Friday, June 27, 2008

Blog Pong, II

The game is evidently still on.

Dan Woodrung has served up a new volley, quoting my reference to the Augsburg Confession (that the Church is present wherever her Gospel is preached and her Sacraments administered rightly), and asking, "Who determines the 'rightly'?"

My reply is that, in the first place that question does not require an answer for the statement to be true. It simply is true, regardless of who determines what about it. This is the ubi question, not the qua; it is a confession of where we may find the Church, not about what the Church is.

And that, as it turns out, does speak to the question of who determines. In the 1519 Leipzig debate, Eck asked Luther a similar question: who interprets Scripture? (this goes back to a recent post of mine) . . . who interprets? You, Martin Luther? To which, if I remember this rightly, Luther replied, Yes.

Similarly, who gets to decide the 'rightly'? I do.

Now before anyone launches into a diatribe about how silly that idea is, let me remind you that I've heard all your replies already, a hundred times. Spare your fingers.

Here is what I mean. St. Paul says, "I know whom I have believed . . ." How does he know? Because Peter told him to say this? Because he was accepted into the apostolic council? Because he knows he is an apostle himself? Does not Paul's assertion here provide a pattern for every Christian to follow? Must we not all learn to say the same? Then how is it that I know whom I have believed?

I do not say "I know" because the bishop told me to say that. I say it because I really do know. I do. No one knows this for me and tells me. It is an existential thing, really. Does that make me a charismatic or an existentialist? Certainly not, no more than it makes the Apostle one.

To be sure, the ecumenical councils, the creeds, the confessions -- these verify what I know, they affirm it. But they do not do my knowing for me. Nor, even, does Scripture.

It's not that I determine the 'rightly', really; it's that I recognize it. I recognize it because I know whom I have believed.

Granted, that's a sticky wicket, but it's true.


William Weedon said...

Krauth might be of use:

We do not interpret God's Word by the Creed, neither do we interpret the Creed by God's Word, but interpreting both independtly, by the laws of language, and finding that they teach one and the same truth, we heartily acknowledge the Confession as a true exhibition of the faith of the Rule - a true witness to the one, pure, and unchanging faith of the Christian Church, and freely make it our own Confession, as truly as if it had been now first uttered by our lips, or had now first gone forth from our hands.

In freely and heartily accepting the faith of our Church, as our own faith, and her Scriptural confession of that faith, as our own confession, we do not surrender for ourselves, any more than we take from others, the sacred and inalienable right of private judgment, but by the prayerful exercise of it, not relinquishing a just independence of investigation, but by thoroughly employing it, we have reached that faith which we glory in confessing....

As the individual, in exercising the right of private judgment, is in peril of abusing it, the Church has the right, and it bound by the duty, of self-defence against that abuse. The right of private judgment is not the right of Church-membership, not the right of public teaching, not the right of putting others into an equivocal attitude to what they regard as truth. A free Protestant Church is a Church, whose ministry and membership, accepting the same rule of faith, have, in the exercise of their private judgment upon it, reached the same results as to all the truths which they deem it needful to unite in confessing....

When we confess, that, in the exercise of our right of private judgment, our Bible has made us Lutherans, we neither pretend to claim that other men shall be made Lutherans by force, nor that their private judgment shall, or will, of necessity, reach the results of ours. We only contend, that, if their private judgment of the Bible does not make them Lutherans, they shall not pretend that it does. We do not say, that any man shall believe that the Confession of our Church is Scriptural. We only content, that he should neither say nor seem to say so, if he does not believe it...

We concede to every man the absolute right of private judgment as to the faith of the Lutheran Church, but if he have abandoned the faith of that Church, he may not use her name as a shelter in attacking the thing which she cherishes, and in maintaining which she obtained her being and her name. It is not enough that you say to me, that such a thing is clear to your private judgment. You must show to my private judgment, that God's Word teaches it, before I dare recognize you as in the unity of the faith. If you cannot, we have not the same faith, and ought not be of the same communion; for the communion is properly one of persons of the same faith.

Dan Woodring said...


I confess I really have nothing else to say, except, "Good luck with that."

Pr. H. R. said...

One could also ask a Roman Catholic, "How do you know that the religion of the Pope is true?" or "Who decides that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth?"

There really is no escaping the necessity of individual, rational choice - though we believe, on all sides of the question, that it is the Holy Spirit (or a different spirit) leading us to our conclusions.

But they still are our conclusions. If you conclude that only the Pope can tell you what the Bible means - well, you still had to conclude to follow the pope. On what basis did you do that?

See, no escaping that personal interpretation.


Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...


The Krauth quote is of some help, yes, although I confess to being uncomfortable about the "the sacred and inalienable right of private judgment." That sounds too much like John Locke to me. I guess I like what he says, just not how he says it.

Heath: You're right. In fact, even the Pope himself has to conclude, in the shrine of his heart . . .

So, Dan: you have the same problem as I, explaining the who-gets-to-decide, no?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

All quite true, what each of you says.

Except in one point, and this is the point that distinguishes what you each say from the poison pill that splinters people into ever more denominations.

The Orthodox answer is never, "I do," but "We do."

"We", meaning the vast majority of all of us over the whole life-span of the Church.

Anonymous said...

"Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me."

Who determines "rightly". God does. Scripture is not of private opinion. If the "rightly" is revealed in Scripture then it has been set down and a plethora of private opinions, no matter how convincing, cannot change that our Lord has an intended meaning when he sets something down... lets not all go post-modern here.

If "rightly" is not revealed then it is tradition and the rational of tradition bows to the Norm (Scripture).

The Roman Catholic answer to the above is likely to be... well then who determines what is Scripture?!

I can see it now: Lutheran... my authority is Scripture! RC/EO... well my authority (plug in here Tradition or Councils or Pope or Church) made your authority! And shazaam... "my schwartz is bigger than yours".

Though I suppose no one would really claim to make the very Word of God but only to recognize it (by the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and only the truth). Trouble is once it is "recognized" it becomes the Norm doesn't it? It is God's Word and all that. (Well, unless your authority erred and then we are in big trouble.)

In the end, there really is one "rightly", and many others will be wrong. Can you convince such of error? Perhaps. Yet do not forget that there must be divisions to prove what is right.

The fear and trembling part comes in when you realize that flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but the Father in heaven.

We are but confessors.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Ryan, it sounds like you have a good point, but I fail to understand it. In fact, I'm totally confused, because so much of what you write seems to be backwards from the way we Orthodox understand it. For example, we'd say if a thing is not revealed, it definitely is NOT a legitimate element of Tradition, and we'd say that unity, rather than divisions, manifests what is right.

Would you mind trying again for my poor mind, which is operating out of some different paradigms? What are you trying to say??

What I do understand is that if each individual goes around saying the Father has revealed to him the correct meaning(s) of Holy Scripture, therein assigning to himself the same authority the pope of Rome assigns to himself, that host of little popes will guarantee divisions and disunity.


Anonymous said...

Anastasia T.

It is more likely my poverty than yours in explaining things. Indeed it should not be an Orthodox paradigm you hear since I'm Lutheran. Always define your words and I believe we are operating with a different definition of tradition. EO, if I'm not mistaken, view tradition as sacred and revealed of God. Regardless, I was speaking of tradition in the sense of man-made and in the sense of an authority, though not necessarily inspired authority.

For example as we celebrated the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul I wore a red chasuble. This tradition (red for saints days) is not commanded in Scripture, nor is it spoken against. But if somehow I said "You have to use red for a saint's day or you are not a Christian" (I overstate for the example of course) then this man-made tradition would be working against Scriptural freedom and must go.

But that is a side point:

Mainly I was trying to say:

1. We do not interpret Scripture in the sense of meaning for it is of no private interpretation, it has meaning already in itself, namely what the Lord intends. Sinful divisions are the cause of all the different interpretations, but we are told to expect divisions which can in the end benefit truth.

In the end somebody has it right and the rest are wrong (or it is conceivable that all are wrong). Truth really means there is a knowable, findable truth not a host of interpretations.

2. The Church recognized Scripture so Protestants and Lutherans are often caught unawares on that point. Crassly put "My church or my Tradition made your Scripture". To which I respond, once "defined" or "recognized" as God's Word it becomes the primary authority, the norm by which any other competing source of authority must bow.

3. Finally we can talk all day about interpretation and who is right, but we all must remember that all the interpretation, all the grammatical analysis, in the world cannot get us to the Truth, it is revealed of the Father through that Word (Holy Spirit at work here). This leads me to a bit of fear and trembling because I can't in the end interpret correctly on my own (Sinful mind is blind to thing of God) it is only by God's grace.

Postscript: I suppose we can take a anthropocentric view of Interpretation. Or a theocentric view. Unfortunately the anthropocentric is hardly the whole story and we can't always get at the theocentric.

Well I tried, but I warned you in my first post that this was likely a bit of my foolishness, thanks for bearing with me!

orrologion said...

It's not that I determine the 'rightly', really; it's that I recognize it. I recognize it because I know whom I have believed.

And, yet, from a distance and without my glasses I am in danger of mistaking many a brunette for my wife.

Discernment is the great necessary in the spiritual life, and impossible to acquire without disaster, salvations and irreproachable, unquestioned guidance.

In the end, for all our well-intentioned superstructures of rationality, we choose what we wanted from the beginning, emotionally. One wants to pray and worship with his wife and kids, one likes his job and the accolades that go with it, others see themselves as counter-cultural rebels and many have academic, intellectual pretensions - some never got to work at a Renaissance Festival as a teenager and think it too unseemly to take up amateur dramatics at this late stage - some just like being right and bat everyone else over the head with it. A thankfully small number fancy themselves wordsmiths and like to show off in prose, uninvited - God save us from them!

Pr. H. R. said...

A. Theodoridis wrote:

"The Orthodox answer is never, "I do," but "We do."

"We", meaning the vast majority of all of us over the whole life-span of the Church."

This is exactly the issue that Herman Sasse took on in one of his essays in "We Confess the Church." Vox populi, vox Dei est. My people will never agree in error. Sasse does a very nice job of arguing that such notions have a pagan rather than Christian origin.

For what is Israel if not the type of the Church? And was there ever a time in Israel's history when the majority was wrong? Including the majority of the clergy? Something about Elijah and only 7000 left comes to mind. . .


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But, Pr. Curtis, you've missed my point. I didn't say, "What the majority said at any given time." I specified, "over the whole life-span of the Church."

(In Greece, that proverb, the voice of the people, the Voice of God, isn't used in this way. Instead, it is used in the context of keeping the clergy in line. They'd better not stray too far afield or the people will take matters in hand!)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Curtis,

Israel did not have the promises that the Bridegroom left his church, that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. Nor was Israel the 'pillar and foundation of truth.' Nor was Israel 'the fullness of him who fills all things.'

Hence, appeals to OT Israel are beside the point.

Christ died, rose, ascended, and poured out the Spirit on the Church. That changed everything.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Fr. Hogg

You say the coming of Jesus changes everything, which is true in a way; but more specifically, it fulfills everything, i.e., everything written by Moses and the prophets.

Hence you cannot so easily write off the OT. Fr Curtis has a point.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr Eckardt,

Pr. Curtis spoke in type/antitype language. From the fact that OT x is a type of NT y, it doesn't follow that NT y has to have every feature of OT x.

For example, David is a type of Christ. But it does not follow that Christ must commit adultery and murder, because David did.

So too, the OT Israel is a type of the NT Church. But it does not follow that the Church must be wrong, because Israel was. And the words of Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail, and the words of Paul that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, specifically forbid drawing such parallels.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Fr Hogg,

You wrote, "the words of Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail, and the words of Paul that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, specifically forbid drawing such parallels."

These words certainly do not specifically forbid drawing such parallels. You have drawn that inference, which at the very least is not self-evident.

What I see in them is a fulfillment of the fact that of Israel it was said that the throne of David would be everlasting.

You see no connection between Israel of old and the Church? Not even a typological one?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Eckardt, you wrote:

You wrote, "the words of Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail, and the words of Paul that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, specifically forbid drawing such parallels."

These words certainly do not specifically forbid drawing such parallels. You have drawn that inference, which at the very least is not self-evident.

Rx: So much for a self-interpreting Bible, huh? :-) But if the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, then appeals to the remnant-theology of the OT (which is the context of the 7,000 etc.) are beside the point. The Church IS the remnant, the 7,000 who haven't bowed the knee to Baal. You will find references in the NT for various individuals within the Church falling into error. You may even find references to particular communities falling into error (e.g. Galatia). But the Church, the Body of Christ, cannot err. She is without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. And if one or more of her children fall into error, she does not; rather, they fall away from her.

An infallible God, who speaks an infallible message, must be heard by an infallible hearer; or else the infallibility of the speaker and the message is for naught. For the Orthodox, that infallible hearer is the Church. For protestants, it is the individual believer. This is why protestants keep fragmenting: when two infallible hearers have a difference, each decides that the other must be wrong. When two Orthodox have a difference, we get quiet and try to discern how the Church understands the issue at hand, and we yield to Her.

What I see in them is a fulfillment of the fact that of Israel it was said that the throne of David would be everlasting.

Rx: The throne of David *is*, put one way, the Church (and put another way, the Theotokos). Have you never seen the icon of the Hodogetreia?

You see no connection between Israel of old and the Church? Not even a typological one?

Rx: I do see both an historical and typological connection between Israel and the Church. But not every feature of a type is found in the antitype. If it were, then the type would BE the antitype. I've already given you the example of David and Christ: Christ does not commit adultery and murder, though his type did.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Jeff said...

"When two Orthodox have a difference, we get quiet and try to discern how the Church understands the issue at hand, and we yield to Her."

And when you disgaree about how the church understands the issue? Or even who the church is?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The Orthodox definition of Church is pretty cut and dry, so we don't tend to disagree about that.

If we prayerfully and humbly seek discernment, the Holy Spirit eventually makes clear to us what the Church's understanding is. It just takes time, amounts of time that very according to each person's spiritual maturity and/or weakness. Patience with one another is definitely required, as is faith in the Holy Spirit given to each of us.

There are some things, such as what to think of Protestant rites, concerning which the Church has not yet arrived at an understanding. (Are they or are they not sacraments?) So we each come up with our own opinions (or not) but we may not assert them as more than just that, our personal opinion. Personal opinions are no big deal, hence no problem.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Jeff, you asked:

"And when you disagree about how the church understands the issue? Or even who the church is?"

Rx: We don't disagree on who the church is. When we disagree about how the church understands the issue, we keep praying, and talking. Eventually we agree.

Dr. Wenthe from the Ft. Wayne seminary told this story years ago. He spoke with an Orthodox priest in the holy land about life in their parish. They got onto the topic of instituting change--say, getting a new roof. "How do you handle such matters?" the priest asked Dr. Wenthe. "We call a voters' meeting, discuss the issue and take a vote. Whichever side has more votes, wins."

"How about you?" Wenthe said. The priest answered, "We pray, and talk, and see if we agree. If we don't agree, we talk and pray some more. When we reach consensus, we act."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Pr. H. R. said...

Fr. Hogg,

I could have been more clear. Let me try again.

As you must know, the Lutheran Confession of the Faith affirms that the Church is the pillar of truth. And even that the Church cannot err - in so far as she is the Church.

As in just the same way, Old Israel was also infallible as the people of God - in so far as she was the people of God.

That is to say, the outward apparatus of the Church (of the New or Old Testaments), the people, the clergy, the institutions, is not co-terminus with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Individuals and large groups of individuals and majorities do err. See the Arian centuries when the catholics were certainly in the minority. Or how about the monothelite controversy?

And in regard to Anastasia T's point: one can't get an infallible majority by adding up a bunch of admittedly fallible majorities across time.

There is no promise in Scripture that the majority of bishop-presbyters and people who claim the name Christian will not fall into error. "The gates of Hades" promise self-obviously refers to the Church bringing the message of the resurrection: the Gates of Hades will fall and death will be emptied of its victims. And I've already noted how we understand the "Pillar of Truth" statement.

So, FWIW, there is the Lutheran take on how the Church is infallible. And note that it can quite comfortably be stated without those words "visible" and "invisible." Though I also wouldn't shy away from them: for the things that are eternal are not seen. . .


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Christ did not say that the gates of hades would not prevail against the Church qua her bringing the message of the resurrection (though she always does bring that message), but that they would not prevail against her, period. Matthew 16:18 "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Judged by the light of the Lutheran confessional writings alone, the gates of hell have prevailed against all Lutheran bodies. Their own minimums of the Church's marks (rightly preached word, rightly administered sacraments) are no longer met by any existing Lutheran communion fellowship. Individual parishes--perhaps, for now. But communion fellowships? No, not one. (And if you thought there was one, you'd be in duty bound, according to CFW Walther, to run, not walk, and join it.)

But this situation is not surprising when your paradigm indicates that the incarnation, death and rising of Christ, and the sending of the Holy Spirit, has made no difference in the people of God with respect to the question of truth and error.

We shall have to let the return of Christ in glory sort this one out, it appears.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Jeff said...

Yeah, the Eastern Orthodox church certainly seems to have it all... a structure designed to solve the church's problems, antiquity, big buildings, etc. all.

I'd join if I didn't believe in a God who choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

If that sounds snarky- it must be because Christ's works and the Holy Spirit have in no way made a difference in me regarding social niceties.

Pr. Petersen presents a better response than I can on this btw.
(one line)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

What constitutes following the theology of the cross is, indeed, at issue, Jeff.

Am I following the theology of the cross by remaining in a confession which, judged by its own writings alone is a "unionistic fellowship" (Pieper's words, not mine), and enjoying the benefits of a salary scale, medical and retirement benefits?

Or do I follow the theology of the cross by abandoning salary scale, medical and retirement benefits (not to mention friends and colleagues and loved ones) to worship in words like these:

"Choir: Thy Resurrection, O Christ Savior, hath illumined the whole universe. Thou hast renewed Thy creation. O Lord Almighty, glory to Thee.

Verse 1. The Lord is King, and hath clothed Himself with majesty. The Lord is robed; He is girded with strength.
By the Tree, O Savior, Thou hast removed the curse that was caused by a tree; and by Thy Burial Thou hast caused the might of Death to die. Thou hast illumined our race by Thy Resurrection. Wherefore, do we shout to Thee, O Christ our Lord, Giver of life, glory to Thee.

Verse 2. For He has established the world so sure that it shall never be moved.
O Christ, when Thou wast seen nailed upon the Cross, Thou didst invert the beauty of creation. Yet withal did the soldiers show brutality when they pierced Thy side with a spear. And the Hebrews comprehended not the might of Thine authority, seeking to seal Thy tomb. But Thou Who for the compassion of Thy mercies didst accept a tomb, and didst rise in three days, O Lord, glory to Thee.

Verse 3. Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore.
O Christ God, O Giver of life, Thou didst bear the Passion willingly for the sake of the dead. Thou didst descend into Hades for Thou art mighty, and didst snatch away from the hand of the proud one those who there awaited Thy coming, bestowing paradise upon them for an abode instead of Hades. Wherefore, we supplicate Thee to give us who glorify Thy third-day Resurrection forgiveness of sins, and the Great Mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
O wondrous event transcending all the ancient miracles! For who ever hath heard of a mother giving birth without a man; and carrying in her arms Him who containeth all creation? Yet this is the will of the born God. Cease not, therefore, O undefiled one to pray to Him Whom thou didst carry in thine arms as a babe, and with Whom thou didst acquire motherly privilege for us who honor thee, that He may have mercy upon us and save our souls."

For me, it wasn't a hard decision. I lost nothing of value (though I wish that those I love might share this same joy); I gained everything.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...


You think that I have not followed the theology of the cross "by abandoning salary scale"?


Well, moving on, then, to our next topic . . .

orrologion said...

I'd join if I didn't believe in a God who choose the foolish things of the world...

We have foolishness aplenty.

I think the area Fr. Gregory is getting at is that while it is often assumed that smells and bells, antiquity, big buildings, etc. are the rasons that 'blind' many a convert into joining the Orthodox Church, this is not really the case. Most converts to Orthodox that I know - and my parish in NYC is about 1/2 convert from various faith backgrounds or none - experienced pretty heart wrenching struggles over quite a period of time before they finally came to the conclusion that the Orthodod Church was right and where they came from was wrong. Then, the ramifications of following conscience become clear and painful (for the converts and those around him/her), ascetic choices must be made and made quickly unless one is to sear the conscience.

It may very well be the wrong choice - we'll each find out on our personal Last Day, and all together on the Last Day - but it's isn't just (or primarily) pageantry, antiquity and such that is the draw.

That being said, I think a race to the bottom regarding who has the bigger cross or is more foolish and in whose eyes can get a little silly. We are all sacrificing for conscience sake, we are all foolish to the majority of people around us, but glory to God that everyone here has a conscience and is willing to follow it regardless of the world. Let us all be bold and eager to do God's will, as we have come to understand it - hopefully, we won't be bold in sin setting off in the wrong direction. But, God is merciful and I pray we prodigals may all come to ourselves should we find ourselves tending pigs - whether by birth or conversion.