Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thoughts on Ordination Vows

Whenever we are confronted with the unfortunate situation of a pastor serving a congregation of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod resigning his office and leaving Lutheranism for another communion (as has happened recently with a well-known Lutheran pastor named Daniel Woodring who converted to Roman Catholicism) - the claws come out and ugly accusations fly. Usually, such men are accused of "surrendering the Gospel" - which is a way of claiming that the one holy catholic and apostolic church is to be found only in one communion or church body, a bureaucratic definition of the church which is at odds with the definition found in our own confessional writings (e.g. AC 7 & 8).

Of course, these decisions are typically gut-wrenching not only for the former pastor and his family, but for his former parish, and for his friends left behind, and his erstwhile colleagues in the ministry who often feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. However, some of the responses border on frothing at the mouth. Too often, our discourse in the Missouri Synod is governed by emotion and rage instead of theology and charity.

One tactic used to try to throw gasoline on the fire is to accuse the newly-defected former pastors of "breaking their ordination vows." At holy ordination, the candidate takes vows at the altar just before hands are laid on him. A Lutheran candidate promises that his teaching will be governed by the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, since they are the Word of God. He also vows that his teaching will be normed by the various confessional writings that make up the 1580 Book of Concord, and in the Missouri Synod, he does so "because" these are a correct exposition of the Word of God. He also pledges to adorn his ministry with a holy life, and never to reveal sins confessed to him.

Now, if a man leaves his post as a Lutheran minister to become either a layman or clergyman of another communion (where, obviously, the Book of Concord is not normative), is he violating his ordination vows?

Absolutely not.

When his resignation is accepted by his bishop or district president, he is being released from those vows. At that point, he has been freed from that obligation, just as a man who works for Walmart or MicroSoft, if he quits his job, is no longer under obligation to take orders from the managers and to abide by company policy.

I had a parallel situation serving as a notary public, and later as a corrections officer in the State of Ohio. I had to swear certain oaths that specifically mentioned the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Ohio (I don't remember the exact wording). Of course, I am no longer a citizen of Ohio. Because of that (and the fact that I no longer hold either of those offices), I am no longer bound by any oaths to the Ohio Constitution.

Similarly, American soldiers take oaths to the U.S. Constitution. However, if such a soldier's term expires and he marries a foreigner, for instance, and moves to another country and becomes a citizen of that country, surrendering his U.S. citizenship, he is no longer bound to those oaths, nor to the obligations and duties of citizenship. Those oaths are tied to that vocation, that station in life. And when that vocation terminates, so does the oath.

It is especially ironic when Lutherans claim ordination vows are somehow binding for life, given that we Lutherans were named after a man who famously broke his own vows of ecclesiastical obedience and celibacy. I'm not saying Luther was wrong to do so, but I find the double standard to be emblematic of a logical inconsistency.

Other examples include the recent spate of pastors and congregations who have resigned from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and yet remain Lutheran. Such pastors and congregations are no longer bound to the dictates of their former district presidents and various resolutions and bylaws of synod that were formerly binding upon them as members of synod. Nobody has ever claimed that, Rev. Jack Cascione, for example, is still in any way bound by the constitution and bylaws of the of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He simply isn't. Neither are the pastors and congregations that were once LCMS, but are now members of ELDoNA.

Now, if a pastor were to remain in a Lutheran pulpit while teaching doctrine contrary to the Lutheran confessions, he would indeed be breaking his vow. The honest thing to do in such a case would be to resign. In fact, that would be the honorable thing to do. When Dan Woodring came to the conclusion that he no longer believed in the Lutheran confessions, he did the honorable and laudable thing to resign his ministry and leave the Lutheran confession of faith. We can all disagree with him and take exception to his reasoning, but it is simply fatuous to argue that he, as a Roman Catholic layman, is morally bound to believe in something he no longer believes in. Instead of hassling him about it, we should be grateful that he acted with integrity. Far worse would have been to remain as a "trojan horse". Now that would have been breaking his oaths.

And, of course, we don't burden men who leave other communions to become Lutherans with such rhetoric. My classmate Rev. LeRoy Leach was a former Presbyterian pastor who came to the conclusion that he could no longer in good conscience confess the Westminster Confession of Faith. Instead, he came to realize that he was a confessor of the Book of Concord, and resigned his ministry to become a Lutheran. No Lutherans excoriated him for "breaking his vows." In fact, he was allowed to attend seminary and colloquize into the ministerium of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. If Dan Woodring is to be blasted for breaking his ordination vows, so should LeRoy Leach.

But, of course, both men followed their consciences, acted honorably, and went to the communions that reflected their beliefs. Both men left behind former parishioners, and I think it is a safe assumption (and certainly in line with the 8th commandment) to presume that these men, and others like them, did not take these steps flippantly.

The same goes for men who have left the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church to become Lutheran pastors. I can't think of a single Lutheran who would argue that such a man is bound to continue his vow of celibacy that he vowed as part of his former ministry. We have men on our clergy roster who were pastors in Assemblies of God, Reformed, and Episcopal churches as well. Are they somehow morally obligated to the vows they made at their respective ordinations?

If ordination vows are to be considered irrevocable, lifetime vows (like the oaths of the Masonic Lodge), then we should never allow a man to resign from the clergy roster, nor should former pastors of other communions ever be allowed to renounce those vows and serve as pastors in our communion. In fact, such irrevocable vows would reflect a kind of "indelible mark" that would forever prevent a man from laicizing (though we do confess some sort of irrevocable nature of ordination since it is, like baptism, never repeated - though the church has always allowed men under orders to receive dispensations from vows when granted by superiors - which is exactly what happens when a man's district president accepts a pastor's resignation).

I don't think anything or anyone is served when a man leaves the Lutheran ministry and is then angrily accused of "breaking vows." I believe this is nothing more than an attempt to hurt him, an effort to inflame the situation and seek revenge. It's a low blow. Certainly, we ought to be more charitable. We ought to be consistent. We should not casually toss around such accusations - like politically-motivated charges of rape or racism - unless we want to be treated with as much skepticism as the "boy who cried wolf" or the accuser of the Duke lacrosse team.

I do believe that things told to such men in confidence - especially sins that have been confessed - must still be kept in confidence, given that those sins were confessed with that understanding to begin with, and furthermore, the word "never" is part of that vow. Maintaining confidence is also something that all Christians are obliged to do whether lay or clergy. In a life or death situation, lay people can indeed hear confessions and absolve - and they are just as bound to keep those matters confidential as any pastor under ordination vows and holy orders. That doesn't change when a Lutheran pastor leaves his ministry for any reason.

Finally, if we really want to root out violators of ordination vows, we would be duty bound to bring charges upon pastors who are not working to bring their congregations into compliance with the Lutheran confessions, such as pastors who do not offer private confession, pastors who are not working towards restoration of every-Sunday communion, pastors who are not working to restore traditional worship practices - as all of these things are part of those confessions that Lutheran pastors bind themselves to at ordination.

I'm not suggesting such a "witch hunt," but rather pointing out the inconsistency of the Scarlet Letter we emblazon on pastors who renounce Lutheran doctrine and leave, while we "turn the Nelson's Eye" to those pastors who ignore Lutheran doctrine and yet stay put. I'd rather have the former than the latter. It is the latter are guilty of breaking their vows, not the former.

If a man no longer accepts the Holy Scriptures to be God's inerrant Word and/or the Book of Concord to be a correct exposition of that Word of God, he needs to be encouraged to leave us in peace. Continuing to hurl invective at him afterward only makes us look like stalkers or spurned teenagers and it only impedes the man's former congregation from healing. Personally, I believe our confession is robust enough that we can defend it without resorting to hysteria and personal attacks. Besides, being charitable may leave the door open a crack, just in case the prodigal wishes to return. Burning the bridge makes such reconciliation a lot less likely.

But even if such a reconciliation never happens in time, we need to accept the reality that all Christians are our brothers and sisters - and far from being something to be disappointed about, we should rejoice that God is merciful and that the church extends beyond the borders of any one church body. And even if communion is not restored on this side of the grave between us and those who leave Lutheranism, we know that communion will be restored in eternity.

186 comments:

Randy Asburry said...

Pr. Beane,

A most excellent post! Thank you very much! You have given a very well reasoned and wonderfully charitable response to an issue that has troubled me as well. Thank you for precisely putting your finger on the issue that has been too nebulous in my mind thus far. I too have been troubled with the invective approach and accusation of "breaking ordination vows," and I appreciate the way you have "cut to the chase" in revealing the flaw of that reasoning. I side with you: if certain men are conscience bound to go to other communions, I'd much rather see them act with that integrity than to stay put and teach and practice contrary--truly contrary--to their ordination vows.

Thanks again!

Paul McCain said...

Pastors Beane and Asburry, I encourage you to read with a bit more attention when commenting on such things.

What was said, by me, and perhaps by others, is that the recent convert for Rome has abandoned the Gospel purely preached and Sacrments rightly administered. This is a matter of public confession.

Your insistence on trying, rather consistently, to move this conversation over toward the acknowledgement that, yes, in the Roman Communion the Gospel is still heard and the Sacraments are still present is not the point.

I believe, and trust, you both understand this point, and that's why it is unfortunate that whenever we have one of these unfortunate defections one of the first responses you both register is to express angst over a very firm, clear rejection of the decision to leave Lutheranism.

It would do better for you to register very clearly and publicly your profound disagreement with the decision to leave, as irenically as you wish, but do make it plain for your readers why leaving the Lutheran Confession is sinful and wrong, since it is a departure from the confession of the truth of God's Word and an embrace of teachings contrary to that Word.

As they stand however your comments, Pastor Beane, are a misrepresentation of our Lutheran Confessions and the comments of others.

If, in fact, you regard the Roman communion to be preaching and teaching the Gospel, according to a pure understanding of it and a communion in which the Sacraments are also purely confessed, then, frankly, I would want to ask, "Why are you not seeking communion with the Bishop of Rome?"

Paul McCain said...

And one more thought, I am also disappointed in what I perceive to be a surrender on your part of the duty to warn the sheep of error.

I certainly agree that if/when a man can no longer confess the doctrine of the Book of Concord, he should leave. It is quite another thing; however, for a man leaving then to propagandize on a public blog site for his position, and attempt to recruit others for his point of view, which is clearly what is happening in this case, as well as in another case, rather well known, of men who have headed East.

In these cases we must speak very clearly and bluntly about the situation:

The decision to leave the Lutheran confession is a sin, and a very open and public one. I'm reminded here in this conversation how shaky we can get on sins against the first table of the Law.

Lamenting those who point this out, to me, bespeaks a rather significant misunderstanding of this point.

When men leave, and then launch into a public advocacy for their now false-confession, we must do more than simply wring our hands, affix blame elsewhere and then engage in criticism of those who public rebuke the person for their decision.

This is a matter of doctrine and public confession.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Just because I do not believe a man "breaks his ordination vows" does not imply (as you conclude) that I am "seeking communion with the bishop of Rome." That's called "guilt by association" and an "ad hominem" attack. Add that to the list of logical errors you're making.

You need to check your premises, Paul.

Being Right!(tm) is not justification to pour gasoline on people, strike a match, and then urinate out the fire. I believe ecclesiastical discourse ought to be civilized.

Herman Otten criticized David Benke for meeting with the pope, referring to him as "your holiness" and being polite at a public event. According to Otten, he should have called him "antichrist" and then preached a sermon at him in front of everybody. Great. That's all we need to see on the ten o'clock news, a Missouri Synod pastor being hauled off by security guards screaming "Antichrist!" at the top of his lungs.

Now, that would have been effective, don't you think? Kind of like the pastor who attends funerals of homosexuals with placards that say: "God hates fags."

I do think there is a sense of panic here. Yes, it is terrible that these men have left our communion, tragic in fact - especially as we do, by virtue of our history, have such a clear articulation of the Gospel. Often these men are some of our brightest and best scholars (Fr. Fenton contributed to, and is acknowledged by, the LSB, Fr. Hogg was a seminary prof, and Dr. Pelikan had a hand in editing half of Luther's works, etc.).

Being hurt and angry is a natural response. A couple of my classmates left our communion, and it tears me up inside. These men were my friends and compatriots.

But a little perspective is called for.

There is a huge difference between a man leaving Lutheranism to become a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian vs. becoming an Atheist, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, a Muslim, or a Hindu. A big difference indeed. Instead of pushing and shoving to be the first in line to kick the man in the groin, why not say a prayer of thanksgiving that at least he is still in the Church, still part of those who confess the Trinity and the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have never heard any of those men who have defected Lutheranism say they no longer believe Jesus forgives their sins. They may differ in their theological explanation (e.g. the various theories of the atonement), but unless you are willing to say that men like Robb Hogg, John Fenton, and Dan Woodring are now outside of the church, are going to hell for leaving the boundaries of Lutheranism, and have severed themselves from the mercy of God - then maybe your criticism of them should be a little less hysterical.

If nothing else, it would help your credibility and make people actually hear you out.

Again, Paul, the Church is not coterminous with the LCMS. The "felicitous inconsistency" is something to thank God for, not get angry about. God's mercy extends a lot further than those who cling to the Religion Of Being Right.

And when these defections happen (as they always have and always will), it gives us a chance to reflect on our evangelical confession, to give humble thanks to God for it, to pray both for those who are in the church though in error, as well as for those who are outside of the church.

Preaching against false doctrine can be done firmly, but without hatred, malice, rage, and self-congratulation. Luther even conducted friendly and Christian correspondence with Johann Tetzel at the end of the latter's life. Those letters never told Tetzel to "become a Lutheran or you will go to hell."

But again, my point in this post is not to defend those who leave, but rather to point out the fallacy that their leaving violates their ordination vows. It simply doesn't.

Back to the topic: can you show me where my reasoning is wrong? Do these ordination vows continue for life, or are they tied to the office (like my oath to the Ohio Constitution)? Does the acceptance of a resignation release a man from his ordination vows, or are those ordination vows indelible?

If I'm all wet in my reasoning (and I may well be), I'll change my mind. But you've got to do better than name-calling to convince me.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A few things to note here:

1. We didn't make fun of Leroy for being a former presby. . . we made fun of him for being Leroy, and that was good enough for us.

2. Vows never bind us to be hypocrites. Vows guide our action, they bind how we are to behave - but we are never bound to lie about what we believe. If it comes to the point where in good conscience we cannot not maintain our confession, we must openly and publicly abandon it - as tragic as that may be.

3. Yes - Rome has errors. Yes - going to Rome is foolish. But we don't need to pretend that unless we lambaste the convert and reiterate every error of Rome that the floodgates will be open. Anyone who takes a person who leaves as an example and leaves themselves was already going to leave and probably should have already. Dropping hammers on folks over and over isn't going to prevent anyone from tipping over the edge. If they are following the example of a specific man they've already stopped following the Word.

4. Defending the Gospel doesn't mean we get to be. . . less than charitable or kind in our phrasing. While we may be blunt - we don't need to be mean or spiteful in our language. Let our yes be yes, our no be no, and our "this is right" be simply that, and our "this is wrong" be simply that as well.

Besides, once you've gone Ad Hominem you've lost the focus on the doctrine, and it becomes pointless - a clanging gong as it were.

4b - The exception I hold to on Ad Hominem attacks is our esteemed Pr. Beane. . . or perhaps I should say our goateed villianous host. I feel no compunction against just lambasting him at any point -- but I can't claim to be able to extend that ability to anyone else.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Wise words indeed. Leroy is a scream. I really miss hanging out with him.

"Goateed villainous host"? It makes me want to grow out my mustache so I can twirl it. I do have railroad tracks running down the middle of my street so I can tie up a damsel in distress.

Being beaten up by my friends reminds me of both junior high and seminary. But if you take my lunch money, my wife will beat you up...

Pastor said...

If it is truly against the first table of the law to belong to the Roman Catholic or various Orthodox communions, then we should by all means confess and teach that anyone who belongs to such communions is no Christian.

Do Catholics or Orthodox fear, love, and trust in any things above God?

Do Catholics or Orthodox curse, swear, lie, deceive, or use satanics arts in God's name? Do they not call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks?

Do Catholics or Orthodox despise preaching and God's Word? Do they not hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it?

We all fall short and none of us fulfills these things apart from Christ - but are these communions institutionally established against the first table of the Law?

Isn't it considerably shaky to invoke the Ten Commandments in such a way as to insinuate that the only way they may be fulfilled is through maintaining membership in the LCMS? Isn't it even more shaky to insinuate that others are breaking the commandments by virtue of their willful adherence to another Christian communion?

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Paul McCain says,

"I encourage you to read with a bit more attention when commenting on such things. What was said, by me, and perhaps by others, is that the recent convert for Rome has abandoned the Gospel purely preached and sacraments rightly administered."

Such a comment would seem to imply that he is denying having made accusations that these defections have broken their ordination vows. Yet the Lutheran online world knows that he has made just such claims. It's in the public record. He made the following statement about John Fenton, for example, "Fenton's reununciation of his ordination vows, and confirmation vows, is nothing less than an act of treason against our Lord Jesus Christ," etc.

Such rhetoric reminds me of some (not all) of the Catholic apologists out there, who routinely get Luther wrong, despite their otherwise normally rational approach to discourse. One of them has been known to say that "Luther never met a vow he didn't break." This of course does not take into account such facts as Luther actually being released from his monastic vows by his dear friend and superior.

I find it interesting, too, that if I recall rightly, it was a good year or two or three after Luther was released from his monastic vows that he finally took off his cowl, and put on the cassock. When a man goes through such a major transition in his life, it's a big deal; he takes it seriously; and he handles it the best he can, even if those looking on might be tempted to think they would have made the transition in a much more proper, and clean cut manner. Life isn't clean cut , nor is it predictable. These men, and their families should be in our prayers.

Also, if the main problem is that they have abandoned the Gospel and the right administration of the sacraments, then maybe we should expect that impure preaching, and wrongful administration of the sacraments, things rampant in "Ablaze" churches, "courageous" churches, and "relevant" churches across the Synod, would raise as much frenzy in the blogotheology that rages.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Randy, Paul, Eric, "Pastor", and Latif:

I sincerely appreciate all of you taking the time to post here and engage in discussion. I think a lot of us miss the stimulation and theological discourse of the seminary, and though blogging has vast limitations, it does stimulate interesting discussions and grist for future articles and discussions.

Thanks again, gents!

Paul McCain said...

Let me clarify:

I definitely do regard the recent defector as one who has abandoned his ordination vows.

I am surprised to learn that in this instance it is I, apparently, who have a high view of ordination, as opposed to those who apparently regard the vows taken at ordination to be no more than pledging a fraternity.

Imagine that! And I don't even hold my finger and thumb together after the consecration!

Perhaps I'm a closet high-churchman and never realized it.

: )

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Perhaps I'm a closet high-churchman and never realized it.

Aha! I knew it! You read Gottesdienst when nobody's looking. I'm telling Fritz! ;-)

Rev. Shane R. Cota, SSP said...

Wouldn't it be sweet if the leadership, climate and practice in the LC-MS wasn't so amenable to Evangelicalism, generic pop-protestantism, emergent church, Purpose-Drivenism, and other such alien theologies so that all our pastors who ape that stuff felt constrained to "abandon their ordination vows" and leave?

No, instead they get encouraged and even written about with praise in the official rags (like that "community" church in a recent issue of the Witness, or "theAlley" praised in the Reporter).

There are way more guys blatantly abandoning their ordination vows and remaining in the synod than there are men who leave to go East or to Rome, and yet that gets ignored.

Our last district pastors' conference was at some church that had Purpose-Driven garbage hanging all over the place. The DP should have immediately rebuked them and demanded they repent or be suspended. That heinous stuff is all over the place, and converting people to that kind of false "Gospel" is praised and promoted.

When the isolated Lutheran pastor goes East or to Rome, the whole Lutheran blogosphere gets all worked up into a tizzy. Not that it shouldn't be addressed, but we need a little sense of proportion.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Rev. McCain,

As I read your posts here, coupled with others offered across the Internet when others left Lutheranism, I get the distinct impression that (for you) the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is synonomous with the Book of Concord. It's not that I think this is what you are trying to say, but your angle of argumentation leads me to believe this may be what you believe. Or to put it another way, I get the distinct impression from you that faith in Christ equates with the Book of Concord. Is this so? Are these your presuppositions? Of course, I may be totally misreading the motivation of your arguments, and if I need to be corrected, please do so with all charity.

Fr. Hollywood,

Thank you for your post. As I've watched many that I know swim one river or another, and read the angst over how they renounced their ordination vows, I also couldn't help but think of the irony of it all: Lutherans upset that someone gave up on a vow because of conscience. Your point about Luther is appropriate.

However, I don't agree that the ordination vow is merely tied to the "job," so to speak. I get the impression from your post that the vow is made to the Synod or to the Congregation or to something other than the Triune God Himself. I have always been under the impression that vows are made to God, but for the sake of the Church. I vow to God regarding the Scriptures and the Book of Concord. The Church, the individual congregation(s), the Synod, etc., depend on my vow, but the vow is made to God and before God simultaneously.

Yet this is why I agree with your post when it comes to being civilized in our commentary about "defection." A person, perhaps like Mr. Woodring, forsakes his vow because he believes it is ungodly to promise God that he will be promoting (what he has come to be believe is) error. This must be the motivation behind a vow: faith in and love for God. I think that in such cases, when our response is to spew venom, the result is to confirm the erring brother in his error. In the face of venom he can then easily say, "See how they 'love!' If they really were of the truth, then they would behave differently." Or, as the Holy Spirit writes through St. James, "The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (Ja 1:20).

Sadly, we are seeing many in America leave Lutheranism for Rome or Orthodoxy because among us we lack any communion of faith and love, only isolated and individualized islands awash in a sea of Ablaze!™ froth. As I've said elsewhere, in this country we ought to get our own house in order - priority #1.

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. McCain states the issue clearly: “The decision to leave the Lutheran confession is a sin, and a very open and public one.”

As for Rev. Beane's comparisons to other religious and secular vocations:

The decision to leave Walmart is not a sin.
The decision to leave Microsoft is not a sin.
The decision to leave a notary public occupation is not a sin.
The decision to leave a corrections officer occupation is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Masonic Lodge is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Assemblies of God Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Reformed Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Episcopal Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.
The decision to leave Presbyterian Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.
The decision to leave the Eastern Orthodox Church and become a Lutheran is not a sin.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Vehse claims that it is not a sin for a man to leave the Catholic, Episcopalian, or Orthodox Church, and join the Lutheran Church. I say that is not necessarily the case. Among the possible factors would be whether the purely preached Gospel is allowed free voice in the church he is leaving, or joining, the practice permitted in each, the motivations for making the move, etc, etc.

Carl Vehse said...

I said "become a Lutheran". If his motivations for leaving the heterodox (Roman, Eastern, or Episcopal) church are not for Lutheran reasons, would he actually be a Lutheran? Would it really be the Lutheran Church, and would a Lutheran join it, if the purely preached Gospel was not allowed free voice and if the practices were not Lutheran?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Ben:

I had earlier penned a response, and Blogger decided to take a cigarette break or something, and I lost it.

So let me take another stab...

Indeed, the ordination vow is made not only to the congregation, but to the Lord Himself. Of course, it is not to be taken lightly, just as the ministry is not to be entered into lightly.

That being said, those vows are still tied to the office. An ordinand vows that his public teaching and preaching in the church are to conform to Scripture and confessions. However, if the man laicizes for any reason, if he resigns from the office, it would be *wrong* for him to try to *keep* his vow that his preaching and teaching should be normed by Scripture and confessions - since he is not be be preaching *at all.*

When Dan Woodring, for example, resigned his office, he was laicized. He was no longer permitted to preach - even if his preaching were in accordance with the Lutheran confessions. He has been released from that vow when he was permitted to laicize (resign his office). I suppose a DP could technically refuse to accept a man's resignation, but I don't know how that would work.

Nevertheless, if a man no longer believes in the Lutheran confessions, we *want* him to resign, to be released from his vows. To tell a man who no longer subscribes to the confessions that he *must* continue to preach, and do so in accordance with those confessions, (which is what we would be doing to demand he continue to *hold* those vows) makes no sense at all.

For whatever error or sin Dan Woodring has committed, is committing, or will commit - the breaking of his ordination vows isn't one of them, as he was released from the office to which the vow was tied.

That's the point I was trying to make. I'm certainly not trying to downplay our vows - I take mine very seriously, and if it is the will of God, it is my hope to die over 100 years of age at the holy altar of Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna, Louisiana, just having communed the last person, and just having consumed the last of the reliquiae while chanting the Nunc Dimittis. That's how I want to go. I don't believe in pastors "retiring." But then again, as my knees are already popping like a bowl of Rice Krispies, I may not get my wish.

Besides, why should I leave for a heterodox communion when we have a perfectly good one right here? I'm being tongue in cheek here, of course, but we are a communion with lay preachers, lay celebrants, Ablaze!(tm), EPIC church sermons for Lent that feature sex talks complete with a bed on stage, rock music, dancing girls, coffee-shop churches, infrequent communion, pastors and laypeople who openly scorn the Lutheran confessions, mission money supporting "Satan Says" signs, 8-01a, joint services and schools with the ELCA, pastor's conferences led by Baptist professors, lady deacons wearing albs and stoles, church leaders pushing the "emerging" paradigm, etc.

Even the more mainstream LCMS practices ape the Vatican II Roman Church: the three-year series, grabbing the Lord's body with the hand ("body-snatching" as one professor put it), lay readers, altar girls, women distributing communion, "and also with you," minimalist sanctuaries, "the passing of the peace", the verba spoken rather than chanted, etc.

Why go to the trouble to go to Rome when Rome has come to us? As Father Duddleswell quipped: "'Tis enough to make St. Jude himself despair."

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Larry,

Thanks for taking up my issue. I agree with what you say. I simply felt there was something Christological missing. Clearly the vow belongs with the Office, though it is made to God.

However, one might then think that such a vow cannot be rescinded, since it is made to God without an expiration date. Laicization is the key here to overthrowing such a silly idea. It is rather unLutheran to deny the possibility of laicization, since Dr. Luther himself said he didn't see why it couldn't happen. Then again, not everything Dr. Luther says is confessional material.

Good post, Fr. Hollywood. Say 'hi' to Grace for me and the family.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

I have an opinion as to why it is good for people to follow their conscience to Rome or Orthodoxy: the alternative. The alternative would be unbelievable distress and angst that, in the end, most likely would drive a person from the Faith entirely. No one wants that. We all admire honesty in this age when it's in short supply. We also should avoid too much all-or-nothing-ism, especially when it comes to a person's soul and salvation. Better in the Roman church than driven by one's struggle to ultimate despair and apostacy.

We should keep this sad alternative in mind. It might help some of us to be a little more pastoral, use a bit more of the 'ol bedside manner when dealing with people driven to extreme measures by the unLutheranism of Lutheranism in this country (which, btw, causes one to look and to be open to things he or she would never have been open to before). Isn't it our sins that are driving those like Mr. Woodring to the Roman church and others?

I agree with Rev. McCain and Vehse that, from the standpoint of our Lutheran Confession, joining the Roman church for the reasons Mr. Woodring did is to embrace a misuse of God's name (a sin). Sadly, for some, this might be a better alternative to the way we in American Lutheranism misuse God's name, desecrate His worship, and all sorts of other unholy things.

1 John 5:16-17, "If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death" (NKJV).

We must agree it is a sin to hold to what is contrary to God's Word. Period (even though we cannot always agree on what does contradict God's Word). Especially when the falsehood is classified as heresy. This is especially dangerous, since heresy equates with separation from God. [There is a good story about the desert monk Fr. Agathon that illustrates this point.]

So, do we Lutherans classify the Roman teaching on justification and salvation as heresy, or just an error? Do we classify the Roman church as heretical, or only mixed with heresy, or something else? In the past such things were determined only by an ecumenical council. Has such a council been held by all Christendom? Is such a thing even possible now? Or is it enough that the Book of Concord condemns Rome's errors, and that Rome has recently reaffirmed the Council of Trent? Is Rome in the same category as Arius, Nestorius, or Eutyches? Does the felicitious inconsistency idea extend to the Arians, the Nestorians, the Eutychians, and such?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Dr. Strickert:

I think you've more correctly identified the issue. The issue isn't about ordination vows at all. If they were, we would see equal outrage when a non-Lutheran pastor colloquizes and becomes a Lutheran - for no-one in our communion argues that such a man is breaking vows.

The issue isn't about ordination vows, or any vows - but rather about conversion. That's the real issue. Talking about ordination vows is simply an attempt to "pile on." Every pastor who has ever left Lutheranism for another communion, before he joined another church body had to resign his LCMS clergy standing and his office as a pastor. When he does this, he is laicized. A layman is simply not under ordination vows. The whole ordination vows issue is a red herring.

As far as belonging to another communion being sinful, that's another topic entirely, and I think that question cuts to the heart of the matter. This is the real outrage that is being "transferred" to discussions about vows.

It is an intriguing thought (leaving Lutheranism being defined as a sin) - especially as we claim "sola scriptura" - given that the word "Lutheran" isn't even in the Bible (or the confessions for that matter). The word "Lutheran" isn't so easy to define these days.

If not holding the Lutheran confessions is a sin, then maybe every lay person in our churches needs to read every word of the BOC - else how do we know if they are living in sin and should be denied communion? I doubt that not one in a hundred lay Lutherans have even read the Augsburg Confession in its entirety. How do we know if they really believe all of it or not?

And what do we do with churches that don't have communion every Sunday and holy day? That is in direct contradiction to the Augsburg Confession. If this is non-Lutheran practice is defined as sinful, perhaps such churches and pastors need to be harshly disciplined and treated as outside of the Lutheran Church. And what do we do with lay people who, when shown what the Augsburg Confession says about weekly Mass (AC24), but they reply: "I don't care. We've always done it this way. It won't be special. It's too catholic, etc." Are they still Lutheran? Are they living in impenitent sin? Should they be refused communion?

What do we do with "lay ministers"? Maybe they too should be treated as non-Lutherans, and therefore, living in a state of sin (if not being outright extra ecclesiam).

What if we give a 100 question test on the various details of the Formula of Concord to every Lutheran pastor, would a grade of less than 100% be considered sin, and a violation of their ordination vows? For that matter, what do we do with Grandma Schmidt who has never heard of the antinomian controversy, or what a Socinian is?

And what about a newly baptized infant who was baptized by the hand of a Roman priest? Is he also in a state of sin? Is his baptism unable to save him if he should die?

And if Jesus is physically present in the Eucharists of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and if it is by definition sinful to belong to those communions, is Jesus participating in their sin by being present in their sacraments? Or is Jesus only present in Lutheran sacraments? And if it is the latter, that begs the question about sacraments prior to 1530.

I'm hesitant to define membership in one communion or another as a sin. The first commandment is about worshiping the right God. I find it hard to say non-Lutherans who confess the Nicene Creed are worshiping a false God - the way I would say that about a Muslim or Hindu.

And while members of other churches might (though not necessarily) pray to saints in a way that violates the 1st commandment, so do all of us break the first commandment. I know I do. Do you? I know our synod does institutionally as well, when "church growth" is entrusted not to the Holy Spirit but to marketing gimmicks. That is the establishment of a replacement god for the 3rd person of the Trinity. Nevertheless, I don't think membership in the LCMS is a sin (though I have actually heard a former LCMS pastor say that very thing, going so far as to say LCMS membership imperils one's salvation!).

To define church membership in heterodox communions as sin takes membership in the Church away from being a matter of God's grace and turns it into a rational decision on the part of a person to join the right organization. It adds another sola (sola doctrina) and further narrows the definition of the Church in AC7 to a state of membership within a specific bureaucracy. It also stands in contradiction to Dr. Pieper's notion of the felicitous inconsistency.

It also creates a problem when we obviously have grave disagreements between Lutherans - even within the LCMS. How can we define anything less than 100% pure doctrine to be sin for a church body, when we can't even agree on all doctrinal matters in our own teeny little synod?

I believe we should strive to be doctrinally correct, but always reminding ourselves that we are saved by grace alone - not by gnosis, not by intellectual rectitude, not by scoring a hundred on a systematics exam.

And I do think we should take the plank out of our own eye before we get to smug and cocky in front of other Christian church bodies. Typically, when an LCMS pastor makes the national news, it's for something that makes me want to crawl into a hole.

I think we had better be careful about defining membership in a heterodox church body to be a sin. That's definitely the kind of thing that somehow finds a way to plant its incisors into one's gluteals.

Father Hollywood said...

Ben:

All excellent points worthy of discussion.

I'm afraid I don't have my concordance to the Book of Concord handy, but if you look up the word "saint," you will find the confessors using the title to describe various medieval Roman churchmen, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony, and (I'm pretty sure) St. Thomas Aquinas.

If these people were heretics, our confession would never recognize them as "saints" (which of course literally means "holy people", and there's only one way that can be). St. Francis of Assisi was certainly no Lutheran. And no doubt he participated in the sacrifice of the Mass believing it (abominably) to be a propitious sacrifice. No doubt he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints. No doubt his views of justification were tainted by semi-Pelagianism. No doubt he bought into the doctrine of Purgatory. And yet, he is still a "saint" according to our confessions. This means our Lutheran fathers believed him to be among the redeemed in heaven - from which it follows that he was certainly not saved by having all the right doctrines.

But Francis obviously worshiped the Trinity, believed in the incarnation, trusted Jesus as Savior, participated in the Word and Sacraments, and received the Gospel, even through the medieval Roman Church. He confessed the Nicene Creed, and believed the pastor's words of institution and the testimony of the ancient liturgy.

I find it interesting that St. Francis is mentioned in our Book of Concord, but not commemorated in the LSB (though he is commemorated by pretty much every other historic communion). He was also depicted in a piece of artwork in an issue of Good News magazine and was described as having "turned his back on the Bible" (which I've never read anywhere else that Francis would ever treat God's Word with contempt like this). And yet, he is called "St. Francis" in the very confessions that bind us.

I think our Lutheran fathers believed the Lord to be more gracious and merciful than we're really comfortable with today, and I think our sinful nature wants at least a little bit of credit for "backing the right horse."

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Larry,

Of course, by Roman church I mean that which came into being at the Council of Trent, despite being alerted to misguidedness and called to public repentance. I did not mean the days before when problems were unnoticed. Hey, who knows what problems those coming after us will have to overcome, that they wished we had dealt with, but we were too blind from our own weakness and sin to even notice?

Your point about St. Francis and the others is well taken. All of what you say should be a good indicator for us that the formulation of dogma and doctrines, while having their place, are not a substitute for repentance and faith, for humility and communion, for passing over from death to life through the Lord Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Dogma and doctrine ought to be commentary on the Faith, which arises in times of necessity. So, Mr. Woodring may have left the pure confession of the gospel and right administration of the sacraments, but he may have gained an environment far more conducive to the way of compunction, faith, and good works than one finds in our concord-less LutherLand. That's not a cheap-shot at our pure confession, but a suggestion that we (corporately) are sucking the purity out of that confession.

In St. Francis' day God undoubtedly endured much misguidedness, but He remained faithful and merciful. We who are living today have to bank on that, because we also participate in much misguidedness and speak and act contrary to how the Scriptures and our Symbols have bequeathed to us Christ. Kyrie eleison!

I think it is our very experience of what it means to be Church on earth that should teach us that we will not find the purity in knowledge, practice, love, etc. we wish for this side of heaven. It's usually the purity cults that end up farthest removed from the Spirit and mind of Christ and His Apostles. (I desire mercy and not sacrifice.)

As far as the Roman church goes, I find it to be a mixed bag. It's become a large machine that can't escape itself. It can't reject its past without losing its claim to authority now, which keeps it from becoming more what it ought to be and (perhaps) wants to be. So it tries to have it both ways. It's a mixed bag. Maybe the LCMS is in the same boat???

I really think it would take an ecumenical council to handle the way things are, but we all know those days are long gone. Mr. Woodring has followed his conscience, and I hope he has found peace in the Lord Jesus. There is room for him to do so in the Roman church. The question left to us is not what bad things did Woodring just do, but will we continue to be able to find peace in the Lord Jesus with each other in the LCMS. Claiming a pure confession should never be an excuse to bite and devour one another.

Sorry to take up so much space on your blog. It's been a long time since we've talked like this. Like you, I miss this. You know, I don't usually read your blog, because it takes too much darn time to download the front page on my slowwwwww (26.4k) connection. I've been missing out. Pax!

Paul McCain said...

Ben, I'd like to answer your questions, but I don't really understand them. Could you possibly rephrase them?

Dizziness said...

I'm not up to the task but I'm curious if the commentators distinguish between Woodring's resignation and our theology/practice regarding laity who hold a contrary confession.

As I see it, there are two issues here with Woodring and my example.

1) Are ordination/confirmation vows indelible which cannot be absconded for another Christian confession without yielding condemnation?

2) Do we distinguish between breaking of said vows for a heterodox Christian communion and for a non-Christian faith? (Yes, that answer is obvious.)

If a layperson came to you and said he no longer held to primary tenants of the Lutheran confession (i.e. Article IV), would you encourage him to stay? If he continued in his error and refused to confess in harmony with the congregation, would you exclude him via excommunication, especially if this person were leading others astray?

The example may be flawed since confirmation vows are only bound to the SC and not all the Symbolical texts. Yet, both vow to uphold the confession of the evangelical Lutheran church.

So again, is there a difference between Woodring giving up his ordination vows and layperson giving up his confirmation vows for a heterodox Christian confession?

(Perhaps this example comes to mind: A woman who is born-and-bred Lutheran who marries a Roman Catholic, do we encourage her to remain Lutheran, honoring her confirmation vows? Or for the sake of her children and marriage, to sacrifice fellowship with orthodoxy in favor of the heterodox communion of Rome?)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think such transfers/defections or whatever you wish to call them should remind us all to be humble and repent. I would wager that we all have a bit of heresy to us - that none of us are going to get to heaven and find out that we had every particular point of theology absolutely correct.

All errors are sin. We are sinful - we are full of sin, all our works as bloody rags. . . and that even means us right here and now. The joys is that we have received forgiveness and continue to receive this forgiveness on account of Christ Jesus.

If I can be forgiven, I don't see why some other schlub with errors that haven't destroyed his faith yet can't be saved either.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Dizziness:

Excellent questions, all. The fallen world is messy. There is no "one size fits all" solution for every situation of pastoral care. Sometimes, every attempt to fix a problem means that somehow, sin is going to be the result.

This is the problem when people assume everything is black-and-white. Some things truly are cut-and-dried (do I worship one God in three persons, or three gods in one person?). Some things are more messy (should the wife buck the husband's wishes and attend a liturgical LCMS church, or submit to her husband and attend a happy-clappy LCMS church where the teaching is deficient?).

Should we, for the sake of doctrinal purity, excommunicate laymen for being at odds with the Book of Concord in even the tiniest little detail (I would say "no" under most circumstances)? Should we defrock a pastor who teaches evolution and mocks the historicity of the Genesis account (I would say "yes" under most circumstances)? But even in these kinds of situations, there is no "EASY" button to make these decisions. What if the layman or pastor is suffering from dimensia? What if the person is simply going through a temporary bout of depression, or David-like fist-shaking at God?

Pastoral care is an art. The goal is to shepherd people to green pastures, knowing that they are sheep, and they will wander at times. We can't save a sheep by killing him, nor can we protect the flock by tolerating a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sometimes, we are going to do wrong by somebody no matter what we do. So, where do we draw those lines? There is no flowchart or universal troubleshooting guide.

Paul McCain said...

I believe we have here a really big Red Herring, large enough to be a trophy fish:

If I can be forgiven, I don't see why some other schlub with errors that haven't destroyed his faith yet can't be saved either.


Respectfully, this is *not* the point, and to my knowledge nobody has said, at least I hope not, that a person who joins a false confession is automatically to be regarded as "not saved."

I think the point here is the difference between the Faith that is confessed and the Faith that saved, the fides qua creditur v. the fides quae creditur.

I suspect this is what Ben's very good questions are getting at as well, or where we will probably go with those questions/answers, but I want to make sure I'm understanding what Ben is asking.

But, Eric, the point here is not a judgement over against a person's personal faith. I am incapable of peering into a person's soul. I can only stick with what their public confession is.

Dan has embraced the confession of Rome and that is why I regard his leaving Lutheranism for Rome to be a sin and why I do believe that we must proclaim it precisely as being such and then pray that he be preserved in the true faith, in spite of embracing a public confession that is not the Gospel in its truth and purity.

And that we can hope for, and pray for, the felicitous consistency in this situation, is no reason for not being very clear on what, precisely, is the nature of this decision.

Pastor Beisel said...

To say that it is sin, and to believe that unrepentant sin leads to damnation, then you are saying in effect that Woodring's defection, if it is not corrected, will lead to his damnation. Because, repentance (in your mind) would be coming to his senses and realizing that he had joined himself to an erring confession. So, if he never comes to that sense of error, that sense that he has sinned, and does not "repent" of it, then, in your estimation, he will be forever damned. "Who can discern his errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. McCain,

In your last paragraph, do you mean to say 'felicitous INconsistency'?

Paul McCain said...

Pr. Beisel, yes, you are basically correct in your summary of my concern.

I do pray God preserves in Daniel saving faith, in spite of what he has said he believes now.

Paul McCain said...

Clarification: Pr. Beisel, it is the embrace of a false and damning belief that would result in damnation. I think I made that clear in my previous remarks, but if not, happy to do so here. In so far as Dan has indicated he has made false and damning belief his own, in that he has stated he embraces Romanism, then I can only pray he is preserved in true and saving faith, in spite of that false and damning confession he claims to have embraced.

This is why, gentlemen, this is such serious stuff indeed.

Paul McCain said...

Ben, without waiting for you to respond to my request for clarification, which perhaps you missed in the flow of comments in this interesting conversation, I've posted something on my blog for the anniversary of the BOC tomorrow that you might find helpful in understanding my position. Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.

wmc said...

I'm late in joining in late here, but I agree with the original post. There is no "until death us do part" in an ordination vow. To make the pastoral vocation irrevocable and ordination indelible would be to elevate it above any other vocation of the royal priesthood, a very un-Lutheran thing to do. Also un-Walther, for you LCMS types.

Those who resign their calls do not break their ordination vows. It is a matter of integrity. If you are unwilling or unable to to do the work of the Office, then spare us the grief of deposing you by stepping down. If you don't confess the Lutheran confessions without reservation, get out of the Lutheran pulpit, or you're not only heterodox but a hypocrite.

If you look carefully at the ordination rite (and it matters not whether it is TLH, LW, or LSB), the rite consists of two sets of questions addressed to the ordinand: 1) professions of faith (Scripture and Confessions) and 2) promises to faithfulness. One cannot keep #2 without hypocrisy if one no longer holds #1.

If anything, these guys have broken their confirmation vows, in which they promised they would suffer all, even death, rather than forsake this Church and confession, provided of course, you understand Church as Evangelical Lutheran Church and confession as the Lutheran Confessions.

As for me and my house, my prayer is simply, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."

Paul McCain said...

I think Pr. Cwirla makes some good points, but I can't yet agree with him on the nature of forsaking one's ordination. I do not believe it is quite as cut/dry as Pr. Cwirla might present it as being. Of course the forsaking of the ordination vow is not the chief sin in the case about which this entire conversation is about: it is the embrace of public error and a false confession, but I think there is a bit more to the ordination vows than Pr. Cwirla would seem to be advocating.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Rev. McCain,

I apologize for taking so long to respond. This is the first chance I've had today to get to my computer.

The responses you have given here have answered much of my question, namely your portion about confessed faith and saving faith. I asked what I did because your method reminds me of various Romanist and Eastern Orthodox methods. For instance, the Romanist believes that Christ's Church (of which membership is necessary for salvation) is found visibly under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pope. The Eastern Orthodox person believes that Christ's Church is the ongoing, always-present, communion fellowship that we outsiders identify as the Eastern Orthodox Church. For each, once you have stepped outside this visible organization or communion fellowship you have left the Church - unless God has extended His Church where we wouldn't normally expect to find it (EO), or unless one's led a virtuous enough life, earning the title "Anonymous Christian" (RC).

I hear the same sort of perspective from you, except your focus is not on a visible institution, nor a visible communion fellowship, but on a book - the Book of Concord. So, I am wondering, is forsaking the Book of Concord the same as walking out of Christ's Church for you, barring something out of the ordinary (the felicitous inconsistency, I guess)?

Paul McCain said...

Ben, if you really think I'm making the Christian faith coterminus with a book, then perhaps I have horribly miscommunicated, or perhaps, you have rather dreadfully misread what I'm saying.

Rather than responding to more of your questions, you might respond to a couple of mine.

What, precisely, are the Lutheran Confessions for you? How do you regard their doctrinal content? What is their confession?

One among equals? And is so, which equals?

Perhaps my blog post that will post tomorrow might also be of help to you.

Why are you a Lutheran, rather than a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or a Reformed Christian?

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Rev. McCain,

Thank you for your response. I don't think you are making the Christian faith coterminus with a book, but I think you may be walking the line. I wanted to give you a chance to express yourself on this point, so I could figure out what's going on, and so that I might learn something.

As for me, the Lutheran Confessions are for me what my ordination vows say. If you need to know which vows I've taken, they were the ones published with the Rite of Ordination in the LSB field test material. I might add, though, that the Symbols are "a" right confession, not "the" right confession. Not to say it's one among equals, but that it isn't the only right Confession ever possible.

As for why I am a Lutheran vs. other things: please see my ordination vows. I have not been convinced that I ought to forsake them, for another confession or any other reason.

Thank you for asking. I will look for your post.

Paul McCain said...

Ben, in light of your response, I don't really understand then why you are asking the question. Perhaps you could explain. I'm not quite sure I understand either your last comment that "you have not been convinced to forsake them" [the Lutheran Confessions].

That kind of sounds to me like, "These are fine for now, until something better comes along."

I'm sure you do not mean to say that, but that's the impression I get from that kind of comment.

It doesn't seem to jive with the Lutheran Confessions' own self-understanding.

Father Hollywood said...

Many years ago, one of my cousins was a nominal Methodist. She had not been to church since she was a child. Her husband was a hard-core Atheist. Out of the blue, when they were an older couple, they had a son. My cousin wanted to teach her son some "morals" - so she insisted that they do some "church shopping."

Her husband was miserable. They visited various Protestant churches, but he truly did not believe in anything supernatural. I remember once he explained to me that we're all like bubbles in a glass of 7-up, and we simply rise to the top and "pop." He felt religion was just a feel-good myth.

But when they visited an Antiochian Orthodox church, something "snapped."

They have been faithful members of the Eastern Orthodox Church now for well over a decade. My cousin's husband is a humble, yet devout Christian. He is profoundly aware of sin, and the need to have those sins forgiven - as well as where and by what means that happens - which he did not believe at all as an Atheist.

Personally, I found his conversion to be a great miracle and a cause for rejoicing. He believes in the Triune God, the incarnation of our Lord Jesus, he confesses the Nicene Creed, he believes he is a sinner in need of redemption, he is baptized, confesses his sins, and receives holy communion (as do the entire family). He also takes charge of his family's life in the Christian faith.

If I were to ascribe my cousin's family as being "in a state of unrepentant sin" for not being Lutheran, I would have to conclude that they are damned to hell, and should consider them as in the same peril as they were when my cousin's husband remained an Atheist.

But if we are to believe our own creeds and confessions, there is a huge difference between an Atheist and an Eastern Orthodox, between a Jehovah's Witness and a Roman Catholic, between a Mormon and a Presbyterian.

I do believe praying the Athanasian Creed is a great reminder of just what the catholic faith is.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Rev. McCain,

You wrote:
That kind of sounds to me like, "These are fine for now, until something better comes along." I'm sure you do not mean to say that, but that's the impression I get from that kind of comment. It doesn't seem to jive with the Lutheran Confessions' own self-understanding.

Response:
If that is what you hear, it may be because that's what you want to hear from me. Suspicious minds and all.... Actually, I was tryingto emphasize that I have not been led to the same conclusion as Mr. Woodring. It has been firmly taught to me from my seminary days that if one should no longer be able to hold to hold to his vows, he ought to leave. Fr. Hollywood's post (to which we are commenting) calls to mind such instruction. Perhaps that is why I worded my answer as I did. In the end I do not desire to quibble over the purity of linguistics and words. Hopefully you know what I am trying to get at, despite my poor use of the English language.

Paul McCain said...

Ben,

Since our little discourse began with you questioning my words, I'll express to you the same wish you express to me:

In the end I do not desire to quibble over the purity of linguistics and words. Hopefully you know what I am trying to get at, despite my poor use of the English language.

Paul McCain said...

I do believe praying the Athanasian Creed is a great reminder of just what the catholic faith is.

I could no help but chuckle a bit at the thought that the men of the East might not quite take a fancy to the thought that this Creed is a great reminder of the catholic faith.

wmc said...

"It has been firmly taught to me from my seminary days that if one should no longer be able to hold to hold to his vows, he ought to leave. "

I heard the same at the sem. Bill Schmelder said this verbatim. If you can't uphold your ordination vows, get out before we throw you out.

At the heart of this discussion is the difference between wandering around heterodox communions versus becoming a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist.

Also at the center is the notion of a "true, visible church on earth." Waltherian Lutherans are raised on this concept, which is not found in the Confessions. I believe that the romantic quest for the pure Church begins with the notion of a "true, visible church" over and against the churches that exist.

Great topic and discussion!

Paul McCain said...

No, at the heart of the discussion is feeble and anemic responses to the fact that a man has defected from the pure confession of the Gospel and embraced the errors of Romanism.

Sadly, when such things happen there are certain ones among us who can but sputter excuses for why he left, wring hands about it, but not be willing to say, clearly, firmly and without hesitation:

What he did was wrong. It is sin to embrace error.

That point seems to be lost in the shuffle.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Rev. McCain,

You wrote: What he did was wrong. It is sin to embrace error. That point seems to be lost in the shuffle.

This point is not lost in the shuffle. Neither is our love for Dan Woodring, nor our relief that he has a conscience and followed it (despite the error involved), nor our hope that there is still hope. Please pray for Dan, as I'm sure you already are. May the Lord forgive him his sins and errors, and us our many sins and errors where we are in the LCMS.

You wrote: Since our little discourse began with you questioning my words, I'll express to you the same wish you express to me...

Thank you. Your post from June 25 sufficiently helped to clarify what I was reading from you here.

As you have accused some of us here of being lax and of shirking our pastoral duties (perhaps failing to keep our ordination vows, eh?), I can only respond by saying that I would easily have brought to destruction the entire Ministry entrusted it to me already save the Lord's abiding presence. I'm sure in this matter, too, I could do better. Thank you for reminding me of this. The Lord Jesus bless you, Paul. Please pray for us.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

My, what a party you guys have been having here.

I'll have to give this all some consideration, I guess. Fascinating stuff.

One small thing that I noticed, which is rather striking: Rev. McCain, you are intent on pointing out the sin of holding a false confession -- a good point -- but you have no problem with crumbs of the Holy Sacrament falling to the ground (which I infer from the fact that you don't want to hold your thumb and forefinger together, you say). Well now we have an interesting situation. You think that Jesus's word "This is my body" has suddenly lost its force in such a case. You are a receptionist. So: is this a false confession? Just asking . . .

Paul McCain said...

Fritz, you, like always are late to the party. Didn't you get the invitation in time?

Paul McCain said...

Now, to your cute post.

If you truly are concerned about every atom, molecule, bit and piece of our Lord's precious body and blood going where it should not, I really don't know why you bother to celebrate His Supper, at all. That's the only way to prevent the horror you propose.

Are you really so careless as to risk any of our Lord to fall during the Sacrament?

Why do you care only about your fingers? How do you know you know that there is not atomic and molecular particles falling about elsewhere.

Judas didn't seem to care about our Lord's body either, did he? And look what happened to him.

Are you another Judas?

[Yes, two can play the old reductio ad absurdum game].

I'm quite sure there are plenty of molecules of the Lord's body and blood that are all about during the Lord's Supper, from the altar to communicants. That's not stopping me from celebrating the Eucharist, but if you are truly serious about the concerns you are expressing, I do not see how you would dare celebrate it at all.

Nice try, Fritz.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I guess Lutheran*ism* has departed from Luther, if Rev. McCain's view is widespread:

"In many churches in which he celebrated the Lord's Supper there remained for a long time memories of his conduct, e.g., in the Church of Our Lady in Halle during his last journey to Mansfeld. Long afterwards they were still telling of this celebration, one of the last, if not the last of his life.

The great number of communicants had wearied his aged arms; at one point his quivering hand caused him to spill a little of the consecrated wine on the floor. Luther put the chalice down on the altar, fell to his knees, and sucked up the wine with his mouth so that it should not be trodden under foot, whereupon the whole congregation broke out in sobbing and weeping."

(We Confess: The Sacraments, pp. 133-134, referencing K. Loewe, quoted by K. Anton, Luther und die Musik [1928], p. 59)

(I apologize that I've had to quote this from the web--my library of Lutheran books is rather diminished from its former state--but I remembered the story quite clearly.)

orrologion said...

The more shrill and hamfisted the response to those leaving or considering leaving the Lutheran church, the more emails I expect to receive from others, watching, that see something rotten in the state of Denmark. I have great love for the Lutheran church of my youth and hate to see men and women smear her by imitating the worst of Luther's hyperbole in an age where such language is merely the sign of a closed, unimaginative mind unable to empathize while also warning a loved one about the dangers of his/her choices. When such vociferous, pummeling pundits are also ministers in official posts, well, I am saddened for those that that may not be able to consider the Orthodox Church, but who are scandalized out of Lutheranism due to the treatment given pastors following conscience - scandal isn't just about pastors leaving, it is as much about the response to that event by those remaining that can set unsettled believers on their way to joining the unchurched.

So, I beg those that would spout off unlovingly to beware allowing anything other than love and kindness, meekness and poverty of spirit to enter into the tone and subtext of your pastoral care and warning re pastors leaving the denomination. Remeber, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is [not being Right, or the most eager and ready to stone the woman caught in adultery, but] charity." It is so easy for us to allow pride, exclusivity, etc. to sneak into what would otherwise have been the most loving, caring and important of Christian messages to a fallen brother/sister turning Truth Himself into a club to beat the other 'team' with.

Should the subtlety elude some: Pr. Hollywood's post exhibits the kind of response that makes it less likely for me to get personal, private emails asking about Orthodoxy. Pr. McCain's response means it likely I will be welcoming new members to the Lutherans Looking East list on Yahoo!Groups - members that will have to be talked off the ledge and reminded that one cannot convert from or against one's old faith, but only to what we believe is the fullness of faith, the Orthodox Catholic Church. I wish Pr. McCain would stop doing the Holy Spirit's work for us, and allow the Paraclete to draw converts to the faith in His own way, which doesn't require anger management counseling.

Paul McCain said...

Seems to me the Orthodox could do with a bit of anger-management programs:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2004412/posts

http://www.eni.ch/articles/display.shtml?05-0909

orrologion said...

Good, Paul, I'll be waiting for emails and requests for membership.

Paul McCain said...

It's typical of wolves to hover around a flock, picking off the weaker members.

orrologion said...

It might say more of (some of) the shepherds driving the flock out of the pen and into the mountains only to find that the wolves are not the 'demons' they were painted to be.

You are more than welcome to hover wherever you will, your tone and style does little for those not already of your band.

My interest in the strength of confessional Lutheranism is much the same interest I have in my alma mater. I have no real contact with the institution anymore and am not professionally involved in the specialized field I studied while there, but its strength is still important, generally and to me personally. As I have affection for many that remain confessional Lutherans - family and friends from various online forums discussing common interest, as well as for simply being interesting men, women, and writers - I tend to remain aware of happenings in Lutheranism. Interacting with friends and public discourses is no more being a wolf than discussing religion and their difficulties in their churches with my non-Orthodox family; then again, perhaps you don't have many non-LCMS friends or family and don't know how honest people can disagree, love each other and hold polite discussions concerning issues of eternal import they disagree over.

But, you have missed or are unable to understand my point. When you write as you do you are an embarrassment to the Lutheranism you claim to love, but love in such an adversarial, chest-puffing, self-important and defensive way. I have always hoped that you are quite a different person in the flesh than you express yourself in prose - if, so I would urge you to realize your gifts are other than defending Lutheranism and evangelizing non-Lutherans online. While I wish all humanity and all Lutherans would become Orthodox, I do not wish to see those Lutherans that remain Lutherans self-destruct into a bunch of insular, shunning, self-congratulatory and paranoid sectarians thus tarnishing all the good to be found in the heirs of Luther.

But, enough tilting at windmills.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

So, Rev. McCain--what do you think of what Dr. Luther did, as cited above? Do you share his view, or was he mistaken?

Paul McCain said...

"Wolves" take on many disguises in their efforts to grab sheep away from the flock and use a variety of rhetorical techniques, including ad hominem.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

There is no ad hominem in my question, Rev. McCain. It's quite simple and straightforward. I didn't say, and I've never said, "You are a bad person," or "you're a sheep-stealer" or "you're a wolf." I just asked if you agreed with Dr. Luther's view, as his own action demonstrated. It's not a question of your person, but of your position.

Paul McCain said...

Robb, I was not talking to you, I was, in fact, ignoring you, and generally I find that the best way to respond to your intrusions into Lutheran discussions.

In this case, however, I'll make a rare exception.

Of course, I agree with the Blessed Reformer, both in what he did, and why he did it.

Now, Robb, do you perhaps have opportunities in Dorr, Michigan to propogate Christ and His Gospel to those who have no knowledge of it, or is the Antiochian Orthodox Church's evangelism program really an exercising in nipping at the Body of Christ, poaching and stealing sheep who stray?

Father Hollywood said...

I think the exchange between Fr. Hogg and Pr. McCain illustrates a basic premise of the disagreement that has spawned so many interesting discussions here.

The Orthodox believe they are right, that their church teaches the correct exposition of Scripture and is the true visible church on earth.

The Lutherans believe they are right, that their church teaches the correct exposition of Scripture and is the true visible church on earth.

So, is it sheep-stealing when the Orthodox court Lutherans? Is it sheep-stealing when the Lutherans court Orthodox?

According to the Orthodox, are Lutherans also members of the "one holy catholic and apostolic church" that we all confess?

According to the Lutherans, are the Orthodox also members of the "one holy catholic and apostolic church" that we all confess?

I think this discussion gets to the matter of the boundaries of the Church.

Obviously, there are two extremes. One says: "Belief and doctrine don't matter" and in this extreme, all "people of faith" (regardless of faith") have salvation and are part of the church."

The other extreme says: "I am right, and all who believe 100% with me on all matters have salvation and are part of the church."

I think everybody will agree that both extremes are absurd. But obviously, figuring out where to draw the line is a lot harder than pointing out two ridiculous extremes.

What is heresy? What is error? Where are the boundaries of the church?

In spite of the Augsburg Confession's description of that line, there is still disagreement among Lutherans as to where the line is. And in spite of the fact that the Orthodox see Lutheranism outside of the visible structures of the church, there are still Orthodox Christians (including some former Lutherans) who seem to confess that they believe in the validity of Lutheran sacraments and orders.

I do think both Orthodox and Lutheran Christians for the most part believe that the boundaries of the church extend beyond their organizational limits.

I hope I didn't just muddy the waters. ;-) I'm trying to be a gracious host. I'd offer you all some coffee and finger foods if I could find a way for you to download them...

Paul McCain said...

I'd prefer a good ale or two, and some wurst, please [to please my German side], or a nice Irish whiskey [to please my Irish side].

You have put forward an interesting summary of things, perhaps deserving of its own topic.

I'd be delighted to learn that Father Robb and Father John in fact do believe Lutherans are receiving the Lord's body and blood under the bread and wine of the Eucharist and that our ministry is valid. I seem to recall that they have both gone on record, repeteadly, denying both points.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. McCain,

The tone you adopted in responding to Pr. Eckardt's legitimate concern certainly seemed to me to be different than that found in the example of Dr. Luther which I cited. He didn't quibble about molecules; he wept and saw what had happened as a great tragedy. But I'll leave that to others to judge.

WRT our evangelism efforts: we welcome everyone, no matter where they're from, to come and see the Church, the body of Christ. (You can ask my successor at Epiphany--he is an honorable man-- whether I am "nipping away" at "straying sheep," as you put it.) I don't urge or encourage anyone to leave the confession they belong to, in order to become members of the Church.

In my experience, each and every person who's become a member of the Church has learned from experience the theology of the cross. Our members have lost friends and jobs, and suffered personal setbacks and struggles, for the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. I lost much myself, but nothing of value; I have gained everything.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

PS I note the tendency you have to refer to me as "Robb," in a subtle or not-so-subtle way trying to cast aspersions on my ordination. For my part, I try to refer to you as "Rev" or "Pr" McCain. I would be grateful if you reciprocated the courtesy. No matter what we might think of the other's claim to a title, common decency suggests we speak of others the way they speak of themselves.

orrologion said...

Lutheran orders are specifically not accepted in Orthodoxy. There would be a wider POV on the subject of what Lutherans receive when they perform their versions of the Sacraments, or which Lutherans only accept a few. The perspective to look at that question, though, is how Orthodox view improperly performed or officiated Sacraments within Orthodoxy: they are performed again, properly, or accepted out of economia (pastoral discretion in building up the Church) so as not to split hairs legalistically. My spiritual father likened my Lutheran baptism with the baptism of John, or of the baptism received without knowledge of the Holy Spirit in Acts (and therefore without the proper trinitarian formula), which was then 'completed' and 'filled' through the laying on of hands (sacramental confirmation, later morphed into christmation in the East). Orthodox would also not say definitively that Lutherans are in the Church, they would allow for that hope in much the same way as we would never say that all humanity will be saved, simply that, given our experience of the man-loving (philanthropos) God, we may hope.

Father Hollywood said...

I remembered a post Fr. John Fenton wrote on his blog after he had left the LCMS and had joined the Western Orthodox Church. He wrote it on September 30, 2007.

At the risk of putting words in Fr. Fenton's mouth or reading too deeply into his musings (neither of which I intend to do), I find it interesting that he uses the terms "Holy Spirit" and "Holy Eucharist" (words that can hardly be applied to a mere heretical sect that is outside the Church) to describe the sacraments he received and celebrated as a Lutheran.

Insofar as the Orthodox seem somewhat hesitant to say that the Lutherans "absolutely" have the sacraments or not, Fr. Fenton seems to confess that his Masses celebrated as a Lutheran pastor did indeed give the most holy body and blood of our Lord to his communicants and that baptisms he officiated over were efficacious.

Here is the entry, and a snip...

http://conversiaddominum.blogspot.com/2007/09/personal-anniversary.html

"What I said in my public announcement still applies one year later: I shall always genuinely appreciate and be eternally grateful for the love and the generosity that the members of Zion showered upon me and my family during my tenure as their Pastor. And I am grateful for every blessing of the Holy Spirit that I received in the Lutheran Church—most especially for the gift of Holy Baptism, for a rigorous catechesis in many basic doctrines, for the Holy Eucharist that has nourished my faith, and for the grace to serve three parishes."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

I don't want to speak for Frs. Hogg or Fenton, but I have heard Orthodox Christians (as well as Roman Catholic Christians) express belief in the validity of our orders and Masses (see, for example the volume on the Roman Catholic-Lutheran dialogue that covered ministry and sacraments - the entire RC delegation recommended to the Vatican that our orders and Masses be recognized - but the Vatican did not act on their recommendation).

Obviously, our relations with other church bodies (especially Roman Catholicism) has changed over time as misunderstandings have been overcome and as Rome itself accepted some of the Lutheran reforms.

The most obvious thing is that it has been quite some time since any of us have been burned at the stake (maybe we need a sign "It has been x years since one of us has been burned at the stake..." - which I think is a heckuva lot better than "The Church of the Lutheran Hour" which is rather uninspiring if you ask me...).

And now, a funny (and true) story that probably could not happen in too many places in the U.S.:

When my (Roman Catholic) mother-in-law was visiting us in New Orleans, the family strolled over to St. Joe's for 4:00 pm Saturday afternoon Mass. I had just finished hearing confessions at Salem couple blocks away, so I ran to meet them in the back of the church just in time for the procession, still clad in my cassock.

After the service, I greeted the pastor: "Dominus tecum!" He observed me in my cassock, walking with my wife, with my spitting-image son perched on my shoulders, shook my hand and replied: "et cum spiritu tuo" - a reply only given to an ordained priest as an acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit's presence with him through ordination.

Hence, a Roman recognition of Lutheran orders. ;-)

Paul McCain said...

Larry, I think Chris pretty much summed it up:

"the Church" does not recognize our ministry, does not believe we receive the body and blood of Christ, can only consider our baptisms valid after some pair of holy hands is laid on us, etc. etc. etc.

And there you have it.

Clean up on aisle three! The "Orthodox" have been here.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

That is indeed a view held by a lot of Orthodox (and does seem to reflect the "official" teaching of the Orthodox churches), but once again, it's not a universally held doctrine. I don't think you have to turn in your Orthodox card if you believe Jesus is physically present in Lutheran sacraments.

At very least, there seems to be a kind of "agnosticism" about the question more than an outright definition of Lutherans (and other communions outside their communion) as being heretics outside the true church.

I think typically the Russian Orthodox tend to be less accepting of our baptisms than other branches of Orthodoxy, even among them, I know of a case in which a Russian Orthodox bishop accepted a Lutheran (LCA) baptism and only required him to be chrismated (confirmed) rather than be re-baptized. Why this was, I don't know, except it might have been because this happened in Atlanta and the baptism was done by (no lie!) The Rev. Robert E. Lee.

Even amid the lack of complete consensus, I do find that a lot of Orthodox and Lutherans believe that there are members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church in both communions, that Jesus is present (even if only irregularly and in spite of theological error) in the other communion's sacraments, and that salvation can be found in both church bodies (which is a very different thing than what we confess about say Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses).

I know there are also a lot of Orthodox and Lutherans who don't agree with that at all, who see the boundaries of the Church and of salvation as coterminous with their own confession.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Hollywood, you asked:

1) According to the Orthodox, are Lutherans also members of the "one holy catholic and apostolic church" that we all confess?

Rx: We don't view things in an individualist way. Our default mode is corporate. And so the question you pose here appears to an Orthodox person to be complex:

a) Is Lutheranism a part of the Church?

Orthodox answer: No, it is not. We do not believe in a 'branch theory', or in an 'invisible Church' as that's understood in the western confessions.

b) Are individual Lutherans Christians?

Orthodox answer: We don't know, but we hope so. We don't judge individuals. Period.

You noted,

2) "there are still Orthodox Christians (including some former Lutherans) who seem to confess that they believe in the validity of Lutheran sacraments and orders."

and then cited words from Fr. John Fenton which connect the blessing of the Holy Spirit to things received in the Lutheran Church.

Rx: I will not presume to speak for Fr. John, but I am comfortable saying that the Holy Spirit was working while I was in the Lutheran Church. If he were not, I would not be Orthodox today. But that's not the same thing as recognizing Lutheran sacraments and orders as valid.

Then you add:
I do think both Orthodox and Lutheran Christians for the most part believe that the boundaries of the church extend beyond their organizational limits.

Rx: We know, wrt confessions and institutions and denominations, that those outside the Orthodox Church are not Church. The boundaries of the church, for the Orthodox, are coterminous with the Orthodox Church. (Note carefully: this is a statement about groups and bodies, not individuals.)

We do not know, wrt individuals, what God does outside the Church. It is not our business.

I am quite confident that I am speaking for the Church when I say that we do not recognize the orders and sacraments of bodies outside the Orthodox Church, insofar as that recognition implies recognition of those bodies as Church. They are not Church. What their acts and orders are, God knows. But they are not sacraments of the Church, since by definition those bodies are not Church.

By oikonomia, Lutheran baptisms have been accepted--but only as brought to completion by chrismation--and a bishop is perfectly within his right to refuse to recognize them. In the end, it's his call. As protestants more and more use wrong formulae and do other silly things, I expect to see a lessening of the use of oikonomia in the future. Reader Christopher has expressed the situation rightly.

I understand that Lutherans can and will be offended by this. I mean no offense. But if Lutheranism were church, how could it be that the gates of hell have prevailed, in matters like lay absolution, grape juice in the sacrament, receptionism etc etc.? One who views the status quo in Lutheranism must come to one of two conclusions: these things are all tragic, accidental errors which, given enough time and catechesis, will all be driven away; or, these things are all signs of a body that is decomposing. Clearly I examined the evidence and came to the latter conclusion; others come to the former. Each will answer to God.

Let me say, in conclusion, that I am grateful for the charitable, even-handed job of hosting that you do on this blog, Fr. Beane. These words, though hard, are motivated by nothing but the deepest appreciation and highest respect for you.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

These posts have been a rather fascinating read, although in part, predictable.

This is intriguing about it all: I find myself siding more with Fr Hogg than with Rev McCain, though I am Lutheran, and happily so. And to demonstrate it, may I also say that I find myself agreeing with Fr Hollywood (Beane) too, and rather annoyed with Mr Orr. Ah well, as my mother says, It takes all kinds . . .

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. McCain, you said:

"I'd be delighted to learn that Father Robb and Father John in fact do believe Lutherans are receiving the Lord's body and blood under the bread and wine of the Eucharist and that our ministry is valid. I seem to recall that they have both gone on record, repeteadly, denying both points."

Rx: We do not know what you are receiving, or what your ministry is. I might add that you yourselves don't know a lot about either any more, if you think about it. Is a lay absolution, absolution? Is grape juice in the eucharist, the body of Christ? You yourself had a post on your blog (from Fr. Ben's blog) about a Lutheran using those little fish in the Eucharist, for kids. What's that? I leave it for others to judge, as I noted in a previous post, whether your words to Fr. Eckardt were spoken in the way of Luther.

Further, I have no idea why Lutherans care what we think about your orders or rites. If a thousand Lutherans should say in unison that Orthodox orders are not orders, it wouldn't matter one whit to me.

At a certain point, the weight of the evidence (all of it from *Lutheran* sources) convinced me that Lutheranism is not Church, and its people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. For this reason I will let you say what you will about me: call me names, resort to ad hominems, I am content.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Father Hollywood said...

Fr. Hogg:

No offense taken. I appreciate your candor. These questions can never be answered in one quick sentence, and it is easy for tempers to flare during discussions of these topics.

As Christians, we are called to be patient and charitable with one another - whether in agreement and disagreement. We are also called to make a good confession. Obviously, there is a tension between these two things we are to called to do - but that tension should call us to greater self-examination, humility, and vigilance.

I appreciate the honesty and charity that has predominated in this thread, and I know that it has tried the patience of many.

Father Hollywood said...

"The unworthy priest, and fool, Fr. Gregory Hogg,"

Now THERE is an example of Fr. Hogg reaching "across the aisle" for consensus with Pr. McCain. ;-)

Pastor Beisel said...

Fr. Hogg, et. al. you too are always welcome to come see the Church, the body of Christ where she sojourns in Warsaw, IL. She will be found where she always is, sitting at the feet of Jesus, like faithful Mary, listening to His Word, and communing with His Flesh and Blood. Christ be with you.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I have always hoped that you are quite a different person in the flesh than you express yourself in prose

I'm told he is.

Paul McCain said...

Well, I'm told that I'm witty, charming, a big teddy-bear, not to mention devastatingly handsome.

At least that is what my wife tells me, and she never lies, well, rarely, hardly ever, not too often.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel,

I used to think and express myself in a way similar to you. The problem is that you are organically linked (in pulpit and altar fellowship) with all the things I've mentioned so many times. What is done at Jefferson Hills, is done in your parish--because of pulpit and altar fellowship.

A number of Lutherans realized that a few years ago, and decided to try out the 'in statu confessionis' option. Dr. Al Collver's article seems to have undercut any basis for that option--at least I hear nothing of it any more. That 'confessional' Lutherans continue in pulpit and altar fellowship with, e.g. Jefferson Hills, may well indicate the death of pain nerves in the Lutheran corpus.

Each Sunday morning, as a Lutheran pastor, I stood at the altar in the full realization: What is happening in the next Lutheran parish over (lay absolution, disposable plastic cups etc.) is happening here, because I am in communion fellowship with that parish and all the others like it. One can deny that conclusion only by relativising and subjectivising truth.

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

Fr. Hogg--I don't disagree with you on that point. If that is the problem, though, then could it not be solved by breaking fellowship with the LC-MS, and uniting in fellowship with churches and pastors that do not do those things?

orrologion said...

I find myself rather annoyed with Mr. Orr, too, and am glad that Pr. McCain is quite other than he appears in print.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel,

I had considered that possibility. In fact, it's worth reviewing all the logical options set forth by Fr. John Fenton in his Chicago paper:

1. Stay in Missouri--but that means a gradual slide into generic protestantism. Each parish is just 1 pastor away from that, no matter how good it is today.

2. Join another Lutheran group (WELS, ELS etc.)--but they all have the same problems as Missouri, and in some cases, other problems too.

3. Go independent--but this is a sectarian move, and isolates one's parish not just practically, but officially.

4. Start another Lutheran group (ELDoNA, for example)--this is the option I take it you're suggesting.

Here are its problems:
a) How can I get my parish to go along with me? A day without light is--night; a pastor without a parish is not a pastor.
b) What polity will this group have? Episcopal? _De iure humano_ episcopacies cannot last. Congregational? LCMS, part 2.
c) What stand will it take on: women voters, individual cups, grape juice etc. etc. (This is a big reason you haven't seen more of these start up, I think.)
d) What reasonable assurance do I have that my grandchildren won't have to do the whole thing over again? Anything started by man cannot possibly last.
e) Theologically, this option sees Church as something we make. But Church is gift, both on the micro and on the macro level.
f) It's a little odd to have unity founded on "we don't do x." In the next generation, issue "x" will have changed to issues "y" and "z". Consensus on "x" doesn't guarantee consensus on "y" and "z".

5) Re-examine and re-evaluate other historic communions. (I set aside generic protestants and reformed, since they don't even claim that the eucharistic bread is the body of Christ. I don't want to go where Christ is not. I also set aside the Episcopal/Anglican option, since they're in worse shape than Missouri.) That leaves Rome and Constantinople.
a. To go to Rome is to say that, fundamentally, the Reformation was wrong. To go to Rome is to embrace merit, indulgences, purgatory--not to mention papal infallibility and immaculate conception.
b. To go to Constantinople is to say that, fundamentally, the Reformation was a noble attempt, doomed to failure because of genetic defects it carried from Rome. It's noteworthy that the Lutheran confessional writings never criticize the East; every mention of the east is positive.

As one of my laymen put it, "Place yourself in Luther's position. Look behind you, and you see two options. Look ahead, and you see twenty thousand." Examine those two. When did they split? Who moved from the previous consensus?

Your thoughts?

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

I guess I just don't see it that way. No option exists for me that does not include the Lutheran Confessions. I'm probably the weaker brother here, but I need the certainty that the Lutheran Confessions give me in their teaching of the Gospel. I am too weak in the faith to give that up.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Hey, I have an idea:

Somebody get the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople on the line, and let's arrange a private meeting with them and me and, say, Fr. Hollywood. Don't invite Rev. McCain, unless he's drunk. On that, somebody be sure we have beer, or fine scotch. In vino veritas.

If we can all agree, then we can patch up this little schism and party on.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fritz:

Interestingly, check this out.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel, you wrote:

"I guess I just don't see it that way. No option exists for me that does not include the Lutheran Confessions. I'm probably the weaker brother here, but I need the certainty that the Lutheran Confessions give me in their teaching of the Gospel. I am too weak in the faith to give that up."

1. I'm not clear, exactly, what way you *do* see it--in other words, what option besides those listed above is there--regardless of whether one takes it or not? To stay with the Lutheran confessional writings requires either:
a) staying within Missouri;
b) joining another existing Lutheran group;
c) going "independent Lutheran"; or
d) starting another Lutheran group.

You do agree, don't you, that those are the options for those who stay with the Lutheran confessional writings? If not, what other options are there for those who stay with the Lutheran confessional writings?

2. Your quest for personal certainty comes at the expense of removing the foundation for any certainty: the *pillar and foundation of truth*, the Church. Paradoxically, in the end you lose the very thing you sought to keep. And that's why Lutheranism has to keep reinventing itself. (Nor do you even get to keep those Confessions. To cite but one example: contrast AC 28 with the blue catechism. The right to excommunicate _iure divino_ has been given over to the Supreme Voters' Assembly.) Lutheranism is like a bouncing ball. Each time it bounces back, its new peak is a little lower, and briefer, than the previous.

3. Given that the Lutheran Confessions saw themselves as a response to certain errors in the Roman Church, and a defense against certain other solutions proposed by the Reformed, you're giving them an ecumenical status that they don't even claim for themselves (i.e. they don't address Constantinople, and their mentions of it are all positive). Note the description of the Augustana as "our symbol for this time." By exalting a local expression of faith over the united consensus of the first ten centuries, you personalize the decision first taken by the papacy itself!

Pastor Beisel said...

I agree with you that those are the options. I just don't believe what you say. Period. I don't believe that I am removing the foundation of certainty by looking for certainty in the teaching of the Gospel. My certainty is in the clear words of Scripture. Scripture tells me that I am justified not by my observance of the Law, but by faith in the Person and Work of Christ. Don't try to take away my certainty by saying that those words may or may not apply to me since I am not in the Orthodox Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane,

1. The bishop of Rome has always been willing to omit the filioque--provided that his ultimate authority is recognized. ("Byzantine rite" catholics don't say it.) The filioque and papal primacy hang together.

2. That the patriarch of Constantinople pays a visit to Rome, and sits through a liturgy, doesn't in the end amount to a whole lot for the Orthodox. In the first place, the patriarch of Constantinople does not fill the same role for us that the pope plays for Rome. In the second place, I'm quite sure there wasn't intercommunion.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel, you wrote:

"I agree with you that those are the options."

Rx: Ok. That's good. So given what you admit about your situation, you face doing one of those four things. I'll stay tuned to see which you pick.

PB:
I just don't believe what you say. Period. I don't believe that I am removing the foundation of certainty by looking for certainty in the teaching of the Gospel.

Rx:
The deep structure of these words obscures an ambiguity. When you say, "teaching of the Gospel," the question is, taught BY WHOM? Who decides what constitutes the Gospel being taught? Rome answers, "the magesterium," an external authority. Protestantism answers, "I do," and so it keeps fracturing.

Remember that the Lutheran confessional writings say that the Church is found where the Gospel *is preached* in its truth and purity, and the Sacraments *are administered* rightly. Their own self-understanding of "preached" and "administered" requires that these things be done by a rightly-called person (AC 14). But in fact those things are being done by people who are not rightly called.

PB:
My certainty is in the clear words of Scripture. Scripture tells me that I am justified not by my observance of the Law, but by faith in the Person and Work of Christ.

Rx:
Scripture also says, James 2:24 "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." Thus enters the problem of interpretation.

PB:
Don't try to take away my certainty by saying that those words may or may not apply to me since I am not in the Orthodox Church.

Rx:
If your certainty were something I could take away, it wouldn't be very certain. Nonetheless, the promises of the Groom are given to his Bride, and not to random others, however well-intentioned. May I be found worthy to belong to her, the Orthodox Church, through repentance and faith!

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

I certainly wasn't implying that any intercommunion took place - though it is my understanding that the formal excommunications between the pope and patriarch were mutually rolled back in the 1960s (e.g. "In 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople lifted mutual excommunications dating from the eleventh century, and in 1995, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople concelebrated the Eucharist together" according to http://www.catholic.com/library/eastern_orthodoxy.asp).

There is still an East/West schism, but prospects for ending it are a heckuva lot better now than in previous centuries, and relations are certainly much more cordial. I wouldn't brush aside such meetings between pope and patriarch as meaningless. Such a meeting would have been unthinkable not all that long ago.

BTW, the Eastern Rite Lutheran Church of Ukraine also omits the filioque in its liturgical use of the Creed, while not having a theological problem with it per se.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

If Patriarch Bartholomew had concelebrated with the Pope in 1995, his reign would have ended very shortly thereafter. The Patriarch may have attended a papal mass, but there was no concelebration.

However much the wounds of 1054 and 1204 (and the two so-called 'ecumenical councils' of Lyons and Florence) have healed, making things better, is more than compensated for by other things. (Even now, some pious Roman friends of mine--not sede vacantes, but regular folk--will tell me how they go to Mass at one parish, but not another, because the other is modernist. No thanks. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.)

Maybe in some eschatological persecution, a greatly-diminished papacy will return to its pre-schism roots. God grant it. But I'm not going to wait up for it to happen.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

So, Fr. Hogg, what makes you so certain that the Orthodox Church is the Church? How does she qualify as "Church" as opposed to, say, Concordia Lutheran Church in Warsaw, IL, which may or may not be the Church, as far as you are concerned? What makes you say, when you look at the Church of Constantinople, with resignation: "Ah...now that's what I call the Church!"

orrologion said...

...the formal excommunications between the pope and patriarch were mutually rolled back in the 1960s...

I believe the formal anathemas leveled against each local church by the other were rescinded. Excommunication in the Orthodox Church is far more common, and less dramatic, than what the term implies in the West. For instance, I am excommunicated if I am not properly prepared to receive communion (no fasting, no prayers, serious sin unconfessed, having received sacraments in a heterodox body, sexual relations [licit or illicit] the evening before or morning of communion, etc.) and if I have not communed for more than 3 Sundays in a row without good reason. Serious sins also carry with it a duration of excommunication as penance (see St Basil the Great).

So, the Pope is still in a state of excommunication in the Orthodox Church due to the seriousness of the errors he espouses, according to the Orthodox. Incidentally, any Orthodox Christian would be welcome to commune in a RCC (the only thing lacking in the Orthodox, in their view, is communion with the See of Peter), but such action would immediately make him excommunicate in the Orthodox Church - a Roman Catholic.

What the Patriarch did with the Pope may be considered 'concelebration' by Rome or by uninformed laity, but such was definitely not the case. That being said, the Patriarch is far too willing to allow the Pope into too many liturgical and prayerful acts for many/most Orthodox, and vice versa. Most Orthodox are of similar thinking to WELS/LCMS is allowing no official prayer with non-Orthodox, much less sacramental worship. [A bishop in Romania recently communed with his Eastern Rite counterpart; he is in a heap of trouble with the Synod of the Church of Romania and will likely be severely disciplined unless other info is forthcoming.]

The Roman Church also requires that the theology of the filioque be accepted by Eastern Rite churches, though their Rites may not require it's enunciation, liturgically.

Good relations are generally had between Orthodox and RCs, officially, but there is still a great deal of bad feeling and lack of trust that must be healed with time. Then again, one is only paranoid if, in fact, everyone is not out to get you. Time will tell. :)

orrologion said...

...what makes you so certain that the Orthodox Church is the Church?

I'll take a stab at this, personally.

There was just too much continuity in the church history of actions and offices, and the understanding of them all, for me to discount in favor of Lutheran teaching and ecclesiology - and the Protestant critique of 'traditions of men' was too wrapped around the bogeyman of the Papacy, which was unknown in the East where many of the same practices were held anciently (at the time of the acceptance/recognition of the canon of Scripture). I didn't see the Lutheran understanding of justification by faith alone through grace alone as being the primary and central teaching of the Church for a vast majority of its history and had to question whether that interpretation of the Bible was in fact true. I saw monarchical bishops and a self-understanding in the Church that required sacramental Apostolic Succession - not simply a practice of 'good order'. I saw veneration of relics, monasticism, prayer to the saints and an understanding of their deep union with God allowing them to perform miracles in the same way people were healed by handkerchiefs and shadows in Acts, etc. I just saw too much over too long a period of time dispersed over too much geography in an age before easy communication and travel, all of which was too consistent with each other, to think that I could piecemeal Lutheranism out of random patristic quotations that I could listen to in a 'Lutheran' way. For all intents and purposes, if Lutheranism was true, then it was invisible, leaving no sign for centuries and centuries until Luther - apart from random quotations, exceptions, that seemed to imply dissent and which only proved the rule.

Others of good will and intelligence have and do disagree, and I respect that position. that being said, I cannot for the life of me see how the facts add up to their position rather than representing a well-intentioned fear that they may be wrong, leaving them to prefer to stick with the familiar, which is often mistaken as something sure - something converts to Christianity from non-Christian cultures and backgrounds have always had to wrestle with, to their salvation.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel,

I'm sure you don't expect me to put the results of an 18 year search into a comment box, right?

As to why a given Lutheran parish isn't church, I would offer reasons dealing with the question of who you're in pulpit and altar fellowship with.

As to why I am convinced that the Orthodox Church is the Church: From her beginning, the Church has had a simple way of evangelism: "Come, and you will see!" That's why, for example, Russia is now Orthodox.

Just before I converted, I phoned a number of men I knew who had been Lutheran and became Orthodox. (They had all been Orthodox for some time.) I said, "I'm ready to come, but I want to know. What do you regret about becoming Orthodox?" To a man, they all replied, "I'm only sorry I didn't do it sooner." I'd echo their sentiment today, to anyone who asked...

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Fr. Hogg,

I would think that it would be simple answer actually. No, don't expect you to put 18 years of personal struggle and searching in a comment box. I only asked what makes you certain that the Orthodox Church is the Church. That seems awfully simple to me. I mean, I could tell you in a one short sentence what makes me certain that the Lutheran Church is the Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel,

We don't do anything briefly in the Church. We're not into "essentials" or "fundamentals" or "boiling it down." That is why I said, "Come, and you will see."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Okay. Enough nonsense for one day. I can't believe you can't (or won't) come up with a better answer than: "Come and see."

Paul McCain said...

Paul, welcome to the interesting world of conversation with Robb Hogg.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

John 1:3535  The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). 43 ¶ The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

At the head of my blog, I have this citation from St. Pavel Florensky, who was martyred by the Bolsheviks: "One hears that, in foreign lands, people are now learning to swim, lying on the floor, with the aid of equipment. In the same way, one can become a Catholic or Protestant without experiencing life at all--by reading books in one's study. But to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way."

It is also true to my own experience. It was when I "came and saw" that I was initially struck by the Church--the Unnailing Vespers of Great and Holy Friday.

So "come and see" may sound simplistic. But it's also true.

I could, I suppose, put it this way: So, how's it working the way you do theology now--both on the macro level, the parish level, and your personal life? If all is well, fine. If it is not, then why not consider a different way?

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Pr. Beisel, I'm fascinated by your comment that you need the certainty the Lutheran Confessions provide. I've heard, or rather read, this sort of statement from numerous Lutherans before you. "Certainty" seems to be something greatly emphasized among you.

So I wonder if you can enlighten me on why this is so? I mean, would you mind taking time to do a bit of introspection and try to articulate for my benefit what is behind this quest for certainty? I'm trying to understand what it is that makes you feel the need you expressed, for this certainty?

Thank you.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Anastasia: Gladly! The Lutheran Confessions have taught me to place all of my confidence and hope in Jesus Christ, and not to rely at all on my own merit for a righteous standing with God. When my conscience is afflicted with guilt, when I am troubled by my sins, I know that I can look to Christ, to His death and resurrection, and find mercy and refuge from God's wrath, since Christ has fully paid my debt. I can thank the Lutheran Confessions for teaching me, a poor, miserable sinner, how to receive the comfort of the Gospel, and how to see God's favor in Jesus Christ, even when I see at the same time my many sins. They have taught me that God accepts me and counts me righteous in his sight, not because of anything I have done, or because of any quality within me, but soley by His grace in Christ. I guess you could say that they have been for me like a faithful teacher, constantly pointing me in the direction of Christ's undeserved kindness, His Word of Absolution, His Holy Supper, and Holy baptism when the devil, the world, and my own sinful flesh would seek to keep my eyes off of Christ and onto myself instead. This is the certainty of which I speak. You are right to say that Lutherans emphasize this a lot. I guess that is because we recognize that there are a lot of things in life that make us uncertain about what God thinks of us, our own sins notwithstanding. I hope that answer was sufficient for now.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

Of course, people do come to Jesus based on the invitation: "Come and see!"

People come to Jesus in Lutheran church services by "coming and seeing" as well, just as they do in Orthodox churches, Roman Catholic churches, Baptist churches, etc.

Of course, some people also come to cults based on the same invitation.

You admitted that the Holy Spirit is at work in Lutheran churches (as did Fr. Fenton). If the Holy Spirit is working in Lutheran churches - churches that confess the Trinity and the incarnation of our Blessed Lord - then it certainly follows that they are included in the Church Catholic - warts and all - just as an imperfect Orthodox church (I have heard a rumor that there may be one or two out there somewhere ;-) ) is still very much part of the Holy Church.

If the Holy Spirit is at work *outside* of the body of Christ, that would seem to be a sort of Gnosticism, a disembodied Spirit who hovers over Moose Lodge meetings and bowling leagues. Either our churches are churches or they aren't.

And, we do have our Lord's promise "where two or three gather..."

I realize that Orthodoxy has a completely different vocabulary, and that the Church is a collective entity as opposed to an individual thing (which is the same for us Lutherans) but even organisms have individual cells, and bodies do have individual members. Either my parish is a Christian church or it is an ungodly, idolatrous, Satanic impostor. Either I am baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or I am not.

If our sacraments are worthless (which is what they would be if we are not Church), then I would assume your baptism was an empty ritual, not an "incomplete" action requiring ratification by a bishop. If our sacraments are worthless, no-one receives absolution from a Lutheran pastor, and all those times you said "the body of Christ" you were giving out only bread and participating in a diabolical lie.

It's not helpful to our discussion to answer the question "Am I baptized" by answering either "The Economy!" or "We Orthodox don't really care one way or another about Lutheran baptisms." The question still remains, and until you can give a better answer, it just looks like you're crawfishing, trying to have your cake and eat it.

I'm not saying you are, mind you, I believe you're being absolutely truthful and speaking with integrity - but no doubt you can see where people might be frustrated with your answer and think you're dodging the question like Hillary Clinton doing a shot of whiskey at an NRA convention.

I mean no disrespect whatsoever. You have asked some tough questions, and you should get some as well.

Either I am a Christian or I am not. Either my congregation is Christian or it is not. It should be a pretty simple question for the Orthodox Church to answer given its pretty bold claims.

Father Hollywood said...

Check out this account from the Vatican website of the 2004 celebration of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul by the pope and patriarch.

While not concelebration, it's putting a toe right up to the line.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, Pr. Beisel, it is sufficient for now; thank you. I think I was asking a more psychological than theological question, but your answer has nicely and succinctly shown the interplay between the two.

Please permit me to see if I have understood you correctly by “playing back” to you what I think you’ve said.

You are concerned about “a righteous standing with God,” and I recall that Martin Luther before you was also concerned about how to find a gracious God. You also speak of those times when your conscience is “afflicted with guilt, when I am troubled by my sins,” and in my mind, I’m connecting this with another phrase I often hear from Lutherans, “the terrors of the conscience.” The conscience, besides feeling remorse and shame, also experiences fear? Am I correct so far?

I had a feeling you might say something to this effect and if so, my next question was going to be what you think lies behind THAT? But I think you’ve answered it already. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) You speak of many things in life that make us “uncertain about what God thinks of us” and of needing to “find mercy and refuge from God’s wrath.” So is it fair to say these (God’s wrath and sometimes uncertain disposition toward you) are part of what troubles the conscience - the part that terrifies it? And the troubled conscience in turn is what drives the quest for certainty about your standing before God, about His mercy? If so, I can now see the point. It makes some kind of sense to me at last.

And if you say I’ve understood you correctly, then I shall have one more question for you.

Thanks for your patience.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, you wrote:

You admitted that the Holy Spirit is at work in Lutheran churches (as did Fr. Fenton).

Rx: I did not admit that the Holy Spirit is working in Lutheran churches. Speaking of my own situation, I said he must have been working, because I am now Orthodox.


FB:
If the Holy Spirit is working in Lutheran churches - churches that confess the Trinity and the incarnation of our Blessed Lord - then it certainly follows that they are included in the Church Catholic - warts and all - just as an imperfect Orthodox church (I have heard a rumor that there may be one or two out there somewhere ;-) ) is still very much part of the Holy Church.

Rx: Exactly why the Orthodox do not confess that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Lutheran bodies. "God is not a God of confusion," says St. Paul, speaking of the Spirit's work; and priest/lay absolution, chalice/disposable cups, wine/grape juice is very much involved with confusion. WRT the Trinity, you do say the filioque and the "Athanasian" Creed, do you not?

Further, the Orthodox Church, the Bride of Christ, is 'without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.' Though she is composed of sinful men, she herself is holy, according to the testimony of St. Paul.

FB:
If the Holy Spirit is at work *outside* of the body of Christ, that would seem to be a sort of Gnosticism, a disembodied Spirit who hovers over Moose Lodge meetings and bowling leagues. Either our churches are churches or they aren't.

Rx:
The Holy Spirit was at work outside the body of Christ when he prepared Cornelius for the coming of St. Peter. Indeed, he is always at work outside the body of Christ, because he draws people to become members of the body of Christ. But he is no gnostic, generic Spirit, because he always draws to Christ and glorifies Christ.

FB:
And, we do have our Lord's promise "where two or three gather..."

Rx:
The rest of that verse says, "in my name"--which doesn't just mean the mention of the vocables "Jesus," but rather correct teaching and worship.

FB:
I realize that Orthodoxy has a completely different vocabulary, and that the Church is a collective entity as opposed to an individual thing (which is the same for us Lutherans) but even organisms have individual cells, and bodies do have individual members.

Rx: The Church is not a collective entity, but a single living thing: the body of Christ. It lives with one and the same life; it is born from one and the same womb; it is nourished with one and the same cup. To take but one issue, the cup from which you drink is mixed: wine and grape juice, chalices and disposable cups. But the cup from which the Church drinks is not mixed. Hence the Lutheran problem.

FB:
Either my parish is a Christian church or it is an ungodly, idolatrous, Satanic impostor. Either I am baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or I am not.

Rx:
I am reluctant to make any judgment on your individual parish, Fr. Beane--though I will if pressed (see below). Tell me: is it in communion fellowship with Jefferson Hills? If so, how would *you* judge Jefferson Hills?

FB:
If our sacraments are worthless (which is what they would be if we are not Church), then I would assume your baptism was an empty ritual, not an "incomplete" action requiring ratification by a bishop. If our sacraments are worthless, no-one receives absolution from a Lutheran pastor, and all those times you said "the body of Christ" you were giving out only bread and participating in a diabolical lie.

Rx:
Again, I ask: are you, who say you give absolution, in communion fellowship with the lay-absolving parish in the next zip code? If that lay absolution worthless, and you are in communion fellowship with the one who offers it, what does that say about your absolution? Judge for yourself.

FB:
It's not helpful to our discussion to answer the question "Am I baptized" by answering either "The Economy!" or "We Orthodox don't really care one way or another about Lutheran baptisms." The question still remains, and until you can give a better answer, it just looks like you're crawfishing, trying to have your cake and eat it.

Rx:
The Orthodox view of non-Orthodox rites is evolving, because non-Orthodox rites evolve.

It has in the past been the norm to accept baptisms by oikonomia, which means that such persons are not re-baptized, but *neither is their place of origin recognized as Church*. Life is messy like that; just read the book of Acts.

As the rot continues to spread in protestantism, I think you will see less oikonomia practiced in the future.

But in either case, it is not my judgment to make. That belongs to my bishop.


FB: I'm not saying you are, mind you, I believe you're being absolutely truthful and speaking with integrity - but no doubt you can see where people might be frustrated with your answer and think you're dodging the question like Hillary Clinton doing a shot of whiskey at an NRA convention.

Rx: Very early in my journey I had to recognize that Orthodoxy grew in very different circumstances than my own; that it had its own language, its own vocabulary and syntax. I couldn't, in a German way, insist that all verbs had to occur at the end of the sentence. I had to learn to let it speak in its own way.

Hence also the quote from Florensky, and the mention of St. Vladimir. The Church cannot be discovered from books. She has to be encountered, in her worship and liturgy. There is no other way.


FB:
I mean no disrespect whatsoever. You have asked some tough questions, and you should get some as well.

Rx:
And I perceived none. I recognize this can be frustrating. I teach logic and philosophy for a living.


FB: Either I am a Christian or I am not. Either my congregation is Christian or it is not. It should be a pretty simple question for the Orthodox Church to answer given its pretty bold claims.

Rx: It is not my place, or the place of any Orthodox Christian, to answer whether or not you are a Christian. I hope so.

In what I'm about to say, please make the sharpest distinction possible between individuals and body.

Considering a Lutheran parish as a body, the Orthodox would say that no, it is not Church. You are in a communion fellowship with Jefferson Hills (or pick your favorite example--I only know of JH from what confessional guys have said of it). We are, of course, glad that you read the Scriptures. That is why,

considering the members of a Lutheran parish as individuals, we have great hope that some or maybe many of you are Christians. We don't know, of course; God has not given us the task of judging.

I understand that this can be frustrating for you and for others. I am trying my level best to give answers faithful and true to the Orthodox mind; I am not being coy. I'm telling you, from my own experience, that the Church does not speak in the same language as the western confessions. You, and the Reformed, and Rome, give different answers to the same questions--that's why you understand Rome, say, and disagree. We answer different questions. Earlier in your post you mentioned cults. We would answer, "Do your historical research." We weren't born yesterday in someone's kitchen or in a tower. We trace an unbroken line back to the beginning.

I hope this answer is a little more understandable to you. I apologize for not communicating as well as I'd like. The critique of Lutheranism is easier, in a sense, because I do it solely on Lutheran grounds. The presentation of Orthodoxy is more difficult, both because it involves translation and because, in the nature of the case, one cannot learn it from books or by propositions. One does not learn *about* the Church; one comes to know her.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Fr. Hogg--are you in communion fellowship with St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, which to my understanding allowed a girl to "preach" during a service?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Beisel,

The term 'preach' in Orthodoxy does not mean the same thing that it does in Lutheranism. It is not a technical term, referring to an exposition of sacred Scripture, but is used to speak of any speaking to the Church.

So, in the sense that Lutherans use the word 'preach,' the answer is no, St. Nicholas in Ft. Wayne did not have a girl preach. Neither did St. Nicholas in Grand Rapids, when the president of Teen Soyo, a girl, came up after liturgy to tell the congregation what her Lord meant to her.

Similar answers apply to cases of apparent 'unionism' like Yankee Stadium. That event was simply not joint worship, as Orthodox understand worship. (It was worship, as Lutherans understand worship, since Lutheran worship doesn't necessarily involve the Eucharist.) Note: I am not endorsing the participation of the Greek archbishop in that event. Many Orthodox reject such participation, as Rdr. Christopher Orr noted--and I agree with them.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The Holy Spirit is at work always and everywhere. He hovered over the face of the deep, and of course that didn't make the deep into Church.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is at work among Lutherans and Catholics and Buddhists and Muslims. He cannot be confined to any certain group(s); He blows where He wills. That alone doesn't make them Church.

For the Orthodox, it's a question of where He makes His home on earth. Where His "home base" is. Where He most fully works.

It's all about fulness.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I know these are trying discussions, and I really do appreciate your candor and your charity.

The fact that we are (at least officially) in fellowship with heterodox churches is frustrating. Just as a cancerous tumor in the lung is of grave concern to the right arm. But the fact that there is a tumor in the lung does not negate the fact that the arm is still part of the body.

Even Orthodoxy has had to excise tumors from the body from time to time - and yet the existence of warts and blemishes and tumors do not destroy the fabric of the Church, Christ's body. The same is true for us.

The fact that there are Orthodox priests and congregations teaching false doctrine and error someplace in the world doesn't cause the Presence of our Lord to disappear from your Orthodox parish the way some folks think the Presence of our Lord absconds from the elements after the benediction.

The fact that the LCMS allows, tolerates, even encourages such abominations doesn't negate the fact the my parishioners receive the body and blood of Christ to their salvation. Either these practices will come to an end, or our synod will have to purge itself of these things, or the LCMS (a human organization comprised of Christian churches) will have to be disbanded.

I believe we are in some kind of transition period.

But these things take time. The Orthodox understand time in terms of centuries and eons, and so it is really rather unfair to judge our churches based on a few decades when the Eastern church had to deal with persistent false doctrines that spanned centuries. Constantinople wasn't built in a day.

Look, if our parishes were not members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, Satan wouldn't care whether we use grape juice or wine. He would not be trying to hurt the Lord's Bride by tempting our hierarchs into lay ministry and other teachings which clearly violate our own confessions.

Salem Lutheran Church and other churches of the Augsburg Confession are as much a part of the body of Christ as any Eastern Orthodox parish in the world. We may be your annoying hyperactive little brother with a snotty nose who is always messing with your stuff, but we are part of your family. We are brother Christians, and you can't disown us without disowning your own mother. Even if your little brother is crippled and retarded you should protect him as part of the family, not disown him or tell all your friends he's really not part of the family.

We were all birthed at the same font by the same mother and pray to the same Father. Otherwise, no Orthodox bishop anywhere could accept a Lutheran baptism under any circumstances - any more than he could accept a Mormon baptism or a kid baptizing the cat. Something happens when Lutheran pastors baptize in the name of the Trinity - and even our big brothers admit it.

We may not get together at family reunions, but that doesn't mean we're illegitimate children.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

Father Fenton spoke of the Holy Spirit's presence and work in the context of *sacraments* when said that he partook of "Holy Eucharist" in Lutheran churches. Is it fair to say that there is a Holy Eucharist also among "Buddhists" and "Muslims"? Do you believe the Holy Spirit is present with us in the same way as He is present with non-Christians, nothing more?

We Lutherans occupy a strange neutral ground to the Orthodox. I don't think most Orthodox would equate us with Buddhists, Atheists, and Satan worshipers, but neither do they consider us members of the Church.

It just seems to me that the Orthodox contradict themselves when they accept some of our sacraments, claim we have the Holy Spirit, but then compare the Holy Spirit's work in our midst to His work among Muslims.

Even Orthodox baptisms are "sealed" by chrismation - so unless a bishop outright refuses to accept a Lutheran baptism, he is in some way recognizing a Lutheran baptism as a real baptism - in a way that he would never accept a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon baptism.

And thanks very much for posting here. I hope you don't interpret my debating you (for lack of a better term) to be ungentlemanly or rude. I really do not want to come off that way, and if I do, please accept my humble apologies.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, I appreciate the irenic and straightforward tone of conversation we're having. Thank you.

You wrote: The fact that there are Orthodox priests and congregations teaching false doctrine and error someplace in the world doesn't cause the Presence of our Lord to disappear from your Orthodox parish the way some folks think the Presence of our Lord absconds from the elements after the benediction.

Rx: It is true that sometimes individual layfolk, priests or even sometimes a bishop goes off the rails. They're dealt with. Promptly. The Romanian bishop that Reader Orr cited earlier will be dealt with too.

FB: The fact that the LCMS allows, tolerates, even encourages such abominations doesn't negate the fact the my parishioners receive the body and blood of Christ to their salvation. Either these practices will come to an end, or our synod will have to purge itself of these things, or the LCMS (a human organization comprised of Christian churches) will have to be disbanded.

Rx: The assumption that the Church is configured from the bottom up, which underlies your statement here, is what I've called elsewhere the 'proton pseudos' of Lutheran ecclesiology. Parishes, and priests, are outgrowths of cathedrals, and bishops, not the other way 'round. When Christ sent the apostles, they established one community in the cities where they went. As that community grew, it established satellites around it. That initial community was the cathedral, the bishop's seat; those satellites were parishes, to which the bishop sent presbyters.

Bottom-up ecclesiology is inherently unstable, because individual parishes and priests can do their own thing, without regard to the rest of the Church. And just as the gods which did not make the earth will perish, so also the plants not planted by the Father will be uprooted. Why one would want to consign one's children to such a situation is beyond me.

FB: I believe we are in some kind of transition period.

Rx: I believe so, too.

FB:
But these things take time. The Orthodox understand time in terms of centuries and eons, and so it is really rather unfair to judge our churches based on a few decades when the Eastern church had to deal with persistent false doctrines that spanned centuries.

Rx: The Church has dealt with false teachings and teachers that assaulted from without and rose up from among her priests and hierarchs. Those infections were strong, but brief; Arianism lingered long in the west after it had been snuffed out in the east. And through it all, the liturgy served to keep us faithful. Nestorianism, for example, could not take hold because for more than a century before we had been speaking of Mary as Theotokos in the liturgy. The monks, too, played a crucial role: witness St. Anthony's endorsement of Athanasius, or the courage of the monks of Studios against the iconoclasts.

The Holy Spirit used at least these three structural things to keep the Church on the rails: 1) the liturgy; 2) government by bishops; 3) monks, as warriors for Christ. Your liturgy is re-drafted each generation, and need not be practiced at all, and is subject to change by the latest liturgical scholar's fad. The fact that you have no bishops (or that every priest is a bishop--either way, it's chaos) means that you have no effective way to deal with such infections as they arise. And practically speaking, there is no Lutheran monasticism. (Yes, I know about St. Augustine's house, and a few scattered communities around the world; practically speaking, they play no role.) Sasse was called "the lonely Lutheran," but Lutheranism is inherently lonely--all depends on the individual.

FB: Constantinople wasn't built in a day.

Rx: Actually, it arose remarkably quickly for a major world capital. :-)


FB: Look, if our parishes were not members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, Satan wouldn't care whether we use grape juice or wine. He would not be trying to hurt the Lord's Bride by tempting our hierarchs into lay ministry and other teachings which clearly violate our own confessions.

Rx: With respect, Fr. Beane, you have no hierarchs. And if your own confessions are so flagrantly and widely ignored, as you yourself testify, then they are not the confessions of a mainland, but of a group of isolated islands in a globally-warming sea...a few hardier cells in a body largely lacking in metabolic activity.


FB: Salem Lutheran Church and other churches of the Augsburg Confession are as much a part of the body of Christ as any Eastern Orthodox parish in the world.

Rx: The Orthodox Church *is* the body of Christ. It preserves the doctrine, the practice, the worship and the structure given it by God in the first century. It knows no Augsburg Confession--a late-mediaeval creed arising from a German-Roman problem. It knows, rather, the seven Ecumenical Councils. Each Lutheran pastor or scholar is free to accept which of those councils he wishes, apparently; I know of some who reject the seventh, for example. And the canons of those councils, no less a part of them than their statements of faith, are rejected _holus bolos_.

FB: We may be your annoying hyperactive little brother with a snotty nose who is always messing with your stuff, but we are part of your family. We are brother Christians, and you can't disown us without disowning your own mother.

Rx: There is, strictly speaking, no 'we' in Lutheranism; only a collection of 'I's who approximate similar positions. Concerning those 'I's, I have great hope for many if not all of them. But the 'we' you think they form has no internal unity; speaking philosophically it is a heap, not an individual. As I suggested earlier, try organizing a body--even mentally. Does it have bishops or congregational polity? Does it reject individual cups or use them? Does it allow lay readers or not? In Lutheranism, as St. Pavel Florensky would put it, there is homoinoia, but there is not homonoia.


FB: Even if your little brother is crippled and retarded you should protect him as part of the family, not disown him or tell all your friends he's really not part of the family.

Rx: Again, regarding all the scattered individuals in Lutheranism, I have great hope and high regard. You have done heroic work, because each of you must build from the ground up every generation. I judge no one else's salvation.

FB:
We were all birthed at the same font by the same mother and pray to the same Father. Otherwise, no Orthodox bishop anywhere could accept a Lutheran baptism under any circumstances - any more than he could accept a Mormon baptism or a kid baptizing the cat. Something happens when Lutheran pastors baptize in the name of the Trinity - and even our big brothers admit it.

Rx: One cannot generalize from the practice of oikonomia. And mercy always remains a free gift; it cannot be presumed upon. As I mentioned earlier, due to the rapid erosion in all protestant bodies (the ELCA considers itself Lutheran every bit as much as Missouri does, and baptisms in the name of the Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier are not uncommon there), I expect that the practice of oikonomia will come to an end in the not-too-distant future.


FB: We may not get together at family reunions, but that doesn't mean we're illegitimate children.

Rx: I make no judgment about individuals. That belongs to God and the bishop. But the Lutheran body is not in the family; if it were, it would gather around the same table. Do not be deceived.

Let me add, in conclusion, how important the distinction between bodies and individuals is. When you deal with a Calvinist, and he says "Since God elected some to salvation, and since all are not saved, it follows that God elected some to damnation," you reply, "I grant the premises, but reject the conclusion." In the same way, when I say "Lutheranism is not church," and Lutherans then want to make a syllogism saying: "Lutheranism is no church; we are members of Lutheranism, hence we are not Christians," I reply, "I grant the premises, but I make no judgment about the conclusion." Many Lutherans may well be Christians. (Have you read the story of Fr. Richard Wurmbrand, found at ancientfaith.com/files/uploads/wurmbrand_again.doc?) Further, mere membership in the Orthodox Church herself does not guarantee salvation. One only need read Dostoyevsky's story of the onion to see that.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

orrologion said...

Certainty in Orthodoxy is focused on Jesus Himself, and not on my own salvation. I am certain that the Holy Trinity is loving and what's all mankind to be saved, but that is different than being sure that I will be saved. Subtle, but important difference. Whether God is good is not dependent on whether I get what I get what I want.

orrologion said...

The question as to whether Protestants sacraments are 'real' or a 'diabolical lie' is too stark. My 3 year old godson plays 'Church Man' where he pretends to cense, just like our Archdeacon. While he is not actually censing, it is not for nothing that he is emulating and doing the best he can. Similarly, Fr. Tom Hopko once noted to my spiritual father that God views all our glorious Orthodox worship as the actions of little children doing their best to worship Him.

There is a great middle between empty and full. Faith ain't math, and it ain't just Yes or No.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear Pr. Beane,

It was certainly not my intention to equate you with Buddhists and Muslims. My apologies for having sounded that way. I was simply trying to affirm that yes, the Holy Spirit does move among you. We Orthodox affirm this because we affirm that He is always and everywhere present. That, however, doesn't mean there are no differences in those among whom He moves.

Nor would it be possible for me to compare what He does among you with what He does among Muslims or Buddhists, because not being a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Lutheran, I am equally ignorant on all scores.

Heterodox baptisms aren't "sealed" in Holy Chrismation; people are.

Properly speaking,appearances notwithstanding, there is no recognition of a baptism outside the Orthodox Church. "Oikonomia" means asking God to *make it* into Holy Baptism (or the equivalent), to perfect whatever, if anything, may not have been right about it, for the sake of not offending and scandalizing the convert to the peril of his soul.

Of course, this can only be taken so far without descending into mockery. You might ask God to consecrate grape juice, but not goldfish. It's like that with us. Some things we can ask of God, as exceptions for the benefit of the soul(s) concerned, and other things are too presumptuous to ask.

orrologion said...

Regarding sacraments outside of the church and economia:

"St. Basil the Great, Canon I

…I am inclined to suspect that we may by the severity of the prescription [i.e., if we demand that all who have had heterodox baptism must needs be received into the Church solely by means of our baptism] actually prevent men from being saved because of their reluctance in regard to baptism. But if they maintain [the form of] our baptism, let this not deter us.… But let it be formally stated with every reason that those who join [the Orthodox Church] on top of their baptism must in all cases be chrismated by the faithful,… and thus be admitted to the Mysteries."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia and Christopher:

The fact that oikonomia is practiced with Lutheran baptisms but not Mormon baptisms is a recognition, however feeble, that our baptisms are churchly - as opposed to, as Fr. Hogg points out, an ELCA baptism using some politically-correct formula (in which there is no oikonomia).

Baptism initiates the Christian into the "household" of faith. If Orthodox bishops recognize Holy Baptisms done in our "holy houses" - even if reluctantly - it means such "oikonomia" amounts to recognition, for it shows that the wise fathers of the Orthodox communion will not call a holy thing common, or deny the Holy Spirit's work outside their own jurisdictions.

Maybe part of this is a symantic issue. We say: Since "there is no salvation outside the Church" (Cyril?), then anyone who has salvation is part of the Church. Therefore if any people have salvation outside the boundaries of Eastern or Western Orthodoxy, then the Church is bigger than that communion, and includes individuals, congregations, and clergy from RC and "Protestant" communions as well.

But the Orthodox seem to be saying (and I really don't want to make a straw man, and I know I will be corrected if my summary is in error) that Cyril is wrong. There is indeed salvation "outside the Church."

The Roman Catholics take a different tack. They say there is no salvation outside the Church (which they identify as the Roman Church), but they simply redefine Christians from other communions as Roman Catholics without knowing it - a definition they spread so far as to include non-Christians as well ("anonymous Christians").

So, maybe this argument boils down to this: operating under the Lutheran definition of church just for the sake of argument, the Orthodox can concede that we are in the Church (the corpus of the saved), and using the Orthodox definition of Church for the sake of argument, we can concede that we are outside the Church (and yet have salvation) - since we are, to be sure, outside the jurisdiction of any Eastern Orthodox bishop.

Boy, I hope I didn't just muddy the waters!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Oops, yeah, you did just muddy some waters... ;-)

Despite how it looks, "oikonomia" is not recognition of anything as sacrament. It is at most recognition that it may, possibly qualify. It is a plea to God to change it as may be necessary to make it into one. If this is done for Lutheran converts but not Mormon, it is because we are very clear that whatever Momons have is not Holy Baptism, whereas what Lutherans have just possibly might be. Or at least, if it's not, asking God to make it Holy Baptism isn't too outrageous.

Nobody can be saved without being united to Christ, therefore nobody can be saved without being united to His Body, the Church. It's impossible to be united just with His "soul" and not His Body.

"Church" is defined differently for us. It is not the corpus of the saved. It is the Corpus of Christ and within it, for now, are both the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, all the baptized, even the unbelievers and the wicked. In the Last Day, however, Christ will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats. He will prune the Vine and cast out some of its branches. (John 15:2) And, for all we know, and we certainly hope, He may even then graft in new branches. And/or may reveal that certain people all along had some mystical connection to the Church, of which we were until then unaware, and maybe they were, too.

We
just
don't
know.

Really, truly don't. The status of Lutherans has not been revealed to us.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

P.S.) What we do say, though, is that the Church is visible, and at this time, you visibly aren't in it. There is neither altar nor pulpit fellowship.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

You wrote: "Church" is defined differently for us. It is not the corpus of the saved. It is the Corpus of Christ and within it, for now, are both the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, all the baptized, even the unbelievers and the wicked. In the Last Day, however, Christ will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats. He will prune the Vine and cast out some of its branches. (John 15:2) And, for all we know, and we certainly hope, He may even then graft in new branches. And/or may reveal that certain people all along had some mystical connection to the Church, of which we were until then unaware, and maybe they were, too.

We
just
don't
know.

Really, truly don't. The status of Lutherans has not been revealed to us.


According to your definition of Church, you don't know if Orthodox Christians have salvation, since your definition of Church includes not only the "invisible" portion of those who are saved, but also the "visible" Church that includes the tares.

We Lutherans cite the same Scripture to draw the same conclusion.

So, we're back to square one. According to Orthodoxy, the Church is not coterminous with the community of those who are saved. There are Orthodox Christians who will be condemned, and there will be Lutherans who will be redeemed. At very least, you "just don't know."

If the Lord condemns one Orthodox and saves one Lutheran, either he is saving people outside the church (contra Cyprian), or the Church's boundaries are not the same as Eastern/Western Orthodox boundaries.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

You wrote: The question as to whether Protestants sacraments are 'real' or a 'diabolical lie' is too stark. My 3 year old godson plays 'Church Man' where he pretends to cense, just like our Archdeacon. While he is not actually censing, it is not for nothing that he is emulating and doing the best he can. Similarly, Fr. Tom Hopko once noted to my spiritual father that God views all our glorious Orthodox worship as the actions of little children doing their best to worship Him.

There is a great middle between empty and full. Faith ain't math, and it ain't just Yes or No.


Indeed, faith is not math, and yet, our Lord Himself uses the words "is/are" and "is/are not."

A thing either "is" or "is not." We can say we don't know if something is or isn't, but that is only our perception. The reality is that either a wafer of bread "is" Jesus, or it is only a wafer of bread.

Either an application of water in the name of the Most Holy Trinity is a Holy Baptism, or it is at very least a hollow sham, and in fact, is the work of the devil, for unlike the example of children playing church, you have people staking their eternal welfare on the efficacy of this sacrament, betting eternity that Jesus is here and this is not merely playacting or a child baptizing the cat.

If the Orthodox Church accepts in any way that these baptisms are anything other than a sham, and in fact they are worthless, then the Orthodox Church is doing the work of Satan and is not the pillar and ground of truth (and, for the record, I don't believe the Orthodox Church is doing the work of the devil, which is why I believe our baptisms are recognized as something different than a Mormon ritual).

The fact of the matter is this: the Orthodox Church, at least part of the time, will not treat our baptisms as Pagan rituals or as playacting. They are given some form of recognition - even couched under the talk about the need to be "completed" by chrismation (and, of course, even Orthodox baptisms are followed up the same way...), or by using the word "economy" to introduce doubt into the matter.

But once again, our Lord implored us to "let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no.'" A baptism, however incomplete, however lacking in institutional propriety, that is recognized as a baptism and not repeated, is recognized. That means the salvific work of Christ is recognized within Lutheran sanctuaries.

And once again, unless Father Fenton retracts his recognition of receiving and celebrating "Holy Eucharist" in Lutheran churches, or unless he is condemned for false doctrine, it seems at very least that the belief that Lutheran Eucharists are valid (even if illicit or improper) sacraments in which the Lord's Body *is* present, is tolerated within the Orthodox community.

Perhaps this is the practical application of Isa 42:3.

This whole discussion begs the question: "Can a person be a Christian and not part of the Church?" The Lutheran confessions say "no." The Roman Catholic Church says "no" qualified by the understanding that a person may be a member of the Roman Church and not know it or recognize it. The Orthodox seem to say: "Yes, but I don't know. No, but maybe. Economically yes, if the bishop says so. But the fathers say 'no,' but then again..."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

According to your definition of Church, you don't know if Orthodox Christians have salvation,

I am nobody's Judge, inside or outside the Church. Only Christ is. (Christ, not the Father.) There is no way for me to predict what the Judge will say about any particular person.

since your definition of Church includes not only the "invisible" portion of those who are saved, but also the "visible" Church that includes the tares.

Right, except I'd say the whole Church is visible.

So, we're back to square one. According to Orthodoxy, the Church is not coterminous with the community of those who are saved.

Right.

There are Orthodox Christians who will be condemned, and there will be Lutherans who will be redeemed.

Since I don't know, what I have to say is, there may be Orthodox who will be condemned, and there may be Lutherans who will be saved.

If the Lord condemns one Orthodox and saves one Lutheran, either he is saving people outside the church (contra Cyprian), or the Church's boundaries are not the same as Eastern/Western Orthodox boundaries.

Well, of course everyone God saves starts off outside the Church. But whom He saves, He by definition brings into the Church. Either now or on the Last Day. It's for us a contradiction in terms to speak of Christ saving someone without bringing him into His Body.

The Orthodox do not (or at least cannot correctly) say, "Yes, but I don't know. No, but maybe. Economically yes, if the bishop says so."

All we can say is, We Don't Know. Period.

Economically, (and I think this is the third time I've pointed this out) the bishop is NOT recognizing anybody or anything outside the Church as saved, as Christian, as sacrament, as anything. All he is recognizing is that God can, by way of an exception and retroactively, make use of whatever rites a convert has been administered AS IF they were the real thing. That's in case they were not, which he does not pretend to know. So the bishop prays God to do that. He asks God to make it the true sacrament now if it wasn't before.

Does that at least bring us to Square Two?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Pr. Beane, I need to correct myself.

You wrote:
According to Orthodoxy, the Church is not coterminous with the community of those who are saved.

And I, sloppily, replied:
Right.

But of course, technically I ought to have said:

the Church now (between the two advents of Christ) is not necessarily co-terminous with the community of those who will be saved.

She shall be, though, by the end of time.

orrologion said...

"Can a person be a Christian and not part of the Church?"

I think you may be mixing up things that do not of necessity go together all the time, at least with the Orthodox. Whether non-Orthodox sacraments are grace filled and efficacious is a different question that the boundaries of the Church. One may be baptized and outside of the Church (apostasy) and one may be unbaptized and yet in the Church and saved (the Wise Thief, many an early martyr).

There are also different ways in which the term 'Christian' can be used: Christian meaning anyone of the various churches referring to themselves as Christian, trinitarian Christians, or whatever the specific definition of the term may mean and require within a given denomination or faith. 'Christian' as a term therefore isn't necessarily coterminus with 'in the Church' according to either Lutheran or Orthodox ecclesiology.

Being a member of the Church, in Orthodoxy, is more than simply having faith. And salvation is not something that being 'in the Church', and whatever that implies about the inner and outer states of a person, grants one. So, since being in the Church is more than faith, more than faith is required. Salvation has been taken by many non-baptized and non-catechumans in the Church's history, but these are exceptions not meant to be the rule or the minimum.

A book that would get at your questions is "The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church" by Patrick Barnes, which can be read in full for free here:

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/non-orthodox.pdf

That is probably a better place to start rather than an ad hoc conversation trying to discuss in detail (without detail) issue of extreme import - that is, if you or others are truly interested in the Orthodox understanding of these issues, which there is no reason to assume you would be.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

You wrote:

Economically, (and I think this is the third time I've pointed this out) the bishop is NOT recognizing anybody or anything outside the Church as saved, as Christian, as sacrament, as anything. All he is recognizing is that God can, by way of an exception and retroactively, make use of whatever rites a convert has been administered AS IF they were the real thing. That's in case they were not, which he does not pretend to know. So the bishop prays God to do that. He asks God to make it the true sacrament now if it wasn't before.

This (and I mean no disrespect by my observation) just strikes me as sophistry. It is akin to the receptionistic claim that if a consecrated host falls out of the pastor's hand and rolls under the altar, it was never consecrated to begin with. It is a reverse-engineered way to arrive at the conclusion one wishes without having to come to grips with failed premises.

Again, I have the utmost respect for my Orthodox brethren, and consider them Christian in the full sense of the word. But this is just one that I can't agree upon. I would respect the Orthodox position more if they were to say: "Lutheran baptisms are worthless" rather than saying they aren't and they are at the same time.

If we aren't Church, then why not baptize converts rather than let them doubt that they were ever baptized to begin with?

orrologion said...

Pr. Beane,

I think most serious LCMS and WELS types better 'understand' the more rigorist position in Orthodoxy as represented by ROCOR, Mt. Athos, etc. This was true for me.

They would, in official terms, speak more in the way you are looking for. They do not accept trinitarian Protestant and Roman Catholic baptisms for the fact that they do not maintain the form St. Basil noted as the requirement for economic acceptance of schismatic baptism. The issue is whether St. Basil would see simple use of water and the trinitarian formula as maintaining a minimal likeness to apostolic baptism, or not. There is really no normal way for an Orthodox Christian to question what is 'minimally required' - it is all required. The bishop can then step in a make a pastoral decision for his priests and laity.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, I realize it sounds to most (all?) Lutherans like sophistry. But it really, truly isn't. Sophistry is word games, and I just can't see where this position employs any of those.

Now if we said of Lutheran sacraments what you have the impression we do, that "they aren't and they are at the same time," then yes, that would be sophistry. But we don't say this. All we say, simply, sincerely and straightforwardly, is: we do not know. Period.

And we don't let a convert to doubt whether he was ever truly baptized. The whole point of "oikonomia" is that the convert does NOT doubt this. Instead, he quite adamantly believes and insists he has been truly baptized. Otherwise he would ask to be received by baptism, if he had any doubt on that score.

But it isn't certain that his assessment is correct. We do not know. Therefore the choices facing the bishop are to require him to accept Orthodox baptism against his conscience or to exercise "oikonomia" in order not to violate his conscience.

In the latter case, we pray to God to count the heterodox ceremony as true baptism if it wasn't, supplying whatever graces it may have lacked, and we trust He does.

Where's the sophistry in that? It is but the loving thing to do when you

just

don't

know.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

If what you say is indeed the Orthodox teaching on baptism and the way in which bishops may economically accept Lutheran baptisms, then either 1) The Orthodox do not believe baptisms are necessary for salvation, or 2) The Orthodox believe God is obliged to do as the bishop prays.

Here is a scenario:

A lifelong Lutheran wasts to convert to Orthodoxy. The bishop economically decides to accept her baptism and chrismate her.

As you describe this scenario, the bishop is actually praying that God will accept her non-baptism and treat it as a real baptism, using chrismation as a "completion" of its imperfection.

Now, what if God (He is God after all) decides to say "no" to the bishop's prayer? The woman is unbaptized. So, either she has salvation apart from baptism, or God takes his marching orders from the bishop.

I believe there is sophistry going on because if the Orthodox truly have no clue whether or not a Lutheran baptism is a real baptism, they would not take any chances. They would simply administer a baptism - just as they would to a person who was "baptized" in a Unitarian or Mormon "church."

But to say "we don't know" and then assume that it *is* a baptism makes no sense.

I understand that matters of pastoral care are messy, but, if a Mormon came to me, there is simply no way I could exercise pastoral care (economy) and make a Mormon baptism a Christian one, not retroactively, not conditionally, and not by praying that God would make a thing something it isn't.

I would simply baptize the person.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

I know Orthodox laymen who will privately express their belief that Lutheran churches *are* churches, that our sacraments are *real* sacraments - even apart from the structure of the Orthodox Church.

I realize they may well be outside of Orthodox teaching.

If Orthodox Christians do not believe we Lutherans are church, I would really appreciate a blunt statement along these lines:

"No offense, Beane, and I mean this in all love and concern for you and your congregation, but you are not Church, your sacraments are not sacraments, and you are not Christians. I will not call your community a "church," and you are no different than a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, a Hindu, or a guy who worships crystals."

I could respect that. In fact, if we are heretics, the loving thing to do is to call us to repentance and warn us of our damnation unless we come to mother Church, no different than you would if I were a hare krishna or worshiper of Zeus.

Am I a heretic? I don't see how anyone can say "we just don't know" when you know exactly what my confession is. I am a confessor of Augsburg and the rest of the Book of Concord, and I serve as a parish priest of a community of people claiming to be Christians styled by the historic term "Lutheran." You have already said I am not part of the Church, that my church is not Church. Again, am I a heretic? Is my congregation heretical?

If I'm a heretic, I think my Orthodox brethren ought to come out and say so.

Now, I have repeatedly mentioned Fenton's statement about "Holy Eucharist" he received in Lutheran churches. Not a single person has commented on it.

What do you think about Fenton's statement? What do you think about it, Anastasia? I find the silence about this unsettling. If Fenton is wrong about this, please tell me. Is Fenton a heretic? And if Fenton is wrong, what about all the orthodox that are in communion with him? For this looks to all the world like it is acceptable for Orthodox priests to recognize the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in Lutheran churches. Is it?

I really would like an answer to this before anything further gets discussed.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, you wrote:

"A lifelong Lutheran wants to convert to Orthodoxy. The bishop economically decides to accept her baptism and chrismate her.

As you describe this scenario, the bishop is actually praying that God will accept her non-baptism and treat it as a real baptism, using chrismation as a "completion" of its imperfection.

Now, what if God (He is God after all) decides to say "no" to the bishop's prayer? The woman is unbaptized. So, either she has salvation apart from baptism, or God takes his marching orders from the bishop.

Rx: The bishop acts based on the evidence from the history, canons, and fathers of the Church. The evidence is divided;

> in some cases, certain baptisms are accepted by oikonomia, as Anastasia has said--but this is _never_ done in such a way as to imply that we consider the body in which it was done to be Church.
> in other cases, the baptism is not accepted, and the person is baptized.

In both cases, the decision belongs to the bishop. As to God "taking his marching orders" from the bishop, have you never read, "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven?" If the bishop receives the person by chrismation, then she is baptised, according to the word of God cited above.

FB:
I believe there is sophistry going on because if the Orthodox truly have no clue whether or not a Lutheran baptism is a real baptism, they would not take any chances.

Rx:
There is no sophistry here. There is a different language, with a different grammar. Right now the situation is mixed, so the response is mixed. As Lutheranism continues to decay, the response will become more uniform. We will simply baptise.

FB:
They would simply administer a baptism - just as they would to a person who was "baptized" in a Unitarian or Mormon "church."

Rx:
While rejecting a baptism indicates that we do not acknowledge the body as Church, it does not follow that accepting a baptism means that we do acknowledge the body as Church. Procrustes is not a member of the Orthodox Church.

FB:
But to say "we don't know" and then assume that it *is* a baptism makes no sense.

Rx:
Have you ever read "Flatland?" It's a book about a three-dimensional being making an appearance in a two-dimensional world. The author, Abbott, demonstrates that things would happen which to the two-dimensional dwellers would seem impossible and nonsense. It does not trouble me in the slightest that Christ, and the Body of Christ, should be capable of things that don't make sense to someone who measures with human reason. Nicodemus tried that: "How can a man be born when he is old?" The Jews tried that: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" We Orthodox don't. But we do trust Christ's word: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven."


FB:
I understand that matters of pastoral care are messy, but, if a Mormon came to me, there is simply no way I could exercise pastoral care (economy) and make a Mormon baptism a Christian one, not retroactively, not conditionally, and not by praying that God would make a thing something it isn't.

I would simply baptize the person.

Rx:
As would we.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, you wrote:

I know Orthodox laymen who will privately express their belief that Lutheran churches *are* churches, that our sacraments are *real* sacraments - even apart from the structure of the Orthodox Church.

I realize they may well be outside of Orthodox teaching.

Rx: Indeed they are. I have an Orthodox acquaintance who once communed at a Lutheran liturgy I had attended. She came up afterwards and tried to explain her reasoning to me--she is a dear lady--and I replied, "Don't tell me. Tell your priest in confession."

FB:
If Orthodox Christians do not believe we Lutherans are church, I would really appreciate a blunt statement along these lines:

"No offense, Beane, and I mean this in all love and concern for you and your congregation, but you are not Church, your sacraments are not sacraments, and you are not Christians. I will not call your community a "church," and you are no different than a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, a Hindu, or a guy who worships crystals."

Rx: OK. Let me try to say it one more time.
1. Your church is not church--and that even by Lutheran lights, for you are in pulpit and altar fellowship with etc. etc.
2. Strictly speaking, in the sense that sacraments are acts of the Church, your sacraments are not sacraments, for you are not Church. But I recognize that God who spoke through Balaam's ass can do what he wills, and it is not my place to tell God how to do his job. If he hearkened to the prayers of Cornelius, he can act as he sees fit. The case of Cornelius suggests that the evidence for his so acting, is that the person involved becomes a member of the Church.
3. Whether you are Christians or not is not my judgment to make. Really, we've said this many times--it can't be that hard to grasp. I appreciate that you cherish the word of God; I am grateful for your confession of Orthodox Christology, and those are reasons to give me hope.

FB:
I could respect that. In fact, if we are heretics, the loving thing to do is to call us to repentance and warn us of our damnation unless we come to mother Church, no different than you would if I were a hare krishna or worshiper of Zeus.

Rx:
If the decay and destruction of your community, within one lifetime, is not enough to call you to repentance, then nothing we add will make anything we say to be of greater effect. I honor you, Fr. Beane, for your willingness to suffer for the truth as you had come to know it--I knew you would have trouble in that first call and I groaned to see you cast out. And I appeal to you, dear Fr. Beane, for the sake of your son. Whatever you do, stay or go, you are teaching him.

FB:
Am I a heretic? I don't see how anyone can say "we just don't know" when you know exactly what my confession is. I am a confessor of Augsburg and the rest of the Book of Concord, and I serve as a parish priest of a community of people claiming to be Christians styled by the historic term "Lutheran." You have already said I am not part of the Church, that my church is not Church. Again, am I a heretic? Is my congregation heretical?

Rx: It is not mine to judge you or the people of your parish as individuals. It is mine to judge the community and its confession as a falling away from the fullness of the truth. Insofar as it retains some of the truth, I rejoice. Insofar as the truth it lost causes its ongoing decay, I mourn, and hope for better things.

FB:
If I'm a heretic, I think my Orthodox brethren ought to come out and say so.

Rx: The confession you cling to is heretical, a falling away from the truth and a choice (hairesis) of part against the whole. What you are, God knows.

FB:
Now, I have repeatedly mentioned Fenton's statement about "Holy Eucharist" he received in Lutheran churches. Not a single person has commented on it.

What do you think about Fenton's statement? What do you think about it, Anastasia? I find the silence about this unsettling. If Fenton is wrong about this, please tell me. Is Fenton a heretic? And if Fenton is wrong, what about all the orthodox that are in communion with him? For this looks to all the world like it is acceptable for Orthodox priests to recognize the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in Lutheran churches. Is it?

Rx:
In the first place, I did comment on it. As in the case of Cornelius, the work of the Spirit is evident by the fact that we have ended up in the Church. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light." But it does not follow from this that the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in Lutheran churches is the body of Christ. I would prefer to believe better of my Lutheran friends than that they tolerate the disposal (and therefore the despising) of the precious blood of the covenant, by which we are sanctified.
In the second place, neither my brother in the priesthood nor I, am the arbiter of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. Those are matters for bishops to comment on. I think I have explained Fr. Fenton's words in a way which fits the analogy of faith. But if he, or me, or anyone speaks in a way that doesn't accord with the faith, then we're wrong, plain and simple.

FB:
I really would like an answer to this before anything further gets discussed.

Rx: I hope you have now received it in a way you can grasp.

Remember, Fr., that an awful lot of 'translation' has to happen here. Our categories, our way of doing theology, is not the same as yours.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

"Taking up the Cross of Christ, Thou didst pass from royal glory to the glory of heaven, Praying for thine enemies, O holy martyr Princess Elizabeth;
And with the martyr Barbara thou didst find everlasting joy. Therefore, pray ye in behalf of our souls."
Kontakion for St. Elizabeth the New Martyr (July 4), a former Lutheran received into the Church by chrismation.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

I got you right to the edge of calling me a heretic, but not quite to the point of pulling the trigger (though I guess calling my confession a hairesis is pretty much the same thing). ;-)

I must have missed your remarks about Fr. Fenton's statement about receiving "Holy Eucharist" in Lutheran churches. I'm sorry about that, and I'll have to go back and have a look.

I still think the Orthodox are trying to say two opposing things at the same time. I don't think there is any doubt about a Muslim or a Mormon - they are not church, not Christians, and have no sacraments, and not even a declaration of economy by a bishop can turn a frog into a prince.

But, when it comes to us, there is still a contradiction. You will conditionally accept our baptisms, but we are not church. You will condemn my confession as a hairesis, but will not call me a heretic. You will call me a Christian, but can only hope that I am one in fact. You even call me "Fr. Beane" while maintaining that my orders are not real (and I don't say that in any way to minimize your courtesy and politeness to do so - I wish some of our Lutheran brethren would learn some manners).

When I hold a piece of consecrated bread (that according to you) is only bread, and adore it, and tell people it is Jesus, I am committing a terrible form of idolatry - and enjoining others to participate in this gross sin. And yet, you will call me "brother" and treat me as a fellow Christian. Shouldn't you be shunning me, calling me to repentance, warning me of the dangers of hell, and in no way giving the world the impression that we are brothers in Christ? By the same token, if that bread I distribute to my parishioners truly is Jesus, you are denying your Lord.

Regarding the John 20 passage as a sort of sedes doctrinae for the oikonomia of declaring a Lutheran baptism a retroactive Orthodox baptism, I can see that. But in such a case, the bishop is not "praying" that God will recognize it, he is using his episcopal office and authority to "make it so" according to the Lord's promise. If that is a proper use of the keys, why not, for the sake of love, does he simply not declare all Lutheran baptisms to be retroactively Orthodox baptisms? This is really just a restatement of Luther's question that if the pope has the power under John 20 to release some people from Purgatory for a fee, why not release all of them gratis out of love?

If Orthodox bishops really have that kind of authority (to retroactively turn Lutheran baptisms into Orthodox ones by fiat), why do some use it while others balk at it?

If God is bound to economic decisions made by Orthodox bishops, the loving thing to do would be to simply recognize all such baptisms, rather than the way it is done now - Bishop John gives thumbs up, Bishop Bob says: "no way." In fact, the way it is done now lacks consensus, and is really an individual act based on private opinion rather than the collective act of the Church as a body - which is one of the very manifestations of individualism you complain about Lutherans for doing.

And again, I'm not saying your complaints are not well-founded (I gripe about the same things you used to as a Lutheran pastor), I just think your assessment that when certain bad practices in certain LCMS churches happen that they invalidate all the ecclesiastical acts of all the churches. If Fenton errs in calling the bread and wine he received in Lutheran congregations "Holy Eucharist," it certainly doesn't unchurch all the Orthodox churches in the world that are linked in fellowship with him.

Jefferson Hills church doesn't invalidate the Word of God preached at Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna. And though we are technically in fellowship, I can guarantee you that none of their members will come to the rail and seek communion from me. In a sense, our fellowship is already "broken" in the LCMS.

Anyway, I hope we're not arguing in circles here - though I suspect we are. This seems to be the fate of almost all Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue at some point.

And again, please don't misinterpret my rigor in debate as disrespect, rudeness, or anything of the sort. It is genuinely not intended as such. I have profound respect for you as a priest, Christian, and gentleman. I hope that fact doesn't get lost in the discussion.

Pax!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"Heretic," as I understand the Orthodox usage of the term, does not apply to you (Lutherans). Anyone knows better, please correct me, but my understanding is that to be a heretic, you must:

1.) have started out a visible member of the Orthodox Church

2.) be persistently, willfully, publicly teaching false doctrine, not simply believing it

3.) have refused to submit when the correct teaching of the Church when it has been pointed out to you repeatedly and you have been admonished and asked to stop publicly teaching error and have been admonished

4.) have been formally cast out of the Orthodox Church and anathematized (consigned to God).

Thus, St. Augustine, for example, doesn't qualify as a heretic because nobody doubts his willingness to be corrected, had his errors been recognized in time to do it. He was simply in error. Sometimes in grave error. But he was not a heretic; he is a saint.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

If God is bound to economic decisions made by Orthodox bishops, the loving thing to do would be to simply recognize all such baptisms, rather than the way it is done now - Bishop John gives thumbs up, Bishop Bob says: "no way." In fact, the way it is done now lacks consensus, and is really an individual act based on private opinion rather than the collective act of the Church as a body - which is one of the very manifestations of individualism you complain about Lutherans for doing.

It is done in an individualistic way by each bishop because no consensus has developed yet. No consensus has developed yet because the Holy Spirit has not yet revealed these things to the Church. Until He does, we just have to keep repeating, ever so monotonously, we don't know. When we don't know, each bishop has to make his own call.

One of the things muddying these waters is that some bishops have abused "oikonomia." It is supposed to be the exception, not the rule. The rule is always to administer Holy Baptism.

God is never bound. God is God.

Bishops can't make a sacrament out of what wasn't, just by fiat, either.

But, per Christ's promise, when the bishop does loose the norm, Christ also does. And then He, Christ, does whatever is necessary so that the convert received by Holy Chrismation is not lacking in any of the grace of Holy Baptism.

There's no such thing as His saying no, not because He is bound, but because He is faithful. And loving. Only if we doubt His faithfulness and/or love would it become thinkable to wonder whether He might sometime say no.

orrologion said...

If I'm a heretic, I think my Orthodox brethren ought to come out and say so.

Heretics would be defined as those that personally leave the truth faith, not those born outside of it as heirs to the errors of others that went before them.

I think Fr. Fenton is wrong and have always chalked those statements up to a recent convert, who was, I believe, at that point he wrote that not even a convert, much less Orthodox and not ordained. Of course, as in all things, I am willing to be corrected by my betters (theologians, monks, priests, bishops, etc.)

At the same time, as I noted earlier, that does not mean that any and all non-Orthodox sacraments are without value, they are simply not full sacraments of the Church (as understood by Orthodoxy). St. Basil himself accepted that sacraments performed outside of the Church could be 'accepted' and fulfilled by those persons reception into the Church. Anastasia put it well, as always, the priest is filling and sealing persons, not sacraments, when he chrismates a Protestant joining the Orthodox Church rather than baptize them (I was baptized when received into the Orthodox Church after having been 'baptized' WELS and, again, by my RC grandmother with Lourdes water to 'really' baptize me since my father had married a Protestant - another story..) My spiritual father agreed with my RC wife's image: baptism in the Orthodox church was like mom coming by a making sure her child got behind his ears when he took a bath all by himself - its was a completion so as to make sure that what was done was baptism indeed.

The 'I don't know' issue is not one of whether Lutherans are 'Church' or not. Lutherans church bodies are definitively not The Church, but as to whether they will be saved is another question that is as equally leveled at an Orthodox Christian - assurance and certainty in salvation are different than the Lutheran necessity to know that I am saved; the Orthodox merely focus their certainty on God the Holy Trinity's goodness, mercy, love, long-suffering and fervent desire that all be saved regardless of whether I myself, personally and self-absorbedly, are or will be saved. The fact of Judgement is also different in that it is an image; what to the believer is Light and an Effulgence of Brilliance to an unrepentant sinner is a consuming fire, gnashing of teeth, an undying worm, etc., but those experiences are all God Himself (well, Him in His energies). Judgement is more like discernment, a seeing of the truth in us (or the lack thereof). In this humility, we experience the goodness and mercy of God; we know Him to be loving, forgiving, etc. and have enormous HOPE (not certainty, and always tinged with fear this side of Paradise) that we will be saved.

One of the things that may also be driving you nuts is Orthodoxy's unwillingness to just 'level with you' and declare our position concerning you. This leveling of judgement is simply not the primary Orthodox way of ecumenical dialogue. It is one thing to be dealing with a defrocked and excommunicated former bishop how has been confronted by his brother bishops and continues to teach heresy (e.g., Nestorius), it is another thing to be speaking with heirs and children of various and sundry errors that have cropped up outside of the Orthodox Church (Protestants, Anabaptists, Mormons), or that appeared many centuries ago (e.g., Copts, Armenians). Love dictates a kinder hand, not a proclamation of another's error. My spiritual father once warned me over judging my non-Orthodox, nominally RC wife's past sins saying something to the effect of: "Your indictment and judgement of her will be leveled against her on the last day, but if you forgive then God can forgive, too." Obviously, there is some art in that comment, it isn't math, but the point is important and underlying in much Orthodox commentary on the sins of others. The clause in the Lord's prayer about forgiveness works in reverse, too, others sins are forgiven by us insofar as our sins are forgiven (totally, no payment required since that would be paying a debt off, not forgiving it) and as we forgive. It is dangerous to one's own soul to judge, and potentially damning for them, and thus to me, too.

Concerning the OC's view of the Non-Orthodox in more detail, I definitely recommend a read of Patrick Barnse's book on the OCIC.

orrologion said...

Economy is in fact not the term for loosening the rules, it is the term for 'home economics', "the building up of the home', etc. The rules and permits required may be loosened, practically, for the ancient reason the St. Basil the Great states in his Canon I; it may just as validly require the strict following of the rules should the building of the house require it. The sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath - but the sabbath must be honored and that may require akrivia (strictness) at some point.

Since there is and generally always has been a sense of confusion and uncomprehendingness when Orthodox look at the West, the default in the past has been to assume the best of the West and not require too much. As Orthodoxy gained greater experience of the West at different times and places, or under political pressure and/or violence from within or without the Orthodox world, the rules have been either loosened further or tightened up quite a lot. Until the 19th Century, the Greeks generally baptized all Western Christians and the Slavs chrismated; this has been reversing itself in the 20th Century till today. The Orthodox world is a big, big place comprising many cultures and governments, so the reasons for all this can be quite complex. Part of the issue is that it has become clear that no generalizations can be made, even within denominational families, regarding whether their baptisms would meet even a minimal, minimal requirement for apostolicity - unless one were to become an expert on each and every nook and cranny of each and every sect and denomination active in the world, and most Orthodox (even clergy) couldn't even tell you the difference between Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist much less between LCMS, WELS, CLC or between the various Anabaptist and Holiness groups, etc. Regardless, consensus has not be found on 'the' right way to accept converts from Christian denominations, so each bishop and local church takes their best stab at the balancing act that is pastoral care - assume the best, assume the worst, assume some mix in the middle so as to bring people into the Church and keep them in the Church to their salvation.

Heck, I've been trying to talk my priests into following the WELS practice I grew up with where you had to sign in for communion and be 'approved' as being properly prepared - so, I'm a rigorist. :)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, you wrote:

I got you right to the edge of calling me a heretic, but not quite to the point of pulling the trigger (though I guess calling my confession a hairesis is pretty much the same thing). ;-)

Rx: Anastasia and Rdr. Christopher have made the point quite nicely, I think, that you don't fit the definition of heretic.

FB:
I must have missed your remarks about Fr. Fenton's statement about receiving "Holy Eucharist" in Lutheran churches. I'm sorry about that, and I'll have to go back and have a look.

Rx: Way earlier, I said, "I will not presume to speak for Fr. John, but I am comfortable saying that the Holy Spirit was working while I was in the Lutheran Church. If he were not, I would not be Orthodox today. But that's not the same thing as recognizing Lutheran sacraments and orders as valid."

FB:
I still think the Orthodox are trying to say two opposing things at the same time. I don't think there is any doubt about a Muslim or a Mormon - they are not church, not Christians, and have no sacraments, and not even a declaration of economy by a bishop can turn a frog into a prince.

But, when it comes to us, there is still a contradiction. You will conditionally accept our baptisms, but we are not church. You will condemn my confession as a hairesis, but will not call me a heretic. You will call me a Christian, but can only hope that I am one in fact. You even call me "Fr. Beane" while maintaining that my orders are not real (and I don't say that in any way to minimize your courtesy and politeness to do so - I wish some of our Lutheran brethren would learn some manners).

Rx: I try to refer to people as they refer to themselves. As to the things that seem contradictory, that was my point in mentioning "Flatland" in a previous post.

FB:
When I hold a piece of consecrated bread (that according to you) is only bread, and adore it, and tell people it is Jesus, I am committing a terrible form of idolatry - and enjoining others to participate in this gross sin. And yet, you will call me "brother" and treat me as a fellow Christian. Shouldn't you be shunning me, calling me to repentance, warning me of the dangers of hell, and in no way giving the world the impression that we are brothers in Christ? By the same token, if that bread I distribute to my parishioners truly is Jesus, you are denying your Lord.

Rx: As I noted earlier, if the dissolution of Lutheranism in a generation is not a sufficient call to repentance, I don't think anything I could say would be more eloquent. Laypeople exercising what you've confessed are the peculiar tasks of the the office...what you confess to be the blood of Christ, tossed in the trash...the _iure divino_ binding and loosing being made contingent on the will of a Supreme VA...really, what else is needed? Your own confession lies in tatters; there is no body in existence which it now describes.

FB:
Regarding the John 20 passage as a sort of sedes doctrinae for the oikonomia of declaring a Lutheran baptism a retroactive Orthodox baptism, I can see that. But in such a case, the bishop is not "praying" that God will recognize it, he is using his episcopal office and authority to "make it so" according to the Lord's promise. If that is a proper use of the keys, why not, for the sake of love, does he simply not declare all Lutheran baptisms to be retroactively Orthodox baptisms?

This is really just a restatement of Luther's question that if the pope has the power under John 20 to release some people from Purgatory for a fee, why not release all of them gratis out of love?

Rx: Because the nature of oikonomia is that it's never normative. Both Anastasia and Rdr. Christopher have, I think, covered this well. (That's why I've cut your next remarks.)


FB:
And again, I'm not saying your complaints are not well-founded (I gripe about the same things you used to as a Lutheran pastor), I just think your assessment that when certain bad practices in certain LCMS churches happen that they invalidate all the ecclesiastical acts of all the churches.

Rx: Again, you have to grasp the existential terror of this fact: you are in pulpit and altar fellowship with this. Therefore it happens at your own altar too. For me, it became clearer as my children grew older, and began leaving home, and asking, "Where do I go to church?" There is, I know, a "directory of liturgical Lutheran parishes," drafted because one can no longer go to a Lutheran Church and know what one is getting. Go to any Orthodox parish, anywhere in the world (my son has), and you know exactly what you're getting. Period. That same son went to an LCMS mission in Moscow. A baptist preached. The minister said, "I know that our communion statement talks about close communion. But you're all good people, so you're all welcome." The next Sunday, he started attending the Orthodox church there.

FB:
If Fenton errs in calling the bread and wine he received in Lutheran congregations "Holy Eucharist," it certainly doesn't unchurch all the Orthodox churches in the world that are linked in fellowship with him.

Rx: I have tried to offer an explanation of Fr. John's statement. But even if he meant it as you read it, it is the private theological opinion of a priest. It makes absolutely no difference to the worship he and his people offer each Sunday morning. If you can't see the difference between a private opinion and public practice at hundreds of altars, again, I don't know how to help here.

FB: Jefferson Hills church doesn't invalidate the Word of God preached at Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna. And though we are technically in fellowship, I can guarantee you that none of their members will come to the rail and seek communion from me. In a sense, our fellowship is already "broken" in the LCMS.

Rx: There is no "technically" to fellowship, any more than there is "technically" to intimacies. Watch out for "it all depends on what 'is' is." By the meaning of pulpit and altar fellowship, you are duty-bound to receive their communicants at your altar, unless you can show some grave personal sin which temporarily prevents a prospective communicant from receiving at *any* LCMS altar.

FB:
Anyway, I hope we're not arguing in circles here - though I suspect we are. This seems to be the fate of almost all Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue at some point.

Rx:
It may seem that way, but it's due to our refusal to be squeezed into the categories which, in some measure, have contributed to the decay of non-Orthodox bodies.

FB:
And again, please don't misinterpret my rigor in debate as disrespect, rudeness, or anything of the sort. It is genuinely not intended as such. I have profound respect for you as a priest, Christian, and gentleman. I hope that fact doesn't get lost in the discussion.

Rx: It never has, my friend. I hold you in the highest regard, because I know that you have suffered for the truth as you have come to know it. I will pray for you, your wife, and your son. Pray also for me,

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Fr. Larry,

You seem to be stuck in a loop. I am observing a couple of hangups you seem to be having wrt the Orthodox arguments here. This is how I am hearing some of what they're saying:

1. For them, the Church is simply a visible communion fellowship - the one we Lutherans call the Eastern Orthodox Church. The only way for one to "be Church" (according to them) is to be in the visible communion fellowship. They view this visible fellowship as Christ's true and actual Body on earth. This is different from our Lutheran belief, which finds the Church to be those believers who have communion with Christ via the Holy Spirit in their hearts (of course, mediated by Word and Sacrament). Thus, everyone in the Church (as the Orthodox see it) are not of the Church (as Lutherans see it), and Lutheranism is not Church (as the Orthodox see it) because it isn't the visible communion fellowship that Lutherans call the Eastern Orthodox Church.

2. If the Orthodox (most notably their bishops) recognized Lutheran baptisms as churchly, then there would be no need to ask God to complete them. At best they may look at our baptisms as a ritual and outward form of true baptism, but because our baptism is not the Church's baptism (as they confess what the Church is), then it is not yet a baptism. Perhaps an analogy from creation may help: God makes man from the dust of the ground, but he is not a living being until God breathes His own breath of life into him. Likewise, a Lutheran baptism may be considered fashioned from the dust of the ground to the Orthodox, but lacks God's breath of life - which they believe is found only in the Body of Christ, the Church, aka their ongoing visible communion fellowship. Thus, if the form is correct, it lacks but the Holy Spirit, which is why they chrismate. But if the form is that of an animal or some weird homunculus (Mormon, etc), then it is not compatible with the breath of life and Orthodox baptism is required (viewed by outsiders as re-baptism).

Am I hearing the Orthodox in this discussion correctly? If so, then there is an unreconcileable ecclessiology at work here between the Orthodox and the Lutherans. We will try to find any and everyway to be recognized as Church before the Orthodox, because for us to be such is the same as being recipients of salvation now. On the Orthodox end, they cannot say we are of the Church, because if we were we'd be in their communion fellowship - that's what they believe the Church is, and they believe this fellowship to be Christ's actual Body on earth. They are willing to leave the question open, though, as to our ultimate final salvation - about whether we may end up being co-heirs with Christ, despite our being Lutherans.

I'm not sure you're going to get any better than that in this sort of discussion. To ask the Orthodox to recognize something church-like or church-ly about Lutheran baptism is just off the mark (and I mean that respectfully, my friend). A Lutheran baptism can't be churchly as such to the Orthodox. Instead, it seems, the one who received the Lutheran baptism is expected to have that unfinished product completed in them in the Orthodox Church - or maybe even replaced with a full baptism and chrismation (depending). Only then is it considered a baptism. We Lutherans don't work this way, though, so it doesn't jive with our sensibilities.

Am I even close here?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Harju, you've done a nice piece of reflection here. A couple of points might need to be made:

1. We would not say that the Church is 'simply' a visible communion fellowship. She is the bride and body of Christ and, as is any body, she is visible.

(Note: to complicate matters just a bit, Khomiakov will sometimes speak of an 'invisible' Church too. The 'invisible' Church is the company of those Orthodox Christians who have departed this life in the hope of the resurrection. In our prayers, we always make two sorts of petition:

(This one's for the 'visible' Church, understood in the Orthodox usage of 'visible'--)
Deacon: Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation and visitation and pardon and remission of sins for (the servants of God, [Names], and) all Orthodox Christians of true worship, who live and dwell in this community.

Choir: Lord, have mercy. (THRICE)

(And this one's for the 'invisible' Church, understood in the Orthodox way of using 'invisible'--)

Deacon: Again we pray for the blessed and ever-memorable founders of our holy churches and (for the departed servants of God, [Names], and) all our fathers and brethren, the Orthodox departed this life before us, who here and in all the world lie asleep in the Lord.

Choir: Lord, have mercy. (THRICE)


2. Your point 2 is, on cursory examination, well put, I think. I encourage Rdr. Christopher and Anastasia to put their $.02 in here too.

I have to run--gotta teach Bible study!

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

I did not realize that the Orthodox definition of heresy involved previously belonging to an Orthodox church.

So, a person could have been an Arian or a Montanist, even a Modalist or Nestorian, and still not be considered a heretic - as long as he grew up in that faith and had never belonged to an Orthodox church.

Of course, if Orthodoxy is to take root in English-speaking lands, it's going to have to submit to the English language - otherwise it will be impossible for you to communicate with the people you are proselytizing. Your definition of heretic is not the same as everyone else's - so it's going to be easy for people to misunderstand you.

The way you present the Orthodox Church, it seems to make little difference whether I stay where I am or convert. As a Lutheran, my salvation is uncertain. As an Orthodox Christian, my salvation would be equally uncertain. But as a Lutheran, it is impossible for me to be guilty of heresy and to suffer anathema. But if I join the Orthodox Church, and later come back to being a Lutheran, (as a friend of mine did), then I would be anathema *and* a heretic.

But operating under the Orthodox definition of *heresy*, let me post the question to you: "Is *Lutheranism* a heresy?"

The way we Western Christians define the words, we draw a distinction between *error* and *heresy,* between a *heterodox* Christian (who is *in* the Church) and a *heretic* (who is *outside* the Church).

I would like to know exactly where Lutheranism stands to the Orthodox. You won't call *me* a heretic based on your particular definition, but I would like to know what the Orthodox understanding of Lutheranism is: heresy? heterodoxy? Christian? Unchristian?

I think it's been established that we are *definitely* not Church, our clerical orders are *definitely* invalid, and our sacraments are *definitely* nothing more than earthly elements that may be retroactively recognized in some incomplete form by a bishop.

I understand your hesitance to judge any individual, but I would imagine it is safe to say a devout Hindu condemns himself by his rejection of the Trinity. An atheist is in danger of hell by rejecting the Holy Trinity. But again, the Orthodox, at least publicly, treat Lutherans as somehow in a different category than those who don't profess Christ. Am I condemning myself by rejecting the Orthodox Church in the same way a Jehovah's Witness rejects the Trinity? Or, is there hope for salvation among confessions that reject the Trinity and the Incarnation?

But at the end of the day, there are only two options: you are either redeemed or not. You will either be part of the New Creation and partake in the Lord's divinity for eternity, or you will suffer separation from Him. And if that redemption or condemnation has nothing to do with one's confession, if that redemption has nothing to do with being Orthodox, why bother proselytizing at all?

Father Hollywood said...

To my Orthodox friends:

Let me pose my question another way. Whenever Orthodox and Lutherans get into such discussions, we seem to, for the sake of argument, typically accept the Orthodox definitions of words.

For the sake of this question, I'd like to ask my Orthodox friends to accept (again, only for the sake of argument, and after all, this is my blog) the Lutheran definition of "Church" - that is, the ekklesia, the assembly, of all people from every time and place who are redeemed in Christ Jesus and share in His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

Based on *that* definition, do the Orthodox believe the Church extends beyond the boundaries of Eastern/Western Orthodoxy?

I do think much (though certainly not all) of the gulf between East and West, between Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, is semantic.

Here is my prediction of your answer: I think you'll say you don't know. But I do think, if pressed, you would concede that the possibility exists that the Church (as defined as the assembly of the redeemed) can be found outside of Orthodoxy.

So, what do y'all say?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I have to say sorry, but no can do. Can't use your definition. Things have to be put rightly. There is no correct answer to a wrong question.

Okay, so the followers of a heretic are also heretics. (NOW we are playing word games, except that I won't do that.) You still don't qualify as heretics, unless you can cite one you're following.

As for the salvation of anyone not visibly in the Church, which for me means the Orthodox Church,
I
still
don't
know.

But this I do know: that to be saved includes being saved from error. Nobody can be saved apart from Truth. All Truth will be revealed on the Last Day. It remains to be seen who will then embrace it.

orrologion said...

Again, many of your questions are dealt with in detail in Patrick Barnes' book.

As an Orthodox Christian, my salvation would be equally uncertain.

'Equally' is the key difference. Everyone's personal salvation is uncertain due to their own sinful persons. Orthodox Christians can most assuredly be saved with all of the help and tools (grace) available in the Church through the sacraments, indwelling of the Holy Spirit (grace, a distinct difference from the Lutheran definition of the term), etc. We may only hope that all others will be.

Your definition of heretic is not the same as everyone else's.

One born into a heretical body is definitely holding heretical teachings, but as to whether they could be charged with heresy, well that is something only possible for one already in the Church. Nicea and the other ECs didn't charge pagans with heresy or anathematize them, they were outside of the Church. They would anathematize those members of the Church that founded and taught heresy after being warned, and anathematized those people's teachings. Those in the Church that still held to those teachings would also take the anathema onto themselves.

We're really just talking about whether or not to be loving and understanding rather than attempting to increase the amount of sin on a person's head to drive them to a despair that only forensic justification can save their consciences from.

Besides, the civilized world had to 'relearn' and 'redefine' all sorts of terms once it was converted. Ousia, hypostasis, prosopon, etc. all had very specific, non-Christian meanings prior to Nicea, et al.

I would like to know what the Orthodox understanding of Lutheranism is: heresy? heterodoxy? Christian? Unchristian?

Lutheranism is not the Church and it is not Orthodox in teaching. Lutheranism is a schism from a schism that has also cut itself off from even the outward form of apostolic succession (the bread and wine or water of the Sacrament of Orders). It is other than right worship an right teaching. It is Christian in that it seeks to follow Christ to the best of its ability after having recevied a marred form of schismatic Christianity from post-Schism Rome, but it is in error on many points. I see Christians as like the Samaritans (?) in Acts that were Christians but had never heard of the Holy Spirit or received him, until the Apostles came and laid hands on them (chrismation/confirmation). Another example would the the Celtic Christians that had never heard of Nicea and thus continued to celebrate Easter according to their own calculation - until thoroughly convinced of the Church's practice contrary to their own.

But at the end of the day, there are only two options: you are either redeemed or not.

I am not as eager to judge others as this comment is. Since we know and experience God as loving, forgiving, long-suffering, merciful, compassionate, etc. we have hope that all will be saved and that all will be judged according to what they have been given. Anyone's rejection of the Orthodox Church after experiencing it and understanding it is not their fault, nor God's lack of grace, but my own - my lack of holiness drawing that person. Love is not something proven or argued, it is understood and recognized, basked in - and I have failed you, my wife, most of my friends and family, the world in being less than christophoros. A story from the life of Elder Paisios may help:

“We must pray for other people with contrition and pain in our soul. We can only achieve this, if, due to our humbleness, we consider ourselves the cause of all the problems in the world.

- But, Father, how can you accept that you are the cause for the divorce of a married couple in Athens?

- Well, I say to myself: If I were a saint, like the old fathers, I would ask God to make them love each other again, and He would help them, as He has promised to listen to saints. Since I am not a saint, God does not listen to me. Therefore, it is my fault that this family is breaking up, as well as for the evil existing in the world. This way, I never judge anyone, but I only blame myself for everything; then God will help.”

orrologion said...

I do think, if pressed, you would concede that the possibility exists that the Church (as defined as the assembly of the redeemed) can be found outside of Orthodoxy.

Again, read Patrick Barnes' book.

I would also note the ancient understanding in the Church that those before Christ were saved according to what they knew. For instance, Socrates and Plato (I believe Justin Martyr discussed them in particular). But, this was also before Christ where all the dead went to the same place, Sheol. John the Baptist was the Forerunner there, too, announcing the coming Messiah Who came and destroyed the gate of Hades leading all the dead of ages past into heaven with him on Pascha. We also pray for all the dead on Pentecost - Orthodox and non-Orthodox. I believe the life of St. Warus also details the exceptional possibility of salvation for those dying outside of the faith.

But, again, these exceptions merely prove the rule - they are miracles. We should not tempt the Lord to make bread from stones.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

So, according to the Orthodox, there are Christians outside the (Orthodox) Church.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

That's really too bad, that you won't even *for the sake of argument* use a term the way the person you are conversing with uses it.

That means there is, in fact, no conversation, but only a soliloquy, no dialogue, but only lecture.

I'm reminded of the "Symposia" that was put on in Detriot a while back which was promoted as a dialogue between Lutherans and Orthodox. Problem was, every speaker (without exception) was Orthodox! Now, I don't mind a series of Orthodox lectures aimed at Lutherans, but don't call something a SYMposia when it's more like a MONOposia.

Unfortunately, this is typically the way these kinds of dialogues come unraveled.

Non-Orthodox are expected to bend over backward to accommodate your unique ways of using words, but when we ask for one bit of reciprocation *for the sake of argument* - you simply refuse.

I could say more, but I won't. I'm going to stop now. But thanks for doing your best to articulate what you believe.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

When speaking of Lutheranism, we ought to use Lutheran terms. When speaking of Orthodoxy, we ought to use Orthodox terms. I cannot speak of either using the other's terms because then anything I say, any answer I give, will necessarily be distorted and misleading.

So, according to the Orthodox, there are Christians outside the (Orthodox) Church.

Who said that?

I don't know whether you are Christians. (For all I know, you may be, and I hope you are.)

I don't know whether you will be saved. (I hope and pray we all will be.)

I don't know whether there is anything sacramental to your rites.

I don't know a single thing your ministerial orders or their validity.

I agree that stopping now is very wise. How much can one say about something he just does not know?

And (just a rhetorical question) why is it so hard to accept that we just don't know? Aren't there things you don't know?

orrologion said...

There are men formed of dust outside of the Orthodox Church, formed by the hand of God awaiting the breath of the Holy Spirit to bring them to life - using Pr. Harju's very apt metaphor. They are formed in the image of Christians awaiting a greater likeness - to use this common distinction in the Greek Fathers. So, there are 'Christians' at most in this sense; otherwise, the term is used in polite company in the same way I refer to you as Pastor or to a RC as Father, an Imam as whatever Imam's are referred to as, or to 'churches' outside of The Church as 'churches'. They are sociological terms as much as anything else.

Again, if you won't read the Barnes book, or skim it, I am afraid that I must conclude you simply don't want an answer, don't want to understand and assume that what to you are 'hard' questions are the same as proof. That's fine. I thought my soccer team was the best in the world until we played a team from elsewhere.

I think where Orthodox-Lutheran conversations break down is in a lack of understanding a simple thing: I am not trying to convert you, I am merely attempting to explain what I believe and why. I am not trying to win an argument. This was the purpose behing the LLE list: simply explain what we believe to those that are interested, whatever that interest might be indicative of along a spectrum from converting to intellectual or historical curiosity. God draws who He will as they are ready, arguments for or against do not convert, faith and religion don't make sense - they simply are. I am describing to you what I know and see and experience, not the line of argumentation that led me to the intellectual conclusion that Orthodoxy is true. I am a travel writer describing the Aegean and Judea, I am not explaining how those lands came to be as they are or how other lands are that much more beautiful, interesting, etc.

The Colloquium in Detroit was along these lines - explain what Orthodoxy is theological language that can be understood by those within a Lutheran theological paradigm, and then be available for questions (that's the colloquoy part). We didn't do an altar call and didn't receive any catechumens; I don't expect that anyone will convert based on that event or the materials produced through it (definitely not my long-winded, dry presentation). We merely answered the call found in I Peter to be ready to give an answer, we made ourselves available to the tiny few that wanted to ask a question and learn more about the Orthodox faith. In fact, I hope that it shed true light on Orthodoxy for those merely trying it on for intellectual size; I hope they went back home and became better Lutherans after being saved from the temptation of Orthodoxy seeing it for the diabolical mirage or pottage they believe it to be.

I'm just explaining what we believe and why. We disagree on enough point without making any up due to ignorance and hyperbole.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

You ask: "'So, according to the Orthodox, there are Christians outside the (Orthodox) Church.' Who said that?" followed by expressing the fact that you don't know if we're Christians.

Well, Christopher Orr said that:

"It [Lutheanism] is Christian in that it seeks to follow Christ to the best of its ability after having recevied a marred form of schismatic Christianity from post-Schism Rome, but it is in error on many points. I see Christians as like the Samaritans (?) in Acts that were Christians but had never heard of the Holy Spirit or received him, until the Apostles came and laid hands on them (chrismation/confirmation)...."

He also referred to "Celtic Christians" who were not part of the Orthodox fold.

Eastern Orthodox authors often refer to Roman Catholics and Protestants as "Christians." Touchstone Magazine is a journal of "Mere Christianity" - a blatant reference to another fellow who was not part of the True Church, C.S. Lewis. And, if I ask you if C.S. Lewis was a Christian, I suppose you would say: "I don't know."

This is part of my confusion. You folks use the word "Christian" to describe us, then say: "Christian? Who said anything about Christian?"

Goodness! Please get your story straight. If you do not know if we're Christians or not, why do you call us Christians in one breath - and then deny calling us Christians in the next one?

I love and respect Eastern Orthodoxy. I do believe it is one of the "lungs" of the body of Christ. But I have to say when any tissue of the body begins to think it *is* the body, that tissue becomes malignant. And I think the "malus" in that malignancy is not Eastern Orthodoxy per se, but the sin that we all bear.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

I'm not asking difficult questions. Are we Church? Are we Christians? Do the Orthodox believe in salvation outside of the Orthodox Church?

If I want to read the book, I'll read it. But this is typical of any conversation with the Orthodox. I ask a question, you give me a homework assignment.

Why not just answer the question?

It's almost like the time I asked a Canadian politician a simple yes or no question. I posed the question three times, and he evaded each time. I finally said, "You're not going to answer my question, are you?" He smiled and shook his head.

If you think engaging people not of your tradition is worthwhile (which it must be for you all to spend so much valuable time reading Lutheran blogs and commenting on them), you're going to have to find a way to answer their questions without throwing Greek words at them, telling them to go read a book, and refusing to answer their questions. And once again, if you intend to lecture us, don't call it a "conversation" or a "colloquy." That's simply dishonest. And I know you number the commandments differently than we do, but the prohibition of bearing false witness (#9) is one of them for you as well.

As far as "not wanting to convert" me, I don't believe you. For if you truly believe that I am following a false religion, that you cannot even be sure that I'm a Christian, that at best I'm barely staying out of hell by clinging to a schism of a schism, it would be utterly *unloving and unchristian* for you *not* to seek my conversion. That's why Cyril and Methodius were sent among the slavs. That's why Russian priests came to Alaska. That's why Paul went out among the Gentiles.

And I do find it a little hard to believe that you would invest so much time and effort on blogs of Lutherans if you aren't seeking their conversion. Otherwise, is this just a hobby for you, teaching Lutherans about Orthodoxy? Please!

Mike Baker said...

Fr Hollywood,

You asked, "Am I a heretic?" and did not really get a straight answer. Here is a much more clear pronouncement from the book that they told us to read:

Despite what various Orthodox ecumenists might say, there is no doubt that the heretical status of Western Christianity in all its forms has been attested by the Orthodox Church in sundry ways—officially, and through the mouths of Her Saints who bear witness to the ecclesial consciousness. Rome departed from the Church long ago; and the Protestant bodies emerged—as the other side of the same coin—from this once-great bastion of Holy Orthodoxy in the West.

Let all Orthodox who yearn for Christian unity rightly mourn these tragic divisions; but let us face these problems with honesty and integrity, not failing to preserve inviolate the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. This is the responsibility of all the faithful, “because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves…” In part this means we must be honest with the heterodox about their ecclesial status and not pretend that the Orthodox Church has never declared Her position on such matters. To do otherwise is to mislead them and ultimately to confirm them in their errors."
[The Non-Orthodox, pg 25]

and...

Despite what we have said concerning Western Christianity, there will still be those who object to the ramifications, arguing that the overwhelming majority of Western heterodox are not conscious, willful heretics—being, for the most part, innocently ignorant of Orthodoxy or mere “victims” of heresy and historical circumstance—, thus rendering inapplicable the Sacred Canons concerning heretics. Roman Catholic writers employ the terms “formal heresy”—i.e., consciously and obstinately held—and “material heresy”—i.e., unknowingly held—to reflect a pastoral sensitivity to the concept of “degrees of responsibility.” Though Orthodox writers do not often use these exact terms, the distinction is legitimate and can be drawn from Holy Tradition. [The Non-Orthodox, pg 26]

and...

In short, it is certainly appropriate to concede that many, if not most, Western Christians are not conscious, willful heretics. [The Non-Orthodox, pg 26]

So, no, we are not heretics. We are just ignorant victims of past heretics because we haven't been exposed to how good Orthodoxy is... yet.

There is no such thing as an inverse relationship between culpability or sincerity and the validity of heterodox sacraments. The distinction between formal and material heretic is helpful, but ultimately it is of consequence only for the sons and daughters of the Church who fall into error.

For those who have never been Orthodox and hold to heterodox beliefs—whether “formally” or “materially”—the ramifications are the same: they are separated from the Church. The extent of a person’s participation in the heresies of the confessional bodies in which he or she is a member is a “downstream” issue that is ultimately irrelevant as far as ecclesial status is concerned. Correspondingly, the varying “degrees of Orthodoxy” of a particular heterodox group are—on an ontological level—of no consequence.

Where the issue of “victimization” and guilt may be applicable is in the question of eternal status. As we have already shown, and will have an opportunity to demonstrate further, the question of a heterodox believer’s eternal destiny should be left open. In other words, the ecclesial and eternal implications of Orthodox ecclesiology—the two aspects of the “status” to which Bishop Kallistos refers in the “burning question”—should be kept separate.
[The Non-Orthodox, pg 28]

Mike Baker said...

Father Hollywood,

No, appearantly they are pretty sure that C.S. Lewis was "non-Orthodox Christian".

What has been said thus far—especially the distinction between Grace upon and within—helps to provide a theological explanation for the existence of non-Orthodox Christians who undeniably exhibit the workings of Divine Grace in their lives. There are innumerable examples of believers who clearly appear to have had a deep relationship with Christ, as attested by their words and deeds. There are innumerable examples of believers who clearly appear to have had a deep relationship with Christ, as attested by their words and deeds. Some famous ones readily come to mind: C. S. Lewis—a Christian apologist whose thinking was close to Orthodoxy in many ways—is a “hero” to innumerable Christians of every variety. His writings have been instrumental in leading many to faith in Christ....Of course, Orthodox Christians would readily disagree with many things these people wrote and did. Nevertheless—recognizing in them true feeling, piety, and love for God—, we can rightly thank God for their lives and work, not presuming to know how He will judge them. In such people it is obvious that God has found hearts that are open to Him. [The Non-Orthodox, pg 13-14]

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Okay, one more time (after all)...

Some Orthodox will say you are Christians, some will say you aren't. Those are their own, personal opinions, so they don't mean much. The reason we are free to come up with our own opinions is simply that the Church hasn't yet formed one. It has not been revealed to us. We can philosophize all we want, but in doing so, apart from revelation, we are guessing. We really, honestly don't know.

"We don't know" is a straight, honest answer.

"We don't know" is the only truthful answer.

"We don't know" may not be an answer such as you were looking for, and that may be frustrating, but that's the only answer there is.

Surely Lutherans don't know everything, either -- do you? So perhaps you'll take a charitable view and forgive us for not knowing.

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Fr. Larry,

I want to squeeze this in before the number of comments gets so long that I can't load it anymore on my slow connection :-)

Reading all of this stuff, I'm confused at what you are trying to accomplish. Why is it so hard to believe that the best answer Christopher Orr can give you is contained in a book, or that he has answered as truthfully and clearly as he believes he can without contradicting Orthodoxy? Do you want a truthful answer from them, or just one that satisfies some strange need for Lutheranism to be recognized as legitimate in their eyes - even if it's only by a hair? Basically, Larry, you are asking them to compromise what they believe in order to give you an answer that you can live with. When I speak with potential converts to Lutheranism, I can only adjust my language so far. At some point I have to start saying, "Well, this is the way we say things so that we may remain faithful." I have to do that all the time when teaching the doctrine of the Trinity.

It sounds to me like they're saying in varying degrees, "Gee, by all rights you Lutherans aren't Church, aren't Christian, aren't anything, because you're not Orthodox. But then you've got some mixture of Truth among you with all your error. We don't know what to do with that. Rather than make a clear-cut legal pronouncement, we'll rely on God's loving and merciful character, and He can sort it out. With any hope it will work out well for you." Thus at times they may give us the benefit of the doubt, and at times not. On our part this sort of issue is less of a problem, because our doctrine of the Church is more encompassing then theirs. In fact, I think the Confession's teaching on the Church depends somewhat on the existence of the Eastern communion.

Do you want to know why they say what they say, or do you just want them to say something different? Again, I'm wondering where all this is going. It's a little confusing for me, though it does remind me of the lapsarian controversy just a tad.

Father Hollywood said...

Hi Ben:

I'm not really "after" anything. My original post had nothing to do with Orthodoxy - but rather about Lutheran ordination vows - which I would think your average Orthodox Christian would probably consider rather uninteresting stuff.

But, the conversation became one about Orthodoxy, and what they think about Lutheranism. And there seem to be a lot of Orthodox folks out there who are more interested in Lutheranism than a lot of Lutherans!

But I find their answers to be unclear, and I'm seeking clarification. That's really the extent of it. I have no desire to convert to orthodoxy, nor do I seek their conversion. You seem to think I have some kind of ulterior motive here, and all I can do is assure you that I don't.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

I never claimed to know everything. That's the second time you've "asked" that question. What a strange inference.

"I don't know" is certainly an honest answer - if you truly don't know.

And if you truly don't know, I do object to your calling us "Christians" - when in fact, you "don't know" if we are.

If you don't know if C.S. Lewis was one, than please don't refer to him as a Christian, "mere" or otherwise. That's just kind of dishonest, don't you think? If you didn't know what his nationality was, wouldn't it be silly to call him a Russian?

And I really would rather you tell me outright that I, in my ignorance, am giving out only bread to my parishioners when I tell them they are receiving "the body of Christ." If you don't recognize our sacraments, then you do, in fact, "know" what I put in their mouths. It's called "bread." You would not look upon it and say "My Lord and My God," would you?

Why not just say it and be done with it?

But to say that, at least in front of us, would be a bit of a turn-off to potential converts, wouldn't it?

I think you should be honest about what you believe. Don't treat us as brothers and sisters if you don't believe that we are. If we are what you say we are, you are bound by Romans 16:17-18 to "mark and avoid" us. But that's the last thing that the Orthodox do with Lutherans. There is a group of them that just can't seem to get enough of Lutheranism.

What am I supposed to think about that?

orrologion said...

"Conclusive Proof Discovered That C.S. Lewis Was Anglican"

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2007/10/conclusive-proof-discovered-that-cs.html

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Fr. Hollywood wrote:
"I have no desire to convert to orthodoxy, nor do I seek their conversion. You seem to think I have some kind of ulterior motive here, and all I can do is assure you that I don't.

Actually, that wasn't what I was trying to get at. I was just confused why it is so important for the Orthodox to approve of Lutheranism as something Christian, or that they don't. Why isn't their answer good enough, if it fairly represents what the Orthodox believe? I am also confused as to why it seems so important to you. I don't think you have any ulterior motive. Of course, you don't have to answer to me. Perhaps you are just in the pursuit of knowledge.

Fr. Hollywood wrote:
And there seem to be a lot of Orthodox folks out there who are more interested in Lutheranism than a lot of Lutherans!

That is a good point. On the other hand, since this post is about those leaving behind their ordination vows to join another group, then it was inevitable that former Lutherans turned Orthodox (and then also Orthodox friends of Lutherans) would show up and give their point of view. Either way, it's been an entertaining thread.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

What am I supposed to think about that?

What I think you are supposed to do is put the best construction on it and believe me when I say I don't know. It is not a ploy, not a gimmick. Not only has the Church not made any decisions on these things, but so far, I haven't even been able to form a personal opinion, either. I remain open-minded. Or empty-headed, perhaps.

What I think I am supposed to do is treat everyone as a brother or sister and speak the truth in love. Surely that is not hypocritical.

In sober fact, I have no idea what the Holy Spirit does or does not do with your bread and wine. I've never even partaken of them. If I presumptuously opine (which I cannot) that they are not sacraments and it turns out they are, then I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Conversely, if I presume to say (which I cannot) that you have true sacraments but it turns out you don't, then I have encouraged you in error. So please kindly do not press me to do either one. I simply can't. Am not qualified.

Concerning how I came to hang out around Lutheran blogs, I can certainly tell you if a rather boring account like that should happen to be of any interest to you.

But I'm glad I did, as I have come greatly to respect, admire, and love a number of you Lutheran pastors.

.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane, a number of comments ago you said:

"I do think much (though certainly not all) of the gulf between East and West, between Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, is semantic."

Rx: That was exactly my working hypothesis from the time I attended Good Friday vespers in '88 or so, until about a year or two before I became Orthodox.

The missing piece, the reductio ad absurdum of that hypothesis (which Fr. John Fenton impressed upon me, and for which I shall ever be grateful to him) was the existential reality that the communion fellowship which I belonged to had completely collapsed on itself, *measured even by the standard of its own confessional writings*, whereas the communion fellowship called "The Orthodox Church" had not. Period. It is that existential awareness, however small, that moves one to run from a broken confession to the pillar and ground of the Truth.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul McCain said...

Yahoo!!! We may have a new record for most comments on a single blog post in the Lutheran blogosphere.

Does Petersen know about this? He is going to be upset.

: )

Do carry on.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Wow. maybe I'll get another Aardvark.

But since half of the posts are from myself (and the other half aren't even from Lutherans), and half of those written by me are simply asking the same questions - somehow I think an asterisk is called for in the record book.

It's really more like 15 posts. But I can honestly say that I'm not taking steroids or doping in any way, unless espresso is now considered a "controlled substance"... :-)

Paul McCain said...

Something Fritz E. said really bothered me. He suggested that I might be included in ecumenical conversations between Beane, the Pope and the Orthodox Patriarch Head Honcho.

But my involvement was conditioned by Rev. Fritz on me being drunk.

I must protest.

I never drink beer and scotch...at the same time.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You wrote: I never drink beer and scotch...at the same time.

I think they do such things in those midwestern states that begin with the letter "I".

But people make fun of us for having frozen daiquiri shops with drive-thru windows!

Kyrie eleison!

Paul McCain said...

Converts to EO seem rather blind to the reality that is their own communion's problems. Trouble in paradise?

Fr. Thomas Hopko's March 19th letter addressed to the Metroplitan and the Metropolitan Council.

Your Beatitude, Reverend Fathers,

Brothers and Sisters,

Glory to Jesus Christ! I ask Your Beatitude's blessing.

Given the present condition in our Orthodox Church in America, the hour has clearly come for Your Beatitude and the Metropolitan Council to insist upon a carefully organized and in-depth analysis and discussion of what happened to our beloved church that has resulted in:

• the financial scandal we are suffering

• the financial crisis we are now facing

• the divisions in the Holy Synod and the church we are now witnessing

• the lack of communion and communication we are now enduring

• the anger, frustration, depression and outright cynicism among the clergy and informed lay people we are now experiencing

• the disagreements that exist among us about the nature of episcopacy, authority and decision-making in the church (including our disagreement about the relationship between bishops, priests and lay people, the function of Orthodoxy in a pluralistic democratic society and the significance for our church of the 1917-1918 All Russian Church Council)

• our church's failure to integrate our archdioceses and dioceses into one cohesive, fully cooperating, ecclesial body

• our church's failure to be a powerful and effective force for the administrative and structural unity of Orthodoxy in North America

• a synod of Bishops that refuses to respond to questions and requests of the faithful, including a formal appeal of 70 highly respected senior priests

• a synod of Bishops that appears to have no need for the counsel of others in the church, including the church's priests, monastics, scholars and thinkers

• the reluctance and often outright refusal of some bishops to speak face to face with their priests and people about church doctrine, liturgical practices and parochial, pastoral and personal problems

• the failure of our bishops to meet together, and the priests to meet with each other, for the purpose of giving an account of their ministry, receiving and answering questions, and fostering unity of teaching and practice

• the impossibility to get a serious discussion on practically any church issue among the church's bishops and priests, and between the clergy and lay people

• the ordination of men to the clergy and the appointment of people to church positions lacking the ability needed to conduct their ministries fruitfully

• the absence of a system of formal performance assessment, continuing education and 'on the job training' of our clergy and church workers

• our church's failure to care for its trouble clergy and their families

• the virtual reduction of church life among many clergy to liturgical services and ritual practices, with uncritical imitations of old world practices and subjective alterations of our received rites and texts

• the virtual reduction of supra-parochial church life to liturgical services, ecclesiastical celebrations and social events

• our church's failure to attract American born Orthodox young people to our seminaries and monasteries (for if we did not have the converts, those born abroad, and the clergy children that we do in our seminaries and monasteries, we would have almost no seminarians and monastics at all!)

• the failure of our seminaries and monasteries to interact and cooperate with each other as a matter of normal policy

• our church's failure to support and foster a vibrant monastic and missionary movement

• the disagreement among us about how our church and its parishes, institutions and faithful members should relate to non-Orthodox people, especially to Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians of various kinds

• the confusion among us about how we are to deal as a church and as individual believers with contemporary social, political, military, economic, sexual and bioethical issues

• the misrepresentation in and outside the church of its statistical figures (such as that our church has 400,00 members when less than 30,000 identify themselves as members)

• dioceses that have fewer members than their cathedral churches alone had 50 years ago

• the point where a church of 200 people is considered to be large

• the loss of the influence and respect that our church and many of its leaders once hand among Orthodox and non-Orthodox in North American and abroad.


These are just some of the most obvious issues and conditions in our church that require detailed, study, analysis and debate. Why are things the way they now are? Why do our bishops, clergy, and lay people think and act as they do? What has happened? How did it happened? Why has it happened? And what should

we do about it?

An in-depth study and debate on such questions as these will hardly be pleasant or easy. But it must be done. And it must be long, serious, free, candid, patient and charitable. The life of our church, and indeed, our eternal lives with God, depend on it.


Your Beatitude and respected members of the Metropolitan Council: Please do whatever it takes to see that such a study and debate take place. Do it for the clergy and lay people who elected you. Do it for our whole church, especially our children and grand- children. Do it for the people desiring to join the Orthodox Church. And do it for all Orthodox Christians and, indeed, for all Christians and all people who are suffering in their own ways as we are now suffering in our dear Orthodox Church in America.

I ask for your forgiveness and prayers.

May the Lord's Will be done.

Yours in Our Saviour,


Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

orrologion said...

No, it's just that chemotherapy isn't appropriate for a headache, neither aspirin for cancer. When in school I also tried to discuss mathematics in Math class, not in English Lit.

If you phrase your point in the form of a question, I am sure you would get a more interesting conversation out of it - but perhaps that is not the point since who needs to learn anything, our assumptions are so much easier to deal with.

orrologion said...

Also, I think most all the Orthodox that have posted here are not members of the local church Fr. Tom is discussing - the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) - except for me, part time. Otherwise, I and Anastasia are at Greek parishes, and the other Frs. are Antiochian. Personally, I would prefer to be in ROCOR, but I was WELS, so...

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you just said.

But I do think the thread has run its course. I got some of my questions answered, and I'll just be content with that.

But I appreciate all your time and effort to patiently answer my questions.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

It's a financial scandal.

It isn't a change in the Church's teaching.

It isn't a change in the Church's worship.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Fr. Beane,

I agree that the thread has, by and large, run its course. I trust you'll understand a few Orthodox replies to Rev. McCain's attempt to stir the pot again. As Anastasia has pointed out, the OCA is dealing with some person-related issues--not with a change in worship or teaching.

I noted on my own blog the comments of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr when she converted to Orthodoxy: "You tell me that the outer brilliance of the church charmed me... in that you are mistaken -- nothing in the outer signs attracted me -- no -- the service, the service, the outer signs are only to remind us of the inner things."

Tomorrow morning across the OCA, and all Orthodox jurisdictions, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom will be served. There will be confession and absolution, but not by layfolk; the eucharist will be administered, but not in disposable cups. In some places, Antiochian travelers will commune with their Russian brothers and sisters; elsewhere, Russians will be communing at Greek altars.

The things that trouble the Orthodox churches are grievous, but they are personal and not doctrinal in nature. Stupidity, as I am wont to say, is an equal opportunity employer. But with the liturgy, and bishops, and monks protecting, no great harm is done, and what harm is done is fixable through the Body and Blood of Christ. When that Body and Blood are tampered with, on the other hand, how can it be fixed?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Oh, and one more thing, lest I be misunderstood. My last comment is not meant to endorse any notion that Lutheran communion is the body and blood of Christ. Given how this thread has gone, I feel the need to make that explicit...

The unworthy priest,

Fr Gregory Hogg

PS Once again, thank you for your kind and patient way on the blog. God bless you!

orrologion said...

Agreed the thread has run its course.

My chemo/aspirin comments were in relation to Pr. McCain's bringing up a non sequitor issue, as if any of those present were blind to the problems in the Orthodox Church. I.e., I don't discuss financial scandals when discussing the faith and the Church's ecclesiology in the same way I don't recommend aspirin for cancer or discuss Math in Lit class.

If you didn't understand the WELS crack: ROCOR are generally some of the most 'rigorist' of jurisdictions, so they are in Orthodoxy what many in Lutheranism dismiss WELS as. How I wish I could have moved from sectarian zealotry to sectarian zealotry. :)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

Thanks for being explicit! I appreciate it. I'd rather have this kind of candor than simply saying "I don't know." All I have been after are straight answers.

But there is a silver lining: at least it's good to know that you no longer believe the blood of Christ is defiled in our congregations. Aside from a little Mogen David in the garbage, there is no sacrilege - as far as our Eastern brethren are concerned.

As a Lutheran pastor who has just been notified that one of his flock was received weeks ago into an Orthodox church as a catechumen and will now be chrismated - without even being told, save for an e-mail from the former parishioner a few minutes ago - I appreciate an Orthodox priest who *is* up front, and not duplicitous and cunning.

You and I have had conversations in the past regarding such pastoral situations, and I do want people to know that Fr. Hogg is not one to do that, that he would have handled this situation differently - which is something else I appreciate about you.

I would appreciate, however, if your *brother* Orthodox priests who *are* instructing Lutherans behind their pastors' backs would explain to their future converts that in leaving Lutheranism, they are renouncing their baptisms per se, no longer recognizing their former Eucharists as having the Real Presence, and cannot even say their former churches are even Christian, let alone churches.

I completely understand that the Orthodox need to confess what they believe (as should we) - but they should do it not merely with charity, but with clarity. And those who would oversee people leaving their former pastoral relationships should really encourage integrity in those they are receiving.

This is part of the fallout of the Orthodox refusal to see Lutherans as Christians - there really is no reason to extend pastoral courtesy to those who are followers of heretical religions.

But even so, I think common *human* courtesy ought to call for better than that.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

Well, I was pretty confused by those remarks as well, but this one is the one that I can't decipher. I'm not trying to be obnoxious - I genuinely don't know what you're trying to say. And, I haven't been drinking. Honest! ;-)

If you phrase your point in the form of a question, I am sure you would get a more interesting conversation out of it - but perhaps that is not the point since who needs to learn anything, our assumptions are so much easier to deal with.

But like I said, I don't know if there's really any more to be said here.

But thanks for the clarification just the same.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Fr. Beane,

A few years ago I heard a deacon from Constantinople, prominent in interfaith discussions, talking about his experience with Lutherans. When told that Lutherans believed that the eucharistic wine is Christ's blood and the eucharistic bread his body, the deacon tested that statement by watching what was done with the reliquae. I would find it horrible to think that the Lord's blood would be routinely tossed in the trash can. Those who do that, can't really believe that they're throwing the Lord's blood away, now can they? Usually some sophistry like receptionism is resorted to.

I'm sorry at the pain you must feel about your parishioner. I encourage people to tell the pastor or minister at their former place, when it is clear to them that they are committed to becoming Orthodox. I don't quite remember how similar situations were handled in Lutheranism; I'm quite sure it wasn't at a first visit to the parish...

When instructing people into the faith, we do not tell them "you're renouncing your baptism." We tell them that the Bishop will tell us how to receive them. I know this seems to be a stumbling block for you, but the position is rather simple: If the bishop determines that the proper form was followed in Baptism (water, Triune name in a Trinitarian body), the regular practice is to receive the person by chrismation only--without thereby implying that the place where it was done, is church. If that form was not followed, we baptise.

I noted earlier, about these matters:

"1. Your church is not church--and that even by Lutheran lights, for you are in pulpit and altar fellowship with etc. etc.
2. Strictly speaking, in the sense that sacraments are acts of the Church, your sacraments are not sacraments, for you are not Church. But I recognize that God who spoke through Balaam's ass can do what he wills, and it is not my place to tell God how to do his job. If he hearkened to the prayers of Cornelius, he can act as he sees fit. The case of Cornelius suggests that the evidence for his so acting, is that the person involved becomes a member of the Church.
3. Whether you are Christians or not is not my judgment to make. Really, we've said this many times--it can't be that hard to grasp. I appreciate that you cherish the word of God; I am grateful for your confession of Orthodox Christology, and those are reasons to give me hope."

May I suggest that you reread this thread in a month or two? Our passions have been stirred a great deal, because we have much at stake here...sometimes a little distance can help.

Again, I greatly admire your attempt to stop the decay you deal with daily. And my concern in this thread is not merely academic, but personal and familial. May the Lord give you wisdom, and may he be merciful to me, the sinner.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

orrologion said...

If you phrase your point in the form of a question...

Sorry, that was another riposte to Pr. McCain's posting of Fr. Tom's letter, as a swipe. If he would have referred to that letter, posted portions of it, and asked a question concerning how comments there effect or reflect Orthodox ecclesiology, especially in comparison with the Lutheran eccelsiology formerly espoused by myself, Fr. Gregory, etc. - well, that would have been a man looking to learn or understand something he didn't know or was confused over - much as you just did in asking this question -, rather than a man posting what he obviously assumed was a real zinger unable to be adequately responded to.

(Of course, using an Orthodox priest to somehow call into question Orthodox ecclesiology in favor of Lutheranism is rather silly; another Paul on the Orthodox-Lutheran Dialogue list tried to do much the same until I and others offered to put him in touch with Fr. Tom - his daughter is married to the priest at the OCA church exactly 0.5 miles from where I sit right now; in fact, this community used to meet in my house - to see whether Fr. Tom was in fact supporting Lutheran ecclesiology in contrast to Orthodox ecclesiology. The offer of connection was never accepted, for obvious reasons.)

orrologion said...

there really is no reason to extend pastoral courtesy to those who are followers of heretical religions.

This and your summary of the Orthodox view of all things Lutheran is much further than Orthodoxy would ever go, and not just out of mere 'charity'. I know it may feel this way to you, but it has more to do with the Lutheran understanding of these things than the Orthodox - and with the fact that someone is critiquing something very personal to you, which you believe to be salvific, God's work. There is a great deal between diabolical, heretical religions and 'The True Faith (TM)' and we aren't boxing you into one or the other in such dialetical fashion.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Chris:

I've learned quite a bit from this discussion, and it will be helpful to me in my pastoral practice.

orrologion said...

I'm glad. I would just warn that the Orthodox 'way' should not be confused with 'the rules'. There is no such thing as 'confessional' Orthodoxy where subscription to a document is the norm of what Orthodoxy 'really' teaches. The canons are, in a very limited sense, made to be broken. We all live under economia. An example is the Typikon or Ordo of St. Sabbas. This is the set of higly complex, 'byzantine' rules governing the performance of the cycle of services, and involving the fasting rules, etc. It is the 'official' set of rubrics for most all of the Orthodox churches, apart from parish Greek practice (long story). If one were to follow all of the rubrics and perform all the services in full for a given day it would take over 24 hours to do. So, the Typikon and the collections of canons are like the cherry orchard in the Chekhov play of the same name: they are overly large symbols and targets of an ideal unattainable in this life.

When asking rather 'un-Orthodox' questions such as "Are Lutherans Christians?", one could very well get a wrong answer due to having asked a bad question. It's like asking whether the noonday sky is red or deep red - wrong kind of question. So, pushing what may seem like official doctrine or teaching in a reduction ad absurdum will end up not showing how bad the teaching is, but how you have likely misunderstood the Orthodox point. That is also not the same as saying you are wrong to disagree with it, just that your warnings won't match up with peoples' experience of Orthodoxy (here or abroad) and undermine your perspicacity. We are dealing with paradigmatic differences here, so will within the Lutheran schema we teach synergistic semi-Pelagianism, within a very different intellectual and spiritual paradigm this is patently false. The question is whether one or the other, or both, paradigms are correct or exhaust all possible 'correct' options. Details can bog one down and undermine credibility.

Paul McCain said...

Fr. Hogg and I both know what is going on here. He is merely and simply doing what he has been doing both before, and after, he left the Lutheran ministry. He is recruiting, trying to pick off one of the flock, and is particularly keen on picking off a Lutheran clergyman. This is a well orchestrated effort by his "Antiochian" church. It's not too hard to figure this one out. I know, he almost was successful in snagging a few of my friends, but fortunately they came to their senses.

Robb, what makes your participation in Lutheran discussions so dull, tedious and utterly predictable is the fact that we already know you do not regard any of us as church. You do not regard any of us as ordained clergyman. You do not regard the baptisms we perform to be valid, nor the Eucharist we celebrate to be the body and blood of Christ. We've continually heard you discount us as Christians, church and clergy. We get it, ok? It's just boring.

I do think you might have some sheep to tend to in your own flock, rather than seeking always to steal some more from the Lutheran fold. I know bad habits are hard to break, but do you think you might try?

Of course, each time I see you lurking about Lutheran blogs, I sense you realize you've made a major mistake and miss your Lutheran Confession. It's understandable, but please...at least try to come up with some new points and arguments. Pummel us about, label us how you feel is necessary, but just don't bore us.

Not to worry thought, I'll keep right on pointing these facts out whenever you happen upon a Lutheran blog site I read, and no doubt, you will keep feigning offense, lapsing into passive-aggression and putting forward your faux pious protestations.

All rather boring, but, there you have it.

Unworthy cleric, and fool for answering a fool according to his folly,
PTM

Paul McCain said...

Ah, yes, and Orrologion,

Yes, we've heard it all before. We can't possibly ask any question expecting any sort of clear answer, because Orthodox "thinking" is just so vastly different from ours.

All a great mystery, a riddle wrapped up in enigma, so whenever so-called "orthodox" show up and start doing their thing, we are to simply stand quietly in awe and wonder as we see this higher thinking in action.

Our questions are all "bad" and we dare not bother the "orthodox" with them.

orrologion said...

Not sure I am "orthodox" and the Church Fr. Gregory serves in is "Antiochian" - I just don't "understand".

My point isn't that the Orthodox position is so much higher. That is a different issue. The main point is simply being sure that one is understanding Orthodoxy for what it is on its own terms in its own language, first, before then adding a Lutheran critique of it using what you would believe to be the "higher thinking" of the Lutheranism. Your critique doesn't offend me, I just disagree with it. The only difficulty I have ever had is when the Orthodox position is misrepresented and/or misunderstood. I don't need to misrepresent or make things up about Lutheranism to somehow prove the validity of my position, I would assume you don't think Lutheranism needs to be defended in such a way, either. Maybe I'm wrong.

When you do ask a question that isn't merely rhetorical, the problem is difficult for an Orthodox to answer. As Pr. Weedon pointed out recently, it isn't that our answers are different, the questions themselves are different. This isn't a surprise given the centuries long intellectual and cultural separation (isolation) of the Eastern and Western Churches from each other - it is magnified when dealing with churches of more recent genesis than 1054 (like a copy of a copy). One of the great attractions to me was the ability to sidestep the incessant, circular argumentation between Protestants and Rome, different Protestants, different kinds of Lutheranism - the 'way' of doing theology seemed to foment disintegration and argument and schism. While I firmly towed the line of WELS vs. LCMS, Lutheranism vs. Reformed and Protetant vs. RC - at a certain point the argumentation seemed to come down more and more to the sanctification of 'my position' or the position of 'my church', rather than the Church. The categories, the questions themselves seemed to be flawed - and, more importantly to me, quite different than the questions asked by the leading (Lutheran and Orthodox and Catholic) saints in the major centers of early Christianity, pre- and post-Nicene through the conciliar age, that dealth with the essentials of the Trinity and Christ. The questions aren't necessarily 'higher', but they are different. They should be understood as such on their own terms so as not to fight a straw man before then critiquing it according to your own understanding of the truth.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Paul,

Apparently someone using your good name is, essentially, cut-and-pasting a prepackaged 'critique' of me. It's a bunch of ad hominems strung together--nothing really of substance. I can tell the fellow has a sense of comic genius, because he labels my remarks as 'boring' and 'predictable', all the while simply cutting and pasting the same words on different blogs.

Worst of all, from your perspective, he's making it seem like there *are* no answers to the questions I've raised--like the one on how what Lutherans call the blood of Christ is being tossed into trashcans every Sunday (over on Pr. Harju's blog). If I'm a sheep-stealer, he's like a border collie driving them all in my direction. Thought you'd want to know about this.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

PS--Seriously, Paul, don't get your knickers in a knot. I'm no demon, just another guy like you, who breathes and whose heart beats. Some day we'll both die. Some day we'll both give an account to the Judge. I pray his mercy for you no less than for me.

Just talk. Offer reasons for your view. Ad hominems don't become you, or the education you've had.

This is a discussion; the moderator is free to ask those he doesn't want, to leave. He's chosen to allow anyone who wants, to post, as long as they're not anonymous.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I think that we Lutherans who don't know much about Orthodoxy (speaking for myself) are just surprised at what we hear. I guess I expected to hear from Orthodox Christians something similar to what I believe, and when I hear the Orthodox say we may or may not be Church, that we may or may not really worship Jesus, it is just surprising, and a bit sad. It's kind of like having a brother say to you that he's not really sure if you are in the family or not, even though you have the same name, the same birth, and eat from the same table. It hurts. It is personal. You guys all say that you are just trying to make sure Orthodoxy is being represented correctly, and I can relate to that because I do the same with Lutheranism to non-Lutherans. You know that for Lutherans validity is a sore spot and has been since Rome and Luther parted ways. You know that it has been a sore spot since Walther and crew came to the New World and had to convince themselves that they were indeed Church. And instead of offering a reassuring, "Yes, you are Church, for you have Christ and His gifts," you have to say the Orthodox thing and call into doubt our validity. You may not be intending any harm, but it is causing it whether you mean to or not. 'nuff said.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul (Beisel, that is):

As a convert to Lutheranism via the Augsburg Confession, I'm just not affected one way or the other by the doubts and the hand-wringing of the Saxon immigrants. I see Lutheranism as a confession that transcends America and the LCMS. Countries and synods come and go. The whole "validity" thing just isn't one of my "buttons."

My beef is that I can't get straight answers. I know we are using different terms in different ways, in different contexts, and this "talking past one another" makes communication difficult. But still, if there really was a desire for dialogue (and not simply monologue), we could get beyond this impasse.

Now, my Orthodox brethren aren't going to like what I have to say here, but 1) I'm just being honest, 2) This is my blog, 3) Those who "dish" ought to be able to "take" as well, 4) I don't mean any of this personally, and 5) I could be all wrong, and I'm willing to be proven so - but all that has been "proven" in this thread is that I've not been critical enough of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Again, prove me wrong, and I'll change my mind.

Here is the reason behind my beef about not getting straight answers: the Orthodox treat us as brother Christians. When they leave Lutheranism, they all, to a man, gush about how Lutheranism taught them the Gospel, taught them the Scriptures, showed them the liturgy, Christology, etc. They rave about this pastor and that professor, etc. In some cases, we have Orthodox priests (former Lutherans) like Fr. Hogg admitting that the Holy Spirit works in Lutheran churches (but when pressed, he doesn't say the Spirit is doing anything in Lutheran churches other than drawing people away from the Lutheran churches...), or like Fr. Fenton speaking of "Holy Eucharist" and the work of the Holy Spirit in Lutheran churches.

I have heard several Orthodox Christians (some priests, some lay, and some former Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy) speak of us Lutherans (at least in private conversations) as part of the Christian Church. Maybe they have it wrong, but some of these people are pretty learned theologians. Maybe it's a "felicitous inconsistency". But I believe these people are sincere.

But look at the *in*consistency: Many Orthodox admire C.S. Lewis and openly call him a Christian (though he, like us, followed a heretical schism of a heretical schism, was unbaptized, never had absolution nor any sacrament his whole life long). Orthodox churches even belong to the WCC and NCC, take part in all sorts of ecumenical endeavors, speak at Lutheran retreats and symposia, sponsor ecumenical schools that include non-Orthodox Christians as faculty and administration, as well as take an active part in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.

But what has been confessed here is that the Orthodox do not recognize our sacraments (including baptism), our clerical orders, our status as Church, nor even our standing as Christians (they say they actually "don't know" - even though they who claim to be exclusively the ground and pillar of truth led by the Holy Spirit have had 500 years to figure it out, I mean that's 25% of the elapsed time since our Lord's resurrection, how much time do you need?). But they will, at least to our faces, grant us that they "don't know" if we're Christians or not, rather than call us "heretics."

If we *aren't* Christians, they should either "mark and avoid" us or call us to repentance lest we be condemned to hell - they certainly shouldn't be entering all sorts of ecumenical arrangements and pretending that we are brother Christians.

If we *are* Christians, they should acknowledge us such even if we are in some kind of "impaired communion" or even in some kind of schismatic relationship to the the Church.

Now, I did get someone (Christopher Orr?) to admit that we are followers of a heretical religion, and Fr. Hogg spoke of Lutheranism as a "hairesis" - but we as individual Lutherans have a great loophole - we can't be heretics because we don't qualify to be charged with heresy under Orthodox canon law (kind of a "venue and jurisdiction" issue). If we are followers of a heretical religion, are unbaptized, and are outside of the Church, how can someone say they "don't know" if we're Christians or not?

I think the Orthodox, in order to survive in the West, has to "play nice" with the (non)-Christians in their community. They can't come out and say: "You people aren't Christians" - since that would be a turn-off for the millions of potential converts.

Orthodoxy has a "marketing problem" in that sense. They need these heretics to convert to Orthodoxy, but if you call them heretics, that will chase them away. I think there's a little strategizing going on here, and I don't think it's very honest.

Also, I don't believe Orthodoxy is nowhere near as homogeneous as our Orthodox friends want us to think it is - and I think the confusion over what to do with Lutheran baptisms and the resulting individualistic episcopal retroactive hocus-pocus that's called in to deal with it is a result of this confusion and division that the Orthodox would have us think is only in *our* communion.

I've had several Eastern Orthodox priests (none on this forum) explain to me that the Western Orthodox have an intrinsically inferior liturgy, and that WO is really just a "stepping stone" to the East. Once again, it is almost a "marketing strategy." They'll say it to a Lutheran, would they say it to Fenton?

I just don't like being sold a bill of goods. I get the impression that someone is playing a shell game and trying to pull a fast one. But when you ask to see what's under the other shells (just to see if you're being greased), you're told: "Uh, ahem, that's not the right question", given a pat on the head and told to run along and read a book, or are given a quotation that sounds more like the wisdom of Master Po in a flashback scene from Kung Fu than an answer to a simple question.

I really get the impression that many Orthodox apologists feel they have to present themselves as cocksure, but I think a lot of them aren't quite as sure as they would like us to believe they are.

I also think there is great confusion among the Orthodox about our status. But I think they need to convince us that we need to doubt our sacraments and the Holy Spirit's work in our midst, while not driving such a wedge that they can't drop in once in a while for a "sales call."

I honestly don't understand why so many people who leave the LCMS and Lutheranism continue to spend so much time hanging around us. Not all do (Fr. Fenton doesn't seem to care what I or Paul McCain or William Weedon have to say, and good for him - I don't think he should care). I like Fr. Hogg personally, but I still have no idea why he cares a whit what any of us have to say about Orthodoxy or what awful things go on in our churches (if the Orthodox are correct, then the jiggers, the wine going in the trash, and who's in communion with whom are no problem anyway - since there's no church and no sacrament in the first place). He left it behind. He has a new flock. He has a new life and a new vocation. Unless he's trying to "rescue" some of us (what we might call "sheep-stealing" but what the Orthodox would call "evangelizing the non-Christians with the True Faith"), who cares?

I used to be a Baptist, but there isn't a single Baptist blog I even visit, let alone invest a lot of time commenting on. It's not even on the radar screen for me.

Of course, Jack Cascione is the worst. Here's a guy who left the LCMS, but his entire life, it seems, is all about researching, writing, and leading a one-man crusade to "fix" the synod that neither he nor his congregation belong to. Jack needs to collect stamps or take up woodworking or something. He's become a "stalker" and it's not healthy.

I think some of our Orthodox friends are running the risk of getting into the same rut.

Talking for the sake of mutual edification as Christians is a good and noble thing - but that's not what is going on here from their perspective. I think Paul McCain is right that this is about trying to bring about conversions - and I wish our Orthodox brethren would be up-front about it.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pr. Beisel,

I understand how the things we Orthodox have said, could be painful for Lutherans with the sore spot of validity. I experienced that same pain in conversations with Orthodox throughout my pilgrimage.

But it was what I saw around me within Lutheranism that caused me the most pain, and the existential angst arising from, e.g. the thought of thousands of individual cups being tossed in the trash, with what I had confessed to be the blood of Christ--it was that pain that led me to leave. I gradually came to the conviction that the "we" in "we believe, teach and confess" had become a word with sense, but not reference--like the phrase "the present King of France."

This is the nature of truth: If Lutheranism (not merely a *system*, mind you, but an actually-existent body--that is, after all, the point of Pieper's oft-cited comment) is not the truth, my endorsing it would be worthless; if it is the truth, my criticisms are of no effect.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane,

I would gladly respond to your last post via email, and let you decide if you wish to post it or not. But I don't have your email. You can reach me, if you like, at pastor_hoggAThotmailDOTcom. I will draft a reply and submit it for your consideration.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul McCain said...

I've done my level best to get the comment count on this post over 200. Perhaps we can begin the debate here on reservation? That would do the trick!

: )

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

What you're asking me to do is enable moderation on a one-time basis.

I've avoided moderating comments on this blog. I like freewheeling discussions, and typically learn the most from those who disagree with me. But freewheeling discussions, like parties at which alcohol is served, can get out of control.

I'm not sure why you want to e-mail me apart from the blog - unless you're going to say something that I would find inappropriate. And if you have to ask if something is appropriate, it probably isn't. I'm going to save you the trouble by shutting off further comments on this thread.

This thread was done long ago, and I apologize for letting things get out of hand here. And Paul, I hope you're not too disappointed that we're not going to get a bicentennial here. Besides, it's the same three of four of us posting dozens of times. That shouldn't count anyway. ;-)

I am really considering turning on comment moderation from now on so as not to let things get out of control again. I do feel like my blogspace is being used as a forum for Orthodox Christians whose goal is indeed to engage in Lutheran sheep-stealing if not Lutheran shepherd-stealing.

When the Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking, we all know why they're there. They're at least honest about it. And, there's certainly nothing wrong in telling them I have other things to do.

All I have asked of my Orthodox brethren is to be honest. If they were to come right out and say: "Yes, we're trying to convert you" - I would respect them for being up front. As it stands, I simply think there is some deception going on here, and I'm just not interested in playing games. This is my blog. Everyone is free to have his own blog. If someone wants an Orthodox Apologia blog, or an Orthodox Portal for Disaffected Lutherans, or a Why Lutheran Sacraments are a Lie blog - great! Blogs are free. Just don't use mine to do it.

I don't see where any further discussion here regarding Eastern/Western Orthodoxy will be fruitful - though I do want to say that I have many Orthodox friends and family members who would be appalled at what is being put forth here in the name of Orthodoxy. Three or four bloggers do not define any -ism.

Besides, I have a lot of other things I need to do this summer, and this discussion (on a topic not of my choosing) has become redundantly circular, too time-consuming, and is now threatening to become just plain nasty. Maybe it already has. Like I said, if it has, I apologize. It's a tough call to balance free speech with civility.

Where I have erred in letting things get out of hand, I ask everyone's forgiveness. Where I've been uncharitable, harsh, sarcastic, or otherwise mean-spirited in my argumentation - I likewise ask for forgiveness. But I'm not giving up my confession, I will not be bullied or bamboozled, nor am I going to permit my blog to become something other than what it is intended to be.

To put it another way, I got stuck to the tar baby, and having been flung back into the Briar Patch, I have no intention of repeating that mistake.

Pax, y'all!