Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book of Concord-itis Part II

But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.
Thus says the Augsburg Confession under the heading ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN CORRECTED, paragraph 4. But do we subscribe to this? Should we say that this statement is what we believe, teach and practice?

I think the clear answer is "no," though it would be nice if we could say with one voice, "Reverence and pious devotion are no better nourished and maintained than by worship that retains the ceremonies. Likewise our worship ought to be dignified by our retaining as many ceremonies as possible." It's like a classic paper written some time ago which asked, "Why do people complain that our worship is 'too catholic?' Why don't members complain 'It's not catholic enough!'"

But we don't subscribe to this statement. It is a rhetorical device, possibly a description. And it is a rhetorical device or a description that many in the LCMS would vehemently argue with today. In fact, many (most?) pastors and many lay people assume the opposite, that dignity in worship is not important. Most of society, most of life is now completely undignified anyway. Reverence is outmoded. Being irreverant is a compliment in society, and in most churches, too, I fear. Most people would argue that retaining the ceremonies (this means all that Catholic stuff big time) actually hurts piety and faith. We need not rites and cermonies and rigor and bows and crossing and smells but direct, unvarnished, simple worship from the heart. Something to grab us, something to engage us, something that expresses our emotions and so forth. That's what they say, anyway.

This is not to say taht faith isn't from the heart. What I am saying is that the reformers believed and argued that retaining as many ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church as possible would maintain dignity and nourish faith and reverence like nothing else.

And we don't have to agree with this statement.

And it's convenient, because we certainly disagree with it in the LCMS.


  1. orrologion said...

    What's that I see? Townsfolk with torches and pitchforks?

    I wonder what Lutheran tradition (context) would say about how this passage was understood? Since the AC was written when there was still hope of simply reforming and cleansing the RCC, what did the worship of the various Lutheran churches look like once the split was complete and entrenched? Was their a great deal of diversity between the various churches in the different principalities of Germany and Scandinavia? Would the churches of subscribers to the AC and the other BofC documents be more 'authoritative' in establishing the 'correct' view of the Lutheran church on such matters? I just think it would be interesting to see since it is easy to take a text in its bare sense and universalize it beyond the original intent of its authors and subscribers.

    What would such a look at context say about the authors and subscribers of the BofC, the still 'pristine' Lutheran churches of yore, Lutheranism since and our ability to subscribe solely to a collection of documents in matters of faith?

  2. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I think a lot of the weight of the phrase ends up going to "rightly" - what is the right manner, method, and style of worship? The Confessors clearly understood that there was a "right" form of worship, that there were ceremonies that were meet, right, and salutary.

    Now, if we look at the orders of worship being used in the 1530s, we can get a clear image (again, descriptive) of what this right worship looks like - but there is clearly an idea that there is something that is right and proper.

    The bigger problem isn't a lack of understanding of ceremonies or agreement thereupon - the debate over shall we do this or that. . . but rather too many places in the LCMS have assumed that there is no "right" way to worship -- that anything goes.

    I will say I tend to favor the idea of being in the right ballpark (oooOOOooo, ballpark, veiled references, oooOOOooo) when it comes to worship - that it should be obvious that what is occurring is Christian Worship as it has happened for the past 2000 years. After that, we can discuss the details. . . but a Christian from any era should be able to be dropped into the service and say, "Ah-ha! This is a Worship Service!"

    That's not a high standard It's not meant to be a standard, it's a baseline . . . and we don't even meet that. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

  3. Mike Baker said...

    I believe Rev. Brown's diagnosis to be correct. Speaking from personal experience as a former charismatic, I believe that it is a symptom of a more fundamental form of ignorance... a doctrinal one.

    When one ceases to look to Holy Word and the Sacraments as the divinely revealed means through which God blesses His people and draws them to Himself, these troubles will surface. When one believes that the Holy Spirit is reliably found apart from the proclomation Christ and His saving work, one cuts free the anchor that keeps the Divine Service from drifting away from traditional worship norms that the church has held since her institution. It is very easy to throw out the gifts that God has provided for His people and replace them with the graven, man-made constructs that please us. We quickly seek after any spirit that presents itself and call it holy... whatever that spirit may be.

    This points directly to another passage from the Book of Concord which is totally ignored by many who call themselves Lutherans:

    "Also, we reject and condemn the error of the Enthusiasts, who imagine that God without means, without the hearing of God's Word, also without the use of the holy Sacraments, draws men to Himself, and enlightens, justifies, and saves them. (Enthusiasts we call those who expect the heavenly illumination of the Spirit [celestial revelations] without the preaching of God's Word.)"

    -Formula of Concord-Epitome II:13

  4. Myles Schultz said...

    I've had good wine served in plastic wine glasses. I have a fairly good set of cheap wine glasses I use to serve wine at home. I have a friend who serves me wine in the finest crystal stemware when I visit (each type of wine always served in its appropriate size and shape). It's all wine.... If I had a choice, I would never drink good wine from anything other than the finest crystal stemware. It somehow seems to be the appropriate vessel, and the wine tastes better....