30 May 2013

Some Undermining Premises

It is always fun hearing a Confessional Lutheran argue against Lutheranism (see comment 2)! I remember those days with some fondness, yet not for that reason alone but because they stand closer to the angels and with a few firmer roots in the Tradition, I shall always cheer for the Confessional Lutheran.

Yet I do so with sadness, knowing that two premises undermine their argument (both against Lutheranism and with the Orthodox and Catholics). These are:

1) Confessional Lutheran arguments cannot escape the atmosphere and water of Lutheranism within which they are formed. In other words, many suppositions of Lutheranism still lurk beneath and within the Confessional Lutheran argument--something I many fought to deny for many years, but ultimately could not. As support, I point not only to the arguments among Confessional Lutherans about their own self-understanding of the Confessions, but also to the odd co-mingling of Chemnitz and Gerhard (among others). There is a discernible gap among the former and anything that grew up in "Lutheran Orthodoxy."

2) At the end of the day, there is no Confessional Lutheran ecclesiology, not simply because ecclesiology is hardly a topic in the 16th-18th centuries (one has to look to Loehe to find the beginnings of an attempt), but also because Lutheranism and Confessional Lutherans agree on an ecclesiology that is at variance with the "faith once delivered"--an ecclesiology which was clearly apparent in Luther and Chemnitz, but which changed dramatically the day that Lutherans accepted the fact that they are Lutherans.

As for this present presentation by the learned Subdeacon, his main point still needs to be reckoned with; namely, how can the Lutheran Confessions, in several places, speak of God being reconciled to man. One of my Lutheran pastor friends once tried to argue this case, but it was not convincing, especially when he was asked to play by his own rules ("bible-locatedness"). It shall, I fear, forever remain a puzzle for those of us who have rejected the notion that Jesus was praying that the Father had abandoned Him (Ps 21 [22]), thereby consigning Him to a wrath and fury worse than hell, all so that He might appease God's wrath.

But now I'm back where I began--with the Lutheranism (i.e., Robert Jensen's "Calvinism with a bizarre sacramentology attached") which hides within the Confessional Lutheran defense.


Benjamin Harju said...


It seems very hard to see that the Lutheran doctrine of Justification is built primarily around placating God's wrath. It seems even harder to grasp that - historically speaking - this is a new and unusual way to approach the atonement.

123 said...

The more they put into pastoral context all the supposedly necessary parsing that had been done beforehand, the more it all seems to be a distinction without a difference. If the real focus is on justification, but only ever with sanctification such that they are practically the same, or that objective justification is more important than intimately connected with subjective justification... Well, why bother apart to win an argument in a scholastic classroom arguing with a Roman Catholic theology long gone? apart from appeasing one son's psychological need to know, really know and be sure that his father loved him, contrary to all outward appearances and his own feelings - and then carrying that need into his theology about the Son and the Father?

Lutherans can say justification is just one of many images used as much as they want, but none of those other images are at the basis of the doctrine on which the church stands or falls in the way the forensic metaphor is. Again, it's contextualizing away the problem to such a degree that at some point you say, well then why bother with the forensic metaphor at all as the core metaphor - and poof, the doctrine based on that paradigm is no longer church dividing, and then it's clear that's the only real metaphor because it isn't a metaphor to them - it's Lutheranism.