Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Failing of American Lutheranism?

One of the great failings of Lutheranism is that we end up abandoning a term because of its abuse. Now, this is often done with the best of intentions. We want clarity, we don't want people to be confused. And many terms slip away and fall into disuse.

One can see many of these in terms of our relations with Rome. While some are striving to reclaim them, the terms "Mass", "Father", or even liturigical forms are basically dropped because, for the sake of the clarity of the Gospel, we did not want to be confused with those who obscure it.

Or even the Name Lutheran. We got it because we abandoned the name "Catholic" (which we are) and the name "Evangelical" (which we are) to others. We aren't the "Reformed". We give ground. You will even hear more talk about how we should be not simply of the "Real Presence" which has been our standard, but should use "Bodily Presence" because the tom-fool sacramentarians are saying, "Jesus is really present, really present spiritually." Again, for the sake of clarity, I'm guessing that the term "Real Presence" will slide away because of the abuses of others.

But the one that bothers me the most, that frightens me the most, is my fear that we are abandoning the term "love". Love is the simple, plain description and summation of the entire law. And that term is abused sorely today by many liberal theologians, who teach that love is to simply placate others, to ignore sin and vice, to sit together and sign kum-by-ya together and pretend that any doctrinal differences are unimportant.

That's not love - that is hatred and disdain for your neighbor of the worst sort! And yet, we seem to be abandoning the term. Instead of saying, "That is not love you teach - love is this. The laying down of your life for your neighbor. Placing their needs (not desires, but needs) above your own. Speaking the truth to them in kindness, even if they hate and revile you for it. Pointing them to Christ in all things." Instead of this - we abandon the word. We assume that anyone who speaks of love must simply be wild and crazy and not care about the Word of God, not care about anything God.

Have we abandoned the term love? And can we do that safely? Mass, Father, even Catholic and Evangelical - these are our terms, things that we came up with - words you don't even really come across in the Scriptures. We can take them our leave them. You never find the phrase "real presence" in the bible - it's our short hand to describe what the Bible teaches.

But the term "love" - that's all over the place. And if we abandon this term, if we flee from it, avoid using it lest someone think of a spineless liberal, haven't we de facto conceded the whole of Scriptures, the whole of speaking about God, whether it is the Law (love God, love your neighbor) or the Gospel (but God shows His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us) to those who spout false doctrine about Christ?

Do not give up the term "love". It is too important, too biblical a term to yield up.

41 comments:

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Old joke:

Tonto and the Lone Ranger saw an approaching mob of angry Indians. The Lone Ranger asked, "What are we going to do?" And Tonto relied, "What do you mean *we,* white man?"

Your use about how "we" have abandoned historic Christian terminology makes me want to ask you the Tontoic Question.

If by "we" you mean 21st century American Lutherans (and their German immigrant forbears), then yes, for the most part, *we* have surrendered to Rome, to Anglicanism, and to Eastern Orthodoxy a lot of terms, and in many cases, even such things as the Sign of the Cross and the crucifix. Much of what we have surrendered remained intact even in Germany where there was bloodshed over the Reformation. Of course, Scandinavian Lutheranism was far less antagonistic to ancient terminology and practice - but then again, we come from a church body whose hymnal doesn't even commemorate a single Scandinavian saint.

We have a terribly provincial understanding of Lutheranism.

Remember that one of the major political parties in the 1850 American election was the American Party (i.e. "Know Nothing Party") that ran on a platform of hostility to Roman Catholicism. This was the environment in which the LCMS was founded.

But "Lutheran" doesn't mean only "21st century American Lutheran."

Lutherans all over the world use the terminology that you claim that "we" jettisoned for fear of being lumped in with Roman Catholicism.

It all depends on what you mean by "we."

Now, we Americans tend to see ourselves as the be-all-and-end-all - even when it comes to our faith. There are Lutheran bodies around the world that have never been called "Lutheran" and who have never surrendered historic Christian terminology to Rome. Maybe they should be included in the "we" as well.

I think American Lutherans often err in the same way as the Roman Catholic Church - in assuming that we *are* the universal Church rather than that we are a *part* of the universal Church.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

I do not mean to imply that simply because we in America are making these yields that they are yielded throughout all Lutheranism - however, the simple fact is that my primary experience (and also my primary audience) is America and those who are here. But your point is duly noted - I do not know enough about the struggles Lutherans in other countries have against liberal abuses of the term love.

However, I think this is a serious danger that presents itself to American Lutheranism - as one of our major foes is liberalism and its abuse of love. And I think this holds true for us, for our particular corner of Lutheranism and the Church Catholic.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

A few random points, for sake of clarification.

You say, "Or even the Name Lutheran. We got it because we abandoned the name "Catholic""

We got it because it was a negative label applied to us by the Roman opponents. They considered it a heresy.

"...and the name "Evangelical""

Nor have we given up "evangelical." At least I haven't.

"You will even hear more talk about how we should be not simply of the "Real Presence" which has been our standard....because the tom-fool sacramentarians..."

In fact, Real Presence is not a term of Lutheran or Catholic origin. I don't mind it, if one's discourse is clear, but that one is not a matter of a Lutheran phrase.

"we are abandoning the term "love"."

I must sincerely ask what Fr. Beanbe asks, who has given this up? I don't see it. Even if many have given up on it, do they really fit into the category of "Lutheranism"?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

"Beane" doesn't have two b's. Sorry about that.

Mike Baker said...

I flop back and forth on this issue. Most of the time, I absolutely agree with you that we should "take back" terms by teaching their right use and not be afriad to use terms rightly.

...at the same time, though, words change their meaning as time progresses and some words start to carry alot of unwanted baggage.

In the end, I am a huge fan of communicating "the true sense" of the word. Is it important that we use the word "Mass"? ...or is it more important that we communicate exactly what the mass is no matter what word we use?

The big word where you see this is "Gospel". People have perverted the Christian meaning of that word to such a degree that the term itself is almost devoid of value. But, to some degree, it has always been this way! ...and you see St Paul having to do just what I am trying to describe: not just use a term, but define it explicitly [1 Cor 15] so its true, intended meaning is beyond all doubt.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

"Is it important that we use the word "Mass"? ...or is it more important that we communicate exactly what the mass is no matter what word we use?"

The answer to this is blazingly clear to the traditionalist Lutheran, viz., both of these can and ought to be done relentlessly in the Church.

Father Hollywood said...

When we surrender historic Christian terminology, we surrender our ecclesiology to Rome.

Why would we do that?

What I mean is this: as Latif points out, our Reformation fathers were cleverly labeled "Lutheran" (over Luther's objection). Being called a "Lutheran" is a clever way of being called a heretic - like an Arian, Montanist, or Valentinian. The opposite of all of these terms is "Catholic."

The Roman Catholic Church scored a marketing coup when it claimed the term "Catholic" unto itself, and when it actually got Lutherans to brag that they were "non-Catholics." That was the whole point of Dr. Eck's 15th century smear campaign.

And we walked right into the trap!

Our ecclesiology depends on the very notion of continuity. That is why our confessions - especially the Augustana - time and again decry innovation and change, and likewise time and again affirm our Catholicity ("in doctrine and in ceremonies").

It's funny how some of our brethren refuse to surrender the liturgy, while being quick to jettison our ecclesiology by allowing our opponents to dictate how we speak about ourselves as church. When our opponents call the shots concerning our language, they begin to dictate what we believe ("lex orandi, lex credendi").

We Lutherans *must* embrace the term "Catholic." It isn't an option - unless we are willing to embrace its opposite ("heretic"). The term is in the creeds and the confessions. Being ashamed of them is not an option.

Surrendering traditional language is as foolhardy as surrendering the traditional liturgy. It casts us adrift and severs our ties to the very links in the chain that bind us to the apostles and to Christ Himself.

I am no postmodernist. I believe words mean something. We need to use words as the Church has used them over two millennia, and not allow a sectarian 21st century parochial and secular view of language poison our eternal and unchanging theology.

Or, to put it in a different way (as I put it in a sermon once), "According to the Athanasian Creed, there are no non-Catholics in heaven."

Father Hollywood said...

Correction: "16th century smear campaign."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

While I agree that we should reclaim the term "Catholic", the only saving grace is that for the past 450 years "Catholic" didn't refer to the "Universal Church" in England, it referred to those evil people who were plotting against our King - dirty rotten Spanards and Italians!

Thus, Catholic hasn't had a positive connotation. IT should, and we are lessened because of its lack - but at least now we can safely begin to reintroduce and grow into it again. History always leaves wounds and scars upon the Church.

Father Hollywood said...

Meh, I'm not buying it. The Book of Common Prayer never treated "Catholic" (or "Catholick") as a dirty word.

The ones who succeeded in their plot against the king (i.e. the Roundheads) were actually Catholicism-rejecting Protestants who would be quite comfortable in most of our modern LCMS church services.

And, to boot, the Church of England never abandoned the term "priest" or swapped bishops for presidents, CEOs, regional managers, or sanitation engineers - whatever American protestants call their hierarchs these days.

The Exiled said...

You say, "dirty rotten Spanards and Italians!"

That is not very loving, winsome, or caring of you. Especially a pastor.

I think you show more hatred in these posts than love.

Furthermore, I am worried how much trust you put into earthly princes - "our King"? Speak for yourself. I do not recognize, nor do I support, the English monarchy as part of my heritage. In fact, in my ethnic background, the English screwed my ancestors over. Such talk like that makes me doubt that you care about America.

I am also concerned about your racists attitudes and leanings. (" . . . referred to those evil people who were plotting against our King.") Are you saying that white, English people are superior to Italians, or Spainards? Especially in matters of the faith?

You show how much you lack in love.

Unless one counts your apparent love for the Church of England and for the English monarchy.

You are a hate-filled, race-baiting, individual who does not love America.

(Yeah, much like you do in your replies, I totally side-steped the main issues at hand and just choose to focus on something smaller. You seem to be good at it. Still waiting for you to actually try to contact me as you publically stated you had tried to do.)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear exiled,

First, you should note that in that whole section you quoted, I was speaking as a caricature of British Attitudes. If you wanted to chastise me for my hatred and lack of love, it would be for the negative portrayal I assign to them.

Second, I replied to your e-mails this morning. I saved a copy, I will resend it - but you may wish to check your e-mail program to see if it.

But thanks for keeping on reading.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

I am not super up to date on Anglican terminology. I tend to think more of terms like "curate" and "vicar" rather than being called "priest". I also thought a lot of that terminology was revived in the Oxford movement of the 1840s or so (although I could be wrong).

Perhaps the influence on our American brand of English (which Britons wouldn't want to claim as English anyway), especially in terms of Churchly language is just more highly influenced by your Separatist and Puritan groups who fled England precisely because they thought the Anglican Church was too Roman.

And for the part about the CoE not abandoning pries and bishop for CEO, regional managers, etc., we might just have to give them time. I don't trust Canterbury to be a bastion of... anything... anymore.

The Exiled said...

Yet again, you avoid the points brought up and focus on things that you can wiggle out of.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

It's not really a matter of being up to date on terminology. The words "catholic" and "priest" were not revived by the OM. All you have to do is check the Book of Common Prayer. It has never been purged of historic Christian terminology the way German-American Lutheranism has.

The terms you site are more functional. They describe various ministries of a priest, such as the term "rector." They are akin to our terms like "Associate Pastor" and "Worker-Priest" - while we are ordained into one pastoral office. Similarly, mut men in the Anglican tradition (which is not limited to Canterbury) have always been ordained into the priesthood.

As far as "Catholic" goes, one only need look at the creeds of the Church Universal. The entire church around the world uses the word "Catholic" in her creeds - even American Presbyterians and Methodists. It seems that only some American and some German Lutherans can't stomach it.

Which ironically belies the catholicity implicit within the confession itself!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

Do you know the history of replacing "Catholic" with Christian in the LCMS? Is it something that we inherited from the English Synod or something we did on our own when we started producing English? I had been more under the impression that we had lifted most of our language from Episcopalian sources (we certainly pulled a lot of our hymnody) - apparently this is off.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Exiled, your initial comment will be reprinted below in italics. I will address each issue.

You say, "dirty rotten Spanards and Italians!"

Very true. I did type those words.

That is not very loving, winsome, or caring of you. Especially a pastor.

Here you neglect the usage of the preceding phrase. If I were writing in such a way that a sane and reasonable reader would conclude that I am attacking those of Southern European descent, you would be correct. However, I was addressing Historical British attitudes, which were often at odds with southern Europe. Perhaps I should have put that phrase in quotes, but I figured context would make it clear to most people.

I think you show more hatred in these posts than love.

I am sorry that you think this. I do think that your evaluation is off base, given your lack of understanding post. I would note that Father Beane clearly understood me to be speaking of English attitudes - note how his response was that the BCP did not take an anti "Catholic" attitude.

Furthermore, I am worried how much trust you put into earthly princes - "our King"? Speak for yourself. I do not recognize, nor do I support, the English monarchy as part of my heritage. In fact, in my ethnic background, the English screwed my ancestors over. Such talk like that makes me doubt that you care about America.

Again - as we do not have a king right now, and indeed, even the English do not have a King, but a Queen, this should have been a strong contextual clue that I was denoting British attitudes. As to your assertion that I do not care about America, it's rather spurious to this entire discussion and I don't see how it has any other point other than to be incendiary.

I am also concerned about your racists attitudes and leanings. (" . . . referred to those evil people who were plotting against our King.") Are you saying that white, English people are superior to Italians, or Spainards? Especially in matters of the faith?

I can only hope that you are trying to simply be annoying with this comment. As I belong to, as Fr. Beane notes below, a church of American-German heretic, and not the Anglican Church, this really is an odd conclusion to jump to. Also, "Spaniard" and "Italian" are not really strong racial epithets.

You show how much you lack in love.

While it is true that I lack love, there are other, better examples you can point to than this. Indeed, my sin is ever before me, which is why I daily flee to Christ for mercy.

Unless one counts your apparent love for the Church of England and for the English monarchy.

This is a fragment which I am guessing should be attached to the preceding statement (if I am wrong, please don't accuse me of manipulating your words). While both the CoE and the English monarchy are included in the general prayer of the Church, I have no particular fondness for either. If anything, I find many of the African Anglican Churches to be quite interesting and the most likely candidates for potential communion with Confessional Lutheranism, if they were to ever severe ties with Canterbury.

You are a hate-filled, race-baiting, individual who does not love America.

Again, this is a rather strong assertion whose only "evidence" arises from drastically taking a quote out of context.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

(Yeah, much like you do in your replies, I totally side-steped the main issues at hand and just choose to focus on something smaller. You seem to be good at it. Still waiting for you to actually try to contact me as you publically stated you had tried to do.)

As noted, I have sent the e-mail to you twice. As you seem to know Latif, if I don't receive acknowledgement of your reception of my e-mail by Saturday, I can forward it to Latif so he can get it to you, or I can post it publicly here, or in a comment on your blog. Whichever you desire. However, it is rather dubious to assert that I conclusively have not sent you an e-mail. I believe that both Latif and Fr. Beane would attest that I do not have any problem or hestitation addressing individuals privately via e-mail, even when the person in question disagrees with me or chatises me about something I have said.

As to skirting the issues at hand - I don't skirt here. I concede to Fr. Beane that, yes, my concern is properly an "American Lutheran" concern and not a Lutheran Concern.

When I assert that "Catholic" didn't have a positive connotation in English, and Fr. Beane countered that in British English and in other Liturgical denominations this is not the case, I conceded that point as well, and suggested influence from denominations that spill out of English Separatism.

I fail to see why you claim that I am skipping around and ignoring main points. Latif's response was to Mike Baker's point.

Ah, yes, Latif asks - who gives this up. Let me respond directly in the next post, if that will sooth you.

I believe this should address your concerns in this line of discussion? If not, please delineate them - numbered if you will, and I will address them one by one.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

As to the abandonment of terminology, this is just an observation. While the term "Evangelical" is still used by Lutherans, in America it's general association is not tied to Lutheranism. If you simply say to some one "I am an Evangelical" they will most likely think you attend Fuller Seminary or Oral Roberts University. If you say, "I just attended Mass", a stranger is much more apt to assume you are Roman Catholic, rather than Lutheran. We do not control or shape how these terms are used in American society today.

As for my fear that even within American Lutheranism we are abandoning the term "love" - I would point to a comment that the Exiled made in another thread where he asserts of me - "You are that type of pastor who will marry, bury, or commune anyone that asks. All in the name of Christian love."

Today, in America, the most vocal proponents of "Christian love" teach things that are quite contrary to the Scriptural definitions there give. I have a tendency to want to focus on the concept of "love" as the proper guide for a Christian - yet this is viewed as unsatisfactory, and many of the comments made in many and various posts seem to assume that if I assert that we need be guided by "love" that I am obviously simply trying to cover for some liberal agenda or that this will automatically crumble to rank lawlessness.

This to me denotes that we, as Lutherans, are not impacting the predominate understanding of what love is, either nationally or within American Christendom - and I fear that we will end up speaking less and less about love as a guide for our actions as the years go by.

As an antecdote - I'm sure Larry will remember when a DP came and spoke to our class during orientation, and over and over he said that we just needed to "love" our people. Many of us rolled our eyes, because his implication was that doctrine wasn't important. That was a poor use of the term love, and any usage of the word "love" that denigrates doctrine does violence to the biblical idea of love.

Yet, those eye rolling usages of love are what we are more apt to hear. I find this to be sad.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As a correction - I belong to a Church of America-German *heritage* -- although Fr. Beane might appreciate that slip as he had pointed out early that we don't use the word "catholic" and the opposite of catholic is heretic.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

You ask...

"Do you know the history of replacing "Catholic" with Christian in the LCMS? Is it something that we inherited from the English Synod or something we did on our own when we started producing English? I had been more under the impression that we had lifted most of our language from Episcopalian sources (we certainly pulled a lot of our hymnody) - apparently this is off."

Luther Reed addresses this. The word "katholikos" was transliterated into Latin as "catholicus." Rather than transliterate the Latin into German in the creeds, it was translated (weakly) as "Christliche." This was about a century before Luther.

Luther retained the existing German, hence in our confessions, the German reads "Christain" and the Latin reads "Catholic."

Since LCMS Lutherans originally spoke German, that is what they brought to America. Rather than later translate it into English as "Catholic" (from Greek and Latin), they simply took the weaker German and rendered it into English.

Meanwhile, Lutheranism spread throughout the world, and the word "Catholic" is used in other languages (such as the Swedish "allmännelig" and the Spanish Católica).

Unless Lutherans around the world are translating the creeds into their own native languages from German (not the best practice), they will not have the weaker translation ("Christian") that we do.

The bottom line is that we confess the creeds in their original form, and the Greek word for "according to the whole" is different than the Greek word for "Christian." Interestingly, verse 19 (per LSB 319) of the Athanasian Creed (which was originally Latin) includes both the words "Christian" and "Catholic."

The two words mean different things, and so, I believe we should use them with precision rather than simply pay some kind of homage to our German heritage.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I'm guessing the Reed is from his "The Lutheran Liturgy"? I'll have to pull that out - I can't recall reading that part. Of course, I haven't reread it for quite some time, and even then I only skimmed it for a bit - bought it while at home on a break and didn't finish before the term restarted.

It's interesting that the translation is "Christliche" already in the 14th Century. Very odd. Well, thank you.

As a question (I can guess the answer), what do you think of people who say that we should translate that word as "Universal" as the word "Catholic" now is thought of more as a denomination name, or a part of the Church rather than the Church according to the whole?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

"Universal" is better than "Christian" as a translation, but the word "universal" is only part of what "katholicus" means. "Kata holos" means "according to the whole." It doesn't just mean "in every place" like universal. It includes the notion of wholeness, wholesomeness, orthodoxy, and all of the baggage the word "catholic" carries (and it is good baggage) from the Church's history.

To be Catholic is to oppose heresy, to stand with Athanasius against Arius, and with Augustine against Pelagius. The word "universal" as an "ism" carries with it some quite different baggage - that of Origen.

I've often thought about all the wasted energy that criminals are willing to expend in order to circumvent getting a job. The LCMS likewise seems interested in expending a lot of energy to distance herself from the church of every time and place.

It is a figment of our imagination that there is anything bad with the word "Catholic." And why we wring our hands, apologize, qualify, and ultimately run away from our Catholicism is beyond me.

If Presbyterians and Methodists can handle being catholic Christians, I don't know why we seem so incapable of it.

If it ain't broke...

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I remember sitting in a classroom at the Sem, being disappointed when the LSB creed translations came out - because reverting to "Catholic" was one of the things that they were considering. I found that to be odd - I know it is a change in our own language, and you shouldn't generally muck around with language on things folks have memorized, but:

1. The LSB blew that out of the water with hymnody, especially the Advent hymns.
2. Any congregation that has any tradition of using the Athanasian Creed on Trinity should be ready to get this. I've understood the use of "catholic" since I asked my teacher about it in second grade - it isn't that foreign.

However, there probably are two streams. There is that stream in the LCMS that wants to make the LCMS look more like American Evangelicalism (and note: that is Evangelical in the completely un-Lutheran sense of both style and doctrine) - and many folks with this view have spent quite a bit of energy and cash trying to accomplish this.

However, your last line -- "If if ain't broke..." also applies to why some didn't want to revert to "catholic". Using Christian is part of our "local" (meaning synodical) custom -- I had thought for just 100 or 120 years, but apparently since the 14th Century. Is this a merely a weak translation, or a broken one? I'm guessing a lot of guys were leaning towards merely weak and not broken.

Personally, I am guessing that by the 2037 hymnal (that is just an estimate on the date) we will begin using catholic. By then I think one or two things will have happened. Either a lot of the bronze aged nervousness about the liturgy will have faded away, or the LCMS will have split/shattered, at which point the ones strongly bothered by catholic will be off in some other synod probably not even using hymnals.

Also - in a lot of places, especially where there isn't a strong Roman Catholic population, there still is a lot of that Kennedy-era anti-Roman attitude. In Chicago, and I'd imaging in NO, this has dissipated more quickly, but in the planes it is still around somewhat - although mainly in the older generation.

After 6 and a half years most of my bible study class has learn to stop referring to Roman Catholics as "Catholics". That's our term - call them "Rome", "the Romans", "Roman Catholics". The Lutheran Church is the fullest expression of the catholic faith around.

P.S. As a side note - when the former regime was looking for suggested name changes for the Synod - a name that would be hip, I suggested A.C.E.S - the American Catholic Evangelical Synod.

I don't think it went very far =o)

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

"After 6 and a half years most of my bible study class has learn to stop referring to Roman Catholics as "Catholics"."

If you are training your parish to be more specific and accurate in reference to the RC Church, that is good, yet two things occur to me. 1. I hope the thought is not that Roman Catholics are not Catholics. 2. And one hopes such training is coupled with building up a healthy use of "Catholic" on the Lutheran side. And this is most effectively and wholesomely done not merely in front of the white board down the hall, but also with the church's liturgical practice. For example, at my church "Holy, Catholic Church" is a phrase you will hear in the Intercessions in the Mass, and indeed, "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" is confessed in the Creed.

"The Lutheran Church is the fullest expression of the catholic faith around."

What I am about to say is not against the doctrine embodied in out Confessions. I am not sure whether or not I would make that statement. It might actually be a toss up between a handful of churches, as to which is the fullest expression of the Catholic faith. I do know that we have all the potential to have those bragging rights. But before we say that we are an "expression" of anything good, I would want our doctrine to actually be expressed more fully, more consistently, more fearlessly, and I would also want our liturgy and our ecclesiology to better reflect the heritage embodied in the Confessions.

One more thought: you say, "Personally, I am guessing that by the 2037 hymnal (that is just an estimate on the date) we will begin using catholic."etc.

Apart from the merits of your theory on that, this reminds me of the pace of change in the church for which so many classmates and professors have told me we should aim. Some, like Art Just, were even more forthright and told me that it is not your job to change anything, but just to learn to serve the church according to the practice that is in use in a given place. I can tell you that the way things work in the real world is that if you aim to get something accomplished in six months, it might get done in a year. And in the Church we should not be about placing everything on timetables anyway, but my point is that I'm tired of the half mile an hour pace with which so many tend to be satisfied. It reminds me of what Dr. Scaer said in a debate with WAM II on John 6. Regarding the change to more frequent celebration of Mass in the parish, the key word so often is "wait." Scaer said, Wait? Wait for what? fifty years? a hundred years? His point in that case was that our ability to recognize the sacramental nature of the scriptures the way the Church in the first, and second centuries recognized it will depend in large part, not on what is done in the classrooms and universities, but on the livelihood of the actual eucharistic life in the Church.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

My own thought on changes are this. If there is a faulty, flawed practice - say less than weekly celebrations of the Lord's Supper - and if this is a cherished practice, even though flawed, I view this as a matter where the same standards in handling weaker brothers are in line. Thus, I prefer to teach and train and extol the Sacrament, show that weekly communion is our own historic practice and identity - and move slowly.

Could I go more quickly? Sure.
Is it a shame that this Sunday there is no Sacrament offered at our Sunday service. Yes.

However, I try and consider the gains and losses. While there is a loss for those who wish to commune - it is well known that I commune during the week, and for members I have who frequently travel, it is know I'll commune them after service on non-communion Sundays. The Sacrament is still readily available. However, I don't want to press and shake up the old timers too much, lest in my zeal I confuse or upset them. Many have been poorly trained with the pietistical piety of many of our forefathers - and that takes time to correct without shattering people.

And as for time tables - if I think something will happen in a year - sometimes it happens in a month, other times it takes 5 years. The best laid plans of mice and men...

Brown's wife said...

@ Exiled: If my husband hates people of Spanish and Italian descent, I'm in big trouble, LOL.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Indeed we must be on guard against telling the Holy Ghost what to do and when to do it in His Church. My point about predictions of change in the church is that when someone tells me that we should go about change, such as weekly Mass, judiciously, and go for, say, five years, what they often really mean is let's not do a thing, or let's hope that the inertia of history will get us there in the next half century.

Rherotic of that sort, by the way, also is a not so subtle accusation that those who go at a more deliberate proactive pace are being "injudicious" and "unpastoral" and they are "destroying the church." They "cannot relate to farmers in Iowa." They "don't wear clothes that fit them." They don't "fall in line." They're not "hygienic." (Sorry, I broke into my Bennett Brauer.) But seriously, I won't buy into the false premises of some of these Missouri Synod conversations. Of course, not only the premise, but also the structure and conclusions for many of the official conversations have also been decided for us.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

That is precisely why I don't set time-tables for changes -- although the publication of a new hymnal is something that seems to happen every 30 years or so in Missouri - that's all that time placing is for.

As to my rhetoric - I will say this. If a pastor does not take into consideration of the history, thoughts, and preparation of his congregation, it is "unpastoral" - and while it won't destroy the Church, it can destroy people in the Church.

Now, having said that - I don't have specific people to point to, nor do I wish to point at someone and say, "You are wrecking the church." Too many people point at me that way erroneously. Besides, if a pastor is called to a place - it's his responsibility, not mine. Who am I to judge any one else in their office (for we are all simply servants). However, I would urge that in any reform caution and care should temper zeal.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Latif:

There are two opposing errors here, but only one of them gets any "press" - and that one is largely a myth.

In other words, there is the persistent myth of the new young pastor who goes into a parish like a bull in a china shop and destroys the congregation. Like most myths, there are versions of such creatures - but the story has been exaggerated and embellished over time.

The other extreme is far more common, but never discussed: the pastor who, out of cowardice, allows abominations to continue year after year without so much as a peep, covering his cowardice with the fig leaf of bromides: winsomeness, the gospel, prudence, etc.

It is a difficult balance to be struck in parish life. Some things are truly more important than others. But at some point, if a pastor has inherited the un-Lutheran anti-confessional practice of infrequent communion (which benefits only Satan), he is going to have to confront the practice. It doesn't mean his first week in the parish, but if a guy finds himself ten years down the road promising to begin to move in that direction (provided no-one objects) - then the pastor is as destructive to a congregation as the bull-in-the-china-shop.

Pastors are to be shepherds who lead (lovingly, of course), not sheep to be led around by the nose telling his hearers what they want to hear.

Unfortunately, our democratic polity and cultural distrust of authority makes this more difficult for American Lutheran pastors to be courageous. But let's not equate foolhardiness with courage, and let's not equate cowardice with wisdom.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I'd like to make a couple of points to help get us back toward the point of your post.

You write: "If you simply say to some one "I am an Evangelical" they will most likely think you attend Fuller Seminary or Oral Roberts University."

It is certainly not sufficient to say to someone that I am an evangelical. It would be slightly better wo say it without the article, to wit, I am evangelical. But evan that, indeed requires a context to make the meaning clear. Yet it is not the case that we have given up the word Evangelical. It's in our books, on our church signs, on our letterheads, peppered in our preaching, and I hope that will all continue.

You write: "If you say, "I just attended Mass", a stranger is much more apt to assume you are Roman Catholic, rather than Lutheran."

That sort of misunderstanding takes about five seconds to correct. Seriously. And it is worth doing.

You write: "As for my fear that even within American Lutheranism we are abandoning the term "love" - I would point to a comment that the Exiled made in another thread where he asserts of me - "You are that type of pastor who will marry, bury, or commune anyone that asks. All in the name of Christian love.""

If someone makes fun of the way others misuse "love" as a concept, that is hardly a giving up of the word "love."

One more thought. I may have missed it, but it seems to me that too often when a brother manages to move your understanding of an issue or the way an issue should be articulated, you simply act as though this corrected view has been your claim all along. That is not good for a pastor. So for example, your claim was that "Lutheranism" has "abandoned" the word "love." Personally, my two problems with this is that I neither see it being given up, nor if there is a problem in this regard do I see it taking place by "Lutheranism." If you meant "American Lutheranism" then 1. tell us you were wrongly painting "Lutheranism" and 2. show me who in American Lutheranism has dropped it.

Mike Baker said...

Pr. Brown

I have to agree with one of Deacon Latif's most recent points:

Where is the Lutheran church abandoning the word love or shrinking away from it?

I see where love is being twisted. I see where others are using it as a codeword for tolerance. I see where Lutherans back away from words like "sin". ...but I can't think of where I can find an example of this problem that that you have diagnosed.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Mike,

I think you probably hit the nail on the head better than I had -- it is that the term "love" is twisted, where it is used as a code-word for "tolerance"... and what is our reaction? I don't think we contradict that often, I don't think we say, "That is not what love is." We don't defend, we don't teach, we don't keep it in the center - and part of me worries that this is because we fear to be thought of as liberal, as someone who just hides lawlesness under love.

This may just be my own frustration.

Latif,

1 - You ask me to tell you that I was wrongly painting Lutheranism. I thought I had done that in my very first reply. I apologize to anyone who ends up thinking that I am every Lutheran in the world.

2 - It's not as though I've found people who say, "That's it, I'm never going to talk about love again." It's just that it seems, it feels to me that there isn't as big of a focus on love.

I probably should have qualified my statement "But the one that bothers me the most, that frightens me the most, is that we are abandoning the term "love" - said "I fear and worry that we are abandoning the term love" or "But the one that bothers me the most, that frightens me the most, is that we may be abandoning the term "love"

The purpose of this post is not to point fingers, to say, "Ah, look at what people X, Y, and Z" have done - but rather is summed up in the question "Have we abandoned the term love?" It is reflective, not accusatory (although there is the accusation that we do abandon terms like "Mass", although we took other titles rather than German Catholic or something like that - this is just background for my concerns, my fears).

If the answer is no - then fantastic.

But the real kicker, Latif - who abandons it? When it gets down to it, I worry if I myself do not focus on it enough.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

First you shifted your meaning to American Lutheranism, and said this is your primary audience. You may think you know your primary audience, but your audience is anyone who happens to find your site, whether in Riga or Khartoum, whether within Lutheranism, or outside of it. And even if your audience is only American, that doesn't make it right to give a false image of world Lutheranism behind the back of much of it. It could give a false impression of the Church in India to your American audience.

Then you shift your meaning to your self. You say, "I apologize to anyone who ends up thinking that I am every Lutheran in the world." But if you are speaking of your own self and experience, then there why to this moment (for example, in the title of this post) do you still call this a failing of "Lutheranism"?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I had thought about changing the title before I even saw your most recent comment and have so done.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

Your admonishment is duly taken - but I do want to point out this. It's the audience stats - I love blogger.

This blog is predominately American in audience. Something around 98%

Mike Baker said...

This is one of the many peculiar paradoxes of the American culture:

Americans by and large understand that real love is not blind tolerance and "whateverism" in every area EXCEPT a few key moral issues and religion. Everywhere but in a few cases, this kind of tolerance is called "Neglect" and is considered the opposite of love. I think this is a manafestation of the "whatever you do don't kill my buzz or rain on my parade" philosophy of social interaction and accountability these days. Examples:

Slogan: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."

Child Support

Slogan: "Be above the influence." (US Gov program for don't do drugs.)

Slogan: "Care enough to confront about child abuse."

"That company is criminally liable because they had a moral responsibility to its customers to put systems in place to prevent their employees from doing XYZ."

Tough Love

We still have these trends and others that demonstrate that we know that real love can mean confrontation and the enforcement of standards. The concept is not lost on Americans... or even the church.

But I think that such situations almost always envolve hard choices and people these days are suckers for appeals to their emotions. I think most people understand that love does not equal tolerance in their heads, but they waver on it when a sentimental situation causes them to lose their resolve on pushing the matter.

Citing non-religious examples of the principle of "tough love" and "loving someone enough to tell them the truth" is an antedote to such issues. Once people are thinking with their heads again, they can objectively see the truth of the situation.

Dennis said...

Way behind the discussion, but .... The caricature regarding British attitudes and the Spanish brought back a memory.

John Cleese's "Fawlty Towers" and the Spanish waiter, Manuel. Talk about a caricature of British attitudes.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch." - Nigel Powers

Dennis said...

My grandparents came from Holland so I burst out laughing at the quote above. To quote another Powers: "groovy."

God was gracious enough to bring a few of us out of Dutch Reformed captivity and into a Lutheran church. As a result, your posts and others' discussions on the law are especially appreciated.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I contend that if it were not for English dislike of the Dutch, America as we know it would never has come into being -- those Pilgrims just couldn't stand the idea that their kids were flirting with the little Dutch girls in Holland, so they dragged them across the sea. =o)