Friday, August 29, 2008

When the Pope is More Lutheran than You

In order to better know my “enemy,” I've been reading the official “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” published in 1992 under JP II, but largely influenced – and even, one might say, “expressive of” - the watchdog of the faith in the Vatican, now Pope Benedict.

While quickly enough I've been disturbed by bits and pieces of the small tome, what is even more disturbing than Rome's errors (as Lutherans would see them, so far) is how LUTHERAN the bulk of the work sounds especially when compared to what one hears regularly these days from those who claim the name. The at once bold yet patient tone of the work is a credit to its authors and reminds me regularly of that great and blessed work, the Augsburg Confession – although, not nearly so precise, nor, would I say, quite so orthodox/truly catholic. But it's darn close! And it's a heck of a lot closer than the bundle of theological kitsch coming out of the LCM Synod Inc. these days.

Take a taste yourself. The opening lines of the document, JP II's Apostolic Contisitution: Fidei Depositum:

Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to his Church.”

Put that in your Ablaze pipe and smoke it. Shiver me timbers! JP, are you telling me that the Church has a mission and it's first and foremost not to do anything to reach people for “Jesus (undefined)”. Does this mean that “incessant striving for doctrinal purity” (depending on what one means by incessant and striving) is actually the mission of the Church?

Yikes. I like it.

Or, take this rather counter-American-cultural view of “diversity”:

This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social, and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity, united in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. ...Because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten ...with the perversion of paganism.”(25)

Wait a minute. So diversity is a curse from God, and our attempts to find “unity in diversity” hearkens the faithful to the horrid sight of Babel, where men sought hell-bent pride in man, and God reached down to smite us for this arrogance? So, every culture isn't holy unto its self, its traditions and ways, and – shall we say – its need for specialized mission/worship/theology etc? So, the great US of A might even be seen as the greatest attempt at a true Babel in our age, and the messiah figure of “Obama! Obama!” (whatever your political alignment) ought to give us pause as to the direction of this natione?

Wowza. I wonder what would happen if the Pope tried to say, “I'm no theologian...”

Or, how's this stand on both liberalism and charismaticism?:

The Christian [faith], therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus 'private' revelations... do not belong to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Relevation. ... Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment....” (26-27)

God isn't doing new things? If God speaks to you in your private prayer life, you should keep it to yourself? And if this God you speak with ever even barely intimates something contrary to the revealed “faith” (that is the Doctrinal Trust), then,'s not God?

Would that the Ablaze website was so concerned with Truth as the Papists!

Even on such a sticky wicket as “Tradition,” the Roman Catechism sounds more like the AC and the Formula than we do:

Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord. ...Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions born in the local churches over time. These are particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's magesterium... By adhering to this heritage, the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.

I mean, goodness! Isn't that darn near what Melanchon (and Chemnitz after him) were always trying to say over and against Karlstadt and his ilk? This is certainly not the way the Confutation of the Augsburg Confession handled the matter! For goodness sake, neo-Rome and the old Lutherans could have had a genuine dialog on the matter.

But how sad it is that in the children of Luther, as they express themselves with this LC-MS, no such dialog can even happen, much less be admitted as even necessary by at least one of the primary parties (if not two – as the other party seems more intent on “invade and conquer” - and who can blame them?)

Now, don't get me wrong. Rome has warts and wrinkles a plenty. My point is not the greener shores of the Pope's tyranny. My point is that the current tyranny of the Pope is actually more catholic (and by that, more Lutheran) than the current tyranny of Synodicalobureaucracy/wind-of-change blowing in the LC-MS. When the Pope sounds more like Luther than we do – when we sound more like Karlstadt and Zwingli than Melancthon did even on his worst and latter days – then there is something to weep over as children of the Augsburg Confession (if that is what we are.)

But lest I encourage those among us who would lose heart swiftly and even consider a flight to the Pope's fuzzy warm arms, a Word from our Lord to remind us who still long for the Doctrine of Zion, which Rome believes in but does not quite have, which the Enthusiasts don't believe in but act as if they are the only ones who have it, and which Lutherans have, if only they would remember it:

Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my Law;
Fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed by their revilings.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool;
But my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. ...

I, I am he who comforts you;
Who are you that you are afraid of man, who dies,
... and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker?

I have put my Words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand.
I have established the heavens, lain the foundations of the earth, and said to you, Zion:
You are my people.
' ”

Isaiah 51


Adam said...

I always am saddened that Lutherans make the same mistake all sectarians have in confusing the beauty of holiness that accompanies the traditional worship of the triune God - ornate vestments, chanting, crucifixes, incense, etc. - with "Romanism." So even as beauty flees Lutheran sanctuaries at the onset of "relevance," we become closer to Rome in exactly the way our holy fathers such as Luther and Walther rejected - we neglect the forgiveness of sins won for us by our great High Priest. Even as we reject "popish" things (which are really the ancient Church's things) and worship like Baptists, we become more and more like Baptists and papists who obscure the glory of Christ by neglecting the free forgiveness of all our sins that He offers from His font, pulpit, and altar. Lord, have mercy!

luthersrose said...

Don't forget that we are the true catholics. They left us in 1521 with their heresies and if we are lucky those Ablaze folks will either repent and become orthodox again or follow the lead of Rome.

RevFisk said...

Great insight Adam. It's so true. We think that it is the externals which matter, and so we run to what looks "new," when really, it is the internals that matter - and those things very few even think or talk about. I recently ran into someone who has a new interim Pastor. "How is he?" "Oh, he's very nice. And funny!" It doesn't matter what he preaches, so long as he fits the bill for our entertainment society.

LR - Believe you me, that's not something I (will) forget! If anything, it is my love for catholicity that tends to garner funny looks from most Lutherans I meet. I was even decried as too "Catholische" (the old German derogatory term) for, of all things, suggesting we use old Lutheran woodcuts in our Sunday school materials. LOL. What is and is not "catholic" is of great confusion these days.

Thanks for the comment!

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