22 March 2006

Diagnosing the Ailment

This post, on the blog of a former WELS layman, offers a diagnosis of several things that ail Protestantism generally, Lutheranism specifically, and the LCMS most specifically. It's not an especially academic diagnosis--nor was it intended to be. But it does give one pause...

47 comments:

Defensor said...

"Father" Fenton, please just leave.

Mark Jeffries said...

I second that thought. You don't need to convince us that you really want to be Eastern Orthodox. Just leave. Be at peace. We've had enough of your hand-wringing angst. Be a man. Do the right thing.

Carl Vehse said...

From the linked posting of the former Lutheran pastor:

"...one of my parishioners, the man who is now my Godfather, said to me on more than one occasion in the last half of 2005 (after he returned to the Church), “You are Orthodox."

But this pastor ceased to be a Lutheran much earlier, when he began to believe his own statements as doctrine:

"Although Confession and Absolution were part of what Lutherans confess, the official church body didn’t require the practice."

"We believed that this Church was visible (not invisible, some idealistic hoped for reunion),"

"Most treated her ever virginity as a “pious opinion, ‘ in spite of the fact that the Church East and West confessed and taught this from the apostolic times."

"Lutherans are run by a congregational polity.... NOT the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. And as such a body, it really has no bishops. It even uses language that says that every pastor (priest) is a bishop – directly contradicting the teaching of the Fathers and the Church through the ages."


The hypocrisy of having to pretend to be a Lutheran servant of the Word to his congregation, and to his wife and family, must have been staggering.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather say that the fact that you see those statements to be un-Lutheran is rather revealing about how much Lutheranism has changed and continues to change.

Carl Vehse said...

I'd rather say "ecclesia semper reformanda", maintaining Luther's principles of sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, and solus Christus.

fr john w fenton said...

Mr "Vehse":

Every statement you take issue with (and I assume you're taking issue with them) is clearly and forthrightly attested to in the 1580 Book of Concord.

Here are references:

Private Confession has not been abolished but retained -- AC XXV.1; KW 72, 73

The Church is not some Platonic Republic (i.e., invisible idea or ideal) as some have slanderously alleged, but truly exists -- Apol VII/VIII.20; KW 177

The Blessed Virgin Mary remained a virgin -- FC VIII.24; KW 620

Our greatest desire is to retain the heirarchical order of the church; we willing retain ecclesiastical and canonical order -- Ap XIV.1, 5; KW 222, 223

jwf

PS For those who don't know, "Carl Vehse" is a nom de plume refering to an extreme congregationalist opposed to all pastoral leadership, who defended the rights of the laymen against C.F.W. Walther and finally, more than 7 years before the LCMS was formed, left for Germany in disgust. (See "Moving Frontiers" and "Government in the Missouri Synod")

Anonymous said...

Ah, so now the Truth is constantly changing, is it? As long as we're constantly reforming and revising the Faith, what gives your "solas" special privileges?

Ronnie said...

What about Lutheran's *openly* contacting Western Rite Orthodox bishops as places to flee?

Could that be a valid option for those leaning East? Has it been a valid option?

How did this man's former congregation in Illinois handle his leave? Was he open about it as he contemplated a move?

[ Note that this has nothing to do with any allegation mentioned on this comment thread. I don't know Rev. Fenton's motives. ]

Anonymous said...

What's a Western Rite Orthodox bishop?

Chris Jones said...

Anonymous,

There is, in fact, no such thing as a "Western rite Orthodox bishop," and there has not been such a thing since the schism between East and West.

There is, however, a "western rite" in the Orthodox Church. The western rite are clergy, laity, parishes, and monasteries which are fully Orthodox in their faith, but worship according to the historic liturgy of the western Church. Western rite congregations are under the canonical jurisdiction of the same bishops who shepherd the more common Byzantine-rite Orthodox faithful.

As to Ronnie's complaint about Lutheran clergy being in contact with Orthodox bishops, I should think that it is hardly surprising that if a man comes to doubt that his own confession is the true one, that he would seek information from the clergy of the confession he suspects may be the true one. And surely there is less cause for complaint if he does so openly, than if he does so clandestinely.

Chris Jones said...

To "defensor" and Mark Jeffries:

If you are so sure that Fr Fenton is headed East, and if you are so sure that the East is wrong, then why would you encourage him to go - indeed, goad him into going? Are you so lacking in Christian charity that you would have him go where you honestly believe his soul would be in peril? Shame on you!

If you believe, in good conscience, that the East is heterodox, then your duty is to show Fr Fenton, with all gentleness and charity, where he is in error - not to cast him into the "outer darkness". If you can't, or won't, try gently to correct him, at the very least hold your peace.

The truth is that Fr Fenton is not answerable to any of us for his teaching and practice. He is accountable to his elders and voters' assembly, and to his district and to the Synod. If he has not run afoul of those canonical authorities, then you have no standing to call him to account. So back off.

Carl Vehse said...

Private Confession has not been abolished but retained
Private Confession retained and encouraged - yes. Required - no.

The Church is not some Platonic Republic (i.e., invisible idea or ideal) as some have slanderously alleged, but truly exists
The Church truly exists, but, in the proper sense, it is invisible. LC, II. 3. 51-53; Walther, K&A, Thesis III, on the Church; Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 547-548.

The Blessed Virgin Mary remained a virgin.
This may be held as a pious opinion, but if taught as doctrine, it is taught as false doctrine, since it, along with garlic's effect on magnetism, has only traditional, but no Scriptural basis. SD, Rule and Norm, 3,9,10.

Our greatest desire is to retain the heirarchical order of the church; we willing retain ecclesiastical and canonical order.
Desire - perhaps in those times or under certain conditions, but required? No. Tr. 11-20, 61,63-72.

"Carl Vehse" is a nom de plume refering to an extreme congregationalist opposed to all pastoral leadership, who defended the rights of the laymen against C.F.W. Walther
Contrary to such false, but predictable, accusations against Dr. Vehse, the 1839 Protestation document of Vehse, Fischer, and Jaekel noted under Thesis 40:

"Since we have been reproached for having in view only the rights of the congregation and not of the clergy in our six [draft] theses, we shall here profess ourselves for that which Walch has to say in his Christian Ethics, p. 639ff, about rights of teachers. The rights and duties of teachers are (1) to teach (and this function includes advising, professing, admonishing, reproving, comforting); (2) power to administer the sacraments; (3) to forgive and to retain sins (where there is not controversy). The authority of teachers then is not temporal but spiritual, and this is the entir scope of rights of teachers, as given to them by God."

While Walther initially opposed Vehse, he later read the Protestation document, and after the Altenburg Debate wrote:

"With deep gratitude I must here recall that document which, now almost a year and a half ago, Doctor Vehse, Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Jaeckel addressed to us. It was this document, in particular, which gave us a powerful impulse to recognize the remaining corruption more and more, and to endeavor to remove it. Without this document -- I now confess it with a living conviction -- we might have for a long time pursued our way of error, from which we now have made our escape. I confess this with an even greater sense of shame, because I first appeared so ungrateful toward this precious gift of God. But although many with me handled with great unfaithfulness the light which was granted to us, yet God did not cease to cause ever more beams of truth to fall into our darkness; to tear us away from many a point which we, in our perverseness, sought to hold; to uncover to us great and perilous injuries, and to lead our hearts more and more in the way of truth." (William J. Schmelder, "Walther at Altenburg", Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, Vol. 34(3), October, 1961, pp. 65-81, referring to Walter A. Baepler, A Century of Grace, CPH, 1947, pp.47,48, quoting from J.F. Koestering, Auswanderung der saechsischen Lutheraner in Jahre 1838, ihre Niederlassung in Perry-Co., und damit zusammenhaengende interessante Nachrichten, A Wiebusch u. Sohn, 1867, p.43-45)

In the Missouri Synod, the influence of Vehse's theses, which he supported with Scripture, the Confessions, and the writings of Luther and other Lutherans, can be seen in Walther's theses in Kirche und Amt.

See Walter O. Forster's Zion on the Mississippi (CPH, 1953) and Carl Eduard Vehse's The Stephanite Emigration to America (1840, tr. Rudoph Fiehler, 1975).

fr john w fenton said...

I'll concede on the history of Vehse, Mr Strickert. As for the rest:

* Requirement talk: "The custom has been retained among us of not administering the sacrament to thsoe who have not been previously examined and absolved" AC XXV.1

* "Platonic Republic" refers, among other things, to Plato's dualism which may be aptly (if simplistically) summarized as visible/invisible.

* If pious opinions are rather impious should they be taught or confessed in any way other than archeological data, then the Confessions, Luther and Lutherans until 1930 confessed, taught, and held to false doctrine.

* A desire confessed in a public confession is more than a "Gee, wouldn't it be nice." It's actually a "This is how it should be, and we'll strive to return to it."


PS I'm glad you visited. I only wish it didn't require one of my shortest posts to encourage you to comment, and (for that matter) to produce the most comments.

Ronnie said...

"As to Ronnie's complaint about Lutheran clergy being in contact with Orthodox bishops, I should think that it is hardly surprising that if a man comes to doubt that his own confession is the true one, that he would seek information from the clergy of the confession he suspects may be the true one. And surely there is less cause for complaint if he does so openly, than if he does so clandestinely."

Mr. Jones,

This really wasn't a complaint on my part. I understand that people move from communion to communion at times, and that move prompted by their conscience. In fact, I have done it myself. I have no problem.
I just threw out the possibility of it being done openly.

There seems to be, and this is understandable (and thankfully I din't have to deal with it as a layman), a reluctance to be open in these situations due to the fear of losing pensions, homes, etc. Again, I understand that. But one cannot on the face of it do the Lutheran thing when on the inside be doing the opposite. Perhaps if one is struggling and unsure and still retains his original confession, then he is simply in a state of internal struggle. But once he has decided he has been in error all along, and still goes on externally upholding his "error" to save the comforts of his pension, title, etc, then I believe he is in error and at that point not being honest with congregation, or self.

And for the record, my writing "Western Rite Orthodox bishop" was type. Thanks for the correction.

Michael DuCharme said...

"The Blessed Virgin Mary remained a virgin.

This may be held as a pious opinion, but if taught as doctrine, it is taught as false doctrine, since it, along with garlic's effect on magnetism, has only traditional, but no Scriptural basis."



Lets recall though that the Confessions are for Lutherans a clear exposition of Scripture. In this respect, I believe it is more than note-worthy that FCSD 8.24, i.e. Mary's perpetual virginity, was added by Chemnitz to reject the Reformed Peter Martyr Vermigli's denial of the semper virgo. Apparently it was no small matter.

Carl Vehse said...

The Scriptures teach that Mary was a virgin up until Jesus' birth as a prophesy and as a fulfilment (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23,25).

The Scriptures do not teach Mary's virginity after Jesus birth and thus such an opinion cannot be taught as doctrine. FC, Ep. Rule and Norm,1-2. SD.X.21 also refers back to the Treatise 11: "No one should... burden the church with traditions, nor let anybody's authority count for more than the Word of God."

Any claim that "semper virgo" is an article of faith, should be tested as Luther tested the Romanist view of purgatory in the Smalcald Articles, II. Art. II,13-15.

That Mary and Joseph had children after Jesus is highly probably from the Psalm 69:8 messianic text and fulfilment in Mark 6:6, John 7:5, and elsewhere in the NT.

"Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures"

Lincoln - BoW said...

Fr. Fenton,

One of the things I appreciate about your blog is that for every objection to Watheranism raised by those who have gone East, you show that the Confessions teach the exact thing they believed, which beliefs led them away from the Confessions.

What puzzles me is how those who go to the east discard the confessions (along with the Waltheran church body they despise), when the confessions themselves testify to their very belief. (If not the beliefs of the Waltheran church)

I am also impressed (in a different way) with those who would fight to the death for a "quia" subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, yet, immediately say that they only beleive those parts of the confessions that discuss doctrine, with themeselves as the sole arbiters of what is, and is not, a doctrine.

Sort of a historical-theological criticism of a new kind.

Keep up the good work on the Blog.

+INJ+

Lincoln
BoW

Chris Jones said...

Ronnie,

There seems to be, and this is understandable ... a reluctance to be open in these situations

It is indeed understandable, but you are one of the few commentators on this matter that has shown any willingness to be understanding. The same people who are complaining about "sheep-stealing" are the ones who are complaining about things being done clandestinely. But a man who is struggling with his confession must keep his struggle to himself if he is to avoid disturbing the consciences of his flock and to avoid putting their confession in doubt.

If his plan is to bring as many of his sheep with him when he goes (as so many of these critics baselessly charge), then he will openly share all his doubts about the Lutheran Confessions, and try to convince his flock of the truth of his new confession. But if he is to remain innocent of the charge of "sheep-stealing", he must keep his struggle to himself. But then he is charged with being secretive and disingenuous.

But once he has decided he has been in error all along, and still goes on externally upholding his "error" to save the comforts of his pension, title, etc, then I believe he is in error and at that point not being honest with congregation, or self.

That is true; once his conscience is settled and a firm decision has been taken, he must leave. But there is no reason to believe that any of the men who have left has done otherwise.

It may appear that a man has made a decision in favor of another confession, and is (dishonestly) not acting on it. But perhaps he is being intentionally reluctant to make that final decision precisely because his duty to provide for his family is involved, and he is unwilling to put them at risk unless he is absolutely sure. I see no shame in that.

Fredric J. Einstein said...

Mr Strickert's ignorance of simple Hebrew grammar is quite apparent when he tries to use Psalm 69.9 to support his claim that the Theotokos did not remain a pure virgin after the birth of the Messiah but that she bore other children.

The phrase here in question is transliterated as "v'nachri l'vnai i'mi" and is translated into English "and a foreign stranger to the people of my mother".

If you wanted it to read as Mr. Vehse wants to distort it, you'd have to have the Hebrew read: "v'nachri l'ha'ban'im shel i'mi" which would be translated as "and a foreign stranger to the sons of my mother".

In short, whereever "v'nai" or "b'nai" is used in Ta'nach, it refers to a "people". This then is an apt description of the Holy Sprit's teaching about the ever-virgin Mother of God's relationship to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Rev. Allen Braun said...

Carl Vehse said...

This may be held as a pious opinion, but if taught as doctrine, it is taught as false doctrine, since it, along with garlic's effect on magnetism, has only traditional, but no Scriptural basis. SD, Rule and Norm, 3,9,10.

Mr. Vehse,

It is too bad that Dr Walther was so grossly in violation of our Confessions, as he clearly does not consider this pious opinion but prciesely doctrine.


Grossmann (Iowa): "When you subscribed to the Confessions, were you aware of the fact that they declared the permanent virginity of Mary?"

Walther (Missouri): "Yes, I can say so in the presence of God."

Grossmann: "Do you still believe this to be true doctrine?"

Walther: "Yes, I can say so in the presence of God."

Eric Phillips said...

I've no problem with people believing in Mary's perpetual virginity, but it's not true that the Confessions teach it. All they explicitly say is that Mary remained a virgin despite the fact that she bore Christ--something that no Christian can dispute.

fr john w fenton said...

There was a gentleman who emailed me the following comment because, for some reason, the blog-system wouldn't let him post his comment. I know and have experienced the frustration--even on my own blog! When that happens, I find success using MS Internet Explorer rather than the Firefox that I prefer.

In any case, here is what he wanted to post:


If someone were to go East he would have to except the fact that God does not accept us on the basis of what Christ has done, but instead his acceptance is based on the work Christ does inside of me. So Bishops, perpetual virginity of Mary and congegrational polity is not a good enough reason to leave Lutheranism. But If you believe the Orthodox have the true and saving Gospel then you should join them.

Interested in your thoughts

Fredric J. Einstein said...

Eric Phillips wrote:
All they explicitly say is that Mary remained a virgin despite the fact that she bore Christ--something that no Christian can dispute.

I ask for clarification:

So your statement infers that the Lutheran Confessions teach that:

1) The Blessed Virgin's signs of virginity (si'mon'im in Hebrew) were not violated by the giving of birth to The Messiah.

2) She may not have refrained from marital relations and further child-bearing after giving birth to The Christ.

Am I understanding you correctly?

fr john w fenton said...

Mr Gentleman,

You make a very good point. At the heart of the matter is one's understanding of the Gospel. After all, if the modern Lutheran claim is that justification is the focus of all theology, then bishops, perpetual virginity, opposition to women's ordination, polity, etc., must all be tested against this question: "But what does that do to justification? How does having an ordained woman negate justification, or how does the perpetual virginity support and uphold justification."

A very good point indeed. And your contention, then, that is all depends one's view of the saving Gospel is right on the mark.

Now, this is not at all to suggest--nor do I think you do--a sort of "doctrinal reductionism" where everything is collapsed onto AC IV. It is rather, as modern Lutheranism does, to see AC IV as the lens through which everything else is to be read.

Those are my initial thoughts to your comment.

Ronnie said...

Friends,

I want to reiterate that my comments about would-be travelers to Orthodoxy were not dierected at anyone here, especially the host of this blog. In fact, as a Lutheran, I often agree with the good reverend in his interpretation of doctrine, liturgics, confessional subscription, etc.

At any rate, as I wonder around the world-wide-web of Lutheran blogs I often get to feeling a little musty. If the Lutheran theological world is a closet I sometimes feel as if I'm stuck in my Aunt Thelma's, staring at outdated and irrelevant clothing.

Many of our churches are dying, for all practical purposes, while "conservatives and traditionalists" run around trying to parse some obscrure statement by CFW Walther. Meanwhile, the "liberals and CG folks" are trying set the world Ablaze with a movement that is about as relevant to the modern dying culture as a Donnie and Marie record. But hey, as long as we separate 'Law and Gospel' (another phrase that deserves a copryright or trademark) then we're okay.

Uugh.

Eric Phillips said...

Frederic Einstein,

re: 1) I wasn't saying anything about the Lutheran Confessions' position on the parturition of our Lord, only his conception.

re: 2) That's right.

Carl Vehse said...

The translation of the Hebrew words given in the BlueLetterBible uses Strong's Hebrew dictionary definitions. While "people" is one of the meanings of the Hebrew word, the other more common meanings include "children" and "son".

If you wanted it to read as Mr. Vehse wants to distort it, you'd have to have the Hebrew read: "v'nachri l'ha'ban'im shel i'mi" which would be translated as "and a foreign stranger to the sons of my mother".

Which is how Young's Literal Translation says it: "A stranger I have been to my brother, And a foreigner to sons of my mother." And similar words exist for that verse in every major Bible translation I've seen. Now these Bible translations could all be wrong, but I have not seen any recognition of that in Lutheran documents or Bible concordances. (Any such references would be appreciated.)

Furthermore I am not asserting that the recognition of Mary's other children be established as dogma, even if the verse is read as "the sons of my mother". But as Robert Preus and other Lutherans have stated, the belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary is not a dogma either.

fr john w fenton said...

Ronnie,

I appreciate your kind words, and second your uugh. It is an unfortunate by-product of what I've described elsewhere as "the conundrum called 'Lutheranism' by which we define ourselves, not as the true visible church, but as a movement or body which holds out to all Christendom a disembodied ideal."


Mr Phillips:

Your "pious opinion" :) that the 1580 Book of Concord does not confess the perpetual virginity of Mary unfortunately does not coincide with the plain meaning of the German text--a meaning to which native-speaking Germans (regardless of confession) attest.


Mr Strickert:

Regrettably, your scope of "other Lutherans" (and hence, your view of the historical and theological data) is rather narrow.

Eric Phillips said...

Yes it does.

Whether one renders the statement, "She remained a virgin" or "she has remained a virgin," both of which are acceptable, in context there is no necessary implication that this state of virginity persists to the present day.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Fenton,

Dr Phillips and I have been around the block several times on the issue of whether or not the FC teaches the semper virgo. I am firmly of your opinion on the matter, and he is firmly opposed to it. I do not believe that you will be able to move him.

In fact, the only thing that gives me the slightest doubt of my position on the matter is that a man of Dr Phillips's erudition and intellectual honesty opposes me.

Fredric J. Einstein said...

Eric Phillips wrote:
I wasn't saying anything about the Lutheran Confessions' position on the parturition of our Lord, only his conception.

I reply:

Cute word -- "parturition". Thanks for your reply, even though I had to consult a medical dictionary to make sure of that word.

I am really not all that knowledgable of the "Book of Concord", but on page 620, paragraph 24 of the Kolb/Wingart (sp?) translation, it plainly shows your statement, quoted above, to be utterly wrong. Unless you are trying to tell me that Kolb/Wingart (sp?) were incompetent translators, how can you distort the clear and unambiguous statement:

"He demonstrated his divine majesty in his mother's womb, in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore, she remained truly the Mother of God and at the same time a virgin"

to support the untenable position that Christ's birth caused the loss of the Theotokos' virginity???!! "..born of a virgin without violating her virginity" seems to be pretty unambiguous!

I won't even begin to discuss the necessary article of faith that Theotokos was not subject to Tu'mei Niddah, but indeed remained ta'hor after The Messiah's birth since she was subject to and subservient to Torah Law.

Revd. Joel Humann said...

frederick j. einstein wrote:

Theotokos was not subject to Tu'mei Niddah

Most true indeed! Yet...

But indeed remained ta'hor after The Messiah's birth

If this were so, then what are we to make of Luke 2:22-24? Clearly, Mary was tameh with respect to Lev.12:1-8, which should by no means be conflated with Num.5. Do we not, indeed, keep the Feast of the Purification of Mary?

Very interesting blog, BTW!

Fredric Einstein said...

Rev. Humann asked about the paradox of the purification of St. Mary in relation to Niddah impurity.

You know, that's something that I've been researching via the Church fathers...

The question is, did St. Mary "voluntarily submit" to the Torah of becoming me'tahar (purification) because of Christ's perfect fulfillment of Torah or because she was indeed Ta'mei by giving birth "normally" (through the birth canal) to the Christ and needed to undergo the period of being made tahor????

St. Jerome explains that Christ was born miraculously without the shedding of any Niddah blood and thus was tahor, even after giving birth to the Christ (Martin Luther expouses this as well). He says that St. Luke's Gospel uses unusual language in 2.22 ("And when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished"). (End of St. Jerome's remark)

Why would the Gospel
specify the seemingly unnecessary qualifier "according to the Law of Moses"?

According to Torah law (Rabbi Yishmoel whose academy flourished about 180 years before Christ's Incarnation), a woman who bore a child via Cesearian (sp?) section is considered ta'hor and thus is NOT Niddah and does not need to undergo the purification waiting period (see Vay'ikra 12).

However, in order that all things were fulfilled, St. Mary undertook the positive commandment of "purification from the Niddah of childbirth" as a "mitzvah li'shma" (a positive commandment done for its own sake rather than because of the requirement of doing so).

To assure us that this is the proper interpretation, St. Luke specifies "according to the Law of Moses" whereas by Christ's circumcision (which WAS indeed required by Torah Law), this unusual language "according to the Law of Moses" is not used.

Thus, we see the righteousness of the Mother of God in that she submitted to the purification offering (see Va'yikra 12) even though Christ's birth caused no impurity.

Eric Phillips said...

Frederic Einstein,

You looked up the word "parturition," but you didn't pay sufficient attention to the sentence in which it appeared. Otherwise, you could not have arrived at the conclusion that I think the birth of Christ impaired Mary's virginity. Mary was still a virgin after Christ was born. She was a virgin until Joseph "knew" her, if indeed he ever did.

Fredric J. Einstein said...

I'm sorry, I apologize for my misunderstanding of the context in which you used the word. I now understand that you understand that Christ's birth was miraculously accomplished without the violation of the virginity of Mary, the Mother of God. Thanks for clearing that up.

Eric Phillips said...

Fredric,

No, I didn't say that either. Virginity is a question of what goes in, not what comes out. No birth has ever robbed anyone of her virginity. It's a question of conception, not parturition. If the Blessed Virgin lost her "signs of virginity" at birth, as I rather suspect she did, it had no bearing on her actual virginity. If I change the street signs, I do not thereby alter the street.

I am aware that the miraculous parturition was a common medieval belief, and expect that many of the Lutheran confessors believed in it, and had it in mind when they wrote the section in question. What they say, however, is that Mary gave birth to Christ and yet remained a virgin, and that's what I believe too.

The whole theological import of the virgin birth is that Jesus was the Son of God, not the son of Joseph. Whether he came out of the womb like a ghost, passing through the walls of the womb, and whether Mary maintained her virginity to the end of her days after giving birth to him, are matters of indifference to me.

Eric Phillips said...

Fredric said,

"I now understand that you understand that Christ's birth was miraculously accomplished without the violation of the virginity of Mary"

Actually... I shouldn't have begun my last post the way I did, because I can agree with that statement. All you talk of the signs of virginity just made me think you intended something other by those words. Maybe you did, maybe you didn't. In any case, we have full disclosure now.

Fredric J. Einstein said...

Just to clarify, in light of the arrogance and lack of respect for our Church Fathers and medieval scholars manifest in the last two responses...

I submit to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church's firm teaching (in both the east and west) that the Mother of God's virginity was not violated by the birth of the Messiah (the previous post shows an unbelievable ignorance of human physiology) and that she remained a virgin (a pure vessel), without the impurity of Niddah for her entire life.

I guess that I can excuse your daft ignorance of the Torah of Niddah and of ta'hara for your flowery but adolescent statement that the Mother of God's perpetual purity "are matters of indifference". They were indeed matters of great importance to the Church Fathers (St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St Augustine, St. Justin the Martyr.....) as far as Christ's perfect fulfillment of the Law and tokens of Messiahship are concerned.

I'll base my beliefs on the teachings of the Church rather than with your "indifference".

fr john w fenton said...

The 1580 Book of Concord confesses the following:

Secondly, the incomprehensible, spiritual mode, according to which He neither occupies nor vacates space, but penetrates all creatures wherever He pleases; as, to make an imperfect comparison, my sight penetrates and is in air, light, or water, and does not occupy or vacate space; as a sound or tone penetrates and is in air or water or board and wall, and also does not occupy or vacate space; likewise, as light and heat penetrate and are in air, water, glass, crystal, and the like, and also do not vacate or occupy space; and much more of the like. This mode He used when He rose from the closed sepulcher, and passed through the closed door, and in the bread and wine in the Holy Supper, and, as it is believed, when He was born of His mother.

NOTE: The translation highlighted above is from the Triglotta (www.bookofconcord.org). The modern translations ignore the German grammatical construction, thereby weakening what is actually confessed.

fr john w fenton said...

Oops, I apologize for not giving the reference to the above quotation. It is FC SD VII.100.

William Tighe said...

By the way, over at the blog "Pontifications" (my favorite blog of all blogs), there is quite a to do (with 40 postings to date) on a recent posting entitled "Are the Church Fathers Lutheran?" See:

http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1519#comments

It features a few of the same dramatis personae who seem to post comments here.

Eric Phillips said...

Fredric,

I respect them. Respect does not, however, preclude disagreement. This fact may be lost on you, as you yourself seem unable to disagree with someone without also randomly impugning his intelligence and humility.

So whatever. Go do your thing.

Eric Phillips said...

Father Fenton,

The phrase you put in bold, "as it is believed" was put there in order to note that such was a common belief. I agree with the Confessors that if the parturition did in fact happen according to that pious theory, then it was indeed a good example of the thing they were discussing in the passage you quote.

fr john w fenton said...

Dr Philiips,

Perhaps I have too high a regard for the Formula of Concord and the scholarship of David Chytraeus, as well as those who willingly signed it as their statement of faith, but it seems to me that in a document intended to confess one does not simply slide in a sociological or archeological statement, especially as the climactic example of the very point being made about the spiritual mode of Christ's presence--which, frankly, is the point of the entire article VII.

It seems, rather, that if that was the case--if the confessors were simply expressing a vox populi opinion--then they would have (a) listed it as such; (b) there, or elsewhere, refuted it; and (c) certainly not listed it with other clear biblical examples.

Furthermore, to put not to fine a point on the matter, which other "common beliefs," listed in the confession to which one has pledged himself, may be disregarded as not necessary to be believed?

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Fenton,

They did not add such distancing language when they mentioned Christ's departure from the closed tomb, his entry into the upper room, or the Real Presence, did they. The clause "as it is believed" is a qualification. Can you imagine the confessors saying, "It is believed that Christ rose from the dead?" or "The fruits of union with Christ are forgiveness, peace with God, and, it is said, eternal life"? The clause is a clear indication that the example itself was not intended to be a binding part of the confession, but was rather a point not worth arguing one way or the other, introduced simply because of its utility as an analogy.

fr john w fenton said...

Dr Phillips,

I understand the difficulty. The assumption is that "as it is believed" is no different than "as some people think" or "as it is said by some."

That's understandable given the poor translations of the phrase, and the way we sloppily use "believe" in the vernacular. However, the German grammar simply does not bear out this understanding. And neither does the context of a confessional document.

So you asked:

"It is believed that Christ rose from the dead?"

Now really--is that not believed. Only by unbelievers. But by Christians, of course the resurrection is believed! It certainly ought not be assumed, and it can't be proven. But do you see--I'm using the word "believe" in its confessional, intended sense; and not pressing it into the common day flattened use.

So again, my point: check the German grammar.

Eric Phillips said...

This doesn't have anything to do with a difference between the Reformation's use of the word "believe" and some modern "flattened" usage of the word. It has to do with the difference between all the things the Confessions confess by simply _stating_ them, and this one thing that, instead of stating, they attribute to general belief.