Revisiting the Summit I

Almost ten years ago, on the 9th of March, 2001, I and two other pastors of the Lutheran Church of Australia were summoned to St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Box Hill by the President of the Victoria District to give an account of our Roman ideas to 18 other specially invited pastors.

Two of us had in fact already given notice of our resignation from the ministry and our intention to seek communion with the Bishop of Rome. So in fact, whatever purpose the Summit was supposed to serve, it was hardly going to change our own decisions. Rather, I think it was to serve to help our brother pastors understand our decision.

The format was that each of the three of us were to put our concerns onto one side of an A4 piece of paper. These papers were submitted ahead of time to three other specially appointed “respondants”, whose task it was to reply to our questions. You will find my complete submission here, on my Year of Grace Blog, along with the reply that was given by Pastor Peter Kriewaldt, a senior and well-respected pastor. I believe that Peter did a valiant job of replying to my concerns – in so far as he gave the standard Lutheran answers to my questions. The problem was that my questions were NOT Lutheran questions, and were inadequately served with mere restatements of the classical Lutheran doctrines. My ten questions were, as Peter demonstrated, technically invalid within the framework of confessional Lutheran theology. Nevertheless, the questions made sense in and of themselves, and, I think, deserved an answer.

I was reminded of the Summit recently by a comment that Pastor Mark Henderson left on that particular post on my Year of Grace blog. He wrote:

I remember my impression at the time was that Peter Kriewaldt nailed you on each of your points, David, and reading it again ten years later I still think the same. His was the best response of all of them, I think. …But I still don’t see why you became a Catholic!

So, I thought, why not revisit both my own questions and Pastor Kriewaldt’s responses now, and see if my experience and understanding gained in the last ten years might through some more light on the puzzle that was the movement of God’s Spirit in my heart during that “year of grace”.

TEN KEY QUESITONS THAT HAVE LED ME TO WHERE I AM TODAY.
David Schütz for the Summit at St Paul’s, Box Hill on 9th March, 2001

Question One:

In ecumenical theology, two ecclesiologies are possible: 1) The true Church of Christ on earth is a visible reality which is manifested and recognised by certain “marks” and is to be identified with a particular denomination to the extent that it preserves these “marks” in their fullness/purity; or 2) the true Church of Christ is an invisible reality that consists of the spiritual communion of true believers who are known only to God, and who may be found in any denomination, or indeed, even beyond the bounds of organised Christianity.

I do not believe the second option to be valid: the church is the body of Christ, and Christ is incarnate (he is not “the invisible man”). It is my understanding that historically the Lutheran Church (and even more specifically, the LCA) has held the former definition, and has regarded itself to be the true church because it alone has perfectly preserved the true Word and Sacraments. For this reason, we have been wary of entering into communion other churches, because of a perceived lack of purity in the preservation of these marks.

If so, is the Lutheran Church not claiming to be the one holy catholic church, and, if so, how is this claim to be justified?

In his reply, Peter Kriewaldt refers to something called “The Theses of Agreement”. These theses were the agreed doctrinal statement upon which Lutheran ecclesial unity was achieved in Australia in 1966. They may be viewed here. Here then, is Peter’s reply to my question:

A Response to: ‘Ten Key Questions That Have Led Me To Where I Am Today’. for the Summit on March 9, 2001

Introduction.

This paper has raised some important issues for discussion. Interestingly, I believe that most of them are well covered and answered by the Theses of Agreement (TA). Here, too, we find the scriptural and confessional references that enable us to grapple with the ten key questions.

Reply to Question One:

TA-V demonstrates that we do not hold to the first ecclesiology mentiond in the paper: ‘The Church, essentially or properly so called, the One Holy Christian Church, the Una Sancta, the Church Universal, is the people of God (1 Peter 2:9), the communion or congregation of saints, which Christ has called, enlightened and gathered through the Holy Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, which he has thus created to be his Spiritual Body’ V.1. Many scriptural references follow. No denomination can claim exclusive title to the one, holy and catholic church. The LCA has never made this claim of exclusivity. The RCC, however, makes this claim in ‘Dominus Jesus’ when it says that ‘the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church’. Non catholic churches ‘derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church’ (para. 16). It admits that ‘the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church’ (para. 17). But then it says that if they have not ‘preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery’, they ‘are not Churches in the proper sense’ (para. 17). Although the TA use the term ‘invisible’ to describe the true church, it also uses the term ‘hidden’, a much better description. The body of Christ is known only to Christ, who himself is hidden from our eyes, albeit ‘revealed’ in word and sacraments. The LCA has been wary of entering into communion with other churches not because it believes it is the only true church, but because it believes that true unity is centered in the pure preaching of the gospel and the right institution of the sacraments (CA 7).

In re-reading this, and in re-reading the relevant passages from the Fifth Article of the Theses of Agreement, I see that in fact, I was wrong to say in my original question to state that “the LCA has held the former definition, and has regarded itself to be the true church because it alone has perfectly preserved the true Word and Sacraments.” To be completely fair, the Lutheran Church of Australia rejects both the idea of the Church as strictly “visible” and the idea of the Church as strictly “invisible”. The LCA teaches that it is, rather (as Peter says), a “hidden reality” whose presence can be identified from visible “marks” but even then only seen with the eyes of faith.

This is in fact my second go at writing this post. Between my first and second draft, I have decided to change what I originally wrote from this point onwards. Because, in fact, I believe that I have been able to see that I have moved on from my understanding of “ecumenical theology” in 2001. Upon revisiting the Theses of Agreement, I think we can actually find a point of agreement, albeit with a strong central disagreement, which would have been very helpful to have identified back at the original Summit.

It is worth quoting the relevant passages of the Theses of Agreement in full and actually directly dialoguing with these.

I. The Church, essentially or properly so called, the One Holy Christian Church, the Una Sancta, the Church Universal, is the people of God (1 Peter 2:9), the communion or congregation of saints, which Christ has called, enlightened and gathered through the Holy Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, and which He has thus created to be His Spiritual Body. Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 12:12f; Eph. 1:22f; 1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 2:41; 5:14; John 11:52; Eph.5:25-27. Cat. Minor, Art. III; Cat. Maior, II, 47-51; Augsburg Confession VII-VIII; Apology VII-VIII, 11-15; Smalc. Art. III, 12.

Basically there is nothing in this statement to which I cannot say “Amen”. I point out, however, the characteristic reluctance of Lutherans to speak of (and note the use of capitals in the original) “the One Holy CatholicChurch”. For Catholics, to speak of the “One Holy Catholic Church” is to speak of the “One Holy Christian Church” – no distinction. Note that in his reply to me, Peter uses the abbreviation “the RCC”, by which he means “the particular confessional denomination” which he calls “the Roman Catholic Church”. Dominus Iesus (from which he quotes, and which was a very fresh document then) however does not speak about a denomination called “the Catholic Church” (let alone “the Roman Catholic Church”) for which it claims identity with “the One Holy Christian Church”. Such a claim would be perposterous. Rather, it recognises a real identity between the universal communion of true particular Churcheswhich is called “the Catholic Church” and the spiritual reality called “the One Holy Catholic Church”.

The TA goes on to discuss the visible and spiritual dimensions of the One Holy Christian Church in Lutheran ecclesiology:

5. Since the kingdom of God comes not with observation (Rom. 14:17; Luke 17:20f ), and since no man can unfailingly identify those who have become and still are true believers and therefore truly members of the Church, the communion of saints, and since the Church cannot be identified with any visible, eternal church body, the Church is an article of faith. In this sense the Church has rightly been called invisible by Luther and Lutheran theologians. To the Lord, however, the Church is always visible. 2 Tim. 2:19.

Note the adamant assertion that “the Church cannot be identified with any visible, eternal church body”, and that “the Church is an article of faith”. The only problem with this doctrine is that it cannot actually be found in the Scriptural or Patristic Tradition. The two texts cited to support the doctrine of the invisible Church both refer to “the Kingdom of God”, which is not the same thing as “the Church” (although note in the next paragraph below the straight out identification of “The Church” with “The Kingdom of Christ” – an identification which Catholic ecclesiology does not make). The evidence is that the ancient Christians, while recognising that it was impossible by outward appearance alone to tell would and would not be among the elect on the day of judgement, nevertheless regarded “the Church” as a clear and concrete social reality both in terms of the particular local Churches (after all, Paul was able to “visit” and to “write” to these Churches) and in a universal sense, since the whole communion of these particular Churches could be represented by the bishops (the pastors) of these particular Churches in communion with one another. And this is precisely where we can find both the agreement and the disagreement on ecclesiology between Lutherans and Catholics. This fact is demonstrated in the next paragraph of the Fifth Article of the TA:

6. Nevertheless the Church is not a Platonic or an imaginary state, not a geographic division or political organization, not an external polity bound to any land, kingdom, or nation (Apology VII-VIII, 10) or to any particular form of church government, but it is the kingdom of Christ, the mystic Spiritual Body of Christ, an essentially spiritual communion or fellowship of saints, which yet has real, concrete existence, and is both hidden and manifest, not of the world and yet in the world. Apology VII-VIII, 15, 18, 20.

The first sentence of this paragraph is not very well edited. The authors clearly wanted to say that although the Church is NOT “a geographic division or political organization,…an external polity bound to any land, kingdom, or nation, or to any particular form of church government”, and although it IS “the kingdom of Christ, the mystic Spiritual Body of Christ, an essentially spiritual communion or fellowship of saints”, NEVERTHELESS “the Church is NOT a Platonic or an imaginary state”. It “has REAL, CONCRETE existence”, which can be seen by particular “MARKS”. Note too the statement that the one of these “marks” is most definitely NOT “any particular form of church government”. THAT’s where we part company, of course. Most of the rest of the stuff in the Theses of Agreement we can, in fact, “agree” with (with the exception of the identification of the “Una Sancta” with the “Kingdom of God”)! . Here is the next paragraph:

8. ‘The pure doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ’ (Apology VII.VIII, 5, 20; XIV, 27), through which the Church is created and preserved, are also the outward marks (notae) by which the existence of the Church at any time or place can be recognized… But the means of grace are the only and essential notae infallibly indicating the existence of the Church on earth, for these are the essential, the only, and the unfailing means by which Christ through the Holy Spirit creates and preserves faith in the hearts of men, and by which the true Church, though ‘hidden among the great mass of the godless’, becomes manifest on earth. 1 Peter 1:23,25, Eph.5:26; Rom. 10:17; Mark 16:15f; Luke 22:19f. Faith knows and trusts that wherever the essential marks of the Church are present, there the true Church is [my emphasis], inasmuch as God has promised that His Word shall not return unto Him void. Isa. 55:10,11.

In fact, Catholics can, I think, entirely agree with this last statement. It is, in fact, nothing other than what Catholics themselves say concerning the way in which we can affirm that the Church of Christ (the “Una Sancta”, the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”) “subsists” within “the Catholic Church”. It is precisely because we affirm that ALL “the essential marks of the Church are present” in the Catholic Church, that we assert that “there the true Church is”! The point of disagreement is on what actually entails “the essential marks of the Church”.

A simple question for revealing the difference is to ask: What is the Catholic Church? The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium §2, gave the answer: “This Church [ie. “the sole Church of Christ” – what the LCA’s “Theses of Agreement” call “the Una Sancta”], constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him”. At one point, this contradicts what the Lutherans say – after all, it identifies the “Una Sancta” with a particular form of Church Governance – but on the other hand it affirms what they say: The Church is NOT “a geographic division or political organization, not an external polity bound to any land, kingdom, or nation…but it is …the mystic Spiritual Body of Christ, an essentially spiritual communion or fellowship of saints, which yet has real, concrete existence, and is both hidden and manifest, not of the world and yet in the world.” The only difference between Lutheran and Catholic ecclesiology is the question of what the “essential marks” of the Church actually are. Catholics say that the communion of bishops in apostolic succession in communion with the successor of the chief of the apostles IS an essential mark, which in fact makes “visible” the “invisible”. Lutherans say not.

And yet, to go back to my original question in 2001, I stated that the Lutheran Church “regarded itself to be the true church because it alone has perfectly preserved the true Word and Sacraments”. Why did I think this? Because, in the next paragraph of the Theses of Agreement, the LCA had declared in 1966:

‘The pure doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ’ (Apology VII.VIII, 5, 20; XIV, 27), through which the Church is created and preserved, are also the outward marks (notae) by which the existence of the Church at any time or place can be recognized.

What they don’t say, but what they want you to understand and what every Lutheran is not in any doubt of, is that the Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church ALONE has indeed preserved “the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ”! Of course, other congregations and other people in other denominations may also have preserved (more or less) these “marks of the Church”, and thus are part of the true Church insofar as these “marks” are present – but this is hardly to say anything else than the Catholic Church herself teaches, when she says:

“Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” [LG 8# 2] are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements” [UR 3# 2; cf. LG 15]. (Catechism §819).

In the end, therefore, I think, after almost ten years, I can be a little less dogmatic than I was way back then. I can recognise, and I hope my readers can also, that Catholic and Lutheran ecclesiology is not all that different in basic shape and approach.

Both agree that the Church is a spiritual communion of saints that has a “real, concrete existence” in the world, and which may be recognised by certain “essential marks”. Both assert of themselves that these “essential marks” are fully present in their own communion, and yet may also be found beyond the borders of that communion, and – in so far as these marks ARE found elsewhere – the true church is there too. Nevertheless, we part company on the matter of what those “essential marks” are. The Catholic Church includes a particular form of governance – bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome – in the list of “essential marks”; Lutherans expressly exclude this. And it is that “communion” of bishops which makes the Catholic Church a “visible society” upon the earth in the way that perhaps the Lutheran Church is not.

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60 responses to “Revisiting the Summit I

  1. “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” [LG 8# 2] are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God

    — this sounds wrong. The written Word of God is probably not supposed to be considered being outside of the visible Church, particular when you consider the Church to be the very mystical body of Christ, and he being the Word incarnate at that… Uncoupling the written Word of God from the Body of Christ simply sounds like a divorce of some sort. Like ripping the soul out of a body — the written Word of God missing its incarnation. I agree with your point, David, how the notion of an invisible Church seems to run contrary to the Incarnation.

    • But Jeff, that’s precisely what the Council meant. Both the Word of God and Baptism are what Lutherans would call “marks of the Church”. Catholics agree, but use the term “essential elements”. Thus, if the Word of God is present, there cannot be an “ecclesiastical vacuum”, as it were. Lutherans and Catholics acknowledge this of one another. Neither recognises the other as fully “Church” in the true sense, because they (as we never cease reminding them) are without a valid priesthood and hence a valid Eucharist, and we (as they never cease reminding us) do not preach and teach “the pure doctrine of the Gospel” or have “the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ”. In speaking of the “mystical body of Christ” we must not but too hard an edge on the boundaries of that mystical body. What the Council called the “visible confines” of the Church was the visible bond of communion between the bishops. The fact is that the Word of God does exist outside this visible communion, as indeed does Baptism.

      It might help if you understand that ecclesiology is a little like the physical theories of light: sometimes wave theory works best, and sometimes particle theory – depending on which reality it is describing.

      • Right. Need to brush up on Physics. 🙂 But I prefer to keep things simple. When our Lord prayed that all may be one, he qualified that by equating it with how the Father and the Son are one in the Trinity. Tough marching orders, but that’s what the Son of Man says, so that’s how it ought to be. If one or more essential elements are missing, then it seems to me we have a lot of work cut out for us, particularly if these elements are seen by any Christian as either optional or completely false. Setting aside the Church Triumphant for a moment, how should this play out for the Church Militant on earth? Visible unity (being one) seems to be a required element too, since our Lord qualifies further that this unity is to be a sign to the nations, that they may know that the Christ has come, sent by the Father.

        And yes, I understand about not setting too rigidly those hard boundaries to the mystical body. Seems to me that the Council’s qualifications for that imperfect communion with non-Catholic Christians makes an excellent point in that regard then. But perhaps there is a need to uncouple two aspects of that visible unity: as a sign willed by Christ for the benefit of the unbelieving nations, and as an essential element of the Church (as a matter of ecclesiology).

        Not sure if I’m making sense now. Off to bed with me. 🙂

        • One of the things about Church unity that needs to be kept in mind is the “eschatological” aspect (cf. Eph 1 and Col 1). Eschatology has the idea of a “goal” (a “telos” in Greek) and of a present “pilgrimage” toward that goal. Eschatology is Teleology – and so in a sense is ecumenism. The term “imperfect”, used to refer to the REAL communion we have with our separated brethren and sistern through baptism, is in fact better translated “incomplete” or “not yet perfected” – ie. it looks to a time when it WILL be perfected. It is like baptism itself – without the following rites of confirmation and the reception of the Eucharist, the baptismal initiation has not yet been “perfected” or “completed” – its “goal” or “telos” is the Eucharist. Nevertheless, baptism on its own truly does establish unity with the body of Christ. Etc. Etc. And yet… 🙂

  2. Matthias

    However the view that the “the true Church of Christ is an invisible reality that consists of the spiritual communion of true believers who are known only to God, and who may be found in any denomination” is the one that is seen to be valid within non liturgical denominations ,with the belief that there is in a Visible church those who are members and not Believers. a wheat and tares situation,that will be brought to light on Judgement Day.This is the charge that the AnaBaptists levelled against Luther,Calvin and Zwingli that their interpretation of what constitutes Church meant thos who joined and attended in a local ecclesia , who could live as they like,without being disciples,whilst the True Church was made up of Believers who followed Christ. It could be argued ,nay seen ,that in this day and Age of secularism, -and still one of Grace abounding- that those who attend Church ,who are members of the Church,are actually now Believers. Here’s a story ,perhaps Bill Muehelenberg or another will correct me,but i heard this via my father who heard it from a elderly Lutheran german. Kaiser Wilhelm heard a sermon on repentance from a Lutheran pastor who was probably a Pietist. He was so troubled by it that he called for his Court Chaplain- a Lutheran-and after the Kaiser had explained his dilemma ,and asked about repenting of his sins ,was told by his chapalin,there was no need as the Kaiser was a member of the church and had been baptised. If he had truly believed ,perhaps WW1 may have been averted and Hitler as well.

    • those who attend Church ,who are members of the Church,are actually now [the] Believers

      What a curious thought! Yes, you are right – the belief in an “invisible Church” was driven (at the Reformation and for a long time afterwards) by the fact that there was obviously many among those who gathered in the parish Church on Sunday who were unregenerate hypocrites. Today, as you say, this is less likely than ever!

      But I think for this reason we need to separate out a couple of issues:

      1) The Kingdom of God is not fully identical with the Church. Thus the scripture passages which indicate that the Kingdom of God is not a visible particular society or geographic region etc. Nevertheless, the effects of the Kingdom of God (one of which IS the Church!) are certainly visible.

      2) The genuineness of the faith of any individual cannot be judged by outward appearance and is known only to God. Nevertheless again, the fruit of genuine faith is visible (“See how these Christians love one another” etc). But this is only related to the question of the visibility of the Church if we have an ecclesiology which says that the Church is nothing more than the sum total of all genuine individual believers.

      3) When we speak of the “visible” Church, we are aware that it is not possible in fact to see “the Church” (either universal or local) as a whole and as such – but rather we see the Church in action: when it gathers for worship, when it is occupied in good deeds, when it is speaking the Word of God to the world etc. But of course (as my daughter pointed out to me last night) this is the same of any Society or Club – you never really see the whole Club in one go (unless it is very small and its members very committed to all attending meetings), but you can see what it does and point to where it gathers. The difference with the Church is that it has a basic spiritual or mystical existence in addition to this visible activity.

      I am more and more convinced that the only reason we can speak of “The Catholic Church” as a “visible society” is because of the singular mark of the Catholic Church: the bishops in communion with one another and the Bishop of Rome. It is precisely this “visibility” which fools a great many people into thinking we are a “denomination”. Without it, there would be no “visible Catholic Church”. It is as Ignatius of Antioch said in the very beginning:

      “See that you all follow the Bishop, as Christ does the Father, and the presbyterium as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as a command of God. Let no one do anything connected with the Church without the Bishop. Let that be considered a certain eucharist which is under the leadership of the Bishop, or one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the Bishop appears, there let the multitude of the people be; just as where Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church.”

  3. Peter

    As you pointed out David, Peter K’s response argued that the questions raised by the three on trial at the Diet of Box Hill were not answerable, or even askable, within the Lutheran framework.

    I agree it was the best of the responses but, like the others, it completely misses the point of the questions raised. Perhaps the questions could have been put more clearly, but if one of those pastors is ever asked by a dying parishioner “But Pastor, does the Lutheran Church teach *the truth* about how to get to heaven?” I hope their answer is better than “That question isn’t very Lutheran.” I fairness to PK, he assumed that Lutheran = true, and therefore proving that the questions raised were not Lutheran was proving that we shouldn’t ask those questions. The trouble is that the question asked was “IS the Lutheran position true?” To which PK’s answer was to restate the Lutheran position and say the questions were out of line.

    Even so, it was a better attempt than one of the alternative answers offered on the day. “You won’t know these sorts of things till you get to heaven (or not).”

    Since one of the things we claim to ‘know’ is HOW you get to heaven, it would be nice to have a fair degree of certainty about it, rather than playing a game of ‘pick-a-box’ or even ‘educated guesses’ with eternal consequences.

    • Peter,

      Maybe the issue is fundamentally one of theological method?? Most systems of thought (maybe all) are consistent within themselves, that is, within their own assumptions. But the fundamental issue, raised by the “Diet of Box Hill”, is whether these assumptions are consistent with the truth (assuming that “truth” exist at all!).

      But what would I know! LOL

      • That is right on the money, Marco. Lutheranism as a system works if you don’t question its assumptions. The beauty of the Catholic Faith is that there is no question deemed “out of order”. The Catholic Faith, unlike Lutheran theology, is not a “system”. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that when we were taught dogmatic theology at Luther Seminary, the subject was called “Systematics”.

        • Peter

          On reflection, the problem wasn’t that Lutherans didn’t ask these questions. They were quite happy to sit about saying “hmm yes, a poser that one.” The problem was the insistence on a definitive answer.

          As one pastor put it to me, “the kind of certainty these questions demand is exactly the kind of claim Catholics make, but Luther specifically rejected. You have to learn to live by faith, or live with doubt.”

          It isn’t just that the Lutherans didn’t know the answers back then. They are unable to provide any such answer by definition.

          • And, to be specific, they said that to “live with doubt” or “live with uncertainty” is a virtual virtue under “the theology of the cross”! Catholics, on the other hand, seeking clear and definitive answers to questions, were excercising a “theology of glory”!

            • Schutz,

              I love how some people can turn “anything” into “virtue” because they happen to excel in it.

              Maybe the issue is more fundamental: what does it mean to be “human”? Or, to use more Augustinian language, what does it mean to be made “in the image and likeness of God”? Or, to use more Marco-friendly talk, “where does my reason come from and why?”

              Anyway, what would I know!

              • I have a great article by Dairmaid MacCulloch where he investigates the “myth of the English Reformation” and how Anglicans have made a “virtue” out of their ambiguity!

        • ‘Christian Dogmatics’, or just ‘Dogmatics’ would have been a more appropriate term both historically and descriptively. ‘Systematics’ is perhaps a more accurate term in the Reformed tradition.

          Which leads me to this point: I’m curious about the education you received at Luther, David, and the impact it had on your later development, with your insistence that Lutheranism is a closed system. As Sasse said in reponse to Elert, “there is no ‘morphology’ of Lutheranism”!

          As for the insistence that there are some questions not allowed in the Lutheran faith: Heavens! I’ve never heard that before. After all, we didn’t burn any heretics at the stake, you know!

          The Diet of Box Hill seems to have been too little, too late. Given that two of you had already submitted your resignations, you were hardly likely to be swayed from your course of action by that stage. Sigh!

          • My teachers in systematics were Friedeman Hebart and Joe Strelan. Maurice Schild added his own two bobs worth in Reformation and Modern Church History. But my greatest influence was, of course, John Kleinig.

            The Diet of Box Hill seems to have been too little, too late. Given that two of you had already submitted your resignations, you were hardly likely to be swayed from your course of action by that stage. Sigh!

            Quite. It would have been very valuable twelve months earlier and to have had a much longer process of dialogue and exploration.

  4. Past Elder / Terry Maher

    At one time, to me the Catholic Church was the true church, the only church founded by Jesus Christ, and if it were wrong or false, Christianity itself would be wrong or false, because all any other churches had were those parts of Catholicism which can exist outside the formal boundaries of the Catholic Church, which part those churches do not deny, and which in fact place them within the Catholic Church, though by imperfect and invisible bounds.

    This incredible chain of hoops you put yourself though, as outlined above, seems entirely odd to me, as a Catholic and now as a Lutheran. Frankly, I think you simply just like churchy stuff. This “communion with the bishop of Rome” business is technically accurate, but I cannot imagine and did not as a Catholic know a single person who would so express that they were Catholic, let alone some construction like a member of the Archdiocese of Omaha as a church, in communion with the bishop of Rome, though that is technically accurate, but it is not romanitas, it is not Catholic in that sense at all, but is a characteristically Protestant way of thinking of being Catholic.

    Lumen gentium is an unmitigated pile of crap as a statement of Catholic teaching, full of the amibiguities of all those miserable documents. The problem is, a simple, clear, and characteristically Catholic “est” was replaced by a tortured expression “subsistit in” which nobody knew then and nobody knows now what the hell it exactly means, let alone bleeding Sebastiaan Tromp, a damn Jesuit Thomist, who came up with the blasted thing.

    What a total joke, typical of the RCC pre or post Council, as I now see. Here’s a dude who helped Pius XII write Mystici corporis, appointed an assistant to no less than blessed Ottaviani himself at the bleeding Council, write Schemata for the Preparatory Council, then Rahner, Kueng and the boys, including Ratzinger (Frings’ peritus) dump all over him, and Ratzinger (typically) recants just a little, saying dumping the Schemata was a little too far, since it removed any starting point at all, from which the whole thing descended into a free-for-all, with everybody proclaiming their versions of what it all REALLY means, and Ratzinger, typically, trying to have the cake but eat it too, which has been his whole thing even now, trying to keep old and new (in this case the “scholarship” of the latest Patristic dudes but the Scholasticism of previous dudes, but he’s always like that, anything but a clear stand, please everyone and end up pleasing no-one), a POOF — Lumen Bleeding Gentium, a first-class exercise in total ambiguity, spawning all sorts of REALLY meants, and replacing a once characteristically clear and concise Catholic statement.

    These existential and phenomenological euphemisms for Catholic ideas may have their appeal to liberals of varying degrees (Ratzinger varying to the right end of liberal, Kueng to the left, but all liberal), people who have never known anything else from the RCC, and Protestants who can’t find their church fix in Protestantism of any kind, but it sure and to the hell isn’t Catholic.

    • Gareth

      Join the anti Lumen Gentium club Terry!!

    • Not to seem cheeky, but your reply seemed fairly confusing to me. Too many euphemisms and colloquialisms, I think. If you have a thing against ambiguity, what must you think of prophetic books like Revelation? 🙂

    • “[You] cannot imagine and did not as a Catholic know a single person who would so express that they were Catholic, let alone some construction like a member of the Archdiocese of Omaha as a church, in communion with the bishop of Rome”

      So how would you imagine and/or how did Catholics when you were a Catholic express that they were Catholic?

  5. David, I found your question, and the subsequent discussion, very interesting – and look forward to hearing the others.

    A fundamental question in my own conversion story was whether or not Jesus intended to found a visible church. And if so, which one?

    As my pseudonym indicates, I decided. 🙂

    • And I guess, JP, I am at the point of saying we need to be a little more nuanced in our use of the term “visible” or “invisible”. Note that our insistence of the “visibility” of the Church has actually arisen in response to certain radical ideas about the “invisibility” of the Church, with the result that we can end up claiming more “visibility” for the Church than she actually has. What do you think of my idea that what we usually mean by the “visible” character of the Church is actually the fellowship or communion that exists between our bishops and the Bishop of Rome?

      • Yes, indeed. ‘Where Peter is, there is the church.’ All the buildings, all the canons and catechisms, all the ritual and pomp, are just outward trappings. The church is us – catholic – here comes everybody. The outward sign of the church is Peter’s successor and those successors of the apostles in communion with him..

  6. Matthias

    I do think that being summoned by President DS to give your reasons for walking from Wittenberg to Rome ,after resigning smacks abit of spiritual abuse.What i saw once in the late 60’s when a friend of ours -a theological student- made complaint about our Church wishing to leave the Churches of Christ conference because the latter was friendly with THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. He was asked to attend numerous meetings over a period of weeks with the Elders to explain himself afain and again and subsequently walked away from Christianity for nearly 30 years. My father who was church secretary was absolutely ropeable and at meetings called upon these men to stop their behaviour.But he was told that the spiritual oversight of the church,he said spiritual abuse more likely.
    The “Diet of Box HILL” um,conjures up more than a theological forum.conjures up the menu at any of those restuarants and cafes down Carrington street

    • I do think that being summoned by President DS to give your reasons for walking from Wittenberg to Rome ,after resigning smacks abit of spiritual abuse.

      Let’s just say that you said this, Matthias, not me. 😉

      • Matthias

        i stand by it and think that in a modern workplace it would consitute bullying and harrasment under the OHS ACT victoria (2004) but then there is the issue of jurisdiction -God or Mammon..
        At the time when i was a member of the LCA parish where AB was pastor,i was not impressed with the president’s statement to the District about pastors leaving who had interpretations around authority different to the LCA and thought then ,even if i disagreed with their decision,they had a right to interpretation as they saw it.

  7. Jim Ryland

    David,

    In my years as a church musician (primarily in the USA) I have worked in a great number of denominations. It seems to me that pinning down Lutheran theology is much like trying to pin down Anglican theology. Those definitions depend largely on the Lutheran synod or the Anglican jurisdiction. The Missouri Synod is about as mainstream protestant as one can get. It approaches being anything anti-catholic while those synods evolved from the Scandinavian churches are very catholic in theology and practice.

    Our understanding of Luther is largely a collective mishmash portrait painted by his divergent later followers (some quite Zwinglian) rather than what he himself averred. His Augustinian roots remained with him throughout his life.

    • Quite right, Jim, Which is why I feel quite justified in still refering to myself as a “Lutheran” (albeit in communion with the Church of Rome). I have my interpretation of Lutheran spirituality, and others have others. The Lutheran Church of Australia was not content to simply make the Augsburg Confession, or even the Book of Concord, the basis for their union. They had to come up with a further statement (The Theses of Agreement) to say just exactly how they understood these 16th Century Lutheran statements. And there has been discussion since on many aspects of the TA, I can assure you! “Lutheran” is, therefore, in the eye of the beholder.

      • Jim Ryland

        David,

        Times do change.

        When I was a student at an Augustinian Prep School and chapel organist in the 1950’s, I was “sent home to contemplate” for a few days after my postlude on the Sunday closest to J.S. Bach’s birthay was a one of the settings of Ein’ feste Burg.

        Imagine my surprise when taking my late mother to Mass at St. John of the Cross RCC in the late 90’s. The bulletin cover contained the portrait of Luther shown on this site along with an article about his contributions to theological thought. It was on the Sunday that corresponded to “Reformation Sunday”.

        Somehow the phrase “spiritual maturity & generosity” comes to mind.

        • Past Elder / Terry Maher

          Are you bagging me? The recessional for our graduation ceremony from the Benedictine university where I got my BA was Ein’ feste Burg. Somehow the phrase “spiritual maturity and generosity” doesn’t come to mind at all, but “an utterly facile attempt at trendy ecumenism” does.

          • Jim Ryland

            Terry,

            I don’t know how old you are (I’m approaching 70) but the RCC of the 1950’s was a very closed and insular institution. Singing Ein’ feste Burg as a hymn during Mass today is no big deal but back then it was ‘heresy’.

            The modern Church, for better or worse, has profited in many ways from its ecumenical outreach. Leaving behind the ‘siege mentality’ of the Counter-Reformation is an acknowledgment that solid worship and some good theological thinking is not a Roman exclusive. I wish that I had a halfpenny for the number of times that I have been verbally assaulted by misinformed members of a congregation who insisted that hymn singing was ‘protestant’. That bit of disinformation couldn’t be more off the mark. German, Dutch, and French congregations were belting out incredible hymnody long before there were any protestant reformers. Many of those hymns are the foundation of great hymnals, both protestant and catholic, today.

            I am very Catholic, through and through. However, the roots of my deep faith do not lie in the soil of Rome as much as they are nourished by the influence of my grandfather, a Methodist minister. His doctoral degree was in theology and some of the best discussions in apologetics occurred in his study. He could quote Newman by heart and it was he that took me to Mass each Sunday when I spent the weekend there.

            • Past Elder / Terry Maher

              Hi Jim! I’m not quite so far along, but not all that behind you. And I agree — my example of my graduation ceremony (that was 1972) was not at all meant to say “thus it was always”, because it certainly wasn’t, but rather to compare to your late 90s experience that already where I was in the early 70s a Benedictine university could conclude its graduation with a Luther hymn and nobody thought a thing of it.

              However, I do remember it being explained to us in the 50s that it was OK to sing “Silent Night” as a Christmas carol, even though it was of Lutheran origin, because at least in that hymn there was nothing that in fact was not Catholic.

              Which gets to the point I made further down this thread — bleeding WordPress anyway, stuff ends up all over — that the elements in common between the Catholic Church and other churches were not seen as common things to Christians, or at least some of them, but Catholic things this or that church did not deny or reject. IOW nothing of the “”shared” or good things from other churches, but rather a recognition that whatever good they had was Catholic whether they knew it or not, and generally they don’t or else they’d join us for the rest of the good things they are missing.

              Part of my family took a sojourn into Methodism, which then was not at all the United Methodist Church of to-day. Grandpa was a what we used to call fallen-away Catholic who married a Baptist, and they settled on Methodism as a compromise, so my dad and his three sibs were raised Methodist.

              Dad converted on marrying Mom (or Mum) in 1941. It strikes me that much of what is celebrated here is exactly what he thought he was leaving behind in finding the Catholic Church, which I am told took a team of Jesuits to get him to find.

              For the record, his one sister married an ex-Marine Irish Catholic and converted, and their kids were so raised, his brother and his wife were childless and remained Methodist their whole lives, and his other sister (the only one still alive) remains Methodist though their daughter became Catholic on marrying a French-American, from whom she is now in good postconciliar fashion divorced; she took the Roman bait hook line and sinker, and though she isn’t what we used to call a practicing Catholic of course cannot imagine being anything but a Catholic and will not consider anything else even though she looks more to the Robert Schuller type of stuff for spiritual food.

              I am the first Lutheran in the bunch. I am hoping my baptising my kids Lutheran and raising them that way qualifies me for latae sententiae.

              • Jim Ryland

                Terry,

                Thank you for a glee-filled read. I suspect that you and I might have much in common.

                It was an interesting eye-opener for me when I served as minister of music at St. John’s LCMS parish. I quickly found out what my darker brethren might feel in the white-dominated southern USA. Even with all my catholic credentials I was refused admission to the communion rail.

                My children were baptized in the Anglican Church where I later worked. My very French, very Roman mother had a tizzy and my father had to drag her to the Mass. Had my children been born when I was at St. Andrew’s (then ALC) they would probably be good Lutherans. It was one of the most catholic congregations that I have encountered… in all the good senses.

                My late wife, one of God’s better works, laughingly responded to the question from a member of one of my congregations; “What is Jim’s personal faith?”. Her answer was that I had one foot in Rome, one in Canterbury, my nose in Wittenberg, and the rest of me was lost somewhere in Byzantium.

                I am a very devout Catholic but not always in the strict Roman corporate model.

  8. Past Elder / Terry Maher

    Since there is no such thing as “The Lutheran Church”, how is it possible for an entity that does not exist to think it is the true church?

    • Quite right too. I realise that now. And so I take it you would agree with Dominus Iesus and say that since there is no such thing as “the Lutheran Church” it cannot be “a Church” in the proper sense?

      Also, while there is no such thing as “The Lutheran Church”, yet there are such things as “Lutheran Churches” – both in the sense of Lutheran Synods and Lutheran Congregations. What are these? How are we to think of them ecclesiologically?

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher

        It’s simply a way of talking and you know that bloody well. Or knew it, before the Roman virus of theologising everything into something else got you.

        Church in the proper sense, you say. What in all flying Judas in the chancery is that? Proper sense, in Catholic usage, is a Catholic definition thereof which, wonder of wonders, only fits the Catholic Church. Pure circumlocution. The Catholic Church defines what is the proper sense because the only church in the proper sense in the Catholic Church.

        There is no “Lutheran Church” in the sense there is a Catholic Church, never was and hope there never will be, because there is no Catholic Church in the Gospel of Christ at all. That is entirely derived from its structure as an agency of the Roman Empire, a monstrous deformation of the catholic church of the Creed.

        Speaking of which, it is amazing that this whole discussion of church and true church has unfolded on this distinctly postconciliar blog without the slightest reference to a staple of Catholic though known to any kid in catechism class in the old days — the four marks of the church, their meaning in the Creed, and their expression of (it was believed, including by me) the church of the Gospels and Epistles.

        Not to mention that the only invisible thing about Church in Catholic thinking is that part of it which, due to the imperfect, and as part of that invisible, bonds tying every Christian to the Catholic Church by those of its elements they do not deny and which can exist outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church, whereby extra ecclesia nulla salus does not mean non-Catholics are per se damned.

        Which means that, within this mindset, as a Lutheran I am not in the least saved by a bloody thing Lutheran nor is there any sort of shared bond, something equally Lutheran and Catholic. It is ALL Catholic, and some of it, sufficient for salvation, can survive in a Lutheran environment despite the heretical doctrine on other things and the break with the Catholic Church.

        Which is why a non-Catholic Christian on becoming Catholic makes an Abjuration of Heresy; does not go on about being a Lutheran in communion with the bishop of Rome or common bonds or other existential postconciliar idiocies, but, recognising that whatever was of value before was in fact Catholic and bound one to the Catholic Church whether one knows it or not, repents of and abjures adherence to heretical rejections of the rest of what is Catholic and accepts, as it were, the full pie of which he formerly had but slices and crumbs.

        Convert and cradle alike go one here in a way that dates from the 1960s, is not at all Catholic, and is all the more humorous, though grotesquely so, for thinking this is somehow in continuity with anything before the 1960s and at the same time coming down on the rest of what comes from the 1960s as Brian expresses here from time to time.

        • Peter

          “Proper sense, in Catholic usage, is a Catholic definition thereof which, wonder of wonders, only fits the Catholic Church.”

          Let’s imagine a man searching for the car to suit all his needs in a motor vehichle. Not looking for superficial comfort or luxuries such as audio system preferences but the essentials in a vehichle that will get him where he needs to go safely and reliably. After some time he declares that he has found the very car and declares its merits to anyone who will listen. His friends may suggest that he is only trying to convince himself that it is perfect because it is the one he HAS and it is more convenient to ignore the flaws of this car than to keep searching. They might suggest that he can’t face the reality that there is no perfect car out there, and so sets about deluding himself about the nature of the car he found. (Some suggest that no car we find will ever get us anywhere, so we might as well wait around for Christ to come pick us up personally.)

          While these are possibilities that must be considered, taken alone they represent an extreme pessimism regarding the man’s motives, integrity, honesty and even his ability to discern anything clearly at all through a kind of ‘psychological fog’.

          Another possibility must at least be considered, if not prefered, if we are to pretend that searching matters at all. That is, the possibility that he is delighted with his choice of automobile *precisely because* he has recognised the objective truth of it’s suitability. He may have been momentarily distracted by a shinier, faster, or more comfortable models, he may have been lured by fabulous sound systems or a well polished duco, but he has neglected them all in favor of a car in which he discerns all that is needed in an automobile.

          If a friend cynically suggests it is “convenient that his definition of a perfect choice in car fits the car he is driving” then he could rightly respond, “it wasn’t so convenient to find, it cost me more than I ever thought it would, it doesn’t always run that well, but it IS the car I was searching for, the car I need, the car everyone needs in fact.”

          What astounded me when I began to search in ernest was that neither the Scriptures nor the Fathers share the Protestant pessimism regarding the Church. If I were feeling cheeky I would suggest that the pessimism was invented to justify a rejection of the inconvenient and challenging truth. Jokes aside, I think people become so disalusioned with the poor examples of theology and life they are confronted with that they lose sight of the objective reality. Fair enough, especially given the current abundance of poor examples (myself included). But it seems that those who have chosen to give up the search, to remain cynical and pessemistic, who launch the most angry and bitter attacks on friends who display the slightest sign of optimism in the search.

          • Past Elder / Terry Maher

            Wonderful. This is “like” that, so this is that. And it becomes all about attitude and feeling — pessimism and optimism — rather than anything objective yet cloaks itself as a search for same.

            Get out of the Roman outhouse before it kills you!

            Btw, the possessive of it is its; it’s is a contraction for “it is”. And while Latin is rarely to be found in the Latin church these days, the English is still pessimism, from the Latin pessimus, the superlative of worst.

            Flaming Judas in the scriptorum.

            • Past Elder / Terry Maher

              Free falling Judas, make that of bad.

              • Past Elder / Terry Maher

                It might be well to review what is an ad hominem response to an argument. Essentially it is when an argument is made on the basis of something a supposed authority has said, and things about that authority (a person) that are not related to the argument are used to discredit the authority as in fact an authority. I do not think your argument was constructed on the basis of argument from authority, nor was the response to discredit you as an authority since you claimed no such status.

                Rather, it is the argument itself. I think my 2008 Chrysler Town and Country Touring is the greatest vehicle yet. However, that thought is entirely dissimilar to why I for example am Lutheran, or for that matter why while still Catholic I left a church that no longer was but continued to call something else Catholic and say it was the same thing really.

                So it’s a matter of finding a metaphor inappropriate or inapplicable, with grammatical comments. Metaphor and grammar do not constitute a hominem to be ad. But it is characteristic of the existentialism and phenomenology with mitres that is postconciliar Catholicism to understand everything in terms of feelings and personal experience to take anything at all that does not repeat The Catholic Church The Catholic Church The Catholic Church to take everything personally.

                So I say again, get out of the Roman outhouse before it kills you! Which is not by way of attack at all, otherwise I would not bother with a warning!

            • Peter

              Terry

              My analogy, like all analogies, is limited. My attention to detail, especially in a 10 minute lunch in the middle of marking season, is not perfect. I hope, however, that my attempts to engage in discussion never descend to the kind of sneering ad-hominum attack you passed off as an intelligent response.

              I attempted to engage your point. Please have the courtesy to return the favour. Or at least be polite enough to say nothing if you have nothing constructive to add.

  9. Christine

    As my pseudonym indicates, I decided.

    As did I, Joyful Papist. 🙂

    The Missouri Synod is about as mainstream protestant as one can get.

    Pretty much, Jim. Certainly is in my neck of the woods. I also agree that Luther’s Augustinian roots remained with him all his life. I valued Augustine as a Lutheran and still do now as a Catholic.

    Still, I’m grateful for all the good I received in my (non-Missouri) Lutheran upbringing. It taught me to value the high place of Holy Baptism and that all my family, Lutheran and Catholic share in that indisputable bond in Christ.

    Christine

  10. Matthias

    i like that comment ChristineC’that all my family, Lutheran and Catholic share in that indisputable bond in Christ. ‘ And one day we will all meet at His feet in unity.

  11. Christine

    Thanks for your kind words, Matthias.

    What are these? How are we to think of them ecclesiologically?

    That’s difficult, David, since Lutheran churches worldwide vary so much in their polity and consequently have differing ideas of what constitutes the ministry of the church, both for the ordained and the non-ordained. The last LCMS congregation I attended had a strongly “evangelical” culture bordering on fundamentalism when it came to interpreting Scripture.

    Christine

    • Matthias

      “evangelical ” culture Christine? I reckon some of the diehard evangelicals would be getting perplexed if they past a Catholic church here in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs (St Christophers in Syndal for Melbournians) .First sign – “best wishes to our confirmation class”. Then the sign showing times for Mass.Then a sign :
      sunday School and the time with the phrase “Biblically based” . The Italian pentecostal church next door must be getting a complex,especially as it belongs to a denomination that sees the catholic church as being the beast.

  12. Christine

    Matthias, what I meant by that was for confessional Lutherans the sacraments are not “optional.” There’s no getting around that Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals do not accept Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar as Sacraments. A Lutheran church that has not maintained a balance between Word and Sacrament is not authentically Lutheran.

    Evangelicals also have a decidedly different way of reading Revelation than Catholics, Orthodox and even many Lutherans so yes, they do come to different conclusions. Obviously, I don’t accept the description of the “beast” as being the Catholic Church.

    Christine

    • Matthias

      I knew what you meant Christine . i was alluding to the fact that this specific Catholic church,was using language that from my proddy evangelical background was quite familiar . However in reference to your other comment “”that Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals do not accept Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar as Sacraments.”,this may account for the fact that my own church ,has what i call a Baptist Baby Blessing (BBB)-a dedicationof a new born child-which is to me,seeming to make up for the very thing you refer to. What I do miss from both the Uniting Church of Oz-where my kis were baptised-and the LCA- is the Church year calendar.,again a reflection of how far from the Reformation some have strayed!!
      even though i am a proddy I stopped accepting that the telephone number of the vatican was 666 a long time ago,and think this is more applicable to jihadists,secularists or radical greenies.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher

        Holy crap, Matthias, didn’t you hear? Benedict just passed out. Seems a staffer burst into his study and said “Holy crap, Your Holiness, but I’ve got good news and bad news.”

        Benedict said “Give me the bad news first.”

        The staffer said “Jesus Christ has come back to earth and I’ve got him on the line long distance!”

        Benedict said “What in all dialing Judas could be bad about that?”

        The staffer said “Um, it’s long distance from Salt Lake City.”

        Benedict hit the deck.

        • Matthias

          The devised standard version of the Bible put out by Ponsy Preachers College:
          “There was a man travelling between Jerusalem and Jericho and he fell amongst thorns and they beat him up. Along came one driving like Jehu ,who stopped and put him in his chariot. As they past by jezebel put out her head . Jehu said “throw her down” and they threww her down 7- times seven.Who’s wife will she be in the resurrection?”

    • Okay, and here’s something worth considering – and I mean this for you, PE, as well:

      Lutherans also have an idea of what is and what is not “a proper Church”. For instance, any bunch of Christians who do not practice the sacraments are not “a proper Church”. Into this category fall the Society of Friends and the Salvation Army. And perhaps others.

      The Catholic Church is not alone in setting up its own definition of “Church” and then judging others by it. In fact, show me a Christian ecclesial community which doesn’t.

      • Matthias

        David having attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship for nearly three years, i can tell you that one got to yearn to partake of Communion . The Quakers would argue that the act of worship is a sacrament,that from a group here in Australia has now a anything goes theology,where Jesus is a shadow and where pagans and witches are accepted. Hence my returning to a evangelical church ,despite its faults. As for the Salvoes ,and many here THank God for their social outreach,they made the decision never to celebrate communion due to the large number of ex alcoholics that were converted and it was felt that it would be a greater sin to have many backslide if tempted . That was explained to me by a friend of my folks a one time Sally lass.

  13. Past Elder / Terry Maher

    Pig’s bum. We ain’t just talking church here, we’re talking “true” church. LCMS in no way whatever considers itself the “true” church in the sense the RCC defines true church and then identifies itself as it.

    Judas in the chancery, even when we say there is the proverbial “altar and pulpit fellowship” with another church body, we don’t start issuing edicts and crap about who is what under the new arrangement, like the recent Anglican lunacy.

    Our sister churches are just fine the way they are; they don’t have to become LCMS. Hell, some of them even have guys called bishops with pointy hats and stuff.

    • I don’t think you are being quite honest, PE. My search, which led me to the Catholic Church, began as a search for that community of Christians which was, if not “the true Church”, then at least “truly Church”, ie. “authentically” ecclesial. I believe every Christian conducts this search, consciously or unconsciously, in choosing which Christian community to worship in and associate with. Moreover, all Christian communities, consciously or unconsciously, pass judgement on their sister Christian communities concerning their “ecclesial authenticity” in respect to the question of whether they can be in fellowship with them (aka in communion with them). Catholics do this. Orthodox do this. Anglicans do this (yes, really!). And Lutherans do this. I have been at sessions in Lutheran Synods which have considered whether to extend “the right hand of fellowship” to another church body. The discussion has entirely revolved around the question of to what degree the Word and Sacraments have been “rightly preserved” and are “rightly administered” among them. This is a judgement of “ecclesial authenticity”, even if you choose to call it something else.

      Moreover, Lutherans have historically not been shy of calling another community a “false church”. Eg. Mormonism is a “false church”. Roman Catholicism has been called (by some Lutherans) a “false church”. I wonder, if you asked the average Missouri Synodsman what he thought of the ELCA, he would reply “false church”. If it is possible therefore to have an ecclesially inauthentic community, it must, ipso facto, be possible to have an ecclesially authentic community, ie. a Christian community which is “truly Church”. Moreover, every Lutheran Church I know of – in fact, for that matter, every Christian community I know of – while it might shy away from claiming to be “the True Church”, will, with all humility, acknowledge that, by God’s grace, the Church of Jesus Christ has been authentically preserved among them in their own particular fellowship, ie. that they are “truly Church”.

      So, to take what you wrote:

      We ain’t just talking church here, we’re talking “true” church. LCMS in no way whatever considers itself the “true” church in the sense the RCC defines true church and then identifies itself as it.

      Yet the LCMS would indeed consider itself to be “truly Church”, in absolutely the same sense in which the Catholic Church considers itself to be “truly Church”, ie. in that the pure teaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments have been preserved in it.

      Judas in the chancery, even when we say there is the proverbial “altar and pulpit fellowship” with another church body, we don’t start issuing edicts and crap about who is what under the new arrangement, like the recent Anglican lunacy.

      And this is an interesting point. Lutherans do practice “church fellowship” in which the ties that bind between the two communities do not generally include a joint teaching office. Which raises the question of what would happen when one of the “sister churches” choses to do something with which another “sister church” believes to be against God’s Word. The answer is: the right hand of fellowship is withdrawn. Why? Because the other group are not “truly Church”.

      Our sister churches are just fine the way they are; they don’t have to become LCMS.

      Yes, just fine as they are – as long as they do not do something that the LCMS believes to be against God’s word. If they did, it would not be so fine.

  14. Susan Peterson

    I did have to renounce heresy and schism when I became a Catholic.
    The profession of faith I had to make started “I Susan Peterson, enlightened by Divine Grace, and touching with my hand these Holy Gospels, profess the faith which the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church teaches, to which I adhere with all my heart. I believe that Church is the one true Church which Jesus Christ founded upon earth”
    and it ended
    “…and everything which she defines and declares I believe, and I renounce every heresy and schism which she condemns, so help me God and these holy Gospels which I touch with my hand. ”

    This was in 1972, in a rather conservative Redemptorist parish. They were still using a stack of these statements which they had had around for many years. I guess no one had explicitly told them not to. They probably didn’t stop until the whole RCIA business came in.

    When you said that, you had a clear idea of what you were doing, becoming a Catholic. People enter now sometimes with the vaguest of notions.

    Susan Peterson

  15. Christine

    Hi Matthias,

    .”,this may account for the fact that my own church ,has what i call a Baptist Baby Blessing (BBB)-a dedicationof a new born child-which is to me,seeming to make up for the very thing you refer to.

    I understand that practice. In fact, Baptists aren’t the only ones who pbserve it, a friend of mine belongs to a “Primitive Methodist” congregation that also has what they call a “dedication” of a child at birth. In classic theology a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward reality and actually does what it says. Holy Baptism actually brings about the new creation, the new nature in Christ through his life, death and resurrection through a rebirth in water and the spirit but I’m sure you know that already.

    What I do miss from both the Uniting Church of Oz-where my kis were baptised-and the LCA- is the Church year calendar.,again a reflection of how far from the Reformation some have strayed!! Agreed. The liturgy as it unfolds in the Church year is very sustaining to me and it sounds like it is important to you as well.

    even though i am a proddy I stopped accepting that the telephone number of the vatican was 666 a long time ago,and think this is more applicable to jihadists,secularists or radical greenies. Well, being the thoughtful and observant person that you are, that does not surprise me.

    Christine

  16. Christine

    Arggh, let’s try this again with italics off.

    Hi Matthias,

    this may account for the fact that my own church ,has what i call a Baptist Baby Blessing (BBB)-a dedicationof a new born child-which is to me,seeming to make up for the very thing you refer to. I understand that practice. In fact, Baptists aren’t the only ones who pbserve it, a friend of mine belongs to a “Primitive Methodist” congregation that also has what they call a “dedication” of a child at birth. In classic theology a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward reality and actually does what it says. Holy Baptism actually brings about the new creation, the new nature in Christ through his life, death and resurrection through a rebirth in water and the spirit but I’m sure you know that already.

    What I do miss from both the Uniting Church of Oz-where my kis were baptised-and the LCA- is the Church year calendar.,again a reflection of how far from the Reformation some have strayed!! Agreed. The liturgy as it unfolds in the Church year is very sustaining to me and it sounds like it is important to you as well.

    even though i am a proddy I stopped accepting that the telephone number of the vatican was 666 a long time ago,and think this is more applicable to jihadists,secularists or radical greenies. Well, being the thoughtful and observant person that you are, that does not surprise me.

    Christine

    • As a small aside, it has always amused me that the post office box of the Ministry of Education in New Zealand once was, in fact, 666. Other numbers have since been added in postal reforms, but still 666 forms a significant part of the number.

  17. Past Elder / Terry Maher

    You’re right, Matthias. 666 is not the Vatican’s phone number. Just the Area Code!