Thursday, January 14, 2010

But is it the LAST question?

I am often asked questions that begin with the word "could". Could one do. . . ? This is an important question - it is vitally important to ask because we need to know if something is within the realm of possibility. But "could" ought not be the last question asked -- it should be always followed up by "should". It isn't just a matter of whether we can do something (if something is in the pall of Christian freedom), but rather whether or not it is good and beneficial, not just for us, but for our neighboring congregations, our Synod, and the Church.

Could I on my own start having first communion at 6-8 years of age? Sure. Should I. . . well, that's a much, much sticker wicket. What of the 9 year old who can commune here and approaches the altar at St. John in the cornfield?

There are also the "why not" and "why couldn't we" questions. Those need to be followed up with a "why should" question, and unless that one get answered properly, it's a bad idea. Why couldn't we move church to 5:45 AM? Nothing forbids it. . . but why should we? Whom would this serve, how would this show love?

Permission or possibility is never to be the last question. The last question must be, "Is this the best thing to do; does this best show love?"


Jay Hobson said...

As I understand it, you say that "Could I..." essentially asks the question - "Does this fall in the realm of Christian freedom or am I required by God's law to be and act a certain way?"

"Should I..." as I understand you presenting it, can only exist in a fallen world. It seems to me that "should I" deals with forgiveness and mercy. It works with broken consciences, fallen sinners, and a shattered world. The fact that one has to ask the question, "Is this the best thing to do; does this best show love?" points to the fact that at some point the law has not been kept and all we have are the shambles that must be healed with forgiveness and mercy.

Could you perhaps say a little more on this?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I wasn't thinking along those lines, although those are excellent lines to think along.

First, my own thoughts. I was more taking the approach that sinful man will abuse the question "could". We will use could to find a course of action that we ourselves find appealing, rather than simply as an exploration of the possibilities. If should is added to this, we check ourselves from simply doing what seems best in our own eyes (and doing it smugly, as it is something that we "could" do after all).

On your line, I think should, as it is a check against sinful nature, really does function both in a law way but also should remind us of the Gospel. The simple fact that we need to ask it reminds us of our sinfulness - asking it forces us to think on showing love, undeserved love, to others. It makes us humble and to show love. . . it's solid third use. It points us to the example of Christ. . . which if applied to how we behave is law, but if applied to what we ourselves have received is Gospel.

I was just thinking along the lines of what we try to get away with - it seems you strike upon what we miss when we give into sin.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Eric, I get your point--Just because we 'can' do something doesn't necessarily mean that we 'should.' Out of respect and love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps what we can do is not always the best thing to do. Although, I would have to disagree with you on early communion. I would just tell my child that out of respect for the general practice of our synod, it may be best if they only commune at our congregation and others who accept younger children as communicants.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


I think that is a responsible way of handing the matter internally -- I'm just not sure of whether or not it is good for the Synod or the Church at large - because it isn't just a matter of your kids going somewhere else, but also of visitors who come into your place. One would have to be well prepared to defend the practice to visitors who are concerned.

Again, there is that interconnection -- I would almost compare it to contemporary worship -- although one might only do it in their own place, it has an impact upon me. . .

I know that's a strange comparison because one is good and salutary and the other is vile -- but the arguments for avoiding the general practice of the Synod in favor of your own local practice could be exactly the same (if one ignores the merits of each practice)