Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Huberianism in Brief

There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what Huberianism actually is. A common misconception is that Samuel Huber was a Universalist -- that he taught all people were going to heaven. This is false as his own words testify:
Those theologians charge that I have set forth a universal justification, and indeed of such a kind that makes every person righteous by the very act of salvation and by participation, and simply carries them away into heaven....But I have never dreamed or written anything of this sort. (P. 17: http://www.wlsessays.net/files/Huber%20Translations_0.pdf)

Is it genuine ignorance or a conniving attempt to cover up the historical truth? The author of this article in Reclaim News, whose name I can't find, makes the assertion that Huber was a Universalist. He states, among other ridiculous ideas, thus: "Yes, Huber was condemned in the 16th Century because he was a Universalist, not because he taught Objective Justification." It's most disturbing that he's not alone in his assertion and that most of those who relentlessly hold to universal justification make this unfounded claim. The Wittenberg theologians who condemned his heresies even stated as such in their Theses Opposed to Huberianism:

Thesis 12
In addition, whether all men are, in fact, saved, including those who do not believe in Christ. This, likewise, is not, at the moment, being called into question.

Thesis 13
For although that conclusion can most definitely be reached from Huber’s doctrine as a consequence affirmed by the testimonies of Christ and the apostles, nevertheless, since Huber directly and intentionally does not teach in such a way, we are still willing not to charge him directly with that paradox. (Theses Opposed to Huberianism, 15-16)
It seems as if the claim of Huber's universalism is a distraction employed to hide the real issue. Take a look at the second part of the author's assertion when he claims Huber wasn't condemned "because he taught Objective Justification." This is even more patently false! As we will see from his own words he taught that "God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, became favorably disposed toward the entire human race because of that satisfaction...":
But I called universal justification that by which God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, became favorably disposed toward the entire human race because of that satisfaction, and thus he accepted it just as if everyone had made satisfaction for himself, with the law having been entirely fulfilled. In this respect it is sensibly called universal justification, not first by me, but by Paul. In it only that act of Christ’s merit and satisfaction is considered at the tribunal of God. However, people still do not possess justification by their own act unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all.
From Scripture we have Rom. 5, “And so, just as through the fault of one it resulted in condemnation for all, so also through the justification of one it resulted in justification of life for all people;” 2 Cor. 5 “When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins toward them.” To “be reconciled” is certainly to remove the anger toward the human race. To “be reconciled with the world,” is to remove the anger toward all people, which those theologians…bitterly deny, not without blasphemy. And “not to impute sins” is to justify or to recognize as just, with the manner of speaking being taken up from the market place. Therefore, that justification comes upon all people no less than condemnation; that the world is reconciled; that by the very judgment of God, which God carried out in his own Son, sins are not imputed to us, but are imputed to Christ; and that satisfaction has been offered by him and has been accepted by the Father—that is to set forth universal justification in its own legitimate respect. (P. 17: http://www.wlsessays.net/files/Huber%20Translations_0.pdf)
Huber still insisted on faith, however, in the supposed universal justification declared by God in Christ for anyone to actually benefit from it as is shown above and in this quotation:

...nevertheless he does not yet lead a person by this participation into a state of salvation and eternal happiness, unless he will apply this benefit to himself by faith through word and sacraments, and so in this way participate. (P. 19: http://www.wlsessays.net/files/Huber%20Translations_0.pdf)

Do Huber's words sound familiar? That's because they are. His false teaching is being defended and promoted as Truth by current "confessional" Lutheran bodies such as the WELS, ELS, and the LCMS and their theologians. Consider their own words and compare them with Huber's. For the sake of brevity I'm leaving out the quotations which demonstrate that these current bodies affirm that faith is necessary. This should be a given much like it was with Huber's insistence on faith as well.
"Scripture 
teaches 
that 
God 
has 
already 
declared
 the 
whole 
world
 to 
be 
righteous 
in 
Christ, 
Rom.
5:19; 
2
Cor. 
5:18‐21;
 Rom.
4:25." -- LCMS, (http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=415)


"1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends." -- WELS, (http://www.wels.net/what-we-believe/statements-beliefs/this-we-believe/justification)

"God thereby reconciled the world to Himself, and by the resurrection of His Son declared it to be righteous in Christ. This declaration of universal righteousness is often termed “objective justification." -- ELS, (http://www.evangelicallutheransynod.org/beliefs/we-believe-teach-and-confess/)

"Jesus suffered and died as the representative of all humanity, and was condemned by God the Father on behalf of all humanity. In Christ’s condemnation, all humanity was vicariously condemned. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead – still as the representative of all humanity – and was, in his resurrection, thereby vindicated and justified by God the Father on behalf of all humanity. In Christ’s justification, all humanity was vicariously justified."

"In each case, the objective aspect of justification is tied very tightly to the death and resurrection of Christ. In each case, it is emphasized that justification and absolution are not received and possessed by individuals apart from faith, or before faith." -- Pr. David Jay Webber, ELS (Quote 1, Quote 2)

"God no longer looks upon sinful man with wrath, but 'before His divine tribunal' forgives the sins of mankind, does not impute their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. 5:19). (CHRISTIAN DOGMATICS, by Francis Pieper, Volume 2, pages 398 & 399)

"The resurrection of Christ, is as Holy Writ teaches, the actual absolution of the whole world of sinners. Rom. 4: 25: 'Who was raised for our justification.'”
(CHRISTIAN DOGMATICS, by Francis Pieper, Volume 2, page 348)

Now that we've identified the false teaching, it's necessary to show how the Lutheran church condemned Huber's teaching. In the late 1500s the theologians at Wittenberg University wrote a series of theses dealing with Huber's teaching contained in a work called Theses Opposed to Huberianism. Another work to consider is A Clear Explanation of the Controversy Among the Wittenberg Theologians.

In those works the Wittenberg theologians declared Huber's teaching as false and condemned by the Christian Church when they wrote as such:

Our Churches have always taught and still teach the justification that is by faith and that pertains to believers, but that by no means extends to the whole world. Besides this justification by faith, Dr. Huber teaches some other justification that is equally common to the entire human race. (Hunnius, A Clear Explanation, 57)

XIX
...if we were all justified at the same time with a general justification and restored to the bosom of divine grace with sins being forgiven solely by the merit of Christ without faith, then does not the justification by faith so accurately passed down by St. Paul lie in ruins, since it is clearly not a necessity for us?


XX.
Huber will never be able to explain his way out of this nonsense of insoluble contradictions and most prodigious absurdities.  Therefore let him enjoy his justification, and let him bless his elect and sanctified people with it – Turks, Jews, and all unbelievers.  We, in the meantime, shall retain justification for believers only, as prescribed by all prophetic and apostolic Scripture. (Theses Opposed to Huberianism, 61, emphasis in original)

So where do we go from here? Where does this leave us considering all major "confessional Lutheran" church bodies embrace Huberianism? Recently the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) released a series of theses concerning the article of justification. In the conclusion they faithfully reject Huberian universal/objective justification as taught by those in the three Synods mentioned earlier:

If all that were meant by "Objective Justification" were the acquisition of righteousness for all mankind so that there is a basis for God to declare an individual righteous through the God-given gift of faith receiving God's pledge to consider him entirely righteous and forgiven purely for the sake of Christ, we would merely caution against the term. Since, however, it is more than that -- the declaration that all mankind is sinless before God before and apart from faith in Christ -- this teaching is not only dangerous in its grossest abuse (crass universalism), but is in itself contrary to God's Word and the exhibition of the same by the Symbols of Christ's Church.

That the foregoing theses correctly reflect the doctrine of the symbolic books is demonstrated by the writings of the earliest generations of orthodox teachers of the faith confessed in the Book of Concord. Thus, the doctrine of "Objective Justification" (both the teaching and its terminology) is hereby rejected.(http://www.eldona.org/ELDoNA/Papers_files/Justification_2013.pdf)

In sum, if people are still defending a universal justification/absolution of the world they either are absolutely ignorant of Huberianism and its rejection by the Lutheran church or they choose to misconstrue what Huberianism actually is and continue to herald their false doctrine. There's no excuse now that there are translations of the old, already dealt with, controversy concerning universal justification. Thank God for the faithfulness of the bishop, pastors, and deacons of the ELDoNA for affirming the Christian, Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone.

P.S. -- Be aware of such claims as found in the Reclaim News article cited above that, "Briefly stated, Objective Justification means Christ died for the sins of the world..." This is ludicrous and is even known to be false by universal justification apologists. Universal/Objective justification is not merely "Christ died for all" but it's the philosophy that because of Christ's Sacrifice, God has absolved the entire human race -- justified them -- without faith.

Update 10/23/13: I've added to the second Huber quotation to show more clearly Huber's teaching and his interpretation of key UOJ passages. The reader will notice that the passages Huber misinterprets are the same as the ones modern church bodies use to defend UOJ. If one is inclined to purchase the very affordable theses by the Wittenberg theologians, he'll see how the Lutheran church rebutted those interpretations and set forth the true meaning.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Divine Liturgy: A Compendium

A few months ago, I presented the following explanations of the Divine Liturgy in four separate posts.  I wanted to put all four together here for ease of reading.  As I said in the introduction to the first post, "my previous articles "Liturgy is Anything but Indifferent" and "Using the Propers is Proper!" [. . .] introduced the concept of the Divine Liturgy."  Those might be a good place to start, if you haven't done so already.  Without further ado, here is the compendium:  

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Introduction
The Common Service, as its name implies, is the compilation of worship orders common to all of American Lutheranism.  It was published in 1888 as a joint effort between various Lutheran Church bodies and is (or was) widely used by members of the ELCA, LCMS, WELS, and ELS, among others.  As such, it represents an expression of Lutheran solidarity that is almost unparalleled.  But the Common Service was not created in 1888; in reality, it represents an English (and Lutheran) version of the Latin Mass and Divine Offices, which in one form or another are the continuation of a liturgical tradition that predates the time of Christ.  Its chief elements are Word and Sacrament; it exists to present them as a golden ring might present a priceless diamond.  At its core, the Common Service is nothing other than the Psalms, prayers, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19) found in the Holy Scriptures, combined as a recapitulation of the life of Christ.  It takes us to His birth (see: Gloria in Excelsis), Presentation at the Temple (see: Nunc Dimittis), life and work (see: Holy Gospel), entry into Jerusalem (see: Sanctus with Benedictus), suffering and death (see: Agnus Dei), and glorious Resurrection (see: Pax Domini).  In this context, it is rightly called the “Divine Service,” because it is the medium through which we receive Christ our God and His gifts.

A Note on Terms
While the Common Service was originally an umbrella term for three different orders of worship - the Communion Service, Matins, and Vespers - it has come to be associated most closely with the former of these three.  This Communion Service is often called the “Divine Service” in Lutheran practice, coming from the German word Gottesdienst.  The term developed as an acknowledgment of the Lutheran belief that the true worship of God is not focused on what we do, but rather on what God does for us, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession says: “Faith is the latreiva [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the latreiva [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers” (IV:49).

However, insofar as the term “Divine Service” can rightly be applied to any order of worship that presents the gifts of God, the Communion Service is often distinguished with the title “Chief Divine Service.”  It was historically known as the Mass in the Western Church, the Divine Liturgy in the East, and the Eucharist (coming from the Greek word εὐχαριστία, meaning “thanksgiving”) in both.  The Eucharistic Service can be divided into two parts:  The Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament.  The Service of the Word has its origins in the ancient Jewish synagogue service, which was marked by readings from the Law and Prophets (prefiguring the Epistle and Gospel lessons) and interspersed with Psalms.  In turn, the Service of the Sacrament is prefigured by the Jewish Passover Seder, from which the Lord Jesus instituted the Most Holy Supper of His very Body and Blood.  In this way, the Eucharistic Liturgy predates Christian use, since it was used by Hebrew believers even before the time of Christ.

Finally, there are two terms worth mentioning that refer to the congregational portions of the Chief Divine Service:  Ordinary and Proper.  The Ordinary refers to those portions of the Service which are “ordinarily” used week after week without change.  In the Common Service tradition, these are the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Agnus Dei, Sanctus, and Nunc Dimittis.   In contrast, the Proper refers to those portions of the Service that vary from week to week and are “proper” to the given day; these are the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, Sequence and/or Hymn of the Day, Offertory, and Communio.  The history and liturgical use of these canticles and chants will be explained in the paragraphs that follow.

Preparation

The Preparatory or Penitential Rite exists to prepare our hearts for the Divine Service.  Its chief part is the Confiteor (meaning “I confess”), during which we confess our general sinfulness and particular sins that make us unworthy to stand in God’s presence.  Before the Reformation, this Rite was prayed by the clergy alone.  In the Common Service tradition, it is a rite of corporate confession that points us back to Holy Baptism.  Starting with the words of St. Matthew, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19) and ending in the words of St. Mark, “whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (16:16), the rite is a stark reminder that Baptism provides both the basis for Christian repentance and the assurance of our forgiveness.  This is all made possible through our baptismal crucifixion, burial, and resurrection with Christ, through which we have received the “full right of sons” (Galatians 4:5) as redeemed children of God.

Introit
After readying our hearts in the light of Holy Baptism, we are prepared to enter into God’s presence.  The Latin Introitus plays off this theme, meaning just that: “entrance.”  The Pastor symbolizes this on behalf of the congregation by approaching the Altar while the Introit is sung.  The Introit is the first of the Proper chants that belong to the congregation, so-called because they are selections from Scripture that vary throughout the Church year with themes that are proper to the given day.  As the first of these chants, the Introit helps to set the tone for the day’s worship.  In fact, the names given to the days of the Church year are taken from the first word or two of their Latin Introit.  The Introit follows a standard form, starting with the singing of an Antiphon (from the Greek word 
ἀντίφωνα, meaning "responsive") followed by the chanting of a Psalm verse and the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father”), and concluding with a reprisal of the Antiphon.  

Gloria Patri
The Gloria Patri is the little hymn or doxology of praise contained in the larger chant of the Introit, expressing glory to the Triune God.   It emphasizes that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  This is true not only in time, but “world without end;” that is, in eternity.  It is a hymn truly befitting of the great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14).  The Gloria Patri is only omitted during the season of Passiontide (the last two Sundays in Lent), wherein the Church omits nearly all of its joyous hymns and celebrations in solemn remembrance of the Lord’s suffering and death.  


Kyrie
The Kýrie, Eléison (Greek for “Lord, have mercy”) is an ancient prayer that is repeated throughout the Psalms (Psalm 123:3, Psalm 86:3, etc.).  After entering into God’s presence, we implore Him to bestow His grace upon us.  
Many people misconstrue this as a prayer for mercy akin to the Publican's plea, asking God to be merciful on our sinful state.  However, this prayer is actually praying for the gift of grace and peace with God.  
Historically, the Kýrie, eléison was used as a congregational response similar to “Amen.”  The pastor would pray a series of intercessory petitions (usually beginning "In peace, let us pray to the Lord," thus indicating that the request is indeed for peace as previously asserted), after each of which the congregation would respond Kýrie, eléison.  Over time, the pastoral petitions were phased out and only the congregational responses remained, making it a prayer or canticle belonging to the people.  
This prayer has also come to be recognized as a confession of the Trinity, with each of its three petitions (Kýrie, eléison, Christe, eléison, Kýrie, eléison) traditionally repeated three times (3x3).  
Another unique aspect of this prayer is the fact that it was one of the only parts of the Latin Mass sung in Greek.  In the ancient days of the Church, everyone spoke Greek; the Kyrie is a vestigial piece of evidence testifying to this fact, providing a strong indication that the language of the Divine Service was originally in the language of the people, vindicating the use of vernacular in the Mass.  Still, there are some words and phrases that have been continuously used since believers spoke Hebrew (such as “Amen,” “Alleluia,” “Sabaoth,” and “Hosanna,” to name a few); these short phrases are easily explained to the simple and unlearned, so retaining the ecclesiastical languages next to the vernacular is not inappropriate and is in full agreement with our Confessions, which note that we retain Latin (Ap XXIV:3).  

Gloria in Excelsis

Following our prayer for God’s gracious mercy in the Kyrie, the Gloria in Excelsis (“Glory be to God on High”) is immediately sung.  The Gloria (sometimes called the “Greater Gloria” to distinguish it from the Gloria Patri) is the great angelic hymn that the Holy Angels sang on the eve of our Lord’s Nativity (St. Luke 2:14).  It also serves as an emphatic answer to our plea for God’s gracious peace in the Kyrie:  “on earth peace; good will toward men.”   The “peace” and “good will toward men” are explained by the hymn, in the words of St. John the Baptist, to be none other than the “Lamb of God...that takest away the sins of the world” (St. John 1:29).  He is the one Who has “mercy upon us” and “receive[s] our prayer.”  And, true to form with the other parts of the Liturgy thus far, the hymn also beautifully confesses the glorious mystery of the Holy Trinity:  “Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.”  During the penitential seasons of Advent, Septuagesima, and Lent, the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted as the Church’s worship takes on a more somber tone.

Salutation

With our entrance into God’s presence, our prayer for mercy, and God’s gracious answer having all taken place, the pastor greets the people with the ancient ecclesial greeting or “salutation,” Dominus Vobiscum (“the Lord be with you”), which has its basis in various passages of Scripture (Judges 18:6, Ruth 2:4, 1 Samuel 17:37, 1 Chronicles 22:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, etc.).  The people respond with “and with thy spirit,” a response which may have its basis in 2 Timothy 4:22, where St. Paul specifically applies the response to St. Timothy, a pastor.  
Many modern translations, mimicking the papal Second Vatican Council, translate the congregation's response as "and also with you." Regarding the Common Service's translation of "and with thy spirit," Church Father Theodore of Mopsuestia has this to say:
“The phrase ‘And with your spirit’ is addressed to the priest by the congregation according to the regulations found in the Church from the beginning. The reason for it being that when the conduct of the priest is good it is a gain for the whole body of the Church, and when the conduct of the priest is unholy it is a loss to all. All of them pray that through peace the grace of the Holy Spirit may be accorded to him, so that he may strive to perform his service to the public suitably.”
Likewise, Lutheran Church Father Hermann Sasse writes:
"Christ prays for us, and His prayer is heard. This comes to expression in the liturgy when, before the Collect, we chant: 'The Lord be with you'--and then the response, 'And with your spirit.' [We are saying:] 'May the Lord be with you as you now pray--and may He be with your spirit as you now speak out our prayer.' Jesus Christ is praying along with us. The church prays together with her Head. And this prayer is heard 'through Jesus Christ, our Lord.'"
The response "and with thy spirit" intimates a spiritual unity of prayer, in which the congregation assents to the pastor's leading them in prayer, or collecting their prayers into one voice.  This unity is heightened and exemplified by the name of the prayer that follows: The Collect.


Collect of the Day
After the Salutation, the pastor bids the people with the Oremus, “let us pray,” after which the Collect of the Day is spoken or chanted.  The word “collect” comes from the Latin collecta and is a term meaning “prayer,” but is distinct from the more common Latin word for prayer, oratio.  Collecta implies a corporate prayer - a “collective” prayer of the people.  This is an important distinction, because the pastor is not praying on his own behalf, but on behalf of all the gathered saints of God.  Through the pastor, the congregation approaches God with one voice.
The structure of the Collect of the Day follows the same basic pattern throughout the Church year, but the theme changes to corroborate with the Propers and Scripture lessons.    The Collect typically includes 1) an invocation of God, 2) a declaration of one of one of God’s Divine attributes, which is usually related to 3) the request being made, 4) the reason or reasons the request is being made, and 5) a doxology, which, in the Common Service Tradition, usually takes the form of:  “through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God: world without end.  Amen.”


Scripture Lessons: Prophecy and Epistle
After the Collect has honed our attention on the theme first set by the Introit, we are ready to hear the reading of the Holy Scriptures.  No one may teach or preach the Scriptures in the Church unless he is the servant of God called and ordained for the task.  The proclamation of the Scriptures is one of the highest points of the Divine Service and should not be taken lightly.  In ancient practice, the first reading was known as the “Prophecy” and was taken from the Old Testament.  However, by the time of the Reformation, there were only two readings - Epistle and Gospel.  This two-reading model mimicked the Jewish synagogue service, which also had set readings from the Law and the Prophets.  
Lest one thinks that the Reformation-era model led to a neglect of the Old Testament, however, it should be noted that the Proper chants of the congregation are almost always from the Old Testament.  In addition, while the prescribed Epistle lessons on Sundays were almost exclusively from the New Testament, the “Epistle” prescribed for weekdays was usually from the Old Testament.  So the Old Testament was kept in regular use.  Still, due to shifting social paradigms, the Sunday Service has become one of the only worship opportunities in most regions.  In this light, the Common Service allows for a reading from the Old Testament.  

Gradual
Since the days of the Jewish synagogue, believers have chanted Psalms between the various Scripture lessons.  In the earliest days of the Church, two whole Psalms were chanted between the three separate readings.  Over the ages, the Psalms were shortened (likely to accommodate the extended chants to which they were set); by the time of the Reformation, the remnant of the first Psalm became known as the Gradual.  Its name is drawn from the Latin word gradus, meaning “step,” because it was sung from the steps of the lectern from which the Gospel was read.  The Gradual is usually comprised of two or three verses that specifically highlight the theme of the day.  

Alleluia
The remnant of the second responsorial Psalm became known as the Alleluia, because it was preceded and followed by the ancient word “Alleluia,” a Latinization of a Hebrew word meaning “praise the Lord.”  In medieval practice, the Alleluia verse became little more than an extension of the Gradual; in fact, in many missals it is listed with the Gradual.  However, as previously mentioned, it was initially an entirely separate Psalm and should be viewed as a unique chant in its own right.  In the Common Service tradition, where a Prophecy reading is often retained, the Alleluia verse is chanted after the Epistle and completely separated from the Gradual (which is chanted after the Prophecy), thus mimicking the ancient practice.
In the seasons of  Septuagesima and Lent, the Alleluia Verse is replaced by the Tract, a chant which is comprised of selections from the Psalms (or other Scriptures) that usually take on a more somber tone.  This “alleluia fast” is a symbol of our repentance in preparation for Passiontide.  In contrast, the season of Easter sees the reinstatement of a second Alleluia verse, which displaces the Gradual; together, the two Alleluia verses of Easter are known as the “Greater Alleluia.”

Holy Gospel and its Acclamations

The Alleluia verse also serves as a segue into the acclamation of the Holy Gospel.  The reading from the Holy Gospel is the pinnacle of the Service of the Word, because it represents the direct words and actions of our Lord during His time on earth.  Before the reading of the Gospel, the people rise in due deference to Christ; following the ancient practice, they may also use their thumbs to make the sign of the cross three times - once over the forehead, once over the lips, and once over the heart - silently praying: “the Holy Gospel be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.”  After the pastor introduces the book from which the Gospel shall be read, the people are unable to contain themselves and exclaim: Gloria tibi Domine, “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!”  So too, after the reading, in unbridled joy they proclaim Laus tibi Christe, “Praise be to Thee, O Christ!”
Sequence and Hymn of the Day

In the Middle Ages, elaborate Latin hymns were often used to recapitulate the theme of the day on chief festivals of the Church year.  These hymns were called Sequences (Sequentia), named after the Latin for “following.”  They were called “what follows”  because the texts of the earliest sequences were created to fit into the elaborate chants sung on the last syllable of the word “alleluia.”  Hence, the Sequence is “what follows” the Alleluia verse and is liturgically an extension of the same.  While only the Sequences for Easter and Pentecost (which were inspirations for Luther’s famous hymns “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands” and “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord”) officially made it into the Roman Missal, there were numerous Sequences composed before and after the Reformation.  The Lutheran Church took many of these Sequences and used them as inspiration for creating hymns in the vernacular, which are now known as the “Hymn of the Day.”  Like its ancestor the Sequence, the Hymn of the Day is a Proper in its own right that is based on the theme of the day, recapitulating the Scripture lessons and chants.    Unlike the Sequence, however, the Hymn of the Day is sung after the Credo in the Common Service tradition.

Credo
The Credo (meaning “I believe” in Latin), also known as the Nicene Creed, is the great Confession of the Christian faith professed by every sect claiming the Christian moniker, including the Papal church, the Eastern churches, and the Protestant denominations.  In the Lutheran Church, as part of the Church Catholic, we hold the Nicene Creed as the second Confession or Symbol of our faith in the Book of Concord.  The Creed originated at the First Council of Nicea (c. A.D. 325) and was finalized at the First Council of Constantinople (c. A.D. 381), which are respectively known as the First and Second Ecumenical Councils of the Church (because, like the Creed, they are universally accepted by all Christian sects).  The Creed itself was crafted in opposition to the Arian heresy, which denied that Christ and the Holy Spirit are God.  As such, it specifically focuses on the person of Christ and His “being of one substance with the Father;” that is, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”  It likewise emphasizes the Holy Spirit and His being the true “Lord and Giver of life,” Who “in unity with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,” as only God should be.  The Creed follows the reading of the Gospel in the Divine Service as the people’s profession of the fundamental truths revealed in Holy Scripture.  While the Nicene Creed is universally used on Sundays and high feasts, in some regions the Apostles‘ Creed may be used instead, especially at non-Eucharistic Services.  In the Lutheran tradition, the Athanasian Creed may also be used on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, because it specifically focuses on the nature and doctrine of the Most Blessed Trinity.

Sermon and Pax Votum
After reciting the basic truths of the Christian faith in the Nicene Creed and focusing on the specific theme of the day in the Hymn of the Day, the pastor ascends the steps of the pulpit for the preaching of the Sermon.  The Sermon should be the highest point of the Service of the Word, because in it the Pastor brings together all of the day’s various Scripture lessons and chants and exposits them through the Gospel in the context of the primary teachings expressed by the Creed.  The Sermon also serves to tie the Service of the Word into the Service of the Sacrament, causing the people to hunger for Christ’s gifts in the Holy Supper.  While the Divine Liturgy can still present Word and Sacrament without the Sermon, the lack of a good Sermon can result in an out-of-context and misunderstood Liturgy and a people who fail to understand the full ramifications of the day’s theme.  As such, the public preaching of the Gospel represented by the Sermon is one of the most important functions of the Pastoral Office.  Likewise, it is one of the oldest biblical traditions in the Christian Church, with its first Sermon being preached by St. Peter on Pentecost - the day of the Church’s birth (albeit that Sermons were preached before the Church’s birth, especially by Moses, the Prophets, and the Lord Jesus Himself).   The Sermon concludes with the Pax Votum, the “Word of Peace,” which is a verbatim quote from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (4:7).

Offertory
Immediately following the Sermon is the Offertory (Latin: Offertorium), which goes hand in hand with the “offering.”  In modern practice, the “offering” is often understood as monetary; historically speaking, however, the primary elements that the people “offered” were the bread and wine for use in the Blessed Sacrament.  As such, at this point in the Service the Pastor prepares the elements for use in the Holy Supper.  While this is being done, the people sing the Proper chant of the Offertory.  The Common Service of 1888 allowed for the singing of the proper Offertory; however, it also provided two options as a sort of “ordinary” offertory: Psalm 51:10-12 and Psalm 51:17-19.  However, making use of the Proper Offertory offers the congregation a broader exposure to the Scriptures - ones that specifically bring out an aspect of the day’s theme.  


General Prayer
After the Offertory, the people rise for the General Prayer.  Standing for prayer on Sundays is an ancient practice with a variety of symbolic meanings.  During the week, the people traditionally knelt for prayer.  On Sundays, however, we rise, just as our Lord, Whose resurrection is commemorated every Sunday, rose from the dead.  Likewise, it is a reminder that we are to always look forward to the life to come, the “eighth” and endless Day of eternity, which Sunday also represents.  On that Day we shall rise from the dead and die no more.  Although we kneel during the week in recognition of our sinful unworthiness as mortal creatures of this world, we rise on the “eighth day” to remind ourselves that we are bound for the immortality of heaven.
The General Prayer is a Lutheran restoration of the ancient practice of having general intercessions prior to the Service of the Sacrament.  In the Papal church, the abomination known as the “Canon of the Mass” was used in place of the General Prayer; the Papists imagined that their Canon actually helped to effect the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Lutherans abolished Eucharistic Prayers on this account (though orthodox Eucharistic Prayers have been retained in some regions) and replaced them with the General Prayer, which retains the best elements of the Eucharistic Prayer and omits its unsavory papal elements.  The General Prayer used by the Common Service predates the Reformation and is based on a form of prayer that has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the Church.



Preface: Sursum Corda and Vere Dignum
The Service of the Word now complete, the pastor turns toward the people with the familiar greeting, Dominus Vobiscum.  After the people’s response, he intones the Sursum Corda, which means “lift up your hearts” and comes from Lamentations 3:41.  After the people assent, he bids them to make eucharist; that is, to give thanks to God.  The people respond by saying Dignum et iustum est; that is, “it is meet and right.”  This dialogue between pastor and people has been used in a multiplicity of liturgical traditions since the 3rd Century.  It leads directly into the Proper Preface, also known as the Vere Dignum.  Notice the people’s last response also began with Dignum ("meet"); the pastor draws from the people’s response and affirms that “it is truly meet, right, and salutary” to give God thanks.  In this way, the Sursum Corda serves as a formal assent to the pastor's "making eucharist" on the congregation's behalf, indicating that with one mind we lift our hearts before the Lord in gratitude and humility.  

The Proper Preface also serves to hone our thanksgiving into the context of the theme of the day; each season of the church year has a unique Preface that accompanies it.  The Preface concludes with a sort of doxology, saying that with Angels and Archangels and the whole company of the heavenly army we praise and magnify God’s Name with the song of heaven:  the Sanctus.

Sanctus with Benedictus
The Sanctus (meaning “holy”) is an ancient hymn that comes from the Old and New Testaments.  It is the song that the Prophet Isaiah heard the Blessed Seraphim singing before the Throne of God (as recorded in Isaiah 6:3).  St. John also heard the “four creatures” that surround the Throne of God singing a version of the Sanctus (Revelation 4:8).  In a sense, then, the Sanctus is the Song of Heaven - that which the Angels sing before the very presence of God.  It is most fitting to sing this hymn directly before the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, at which point heaven deigns to be on earth.  This is where, with Angels and Archangels, we laud and magnify the Lamb Who - though He sits upon the Throne - in wondrous mystery sits upon the Altar in the Holy Supper.
Also befitting this mystery is the text of the Benedictus (“blessed”), which comprises the second half of the Sanctus.  The Benedictus, originally based on Psalm 118:26, is the song (“Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord!”) that people of Israel sang as the Lord triumphantly entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as recorded in St. Mark 11:9-10.  It is surrounded by the refrain “Hosanna in the highest” (hosanna is a Hebrew word that is related to “Savior” and was probably used as an expression beseeching Divine aid).  It is appropriate for these words to be used as we beseech the good graces of Him “that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Even more symbolic is the fact that the Benedictus represents the people of God’s earthly song of acclamation, while the Sanctus represents the heavenly song of acclamation.  In a very real sense, the Sanctus with Benedictus represents the meeting of heaven and earth - the ultimate expression of the fact that heaven and earth become indistinguishable as we progress toward the celebration of the Holy Supper, where Saints and Angels regardless of time and space join together in adoration of the King of kings.

Pater Noster with Doxology
Following the Sanctus, the pastor begins chanting the Pater Noster, also known as the “Our Father” or “Lord’s Prayer.”  It is the prayer our Savior taught us and has long been used in the Service of the Sacrament.  In it, we specifically pray for God to “give us this day our daily bread,” which is none other than Christ Himself - that Bread of Life we are about to receive in the Blessed Sacrament.  But in a real sense, all the petitions of this venerable prayer find their completion in the Holy Supper.  God’s Name is hallowed by the work of His Son, in Whose presence we are soon to dwell.  God’s Kindgom most literally comes to earth as the Communion of Saints is manifested in the Body and Blood of Christ.  And His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  How is it done?  By the giving of this wonderful bread from heaven, which surely forgives our sins and empowers our Christian living as we forgive those who sin against us, are led away from temptation, and are delivered from evil.
In joyful response to these blessed truths, the Common Service tradition has the people respond by happily singing the doxology; for the Kingdom, Power, and Glory truly belong to God for ever and ever, Who has bestowed upon us these wonderful gifts, the work of His hand alone.

Verba Christi and Pax Domini
With our minds focused on the gifts about to be received, the pastor chants the Verba Christi, the Words of Institution that are recorded in the three synoptic Gospels and St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.  Beyond all human comprehension, when the Pastor recites these Words of consecration, the powerful Word of God effects the Sacramental Union by which the earthly elements of bread and wine become the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We leave to Him alone how this can be; His Word alone is sufficient.  It is historically appropriate - and endorsed by the blessed Dr. Luther himself - for the pastor to elevate the consecrated elements in recognition of the Lord’s sacramental presence.  After the consecration, he turns toward the people with the host and chalice in hand and speaks the Pax Domini - that is, the “Peace of the Lord” - to the people.  This is reminiscent of Jesus' greeting to the Apostles after His resurrection from the dead, "
Peace be unto you" (St. John 20:19).  It is like a liturgical recapitulation of Easter (or an "Easter within Easter," since the entire Divine Service is a celebration of Easter).  In this way, the priest is reconfirming the peace of the Lord to God's people, who might be rightfully terrified by the awe-full Mystery before them - God on earth.  Luther recognized this little saying as one final, comforting form of absolution before the reception of the Sacrament, to which the people emphatically respond "Amen."  

Agnus Dei
After receiving Christ’s peace, the people sing in humble adoration the Agnus Dei, the great hymn to the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world (based on St. John the Baptist’s acclamation in St. John 1:29).  In this canticle, we beseech Christ’s mercy and peace before approaching His Altar to receive the gifts He has prepared for our benefit.  The text takes us to Good Friday, the day on which the Lamb of God completed the task for which He was sent by suffering and dying - taking away the sins of the world.  The only time of the year that this canticle is omitted is during the great Paschal Vigil; the day the Church celebrates Christ’s victorious resurrection from the dead.

Distribution

After the Agnus Dei, the people of God take part in the Distribution of the Holy Sacrament.  This is the highest point of the Service of the Sacrament, where the people of God literally and physically receive forgiveness by receiving the Body that was broken and the Blood that was outpoured for their sins.  They also experience the Communion of Saints; for where Christ is, there His members are too.  In the Blessed Sacrament, all the saints of God - living and dead - are united as one.  In the Holy Supper, death has no power over us and we are given a brief foretaste of the Endless Day, wherein all who have been made one with Christ in Holy Baptism live and reign with Him forever.  In short, at the Altar we experience heaven on earth with all who are in Christ.


Nunc Dimittis
As is the case with a foretaste, the Holy Supper comes to an end.  Refreshed and renewed, we rise and sing the Nunc Dimittis.  This is a uniquely Lutheran addition to the Divine Service, as it was not part of the Ordinary prior to the Reformation.  Still, it is an immensely fitting canticle to sing after the Distribution of the Blessed Sacrament.  The Nunc Dimittis, also known as the Song of Simeon, is the song that St. Simeon sang after seeing the Infant Lord Jesus at His presentation in the temple (cf. St. Luke 2:29-32).  Through it, with St. Simeon we proclaim that the Lord lets us, His servants, “depart in peace, according to Thy Word.  For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.  A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.”  In the Holy Supper, we have literally seen, felt, and tasted the Light of Gentile nations and the Glory of Israel.  Having received Christ and His forgiveness, we are truly ready to depart in peace - whether to our earthly vocations or from this veil of tears.

Communio

After the Nunc Dimittis, the Common Service prescribes the singing of the versicle “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever.”  This versicle takes the place of what was historically known as the Communio chant, the last of the Proper chants that the people sing throughout the Divine Service.  In ancient practice, this antiphon was accompanied by a longer Psalm that was chanted during the Distribution of the Sacrament.  By the time of the Reformation, however, the Communio was relegated to a shorter verse that was sung after the Distribution.  Luther recommended the retention of the Communio (along with all the Propers), so it is highly fitting to sing the Proper Communio verse.  It also serves to remind us that the Services of Word and Sacrament are not two separate entities, but rather two halves of one whole Mass.  In short, the Communio gives us one final thought pertaining to the theme of the day, bringing our reception of the Sacrament into that same context.

Post-Communion Collect
After the Communio verse, the pastor prays the Post-Communion Collect.  In the Roman Missal, this prayer varied according to the day.  However, Dr. Luther wrote a beautiful form of this collect, which the Common Service utilizes in place of a variable prayer.  In it, we thank God (“make eucharist”) for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament and ask Him to use it to strengthen our faith in Him and love toward one another.  It concludes with the familiar doxology that was previously used in the Collect of the Day.

Benedicamus
After the Post-Communion Collect, the pastor greets the people a final time with the familiar Dominus Vobiscum.  He then proceeds with the Benedicamus, proclaiming to the people: “Bless we the Lord!”  Before the Reformation, the Benedicamus was only used when the Gloria in Excelsis was omitted (i.e. the penitential seasons).  On other Sundays, the phrase Ite, missa est (“Go, the Mass is ended”) was used.  However, Lutherans adopted the practice of using the Benedicamus throughout the year, regardless of season, following a suggestion made by Dr. Luther.  This reflects the more ancient practice of the church and ends the Service with a reminder of the fact that we are unable to do anything but bless or "praise" the Lord for the gifts he has bestowed.  In point of fact, it is His gifts that - by their own power - cause the praise that is due to Him.  Regardless of the phrase used, however, this statement marks the official end of the Divine Service.  The people respond with one final making of eucharist: Deo Gratias; “Thanks be to God!”

Benediction
After the conclusion of the Divine Service, the Common Service tradition instructs the pastor to bestow the Aaronic Blessing upon the people.  The Aaronic Blessing is the great blessing that the Lord instructed Moses to teach Aaron and the Levite priests;  it was the form they were to use when they blessed the Hebrew people (cf. Numbers 6:22-27).  Since by faith we are the true children of Abraham, it is appropriate that the Church’s ministers should bless us with the same blessing.  




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fiction Based in Reality

This story is purely fictional.  Let the reader understand.  

After serving a number of years in a rural country setting, a young pastor received a call to serve a large urban parish in a major American city. The young pastor prayerfully considered and accepted the call and a date for his installation was set. The outgoing pastor arranged to install the new pastor in a special Service on a Sunday afternoon; the outgoing pastor would in turn celebrate the Divine Service one last time in the morning.

When the young pastor and his family arrived at the urban church on the Sunday morning of his installation, he was taken aback. The parish’s sanctuary represented the height of Lutheran orthodoxy, with intricately detailed stained glass, extensive statuary and artwork, and a high Altar that would make even the papists blush. The parish was also blessed, unlike most urban parishes, with a large number of parishioners. The outgoing pastor had trained his parishioners well in the realm of liturgical music, so they were well versed in Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. The congregation belted out the opening hymn in such stunning four-part harmony that the incoming pastor was overwhelmed to the point of tears.

In essence, the parish seemed like a dream come true. The organist was phenomenal. The congregation sang all the hymns and canticles - they even sung the plainchant for the Gloria in Excelsis in tempo and harmony! But then something odd happened. The outgoing pastor finished praying the Collect of the Day, “...ever one God, world without end,” the people sang “Amen,” and rather than sitting down, they started chanting the Nicene Creed. Now, lest the reader misunderstand, the new pastor was immensely impressed that the congregation could sing the Credo. But it was out of order! After the Collect comes the reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Even more bizarrely, the Credo ended and the congregation sat for the singing of the Chief Hymn. 

 “Something really weird is going on here,” the new pastor whispered to his wife.

The Chief Hymn ended and the outgoing pastor began praying the General Prayer, moving into the Liturgy of the Sacrament, after which he concluded the Service - with no Scripture readings and no Sermon. 

 “He is getting on in years” the incoming pastor’s wife pensively quipped. “That’s why they called you, after all - perhaps he just forgot.”

“But a Lutheran pastor does not simply ‘forget’ the Sacred Scriptures and preaching of the Gospel!” the new pastor angrily thought. Being a pastor, he knew what the Scripture lessons for the day were supposed to be. He had desperately needed to hear the Words of his Lord that morning working together with the rest of the Liturgy for the renewing and revitalizing of his faith. But it never came.

After the dismissal, the new pastor angrily confronted the outgoing pastor. “What kind of operation are you running here!?” he demanded. “What kind of Lutheran pastor doesn’t read from the Bible or preach in the Divine Service?”

The outing pastor calmly responded: “Due to the size of the congregation, we only read Scripture every other week. I only preach on the first Sunday of the month.”

The new pastor was stunned: “How can you deprive your people of the Gospel like that!?”

“They have the Gospel in Christ’s Body and Blood every week!” the outgoing pastor retorted. “Besides, they still hear the Scriptures every month.  Who are you to judge? The parish you left to accept this call only celebrates the Sacrament once a month. What concern is it of yours which Means of Grace I choose to deprive my people of?”

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America 2013 Synod and Colloquium, Part 1

Early Monday morning, fellow Ecclesia Augustana contributor Christian Schulz and I began a 14-hour trek to the great state of Texas with the intention of attending the Colloquium portion of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA)‘s 2013 Colloquium and Synod.  Those of us in the Lutheran world are familiar with such acronyms as LCMS, WELS, ELS, ELCA, and even some smaller groups like CLC.   Some of these groups claim to be "Confessional Lutheran" and theologically orthodox institutions, but many of us are all too familiar with the horror stories stemming from each. Playing on this theme, the ELDoNA writes on their website:
In the Lutheran Church, one encounters a great deal of talk about ‘confessional Lutheran’ doctrine and practice; sadly, the substance has been something quite different. The various ‘synods’ often appear more interested in a ‘theology of glory’ (focusing on worldly prestige, money, and ‘numbers’) than a ‘theology of the cross’ which recognizes that the Church is despised by the world, because she is the Bride of Christ. 
The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America is committed to the restoration and advancement of consistently Evangelical Lutheran doctrine and practice in harmony with the Sacred Scriptures and the Book of Concord (1580).
It is in this context that the ELDoNA piqued our interest; after all, it is hard to deny their claims concerning the synods, my own Wisconsin Synod included.  While rush hour traffic in Fort Worth prevented us from making it to the opening Vespers and fellowship dinner last night, we got up bright and early this morning to attend Matins and the first day of Colloquium presentations.
There were a number of insightful papers presented today. The first of these was by Dr. Kent A. Heimbigner, whose topic was “Nietzsche on Christianity: A Baptismally Informed Analysis.” The paper demonstrated the impasse that exists between Nietzsche (and his ideological ilk) and those belonging to the orthodox (Lutheran) Christian confession, specifically in terms of the person of Christ Himself (Nietzsche’s Jesus verses the Biblical Christ), the use of language (Nietzche viewed language as imprecise and even dubious, whereas Christians view the language or Word of God as powerful and effective, with the ability to create and restore), and disparaging concepts of morality and humanity (Nietzsche sees man as born as “fully or ideally human,” whereas Christians see man born into death as fallen creatures in need of restoration through Holy Baptism). In short, the paper was enlightening on both philosophical and theological levels.

The next paper, entitled “Social Identity in the New Testament and Today: Does Christianity Negate All Other Identity?”, was presented by the Reverend John S. Rutowicz. He touched on a number of themes related to the Social Identity Theory developed by Henri Tajfel, which posits that there are varying levels of group membership that effect human identity to greater and lesser degrees. In particular, the paper demonstrated that the New Testament does not disparage social identities such as race and ethnicity, but rather embraces them - even in some contexts that might be viewed as “racist” by individualistic, postmodern Western society. He specifically highlighted the example of Christ Himself in St. Matthew 15, where the Lord calls a Canaanite woman a “dog” in solidarity with His own Jewish heritage, as well as the example of St. Paul in Titus 1:12-13, where the Blessed Apostle generalizes an entire people in stereotypical, negative terms ("All Cretans are liars"), while elsewhere (2 Corinthians 11:22) he lauds his social identity as a Hebrew. In short, Rev. Rutowicz contended that these examples serve to show that one can maintain social identities outside of the Christian identity. While the Christian “social identity” should be what the author calls our “terminal identity,” thus governing our other identities, it should not negate them, if we take the Lord and His Apostles as our examples.

Another presentation was Rev. Joshua W. Sullivan’s paper entitled “The Use of Genesis in the Old Testament Apocrypha.” Rev. Sullivan provided a number of examples demonstrating the fact that the O.T. Apocrypha rely heavily on the types set forth in the canonical Book of Genesis. While the Apocrypha contain some dubious material, they provide what the author called “sermon illustrations” or stories that are of immense value to laypeople and pastors alike.  One such instance was the story of Tobit, which provides in the persons of Tobit and his betrothed Sarah provide a beautiful picture of what the Christian marriage is supposed to be (in fact, the early Church adopted a citation from the book of Tobit as the Introit for its Nuptial Services!).  But more than this, the Apocryphal texts are especially fitting given the similarity between their immediate context (a time in which the Jews were faced with the immense pressure of Hellinization to forfeit their culture and beliefs) and that of our own day, in which Christian values and mores are being trivialized and ridiculed more and more.

The last paper yet to be mentioned from today's session was presented by Pr. Paul Rydecki and entitled “The Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace in the Theology of the Lutheran Age of Orthodoxy: A Reflection on Atonement and Its Relationship to Justification.” In it, Pr. Rydecki provided citation after citation from the era of Lutheran Orthodoxy highlighting the traditional analogy of forensic justification in the Divine Tribunal of God. In so doing, he demonstrated that the Christian’s justification occurs not at the Cross or from eternity, but rather in time when the Christian - by God-given faith - clings to the “Throne of Grace,” an "alternate tribunal" from that of the Law and established by the Cross for all people. To quote pages 4-6 of the paper [the citation is long, but worth the read]:

Chemnitz offers this analogy [it is essentially an expansion of Romans 3:22-26] in its most extended form, depicting the various aspects of this courtroom setting. [...] It is presented here at length, because it expresses so clearly the Lutheran concept of justification in relation to the atonement.
‘Thus, the use of the legal term 'justification' refutes the ideas of the Epicureans. For it shows that the justification of the sinner is not some insignificant or perfunctory thing, but that the whole human being stands before the judgment of God and is examined both with respect to his nature as well as his works, and this according to the norm of divine law. But because after the entrance of sin a human being in this life does not have true and perfect conformity with the law of God, nothing is found in this examination, whether in the person's nature or in his works, that he can use to justify himself before God; rather the Law pronounces the sentence of condemnation, written by the very finger of God Himself.
Now God does not justify the ungodly by some kind of mistake, as a judge often makes a faulty decision by failure to examine the evidence sufficiently or by wrong thinking; nor through indifference, as if He did not care about the transgression of His law; nor through wickedness, as if He approved of our iniquity, connived with it, or were in collusion with the impious. A justification of this kind God Himself pronounces to be an abomination, Ex. 23:1; Is. 5:23; Prov. 17:15. God cannot retract this sentence of condemnation revealed in the Law, unless it is perfectly satisfied or fulfilled, Matt. 5:18.
Thus righteousness and satisfaction are required where God is to justify. Luther is correct when he says that God remits no sin unless the Law has been satisfied with regard to it. In the case of human judgment, to be sure, guilt is absolved either because of some preceding merit (for they are accounted worthy who deserve to be forgiven), or with respect to present righteousness and innocence either of the cause or of the person, or with respect to a satisfaction which the guilty party promises to make either to the judge or to his opponent in the case. But before God's judgment man can put up nothing in his own defense in order that he might be justified, as many very clear Scripture passages declare.

Therefore, because God does not justify out of frivolity, unconcern, error, or iniquity, nor because He finds anything in man whereby he might be justified before God; and yet the just requirement of the Law must be fulfilled in those who are to be justified, Rom. 8:4, therefore a feign righteousness must intervene-the kind of righteousness which not only with payment of penalties but also with perfect obedience to the divine law made satisfaction in such a way that it could be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

To this the terrified sinner, condemned by the voice of the Law, flees in true faith. This he desires, begs for, lays hold of; to this he submits himself; this he uses as his defense before the judgment seat of God and against the accusation of the Law. By regard for this and by its imputation he is justified, that is, he is absolved from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation and receives the promise of eternal life. This is what Paul is saying Rom. 3:31: "The doctrine of the righteousness of faith does not destroy the Law but upholds it."

Paul clearly describes the act of justification in this way in Romans 3:

1. The conscience of the sinner is through the Law placed before the judgment tribunal of God (who is a consuming fire and in whose sight not even the stars are pure), is accused, convicted, and condemned, so that it is afflicted and pressed down by a terrifying sense of the wrath of God, Rom. 3:19: "...that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God" (KJV).

2. The heart thus contrite does not entertain Epicurean thoughts but anxiously seeks whether and how it can be freed from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation. From such thoughts come such passages as Ps. 130:3: "If You should mark iniquities...."; Ps. 143:2: "Enter not into judgment..."; Rom. 7:24: "Who shall deliver me...?"...

3. Therefore God, "who is rich in mercy" [Eph. 2:4], has had mercy upon us and has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and those who flee as suppliants to this throne of grace He absolves from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation, and by the imputation of the righteousness of His Son, which they grasp in faith, He pronounces them righteous, receives them into grace, and adjudges them to be heirs of eternal life.

This is certainly the judicial meaning of the word 'justification,' in almost the same way that a guilty man who has been sentenced before the bar of justice is acquitted.

It is manifest how much clarity this gives to the discussion of justification. The fathers in disputing this matter often spoke inadequately about justification. But in their devotional writings, when they were looking at the picture of the divine judgment or the divine judicial process, they handled the doctrine of this article very well.

The example of Bernard [of Clairvaux, 1091-1153] shows this clearly, because he was not involved in idle speculations but was exercising himself in the serious matter of repentance based on the doctrine and testimony of Paul. Gerson has some wonderful thoughts about the tribunal of God's justice and the throne of His grace. For if we are discussing our common position before the tribunal of God, we are all subject to the tribunal of His justice; and because before him no living person can be justified but all are condemned, therefore God has also set up another tribunal, the throne of grace. And the Son of God pleads for us the benefit of being called away from the tribunal of justice to the throne of grace. Therefore the Pharisee, because he was not willing to use the benefit of this calling, but wanted to enter into judgment before the tribunal of justice, was condemned. But the publican, who was first accused at the tribunal of justice, convicted and condemned there later by faith called out to the throne of grace and was justified [Luke 18:9-14]. (Loci Theologici, p. 481-482)

And this is the process or act of the justification of a sinner before the judgment seat of God, so that he appeals from the throne of the strict justice of God to the throne of grace in the blood of the Son of God, as Gerson describes the matter of justification by the apt simile of forensic appeal. (Enchiridion, Q. 146)

All these points so beautifully illustrating the doctrine of justification come from the correct linguistic understanding of the word "justification." (Loci Theologici, p. 482)'

Several things must be noted here. First, that, on account of the satisfaction Christ made to the divine law, there exists, objectively, a Throne of Grace to which all sinners are invited (in the Gospel) to flee, an alternate place of judgment opened up as a result of God's grace and the obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is "another tribunal," apart form the Law, where God is propitious, where absolution is pronounced, justification is declared, and eternal life is bestowed for the sake of Christ. The "atonement" made by Christ has opened up this Throne of Grace, which is actually Christ Himself, the "atonement cover" or "Mercy Seat," sprinkled with His own blood, the "Atoner" or "Reconciler." 
Second, that justification occurs in the divine courtroom, not without the accused fleeing in faith to the Throne of Grace, not before the accused flees in faith to the Throne of Grace, but simultaneously with this 'fleeing' or this 'forensic appeal.' This present-tense (that is, concurrent with faith) absolution and justification is perfectly in keeping with the language of the Augsburg Confession:
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4. (AC:IV) 
...in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake (AC:V). 
Scripture teaches that we are justified before God, through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake (AC:XXIV:28).
Third, that, although the foreign righteousness of Christ has made satisfaction to the divine law so that it is a 'propitiation for the sins of the whole world,' only those who appeal to this Propitiator actually escape condemnation under the divine law and are justified. The act of justification is not simultaneous with the atonement made by Christ. 
Fourth, since 'the just requirement of the Law must be fulfilled in those who are to be justified,' and since the only way in which that just requirement can be fulfilled for any sinner is if the accused pleads the 'foreign righteousness' of Christ as his defense, then it would actually be contrary to God's justice for Him to absolve or acquit the guilty man who is not using the 'foreign righteousness' of Christ as his defense before the judgment seat of God. 
Fifth, Chemnitz says that his analogy presents the article of justification as clearly expressed by St. Paul in Romans 3. The burden is on those who wish to read an already-pronounced justification of all unbelievers into Romans 3:24 either to demonstrate how such an interpretation is compatible with Chemnitz' analogy, or admit that their own interpretation is at odds with Lutheran orthodoxy. 
Sixth, note that Chemnitz refers this analogy to the 'correct linguistic understanding of the word 'justification.'" He is not seeking to offer an arbitrary, partial or ad hoc definition of the word, but to faithfully convey the meaning of the word as used throughout the Holy Scripture. As he says elsewhere, 'Our question is in what sense the Holy Spirit employs the word "Justify" in those passages of the Scripture in which He treats and teaches the doctrine of justification, as we have already shown it most clearly.' 
Chemnitz' analogy illustrates that the concept of forensic justification, as described by the Lutheran Fathers, is not a piecemeal justification that already 'happened' for all sinners, and then 'happens' again through the Word and faith. Instead, it is the culmination of the four 'causes' that comprise the article of justification, each of which is a sine qua non in forensic justification. There can be no forensic justification of the sinner without God's grace, or without the merit of Christ, or without the sinner being clothed by faith in the foreign righteousness of Christ, or without the promise of the Gospel that kindles faith.

The Lutheran Fathers have much to say about the unique role that each of these four components plays in forensic justification....”
Pr. Rydecki went on to delineate the “four comonents” of justification, which I myself have elaborated on in prior posts on this blog. In short, Rydecki irrefutably demonstrated that “this common outline, this ‘justification by faith alone in Christ’ was the only concept of justification espoused by the Lutherans” - that is, “until Samuel Huber (1547-1624) arrived on the scene” (p. 17). Contrary to misguided and unscholarly notions, Rydecki showed that "Huber's problem was not that he was a Universalist. It was that he strayed from proper Biblical exegesis of certain passages, including Romans 5:12-20. It was that he strayed from the common outline of forensic justification that requires the imputation, by faith, of Christ's righteousness in order for the sinner to be justified. It was that he strayed from the Lutheran teaching that 'restricts justification to believers only, as prescribed by all prophetic and apostolic Scriptures'" (p. 19).

All of the Colloquium presentations were well received by those in attendance. Each paper sparked interesting discussion and prompted unique insights. Pr. Rydecki’s paper on “Forensic Justification” elicited what seemed like distractions to this observer (comments about “objective/subjective” terminology and Synodical Conference theologians, which were nowhere to be found in the paper itself), but the feedback seemed to be generally positive from actual members of the diocese.

All in all, I have been impressed by the ELDoNA so far. I look forward to the rest of the Colloquium tomorrow and learning about how the rest of the Synod unfolds. Stay tuned for more information in the coming days.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Musings on Contemporary Worship

Last year at school we had Koiné come and lead chapel for us. It was held in the gym partly because that's the only place where the lights and sound equipment would work and partly because lots of area grade schools came. It was... interesting. The "service" consisted of confession and absolution, Bible passages being read, and lots of singing by Koine. It was more or less consistent with the stereotypical form of "contemporary worship." To me, it felt more like a concert than a worship service. Apparently the grade school kids felt the same way since they clapped throughout the service.

Why am I bringing this up? It exemplifies one of my concerns with contemporary worship. In contemporary worship, the service revolves around us and our feelings. The grade school kids clapped because it didn't seem like a church service to them. I mean, we don't get up and clap after the organist finishes a rousing hymn in church, do we?  But if you were in a gym with a band playing? Well clapping only seems normal, because the atmosphere is not one of worship. Koiné uses hymns, which is better than praise songs for sure, but the atmosphere still resembles that of a concert.

The informal quality of contemporary service is coupled by the lack of depth often found in its music.  I recently found a video on YouTube that shows just how shallow the lyrics in praise songs are. These praise songs always seem to be centered around being "lost in the moment" or "feeling God" in some shape or form. There also seems to be something on fire in every song. These songs often have little or no theological depth. Many of them are simply designed to be catchy, making you feel good, saved, and spiritual; they are simple enough so they can be sung without thinking about what is being sung. There's not much to think about when you say "hallelujah" over and over and over again. The reason these churches use contemporary worship is so they can get the people on a rush. Why do we feel the need to do the same when the doctrine behind it is so wrong?

Another thing to consider is the fact that when we use contemporary worship, it signifies a solidarity with the practice of the Reformed and Sacramentarian sects.  Doctrine and practice are linked, so we should make sure we don't send mixes signals by lauding Lutheran doctrine and counteracting it with sectarian practice.  We aren't in fellowship with sectarian churches, so we shouldn't worship like them. Actions speak louder than words. If we look like a Baptist church, what's to stop people from thinking that we believe what Baptist churches believe?  Also, if we use these practices long enough, they are bound to infect our doctrine. Lex orandi, lex credendi, after all.  While the slippery slope analogy can be dubious, Scripture does warn us that a little yeast leavens the whole lump.  If we think it's okay to mimic false teachers in one area, we shouldn't fancy ourselves immune from mimicking them in other areas as well.

Contemporary worship is not something we can define as "doing the same thing, but in a different way."  Don't get me wrong; I like variety in worship. I'm just opposed to letting the way we worship or the things we see in worship become contrary to what God says.  So, in conclusion, I suggest that we should just stay away from contemporary worship altogether.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I Weep, or Try to Weep

When I sat down to write this post, my original intention was to weigh in on the Lutheran Facebook community’s Controversy of the Week™ concerning sanctification, which itself stems from the ever-raging struggle between the Lutheran Church and antinomianism. I intended to delve into all the theological arguments one can find in Sacred Scripture, the Confessions, and the Fathers demonstrating the fact that sanctification is something that the Christian participates in, albeit all too feebly, as a result of the newness of his re-created life. This salutary synergism requires the third use of the Law, because the Law of God is good and right and salutary, for our benefit and edification, and guides us in holiness of living.

But I decided to take this post in a slightly different direction. In fact, the title of this post is one I was toying around with even before the latest flare-up of the sanctification controversy. It comes from St. Bernard of Morlaix's famous poem De Contemptu Mundi, known to us most commonly in the form of “Jerusalem the Golden,” though it also inspired a few other hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal (cf. TLH 448, 605, and 614).  It appears that the poem inspired something like 20 verses of hymnody under various titles. The verse I'd like to consider is based on 2 Corinthians 5:19, where St. Paul relates words he received from the Lord:  "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  The text of the verse is as follows:
When in His strength I struggle, for very joy I leap;
When in my sin I totter, I weep, or try to weep:
And grace, sweet grace celestial, shall all its love display,
And David's royal fountain purge every stain away.
 
Growing up, I used to (and still do) struggle a lot with the concept of “feeling bad” or, in the words of the hymn, "weeping" over my sin.  For whatever reason - be it seared or defective conscience, I really don’t know - I'll often do something that, though I know it is wrong on paper, I don’t feel any remorse for.  There are times that I have persisted in a sin and have repented only because I know it is an offense against God, not because I feel some overwhelming sense of sorrow about it in my heart. This lack of an emotional response to my sin often led me to despair and feeling as if I wasn’t really a Christian. After all, real Christians feel sorrow over their sins. Real Christians strike their breast in anguish and tear their robes when they’ve done something wrong. Real Christians are shaken to their core when they compare the Law of God to the sorry state of their pathetic, sinful lives. So if I don’t start vomiting every time I’m confronted with the reality of sin in my life - if I don’t feel sorry - I must not be genuinely repentant.

This was my way of thinking for the longest time, so I naturally felt like an inferior and unfaithful Christian.  This was obviously wrong-headed.  As it so happens, a couple of weeks ago I was listening to a podcast from the Issues, Etc. series on the Historic Liturgy; in this particular segment, Frs. Weedon and Wilken were expositing the confession of sins in the preparatory service that occurs before the Divine Service proper (as an aside, I highly recommend the Historic Liturgy series to anyone who is interested in the Divine Liturgy itself and Lutheran theology in general). The segment helped me put into words what was wrong with my former way of thinking.  In short: we can never have enough remorse for our sins. We can never feel guilty enough for the sins that drive us from the presence of God. We can never cry tears of agony that will ever match the severity of our sin. To suppose that we can weep long enough and hard enough over sin in the frailty of our impoverished mortality is to diminish the gravity of sin’s seriousness. After all, these sins caused the Creator of the universe to take on human flesh - and to die. These sins caused God Himself to die. No tears we shed can even come close to demonstrating this reality.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel guilty. It doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands with an indifferent sigh of “oh well” or “why bother?” It does mean, however, that we shouldn’t navel-gaze to the point of despair because of something so foolish as not having despaired enough. Rather, we should confess our sins and confess our inability to feel sorry enough for them. To be clear, God won’t be mocked; He won’t accept a duplicitous confession. But if we honestly confess our sins, God will accept our confession, even if we are only trying to weep and not actually weeping.

This is why I find such comfort in the hymn verse previously quoted. When I totter in my sin, I “weep, or try to weep.” Yes, I can’t always weep - and that’s okay. Sometimes I just have to admit that to God too. And He will be merciful. He lived the perfect life I couldn’t. He felt the full weight of the sins that I all too flippantly dismiss. He sweated blood in the Garden on their account. His flesh was torn open for their consequences. And in these blessed wounds I find peace. From these blessed wounds flow that royal fount of David, the forgiveness of sins that covered me in Baptism and fill my ears and mouth and stomach in Word and Sacrament. “And grace, sweet grace celestial, will all its love display; and David’s royal fountain purge every stain away.”

To bring the post full circle, all of this ties in rather neatly into the sanctification debate. Even after I had my “confessional awakening,” I still struggled with the antinomian idea that I didn’t have to worry about holy living because it would all come naturally - good deeds would just flow from hearing the Gospel without any effort on my part. But...that didn’t seem to be happening. I didn’t see any change in my life. Where was the new man? I felt as if something was wrong with me for not feeling my sanctification, which was just supposed to happen all on its own. Have you noticed that italicized word elsewhere in this post? Yeah, feeling. The old evil foe loves to throw in the heresy of enthusiasm wherever he can, making us feel as if the true way to God is found in what we feel. The truth is that our feelings deceive us. God is found in the Word, not in feelings. God’s Word tells us that we are weak. Sanctification may be synergistic, but we are by no means pulling our own weight. God’s strength is what keeps us going. And it causes us to rejoice. “When in Your strength I triumph, for very joy I leap.”

God is found in the Word. So it is only natural to look to the holy Law of God to help us walk the path of righteousness. Yes, we should laud the Law for its third use. And if the third use of the Law is that of a guide, let us not forget that there is no greater Guide than Christ. He kept the Law for us perfectly. And because the Son of God has given us the right of heirship, it is okay to look to Him for guidance on how exactly we are supposed to live as sons of God.