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02 January 2007

LCD Confessionalism

The author of Three Hierarchies raises an intriguing question. His question is, "Can you be Evangelical without being Lutheran?" The question, of course, assumes a kind of "least common denominator" reduction which really asks, "What do non-Lutheran evangelicals have in common with the historic Evangelische Kirche?"

Here is the list they posit:

1) Justification by faith alone; 2) baptismal regeneration; 3) the real and substantial presence of Christ's body and blood in Holy Communion; 4) the relative indifference of polity as defining the being of the church; 5) Scripture as the only binding norm of faith and practice.

The author admits that “the doctrines characteristic of the (Augsburg) Evangelical Reformation” are not exhaustively presented. I suggest, however, that the list as presented would not be accepted by the original signers of the Confessio Augustana. I think particularly of #4. My studies do not suggest that the question of polity was a reformational, but a post-reformational issue. As evidence, I note two things:

· the CA contains an entire article—and several other statements—that assume an episcopal polity

· both the German and Scandinavian Lutherans continued an “episcopal polity” (granted, in Germany the “bishops” were re-named Superindent)

What was not maintained, of course, was the insistence on ordination from Roman prelates; but even the primacy of Rome as a matter of honor was maintained in the confessional documents. Perhaps what the author(s) meant, then, was not indifference of polity as defining the esse of the church, but the necessity of episcopal ordination and Roman claims of supremacy.

Understanding that the author(s) admit that the list is not exhaustive, I was struck by the omission of the presumption to edit the liturgy. If anything is a hallmark doctrinal characteristic common to all strains of the reformation in the 16th century, then I would find it to be this notion. Furthermore, I would suggest that the presumption to edit the liturgy not only was it bedrock but also had both the most widespread and profoundest impact on subsequent Western Christianity—even into the current edition of the Missale Romanum.

HT: William Tighe


William Weedon said...

Dear John,

About your last point, it must also be noted that the same propensity is in evidence in the Orthodox Missal, above all in the St. Tikhon Liturgy, but to a degree also in the Liturgy of St. Gregory.


Josh S said...

The very same Chris Atwood had a post a long time ago detailing how a few staples of Orthodox and Catholic liturgies (such as the iconostasis) were basically started by Cyril of Jerusalem. So much for never editing liturgies. There's too much liturgical variance across time and space (my own research into the use of Gloria in Excelsis was enough to convince me of that) to buy into this idea that there is a single, unchanging liturgy.

And, as the ideas of sacrifice in the medieval Canon of the Mass aren't entirely amenable to Orthodoxy, I don't see how you can condemn changing the canon and not affirm the theology of that same canon at the same time.

CPA said...

Thanks for the comment. Obviously the context in which you are coming from this is different from the one in which I made my post. You seem to be approaching it as "what does this say about the LCMS's relations to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox ideas of church polity and its faithfulness or not to the Augustana?" Had I been pursuing that question I would have put up a differnt post.

Anyway, (to respond) I guess you meant #14, for #4, right? -- although #4 IS a great place to start any discussion about the church, I'd agree :^)

Assuming that's the case, in the Apologia for that article I read that "canonical ordination" is seen as derived from "church-polity and the grades in the Church" of which in turn it is said that "they have been made by human authority."

By implicit contrast with "canonical ordination", "right calling" is not a human ordinance but a divine one. Yet it is specifically defined as being not the same as the bundle of laws and practices defined as "canonical ordination".

Given the overall context of Evangelical theology, such a divine ordinance can only be gotten from Scripture. Laying on of hands by one who already has such a call to one who has newly received it is found there, but not any decrees about three orders or particular forms.

Indeed in article #28 we see bishop defined as "those to whom has been committed the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments" (l. 21) and are treated as equivalent to pastors in l. 30 and following.

To me all this says "relative indifference" -- in other words, not total indifference, but restriction of divinely ordained church order to one thing: the legitimately called gospel minister (whether you call him pastor or bishop or whatever). That's more indifferent than the Anglican or Presbyterian (or Orthodox, obviously) order, and less indifferent than, say, the Pentecostal one. So I'll stand by "relative indifference".

As for liturgy, I agree with what Josh said, and if you want to see my post on Cyril of Jerusalem (based on Dix's "Shape of the Liturgy"), it is here.