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?’ That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God.

So let us deal with the fanatics as the prophets dealt with the spiritual harlots, the idolaters, the wiseacres, who want to do things better than God does. We should say to them, ‘I have a Bridegroom, I will listen to him. Your wisdom is utter foolishness. I destroy your wisdom and trample it under foot.’ This struggle will go on till the last day. This is what Paul [in Rom. 12:3] wants; we are to quench not only the low desires but also the high desires, reason and its high wisdom. When whoredom invades you, strike it dead, but do this far more when spiritual whoredom tempts you. Nothing pleases a man so much as self-love, when he has a passion for his own wisdom. The cupidity of a greedy man is as nothing compared with a man’s hearty pleasure in his own ideas. He then brings these fine ideas into the Scriptures, and this is devilishness pure and simple. This sin is forgiven, but when it reigns in one’s nature, not yet fully purged, then assuredly the true doctrine is soon lost, however willingly one preaches and willingly one listens. Then Christ is gone. Then they fall down before the devil on the mountain and worship him (Matt. 4 [:8–10]).”

(italics Pastor Sonntag’s)

Also note this quote:

AE 24:246: “It does not require such great skill to begin to love; but, as Christ says here, remaining in love takes real skill and virtue. In matrimony many people are initially filled with such ardent affection and passion that they would fairly eat each other; later they become bitter foes. The same thing happens among Christian brethren. A trivial cause may dispel love and separate those who should really be bound with the firmest ties; it turns them into the worst and bitterest enemies. That is what happened in Christendom after the days of the apostles, when the devil raised up his schismatic spirits and heretics, so that bishops and pastors became inflamed with hatred against one another and then also divided the people into many kinds of sects and schisms from which Christendom suffered terrible harm. That is the devil’s joy and delight. He strives for nothing else than to destroy love among Christians and to create utter hatred and envy. For he knows very well that Christendom is built and preserved by love. In Col. 3:14 Paul speaks of love as ‘binding everything together in perfect harmony.’ And in 1 Cor. 13:13 he calls love the greatest virtue, which accomplishes and achieves most in the Christian realm. For in the absence of love doctrine cannot remain pure; nor can hearts be held together in unity.”

(italics and bold mine)

FIN

Part V

Notes:

[1] Cf. AE 41:143-144. The context of this reference, and Luther’s teaching on the church and its outward marks, is now available in a popular format under the title, A Christian Holy People (Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2012).

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part III of VIII)

Humble and simple Savior. Not a Martha Steward moment (hear excellent David Petersen soundbyte here)

Humble and simple Savior – and not a Martha Steward moment (hear excellent David Petersen soundbyte here)

Part I

Part II

Part III

The quote below is from Pastor Holger Sonntag.  The bold is all mine, and pay particular attention to what I have bolded in blue:

The key thing to understanding these verses [Phil. 2] from the epistle reading for Palm Sunday correctly is to read “form of God” not in view of Christ’s divine nature, as if Christ had set aside his divine nature or its powers for the duration of his earthly life. That would be kenoticism.

It is equally wrong to say that, while “form of God” does indeed mean his appearance as God, his divine works and words, the incarnation itself is Christ’s humiliation, as the Reformed say: Because the human nature is incapable of receiving divine attributes, it automatically, as such, works like what Calvin calls a “veil” (Comm. on Phil. 2).[1] For the Reformed, therefore, Phil. 2 could be the epistle reading for Christmas; and indeed, you can find many a Reformed sermon preached on this text in the Advent / Christmas seasons.

When it comes to the means of grace, a different kind of “union” between what is heavenly and what is earthly exists than the personal union of the two natures in Christ. Besides, the means of grace are not all of one kind but must each be understood based on their own specific “words of institution.” However, what is evident is that they, like Christ, are more than what meets the eye or ear. God’s almighty grace and majesty are clothed in a humble, weak creaturely form – whether that be human words, bread, wine, or water – that is administered by a humble man in Christ’s place and that appears foolish to natural man, just like Christ on the cross (1 Cor. 1-2).

This is why God’s grace can only be apprehended there by the heart’s faith in the word, not by the eyes or even by the ears per se. Just as the mouth does not know what it eats and drinks in the Lord’s Supper (Christ’s own body and blood); just as the skin does not know what touches it in baptism (grace-filled water of life), so the ear also does not know what it hears. The heart, however, as the seat of faith, does know from the word it hears and believes; and it is comforted by the fact that so many parts of its body have been touched by God’s grace in view of the future resurrection of the transformed body.

Perhaps surprisingly, Christ instituted the two outwardly lowly sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and sent his lowly apostles to preach his weak gospel to all creatures near the end of his life on earth – that is, right before and after his death.

Given that the resurrection of Christ is viewed as his transition from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation – now that his earthly mission to die for sinners is complete, the humiliation of his human nature is no longer needed – some might wonder: shouldn’t Christ in his exalted state have instituted some more, well, “exalted” means of grace that would make our mission on earth easier?

Evidently, Christ’s exaltation does not place Jesus into some automatic “glory-trap” where he must appear the way he appeared on the mount of transfiguration (Matth. 17). So, instead of walking around with a shiny face and bright clothes, he’s easily mistaken as a gardener or some random stranger, even a ghost. What is more, his voice doesn’t sound like the trumpets of Jericho or like the noise surrounding Mt. Sinai when God gave the law to Israel. It’s still the same voice he had before his death and resurrection, which he continues to use to speak to his disciples in a friendly, humble manner. Before and after his resurrection, it is still the voice of divine authority (Matth. 7:29; 28:18-20)….

Christ instituted the means of salvation the way he did for a purpose. What is their purpose? A good way to answer this question is asking a more basic question: What was Christ’s purpose? As we’ve seen, Christ humbled his human nature so that he could make atonement for our sins on the cross (Phil. 2). We also know from the gospels that he humbled himself for those who know themselves to be heavy laden by sin – to them in particular he revealed himself as “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matth. 11:29); in particular to those who were not proud like the wise of this world but humble like little children, he revealed the Father (Matth 11:25-27; 18:3-4; 1 Cor. 1).

The purpose of the gospel fits right here! For its purpose is to deliver Christ’s cross-won grace to sinners terrified by the flashes of divine glory that shine forth in God’s holy law, reflecting, as it were God’s majesty from Mt. Sinai. This means, the gospel cannot be such. Here the divine glory must take on more and different covers than in the law, lest the terrified and humbled be humbled and terrified further – humiliated and scared away from their gentle and lowly Savior.

As we’ve seen already, the gospel in its humble forms is not appreciated by the unbelieving world. These forms are recognized as what they truly are only by faith in the word of God who instituted them for our good, for the good of all sinners humbled by the law. This fate is shared by Christ – he is only recognized as the Son of the living God by divine revelation in God’s word (Matth. 16:17). Without this revelation and the faith that grasps it, the Lord of glory is counted as a common criminal and ends up crucified (1 Cor. 2).

He made himself nothing, we heard from Phil. 2 above. He chose this unappealing, even repulsive form for himself and for the means of his salvation. On the standard religious radars of every time and place and culture, Jesus doesn’t register. His gospel in its divinely instituted forms doesn’t register. It takes an act of God to change this. This act takes place by means of the very forms that are unappealing to the world by nature. There is no way to God’s grace, to knowing God, that bypasses the means of grace the world of unbelievers must find so unappealing to the point of their being a stumbling block.

And why should God’s saving grace be delivered in a form fundamentally different from the form in which it was acquired? Since it was acquired by a man who made himself to be despised by men who looked for majesty and beauty in their savior (Is. 53:2-3), should it not also be distributed in such a form no one by nature will seek out – so that the world’s wisdom and understanding might be put to shame twice, in the act of acquisition of saving grace and in the act of distribution of saving grace?

In the end, this is all about Christ’s mission to save sinners. In order to save those terrified of their sins by the power of the law, and only such he can save by the gospel, he had to take on a form that would not frighten them away from their Savior, speaking to them in a kind and gentle way. He also had to give his means of salvation such a form that would not frighten such sinners away, but that would allow those sinners to hear the kind and gentle voice of their Savior in them clearly.

(Sonntag, pp. 48-52 bold mine, non-italicized words originally italicized ; again, from the materials given out at the 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference: “The Character of Christian Worship: It May Not Be What You Think” – Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN.  Full audio available here.)

FIN

Part IV

 

Notes:

[1] Cf. Puritan theologian, Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), in his commentary on qu. 27 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, A Body of Divinity: “‘Q-xxvii: WHEREIN DID CHRIST’S HUMILIATION CONSIST? A: In his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross.’ – Christ’s humiliation consisted in his incarnation, his taking flesh, and being born. …” Inconsistently enough, Christ’s exaltation is then not equated with the undoing of his incarnation, but with his resurrection (qu. 28).

 
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