Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rubrics and our Caveat Compulsion

Weedon has a nice post on rubrics here. (Rubrics are the "instructions" found in the liturgy informing the clergy and laity what to do and when). It's an excellent admonition to look over the rubrics closely and do what they say.

I have to laugh, though. Pr. Weedon apparently felt compelled to conclude that,

For Lutherans rubrics aren't in the category of Divine Law; they are in the category of good order. They provide guidelines for our liturgical actions to be uniform across wide swaths of the Church so that when we come to Church the behavior doesn't distract ("what's he DOING up there?") but is utterly taken for granted so that we can focus together on the one thing needful.
I laugh because Lutherans always have a bugaboo about "law," about what is required and what is necessary and what is sufficient. It's a phobia about "thou shalts." Anytime you have a Lutheran pastor talking theology it is inevitable that he will start hedging anytime the word "ought" comes up, or even the word "good."

It gives the impression that we are a bunch of sissies and Dr. Spock-reading pseudo-parents. They can't say "Law" or "must" or "shall" or "don't" unless everyone agrees that it's not binding in any spiritual, legal, or real sense. It's all guidelines and advisements and this fact must be admitted at least once in every conversation, lest someone feel their conscience is bound, or get their feelings hurt. We have this incredible compulsion to give undermining caveats to everything we say.

But it seems I am picking on a good friend. I'm not intending to. I'm only using that post as a butt of good-natured criticism about all of us.

You know, I'm not even saying he's wrong or I'm right. We can't have consciences bound by not binding consciences.

Oh, and the other reason why Lutheran pastors always give the adiaphora caveat: we don't want the self-appointed Brute Squad skwering us because we didn't say something that fits their 1-2-3 idea of Lutheranism.


  1. -C said...

    "...unless everyone agrees that it's not binding in any spiritual, legal, or real sense."

    Yes, a difference in attitude of "what we have to do" versus "all that we can do."

    It was a good post, tho ...

  2. Randy Asburry said...

    Oh, come on, Christopher, you *ought* to behave yourself, now! :-)

  3. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    I think you ought to give the Self-Appointed Brute Squad a somewhat different name so you can make a better acronym from it that SABS. Now if you could work a "C" in there...or something.


  4. Mason said...

    We should, ought, and must retain the Mass.

    That statement was cathartic... perhaps we should start a support group?

  5. The Rev. BT Ball said...

    I am perfectly willing to tell people they should do all kinds of things all the time- Am I a member of the Brute Squad? Who are these brutes anyway?

  6. The Rev. BT Ball said...

    Oh, and I forgot. When you review a movie you are supposed to begin with some caveat along the lines of "Beware post contains spoilers." Stick with the day job.

  7. Christopher D. Hall said...


    Ok, the spoiler thing...I thought about it actually but decided that since the movie has been out for nearly two months, I would be safe. My apologies if I spoiled something for you.

    And if you must ask who the Brute Squad is, then perhaps it is you ;)

  8. William Weedon said...

    Ah, but the distinction between divine law and human order in the church is a theological and important distinction, no? And the distinction is one maintained in our Symbols. The problem with Lutherans today is not that they don't put the human order stuff into the category of divine law; it's that they have no category for order! It's either divine or "I can do what I want." That's the source of much mischief among us.

  9. Past Elder said...

    From someone who started where there are all kinds of musts, shalts, and oughts (Rome), and who spent the first ten years of his Lutheran life where "adiaphora" is almost as common as "Good Morning" (WELS):

    It seems to me, admittedly reading as I did the BOC between night feedings of my newborn first child rather than in seminary classes, that while sometimes Luther/The Confessions are against doing something because it clearly contradicts the Gospel, other times they are against not the doing of it but why it is done.

    To put it another way, Christian Freedom does not mean that no-one, anywhere, ever, ought to do anything, but rather than because it is commanded by Rome and/or considered to be a meritorious act on our part, we freely accept things that do not contradict the Bible and under no illusion that so doing merits us anything and because they are, in short, a good idea, tried and tested by the community in which we take our passing part and contributing to good order in same.

    In short, it's not "If it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it" but "If it contradicts the Bible we ain't doing it".

    So some things are rejected because they contradict the Bible, but some things are retained but with a correct understanding of what we are doing and why.

    This seems to be absent from so much Lutheran discussion, resulting in the divine law/whatever we want dichotomy Pastor describes.

    Divine law is not the only good reason for doing something, it's the only good reason that is divine.

  10. William Weedon said...

    Quite well stated, Terry.