I've just been proverbially "called into the principal's office" for my contributing to this blog. (Cue dramatic music.) Beforehand, I had only a vague idea of what or why I was being called in, and therefore had no defense prepared.
The French call it L'esprit de l'escalier -- the spirit of the staircase. It is the flood of retorts and rebuttals that arrive in your mind after you've already exited the argument. The term comes from Diderot when he wrote: "a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again when he reaches the bottom of the stairs on his way out." It is my privilege to voice my L'esprit de l'escalier below.
"Do you think it is a good thing to associate with such people on this blog?"
Association is a powerful device. If one associates with heavy drinkers, can he be expected to sympathize with excessive drinking? If one associates with heretics, can he be expected to sympathize with heretical doctrine? If one associates with Lutherans, can he be expected to sympathize with Lutheran doctrine? The correct answer is: "it does not necessarily follow."
But is it a good thing to associate with such people? This begs the question: Who are "such people?" This blog has its purpose statement in its very first post, which, I will concede, is not at all well publicized:
At the same time, this blog will not present itself as more than it is. It is a platform for a group of laymen to opine concerning the state of Confessional Lutheranism in America and abroad. We do not pretend to be esteemed theologians or learned academics. We have no fancy degrees or extensive doctrinal training. We come armed only with Sacred Scripture, the Confessions, the writings of the Church Fathers, and our Liturgical heritage. We welcome constructive criticism and diversity of thought. We hope you will join us in struggling with the difficult questions we attempt to face. (emphasis mine)Note the emphases. My first post, on Holy Baptism, although it was in its original form a somewhat scholarly treatment, I deliberately removed much scholar-talk. I don't want to confuse/alienate a large part of blog readers with such thick stuff. I merely commentated using what mere undergrad skills I had, not attempting to stand upon the shoulders of theological giants in order that I see more than they, but rather I attempt to stand up at all, supported by quotes and paraphrases of theological giants. I'm writing more about theology and reading more Lutheran church fathers than I have ever before in my life. Yes, my association here is so far a very "good thing". Potential "bad things" will be addressed below.
"You have not taken serious theological classes yet. It would be better if you were to wait before you attach your name to anything that this."
Does that negate private study? Does that negate your very own undergrad classroom theological instruction? Does that negate the exegesis class I am currently taking? Am I incompetent in Lutheran dogma if I am young and not yet in seminary? But, ah, "we do not pretend to be esteemed theologians", so let us assume for the moment that I am incompetent. "We welcome constructive criticism" would therefore be my stance as an author here. The truth is, I have received no negative criticism about my theology yet, even though my colleagues have received plenty, especially concerning Universal Objective Justification (a subject on which I have not published anything yet). Besides, here, I am able to collaborate with and be curbed by other professing confessional Lutherans (both authors and visitors) should I ever write heresy.
I am not expected to agree entirely with my co-authors on this blog, either. For example, there are posts of a deliberately inflammatory nature, and posts containing sensationalist language. Even though using some sensationalism can be very effective in capturing attention, I dislike using it to excess. Polemic has its place, and I am no polemicist.
"Since I don't agree entirely either, what if I wanted to write articles against Ecclesia Augustana?"
This absurd question has no place in whether or not I ought to be able to write for Ecclesia Augustana. It seems more like a question to trap me into acknowledging that the blog is heretical. To treat a blog as an apple barrel with one bad apple is not an applicable comparison. You're welcome to join the discussion, although if you are actively publishing against other author's theology, I would be prepared for a barrage of criticism (although criticism, it seems, is unable to deter many Lutheran bloggers.)
"What if I were a lay member of yours looking at this, and I discover Pastor/Vicar Rusch had been a contributor on this blog?"
If that is the case: Hooray! I have a lay member who is interested in theology! I can have an intelligent conversation with him about Lutheran dogmatics!
If Mr. Theoretical Lay Member is concerned about my association with certain theological stances, I'd be delighted to talk to him, as well as recommend that he read my own posts in the context of this blog's statement of purpose (quoted near the beginning of this post.) Were there one intelligent enough to be so interested in theology, would he immediately and rashly brand me a heretic for such a petty grievance?
"That doesn't really answer my question. What if this were the average lay member, not well-versed in theology?"
Alright, you've got me there. First off, such a person I would be delighted to chat with, too. I hope you can tell by my presence on this blog, and my choice of career path, I love to talk about Christianity.
What I'm confused about is: if he were not theologically strong, how would he detect heterodoxy in this blog in the first place? A lay member going to this blog would find: the authors here call themselves confessional Lutheran laymen, and he would be a bit intimidated by the Latin quotation at the top of the page. Would he only be perturbed by posts objecting to [current] Lutheran pastors' theology, or posts questioning Holy Mother Synod (please pardon the borrowed term) -- neither of which any of my posts here have done? At the moment, the only way I can think such a man would be offended is if there were some absurd public synodical declaration that "this blog is heterodox. Mark and avoid!"
The unspoken suggestion is that I remove my name from the blog. I contend that it is foolishness to attempt to remove my name from the list of authors. This blog is powered by Blogger -- Google has already read and cached my posts for all posterity. Oops. I guess my Christian stance at this point in time cannot be erased now.
Am I young? Yes. Am I inexperienced? Yes. Am I not widely trained in systematic theology? Yes. Am I hateful of instruction and unwilling to be corrected? Absolutely not! Should this episode stop discussion and study? Not at all!
I am not yet at the terminus of my education, and in my meeting it was implied that I may yet remain a contributor, so that is what I intend to do for now, unless otherwise convinced.
My name is Benjamin Rusch, and I am currently a senior at Martin Luther College who plans on attending Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary this coming school year.
(And, no. I don't necessarily agree 100% with every contributor to this blog.)