Daily Archives: October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day!


Today is a red-letter day for Lutherans and other Reformed Christians. While most of us are gearing up for All Saints and All Souls (and while the secular world is getting into Halloween mode), the Lutherans are singing “A mighty fortress” and hoisting their beersteins (or port glasses in the Barossa) with a hearty “Sola Fides”!

For those of you not up on Ref History, the reason Oct 31 is Reformation Day is because that is the day that, in 1517, Brother Martin Luther (the Blessed Doctor, as Confessional Lutherans call him) posted his 95 Theses on the local notice board (ie. the door of the Wittenberg Church).

[That’s Brother Martin played by Joseph Fiennes in the picture. I wonder if there is some sort of meaning here somewhere with Joseph doing Luther while his brother Ralph got to do Lord Voldemort…?]

The reason for choosing this particular church door was that the next day, being All Saints day, the Elector, Frederick the Wise, would stage the annual exhibition of his vast collection of relics, which always drew a crowd.

Not that many Lutherans would be aware of what was actually in the 95 Theses. Some will able to quote the very first Thesis (“Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance”–quite good spirituality in that), but most would be unaware that they uphold, rather than reject, the authority of the pope and the existence of purgatory.

Luther wrote his theses as the starting point for an academic debate at his university, which was never–in the excited aftermath–actually held. I would like, one day, actually stage the debate with a Lutheran theologian (any takers?), because looking at them, I think that some of Brother Martin’s statements about purgatory do not properly represent the teaching of the Church (although they might well have represented what was generally taught in Luther’s day).

For eg. thesis 16 says: “16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.” This seems to put purgatory in closer relation to hell than to heaven, whereas Catholic theology sees purgatory as completely different from hell and the anticipation of heaven. More accurate would be to say that the correspondence is to “despair, hope and assurance” respectively.

Anyway, there it is. The most Protestant festival of the year is side by side with the most Catholic festival, and between them both this pagan nonsense of Halloween has got its claws in. Funny old thing, history…

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And another one bites the dust…

There can’t be terribly many Lutheran pastors left in the US these days. They’ve all either gone to Rome or Constantinople. The latest one to go down this road (or, to be specific, the latter road) is “Fr Fenton” at the Conversi ad Dominum blogsite.

I wish him and his family all the best, as they undoubtably face the same struggle that all converts do.

But my mate Peter Holmes in Sydney has a saying with which seems to apply in this case: “ABC: Anything But Catholic”.

When I realised I could no longer remain as a member of the Lutheran Church, one pastor said to me, “What about Orthodoxy?”. But it was never really an option, for two simple reasons:

1) I am a western Christian, and (even if the Pope doesn’t use this title anymore) the Bishop of Rome is the Patriarch of the West and it was with him that I had to seek communion

2) In the end, there is only one meaning of Catholic that cuts the ice, and that is “in communion with the Pope”. Any other meaning and you’re simply making it up as you go along.

Fr Fenton says in his resignation letter that he is glad to be entering “the true visible Church of Christ on earth”. Well, yes he is, in that the Orthodox Church is acknowledge by all to be an authentic part of the “true visible Church”, by virtue of their valid bishops and sacraments. He is certainly more closely in communion with me now than he was as a Lutheran. But to talk of “THE Orthodox Church”, seems a little naive, when there are so many Orthodox Churches, and they are for ever in and out of communion with one another. The Orthodox Churches are consigned hopelessly to being ethnic churches.

If I may add a 3rd point to the two above, there is another thing about the Catholic Church. It has to be catholic, ie. universal. “The Orthodox Church” is a communion (more or less) of true visible local churches, but can they really claim to be “THE true visible Church of Christ on earth”?

I respect Fr Fenton’s decision. It just wasn’t mine, for the reasons stated. But because the Orthodox Churches are true Churches (if not THE true Church), I am sure that he and his family will find the peace they seek.

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My girls too…

I like “…”s. They’re so expressive…

Anyway… On with the blog…

Fraser, over on his obscure blog, has some neat pictures of his kids, one in “pirate mode”, so I thought I would put up something personal and show my kids in dress up up too.

Fr Michael Court is a local SVD priest who has a sideline as a magician and once a year does a “magic night” for the parish schools. The kids all get dressed up as something magical–lots of wizards and witches and fairies. The sort of thing to sends fundamentalists scurrying under their beds… (there’s those …’s again).

Anyway, here are my two in “Harry Potter” mode. Yes, Maddy is the infant magician, but can you guess who Mia is? (No, not Hermione).

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