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Another Bogus “Breakthrough” in Lutheran-Roman Catholic Conversation

January 21st, 2014 Comments off

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 8.42.20 AMThe latest round of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue here in the United States concluded and a book has been published detailing the results. And, as usual, what we have here is, simply put, simply another example of the liberal Lutherans of the ELCA compromising Lutheran public teaching. This is an excellent book review by Mark Menacher detailing precisely how and why things again went so badly. It is very, very important to note the role that the faulty ELCA edition of the Lutheran Confessions played in this latest bogus so-called “breakthrough” in Lutheran-Roman Catholic conversations. You really should read this very carefully and take to heart the caveats and warnings contained here. This review was originally posted over at BLOGIA, the blog site of the Lutheran journal LOGIA. If you are not a subscriber to LOGIA, you should be, and BLOGIA should be a part of your regular reading as well.

The Hope of Eternal Life—Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue XI. Edited by Lowell G. Almen and Richard J. Sklba. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lutheran University Press, 2011. 211 pages. Click here.

The eleventh round of Lutheran—Roman Catholic (L-RC) dialogue in the United States began in December 2005 and concluded in October 2010. The final report as entitled above was released on November 15, 2010, and was originally made available for download in Portable Document Format (PDF). Edited by Lowell G. Almen, Lutheran co-chair of the dialogue and retired secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba of Milwaukee, Roman Catholic co-chair of the dialogue, this novella of Lutheran ecumenical remythologization provides almost interesting reading. A table of contents, a preface, four chapters, four appendices, and two background papers comprise this volume. Appendix Three, by Stephen Hultgren, is included for no discernable reason, and Appendix Four might also be categorized as background information. The latter, “The Intermediate State: Patristic and Medieval Doctrinal Development and Recent Receptions” by Jared Wicks (133–175), is arguably the only useful part of this book. The two background papers proper were presumably incorporated based on author gender (female). Although formally listed as participants on the Lutheran side, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) theologians Samuel H. Nafzger and Dean O. Wenthe do not appear to have played an active role, other than providing personal, confessional authenticity to the designation “Lutheran” used in the dialogue.

The dialogue’s Preface cites the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds as providing precedent for a study of the hope of eternal life. Notably, however, “The foundation for the discussions and findings of Round XI was established by the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,’” as “officially received by the Catholic Church and member churches of the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999.” Despite listing numerous, insurmountable ecclesial and social obstacles, the dialogue participants seek the restoration of “full, sacramental communion” between Lutherans and Catholics (7; see also 118, 125–126). To that end, “Round XI offers fresh insights” into the “continuity in the communion of saints, prayers for or about the dead, the meaning of death, purgation, an interim state between death and the final general judgment, and the promise of the resurrection” (8). This review essay examines this dialogue’s claimed foundational use of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ),” the dialogue’s content and methodology, and finally the biblical and confessional reliability of its conclusions.

Chapter One, “Our Common Hope of Eternal Life,” opens with subsection heading “A. Positive Developments in the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in Light of the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’” (pp. 11–13, §§1–8, hereafter page number(s), § number(s)). The text claims that in Augsburg, Germany, an “ecumenically historic moment transpired” when JDDJ was signed by representatives of the Vatican and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) (11, §1)—except that the “Official Common Statement” (OCS) with Annex was signed instead. “Their signatures attested to the official reception in our churches of the fruit of years of ecumenical dialogue on the topic of justification,…” (11, §2)—except that no LWF member church has approved the OCS with Annex. “The findings, statements of consensus, and even expressions of certain divergent convictions related to ‘The Hope of Eternal Life’ are built upon” JDDJ ¶15 (11, §3)—although Lutheran objections in part to JDDJ ¶15 and its exclusion of salvation by “faith alone” necessitated the drafting of the OCS with Annex to rescue JDDJ from ecumenical purgatory. “The method of the ‘Joint Declaration’ is reflected in this report” (11, §4), which essentially means that Lutherans abandon biblical and Lutheran confessional positions to merit religious congruence with the Council of Trent. Even though “[w]e wrestled with descriptions of the contemporary character of indulgences in Catholic practice, especially in the light of the ‘Joint Declaration’” (13, §7), nonetheless “[t]he ‘Joint Declaration’ affirms that the ‘Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church will continue to strive together to deepen this common understanding of justification and to make it bear fruit in the life and teaching of the churches’ (JDDJ, ¶43)” (13, §8).

That is the foundation for Round XI of US L-RC dialogue. Unfortunately, the JDDJ edifice is worse. Conveniently having misplaced scripture, “… Lutheranism has no widely received doctrinal texts beyond the Book of Concord (with the possible exception of the JDDJ), …” (19, §23). On topic, in Chapter II under the heading “3. Common Teaching in the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” this dialogue stresses that in JDDJ the “respective Catholic and Lutheran paragraphs on good works link merit and reward to God’s promise” to be realized “in heaven” as “eternal life,” respectively (53, §108). Propagandistically, the “affirmation that Catholic teaching on justification as presented in the JDDJ does not fall under Lutheran condemnation places Catholic practices of [meritorious] prayers for the dead in a new context,” (107, §251)—which might have ecumenical veracity and meaning if the Lutheran confessions contained condemnations of the Roman Church’s doctrine and if such prayers were not unilaterally considered meritorious. Finally, this “document has pursued a similar method, although not written in the style of the JDDJ. Our discussions of purgatory and prayer for the dead in Chapter III must not be read in isolation from Chapter II, in which we develop our common convictions. Those common convictions form the necessary interpretative context for what we say about traditionally divisive topics” (118, §281). In other words, JDDJ and its application, rather than scripture and the Lutheran confessions, provide the “interpretative context” for the ELCA’s aspired relations with the Roman Church. Opponents of the “Joint Declaration” forewarned that JDDJ might be used in this way, and this dialogue justifies their concerns.

All vacuous JDDJ pageantry aside, the ELCA has a problem. Although “[b]oth Lutherans and Catholics affirm that the justified who die in faith will be granted eschatological perfection” (whatever that means) and although “[t]he justified in this life are one in Christ with those who have died in Christ” (12, §6), unfortunately ELCA Lutherans are neither perfect enough nor dead enough either to merit or to be granted “full, sacramental communion” with the papal church. How can one earn such favor?

To understand this dialogue’s role in the ELCA’s pursuit of reintegration into the Roman fold, two issues are at stake. First, JDDJ is wholly undermined by Canon 30 of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, and subsequently by catchall Canon 33, in that Canon 30 condemns (anathematizes, curses) those who do not accept purgatory. Thus, contrary to JDDJ’s stated goal and claimed achievement, the sixteenth-century condemnations of Lutherans by the Vatican in this decree still apply, and the ecumenists’ foil to slay the justification dragon barring a Protestant return to Rome is itself foiled. Second, it would be nigh on impossible for the Vatican to celebrate Luther’s Ninety-five Theses against indulgences with the Lutheran World Federation in 2017 if the Vatican had nothing to celebrate. Therefore, ways must be found for latter day Lutherans to recant what Luther would not. These goals account for the retrograde state of the content and the methodology of The Hope of Eternal Life.

In order to minimize objections to this eventual goal, Luther himself, as well as scripture and the Lutheran confessions, must be neutralized, and agreement on “intermediate states” of the dead for whom prayers can be offered, especially in purgatory, must be re-established. Thus, in addition to Lutheranism having “no widely received doctrinal texts beyond the Book of Concord,” except JDDJ, and although the Book of Concord describes Luther as the “most distinguished teacher of the churches which confess the Augsburg Confession” (“der fürnehmbste Lehrer,” see Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche [BSLK], 984, 41), this dialogue surmises,

What is the status of the self between death and resurrection? This question was not a focus of controversy during the sixteenth century, although a few Lutheran theologians (most notable, Luther) were willing to entertain possibilities excluded by Catholic teaching. More recently, the question of intermediate states has been debated within each of our traditions. How these questions are answered affects the discussion of other topics, e.g., purgatory (21, §28).

With Luther safely relegated to a minority position of inconsequential, esoteric views, the ELCA’s ecumenical Pelagianism can continue encumbered. To remove other obstacles on the Lutheran side, the dialogue asserts, “The Lutheran Reformation had no distinctive teaching about death or intermediate states. The Lutheran Confessions simply assume that the souls of the dead exist and are in a blessed communion with Christ” (25–26, §43). Therefore, to fill this void and to feign some sort of parity with Vatican doctrine, “reference will be made to material from particular Lutheran churches, even though they have not received universal Lutheran acceptance” (19, §22). This tactic favors especially those texts and liturgical materials which have been strategically brought into Lutheran “practice” since Vatican II with an ecumenical lex orandi, lex credendi, intention of making a future reintegration into the papal fold as unobtrusive as possible.

In order to propose the notion that purgatory is not “church-dividing,” The Hope of Eternal Life gradually guides its Protestant reader to a dead end. Selected “Common Affirmations” exemplify this as follows: “Our churches affirm that death cannot destroy the communion with God of those redeemed and justified” (35, §59). “Our churches thus teach an ongoing personal existence beyond death, to which our divine Creator relates in saving love” (35, §60). The “interrelation between the general judgment of all humanity on the Last Day and the particular judgment of individuals upon their death…has never been a church-dividing matter between our churches, but does affect issues that have been disputed, e.g., purgatory” (43, §84, italics original). “Hans Martensen, bishop of Sjaelland in the Church of Denmark, thought judgment might be postponed at death for some who might benefit by further time for repentance” (45–46, §91). “Wolfhart Pannenberg, while critical of the concept of purgatory as a distinct, temporally-extended intermediate state, affirms purgation as an aspect of judgment…He develops this view in a discussion of the ideas of Joseph Ratzinger and concludes: ‘There is thus no more reason for the Reformation opposition’” (87, §203). “In light of the analysis given above, this dialogue believes that the topic of purgation, in and of itself, need not divide our communions” (91, §212, bold original). After such preparation for purgatory and despite the qualification that “Lutheran Confessions are uniformly critical of the doctrine of purgatory” (78, §179, the summit has been reached,

270. As with masses for the dead, indulgences appear in a different light when understood within the context of the solidarity of all the justified with Christ and each other. Lutherans in this dialogue have come to see that the intent behind the contemporary practice of indulgences is an expression of an appeal to the mercy of Christ. Whether indulgences do or can adequately embody that intent remains a genuine question for Lutherans. Lutherans also ask whether indulgences are so open to abuse and misunderstanding that their evangelical intent is obscured. Nevertheless, since the practice of indulgences has not been seen as required for communion with the Catholic Church, Lutherans need not adopt these practices for the sake of such communion. Ecumenical rapprochement requires, however, that Lutherans not condemn Catholic teaching about the practice of indulgences as inherently contrary to the Gospel (113–114).

As with all its ecumenical endeavours, this conclusion reiterates the ELCA’s abandonment of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, which clearly states the sufficiency of the gospel “purely” preached (and taught) as the only foundation for true church unity.

Given the foregoing, it should not be entirely surprising that this dialogue’s use of the Bible and the Lutheran confessions is less than reliable, as an introductory paragraph exemplifies,

This dialogue’s discussion of biblical texts seeks to illumine the scriptural foundations and background of our churches’ respective teachings on the hope of eternal life without completely settling these hermeneutical questions. Judgments whether particular biblical texts adequately ground particular beliefs about heaven, hell, purgatory, etc., often involve judgments on these larger questions. Sometimes our churches have drawn different conclusions from the same biblical texts, e.g., 1 Cor. 3 and Matthew 12:32 (which will be discussed below in a section on purgatory) (20, §26).

Notably, the “dialogue’s discussion” seeks “to illumine the scriptural foundations and background of our churches’ respective teachings” rather than the other way around, i.e., the word being a lamp unto the dialogue participants’ feet. Furthermore, not only uncritically but also unquestioningly, this dialogue repeatedly cites writings from the Apocrypha, particularly 2 Maccabees, as scripture. In other words, this dialogue’s stated methodology precludes the Old and New Testaments from being solely foundational either for the dialogue or for the churches’ respective teachings, particularly regarding purgatory (70–71, §161). In contrast, such scripture did provide the foundation for the Reformers’ confessional critique and rejection of purgatory, which this dialogue readily and repeatedly notes (79, §§181, 182; 82, §191).

Likewise, this dialogue’s use of or reference to material from the Lutheran confessions, taken frequently out of context, is misleading at best. Within the context of this dialogue and its goals, however, such misleading is deliberate, deceptive by design. For example, after describing and quoting Luther’s rejection of purgatory in the Smalcald Articles (SA II, II) as an apparition of the devil (Teufelsgespenst) and idolatry, which one would like (mocht) to discard (or abandon) “even if it were neither error nor idolatry” (Kolb-Wengert, 303), “man es mocht wohl lassen, wenn es schon kein Irrtum noch Abgotterei wäre” (BSLK, 420), this dialogue continues,

The existence of purgatory is not dogmatically denied. Rather, 1) the existence of purgatory is not taught by Scripture and thus cannot be binding doctrine, and 2) belief in purgatory is now hopelessly bound up with unacceptable practices. A belief that could be discussed in principle is concretely objectionable because of its associations (79, §181).

Clearly, Luther’s use of the subjunctive form “would like” (mocht) rather than mag (may), the latter used in both Tappert (295) and Kolb-Wengert (303), indicates what one “would like” to do even if purgatory “were” (ware, again subjunctive) not error or idolatry. This double subjunctive “translated” into the indicative means that purgatory is error and idolatry and thus is not open for discussion, regardless of associations. Whereas the Kolb-Wengert translation of Luther’s subjunctive into an English subjunctive is mechanically correct, it is not meaningfully correct. The Kolb-Wengert translation thus invites this dialogue’s drafters to exploit this mechanical translation as a means to allow Luther to give tacit permission to discuss purgatory stripped of all evils. Meaningfully, however, Tappert has it much more correct: “All this may consequently be discarded, apart entirely from the fact that [purgatory] is error and idolatry.” Confessionally, for both the BSLK and Tappert, the door to discussing purgatory is shut and locked.

Another questionable application of the Lutheran confessions pertains to “meritorious” works and this dialogue’s attempts to harmonize Lutheran and papal positions. With reference to Apology IV on justification (Kolb-Wengert, 171), homogenized for the Council of Trent, this dialogue asserts, “The Apology states that good works, which can only be performed by those who are in Christ, ‘are truly meritorious, but not for the forgiveness of sins or justification. For they are not pleasing to [God] except in those who are justified on account of faith’” (51, §105). This dialogue further states, “In its Decree on Justification, the Council of Trent similarly taught that good works that are meritorious before God are possible only for those in Christ, for the justified.” Thus, the “ecumenical question is the significance of the difference between the Apology’s statement that eternal life is a reward in the sense of a recompense and the Council of Trent’s statement that eternal life is a merited reward” (52–53, §107).

Later, while noting the LCMS’s rejection of such prayer, the dialogue states, “The presence of prayers for the dead in the funeral liturgies” of ELCA hymnals since 1978 “supports a partially shared practice of prayer for the dead [with the Roman Church] and sheds new light on remaining differences on purgatory” (108, §255). Thus, despite differences, ELCA Lutherans and Catholics “agree that such prayer is a good work of the justified. They agree that good works will be rewarded by God in this world and the next, and in that sense can be called meritorious. They agree that prayer constitutes an aspect of penance. They agree that prayer is efficacious; it can truly aid the person prayed for, although that aid does not operate automatically and is always under the will of God” (108, §256). This explains, as per §270 quoted above, why “indulgences appear in a different light when understood within the context of the solidarity of all the justified with Christ and each other,” and thus why Lutherans must “not condemn Catholic teaching about the practice of indulgences as inherently contrary to the Gospel.”

This second example from the Lutheran confessions represents more than exploitable ambiguities in translation. The similar phrasing regarding rewards and “meritorious” works between the Council of Trent and the Apology is possible chiefly because the Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord uses a different Apology. Whereas the quarto edition of Ap IV, 194, standard since 1580, only in a couple lines—almost in passing—describes “good works” as meritoria (BSLK) and “meritorious” (Tappert), the Kolb-Wengert rendition uses the octavo edition instead. The octavo edition omits Ap IV, 194 and elaborately discusses rewards and “meritorious” works in several new paragraphs placed after Ap IV, 257. This elaboration provides ample fodder (39, §72; 50–52, §§103, 105) for the dialogue drafters to conjure confessional congruence, which the BSLK and Tappert, arguably, would not.

According to Kolb-Wengert, “In using this approach, we follow the most recent modern German translation of the Book of Concord” (109) with note 3 referring to the Evangelische Bekenntnisse: Bekenntnisschriften der Reformation und neuere theologische Erklärungen (Evangelical Confessions: Confessional Writings of the Reformation and Newer Theological Declarations). Notably, this collection of Lutheran and Reformed confessional writings was collated by and published for use in the Evangelische Kirche der Union (Evangelical Church of the Union, EKU) and thereafter in the Union Evangelischer Kirchen (Union of Evangelical Churches, UEK) in the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD). In other words, the Apology in Kolb-Wengert is patterned on a translation for use in union churches in Germany. Synergistically, while Kolb-Wengert “unionism” provides a meritorious tool for ELCA ecumenism, the ELCA’s ecumenism again reveals the confessional unreliability of the Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord over against the BSLK benchmark edition used by confessional Lutherans since 1580 (see also Mark D. Menacher, Priesthood, Pastors, Bishops—Public Ministry for the Reformation & Today by Timothy J. Wengert, published in LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology 19 (Reformation 2010), 48–51).

In short summary, from a biblical and Lutheran confessional standpoint, The Hope of Eternal Life—Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue XI was dead on arrival and does not have a prayer for purgation or for anything else either in this life or in the life to come.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

A Betrayal of the Gospel: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

February 21st, 2013 9 comments

Unfaithful_Logo

More than years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist liberal Lutherans to Rome. The Vatican certainly knows this is not true. Liberal Lutherans and those who support them keep repeating it, in spite of the fact that it is simply not true. Here are resources to help you counter this lie and this betrayal of the Gospel.

When, or if, you hear any Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, claim that the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church have reconciled their differences on the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone this is simply untrue. It is a lie. A complete and total fabrication.

Rome is not to be faulted in any of this. The Vatican has consistently maintained and upheld the historic position of the Roman Church and did not change it. Mainline liberal Lutherans, however, compromised the key doctrine of the Scriptures and the very heart of the Lutheran Confessions. When I served as Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, at the time this statement came out in 2000, we prepared an extensive set of documents illustrating precisely why the JDDJ is a fraud and a betrayal of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. You might want to save this post on your computer somewhere for future reference.

When you hear or read someone asserting that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” feel free to share this material with them. We must continue to correct this erroneous view of the JDDJ.

Was Trent set aside by the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification?

No, quite the contrary. The Vatican was very careful to make it clear that it has not set aside the Council of Trent and that Trent still remains authoritative, binding dogma for the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christianity Unity, the individual responsible in large part for Rome’s involvement in the Joint Declaration, went out of his way to clarify this point in a press conference held when the JDDJ was signed. Here is what he had to say:

“Asked whether there was anything in the official common statement contrary to the Council of Trent, Cardinal Cassidy said: ‘Absolutely not, otherwise how could we do it? We cannot do something contrary to an ecumenical council. There’s nothing there that the Council of Trent condemns” (Ecumenical News International, 11/1/99).

With this statement by Cardinal Cassidy in mind, one is led to wonder how a document that is alleged to be a faithful Lutheran statement of justification contains nothing that Trent condemned.

What Did Trent Condemn?

Canon IX: If anyone says that the ungodly is justified by faith alone in such a way that he understands that nothing else is required which cooperates toward obtaining the grace of justification . . . let him be condemned.

Canon XII: If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sin for Christ’s sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be condemned.

Canon XIV: If anyone says that a man is absolved and justified because . . . he confidently believes that he is absolved and justified . . . and that through this faith alone absolution and justification is effected, let him be condemned.

Note: These canons clearly indicate that something more than trust in Christ is necessary for salvation

Read more…

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Pope Announces His Intention to Resign: Text and Video

February 11th, 2013 1 comment

One must admired the principled positions Pope Benedict XVI has consistently taken on life issues, as well as his determined efforts to support the Church’s mission and ministry in a tumultuous time of cultural change. I find this all extremely fascinating. The last time a Pope resigned was in 1415 when Gregory XII resigned to end the Western Schism of the Church. [Disclaimer for my earnest Lutheran friends: Yes, he is the Pope. Yes, we have extremely significant doctrinal disagreements with the Roman Church, notice the appeal to St. Mary.]

Here is his statement of resignation.

“Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Video follows:

Categories: Roman Catholicism

When Lutherans Assert that the Bible is the Verbally Inspired Word of God, and Actually Mean it, Are they Fundamentalists or Calvinists?

February 7th, 2013 3 comments

commandments

The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has confessed throughout her entire history, until the last couple of centuries, that the Sacred Scriptures are precisely what they claim to be: the God-breathed words of God—the very words that God chose to have set down in written form. This is simply a fact.

I was reading recently statements made to the effect that insisting on this truth is a result of the influence of American fundamentalism, or if a person dares venture a bit further back in Church history, there is the charge that Lutherans who confess the Bible is verbally inspired and thus free from error and incapable of error have come under the influence of Calvinism. This is nothing short of stupendous ignorance of the facts of church history, in which one need spend only a small amount of time to find that the ancient fathers of the Christian Church were quite happy to confess the Bible is the very Word of God. Any claim that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is some kind of more recent American fundamentalist assertion, or something Lutheranism took over from Calvinist is totally bogus. If or when you hear any Lutheran saying that you can be assured that you are hearing from a person who is abysmally ignorant of Lutheran doctrine, history and, for that matter, church history as a whole.

As for Lutherans…the “Second Martin,” as he was called, Martin Chemnitz, the foremost of the followers of Luther’s reformation insights after the great Reformers death, makes it abundantly clear what Lutheranism has to say about the inspired text, in his magnum opus, from which to this day remains the most definitive refutation of the Council of Trent ever published, The Examination of the Council of Trent.

The quote below comes from the very first volume of Chemnitz’ work where he is setting for the Church’s understanding of the Holy Scriptures and why they, not “tradition” or any other source are the supreme source for everything the Church believes, teaches and confesses. In great detail he works through how God chose to transmit His Word to his people, by means of written communication of His Word, seen already in how God chose to give His people the Commandments:

“It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows—and I think this must be noted especially—that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalog. Therefore the first beginning of Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author.

“I have related these things in order that it might be observed from the divinely inspired Scriptures, which God wanted preserved and made available for posterity, that nothing was written before the tables of the Decalog, which were written by the finger of God. It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of Holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan of comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated, and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalog with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been begun by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine Word was transmitted without writing, by the living voice. Therefore God Himself with His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance is to be attached to this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.

“For the fact that He took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalog there is another reason, which is explained 2 Cor. 3.

“In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but, having written the words of the Decalog, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles both before and after the writing, and during the writing itself.

“We have thus shown two things from the most ancient sacred history: (1) that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated; (2) in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing.

“This is how the Scripture began. Now that this has been shown, it remains that we consider further what use God wanted us to make of the Scripture, and what was to be its dignity and authority. Because the history is clear, we shall be content merely to list the passages.

“Moses included in four books not only the history of his own time, the exodus from Egypt, and what happened during the 40 years in the desert, but his plan was chiefly to write the doctrine of the Law, which God delivered to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Besides, in the first book, he summed up the chief points of the doctrine and faith of the patriarchs, which they had received by tradition, on the basis of the revelation of God Himself from the beginning of the world almost down to his own time, and which they had also professed.

“God commanded that the tables of the Decalog, written by God’s own hand, should be deposited in the ark of the convenant, which was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And Moses commanded that his own writings, composed by divine inspiration, should be put into the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25–26). The custody and preservation of this deposit he entrusted to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. He also ordered that the king should have with him a copy of the Law, written according to that which was before the face of the priests and Levites, lest he depart from it either to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 17:18–20). He also commanded that the people should write these words on the posts, the doors, the lintel, and the gates of their houses. (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20)”

From: Examination, Volume 1, pgs. 53-54.

 

The Pope is Now Tweeting on Twitter @Pontifex

December 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Yup, he sure is:

Categories: Roman Catholicism

What is a Scapular and What Does it Mean?

July 13th, 2012 8 comments

Have you heard about the Scapular? A small piece of cloth worn by many devout Roman Catholics? “Rome Reports” released a video about them. Following the video you can read Martin Luther’s comment on them:

Cowl, tonsure, rope, and scapular are idolatry, as if we could not be saved without them. They are human works and external things which are used up, and yet they become a god whom men worship. Here they make a god out of a vestment, a girdle, a rope, things which the farmer uses for an amulet. He says, “I do not worship this as god, but I worship my God in this girdle.” Yes, you have made a girdle for your god, a girdle manufactured by the ropemaker. Summary: Our eyes must look to faith and lay hold of God’s grace and freely let all these external things go. Forget about cowl, tonsure, rope, etc., and consider grace alone. The ungodly go their way and make a bewitched god out of a girdle, something sealed with a bull, or something placed into a shrine. A barefoot monk’s god is the contemplation of God in heaven who might have regard for his rope. Another does something else, and each one fashions God according to his own ideas. I therefore admonish you that in all such places of idolatry you pay close attention, because all religion that is the product of one’s thought arises from this ungodliness. Before God this alone is religion: the forgiveness of sins. Outside of this He knows nothing.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Is 44:15 (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Vatican Issues Rules on How to Determine if an Apparition is Legit

May 23rd, 2012 12 comments

When there’s something strange in your neighborhood…if there’s something weird and it don’t look good…

Categories: Roman Catholicism

If You Ever Hear that the Roman Catholic Church is Not as Devoted to the Cult of the Saints….Show Them This

May 10th, 2012 Comments off

News release from the vatican….for a refutation of the theology behind this kind of thing read this.

Vatican City, 10 May 2012 (VIS) – The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he extended the liturgical cult of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1089-1179) to the universal Church, inscribing her in the catalogue of saints. He also authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:

MIRACLES

- Servant of God Tommaso da Olera (ne Tommaso Acerbis), Italian professed layman of the Order of St. Benedict (1563-1631).

- Servant of God Maria Troncatti, Italian professed sister of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Help (1883-1969).

MARTYRDOM

- Servants of Gods Frederic Bachstein and thirteen companions of the Order of Friars Minor, killed in hatred of the faith at Prague, Czech Republic in 1611.

- Servants of God Raimundo Castano Gonzalez and Jose Maria Gonzalez Solis, professed priests of the Order of Friars Preachers, killed in hatred of the faith at Bilbao, Spain in 1936.

- Servants of God Jaime Puig Mirosa and eighteen companions of the Congregation of the Sons of the Sacred Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and Sebastian Llorens Telarroja, layman, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.

- Servant of God Odoardo Focherini, Italian layman, killed in hatred of the faith at Hersbruck, Germany in 1944.

HEROIC VIRTUES

- Servant of God Raffaello Delle Nocche, Italian bishop of Tricarico and founder of the Sisters Disciples of the Eucharistic Jesus (1877-1960).

- Servant of God Frederic Irenej Baraga, Slovene American, first bishop of Marquette (1797-1868).

- Servant of God Pasquale Uva, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters Handmaidens of Divine Providence (1883-1955).

- Servant of God Baltazar Manuel Pardal Vidal, Spanish diocesan priest and founder of the Secular Institute of the Daughters of Mary’s Nativity (1886-1963).

- Servant of God Francesco Di Paola Victor, Brazilian diocesan priest (1827-1905).

- Servant of God Jacques Sevin, French professed priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and founder of the Catholic Scouts of France and of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem (1882-1951).

- Servant of God Maria Josefa of the Blessed Sacrament (nee Maria Josefa Recio Martin), founder of the Congregation of Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1846-1883).

- Servant of God Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, American professed sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of Chraity of St. Elizabeth (1901-1927).

- Servant of God Emilia Engel, German member of the Secular Institute of Sisters of Maria of Schonstatt, (1893-1955).

- Servant of God Rachele Ambrosini, Italian lay woman (1925-1941).

- Servant of God Maria Bolognesi, Italian lay woman (1924-1980).

On 14 March, the Supreme Pontiff authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree regarding the heroic virtues of Servant of God Felix Francisco Jose de la Concepcion Varela Morales, Cuban diocesan priest (1788-1853).

Roman Catholic Statistical Summary — 1.196 Billion and Counting

March 12th, 2012 1 comment

Received this interesting report from the Vatican news service:

Vatican City, 10 March 2012 (VIS) – This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs, presented the Holy Father with the 2012 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio” or pontifical yearbook, and the “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae”. Also present were the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volumes.

A note concerning the presentation highlights some of the facts contained in the new edition. In 2011, the Pope erected eight new episcopal sees, one personal ordinariate and one military ordinariate. One archdiocese and eight dioceses were elevated to the rank of metropolitan see; one prelature, one apostolic vicariate and one apostolic prefecture were elevated to the rank of diocese, and one “sui iuris” mission was elevated to the rank of apostolic prefecture.

The statistical information, which refers to the year 2010, reveals details about the Catholic Church in the 2,966 ecclesiastical circumscriptions on the planet. The number of Catholics in the world moved from 1,181 million in 2009 to 1,196 million in 2010, an increase of fifteen million faithful, corresponding to a growth of 1.3 percent. Over the last two years the presence of baptised Catholics in the world has remained stable at around 17.5 per cent.

The number of Catholics with respect to the total population varies considerably between the continents. Their numbers have dropped in South America (from 28.54 per cent to 28.34 per cent) and in Europe (from 24.05 per cent to 23.83 per cent), while they have increased in Africa (from 15.15 per cent to 15.55 per cent) and in South-East Asia (from 10.47 per cent to 10.87 per cent).

The number of bishops went from 5,065 to 5,104, a growth of 0.77 per cent. This increase involved Africa (sixteen new bishops), America (fifteen) and Asia (twelve), while numbers fell slightly in Europe (from 1,607 to 1,606) and in Oceania (from 132 to 129).

The steady increase in the number of priests which began in the year 2000 has continued. In 2010 their numbers stood at 412,236, composed of 227,009 diocesan priests and 135,227 regular priests; whereas in 2009 they numbered 410,593 (275,542 diocesan and 135,051 regular). The number of clergy has increased in Asia (by 1695), Africa (765), Oceania (52) and the Americas (42), while their numbers have fallen by 905 in Europe.

Numbers of permanent deacons have increased by 3.7 per cent, from 38,155 in 2009 to 39,564 in 2010. They are present above all in North America and Europe, which respectively represent 64.3 per cent and 33.2 per cent of the world total.

The negative tendency in the number of non-ordained male religious reversed, as their number passed from 54,229 in 2009 to 54,665 in 2010. Numbers fell by 3.5 per cent in South America and by 0.9 per cent in North America, in Europe they remained stationary while Asia and Africa saw an increase of 4.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

The number of female religious is undergoing a strong decline, moving from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010. Numbers fell by 2.9 per cent in Europe, by 2.6 per cent in Oceania and by 1.6 per cent the Americas. Nonetheless they increased by around 2 per cent in both Africa and Asia

The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries has increased constantly over the last five years, from 114,439 in 2005 to 111,990 in 2010, a growth of 4 per cent.

Numbers of major seminarians have fallen by 10.4 per cent in Europe, and by 1.1 per cent in the Americas, but are increasing in Africa (14.2 per cent,) Asia (13 per cent) and Oceania (12.3 per cent).

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Pope’s New Cardinals — More Roman Than Catholic?

January 9th, 2012 9 comments

 

Interesting interpretation of Pope Benedict’s latest appointments to the College of Cardinals. Seems to me that the problem with the Roman Catholic church has always been it is more Roman than Catholic, so it should come as no surprise that PB XVI wants to keep it that way. But this article, obviously, doesn’t understand just how profound that observation, theologically, really is, and is whining more about geography than theology. Obviously, is is extremely irritating, to say the least, to the liberals in the Catholic Church who want to see it conform to the Western modernist theological agenda. These appointments will go a long way toward preventing that from happening.

Pope Benedict’s cardinals: more Roman, less ‘catholic’

ENI-12-0011

By David Gibson — ENInews/RNS

9 January (ENInews)–Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement on 6 January of 22 new cardinals shows that he is continuing a pattern of stacking the College of Cardinals with Europeans (mainly Italians) and with leaders of the Roman curia, the papal bureaucracy whose officials are often considered more conservative than prelates in dioceses around the world.

This trend goes against the push by Benedict’s predecessors, notably the late John Paul II, to “internationalize” the College of Cardinals and make it more representative of the global church, Religion News Service reports.

It also runs counter to the inexorable demographics of the church, which shows the number of Catholics growing in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America, even as the faith barely treads water in North America and declines in Europe. The 22 churchmen will be installed at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 18 February.

“This suggests an upside-down church,” Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for The Tablet, a Catholic weekly in London, said of the pope’s appointments. “It doesn’t reflect where the church is going.”

The numbers tell the story. Since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, his three batches of new cardinals have favored Europeans and those who work with him in Rome over bishops from other countries.

Eighteen of the 22 cardinals in this latest round of appointments are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in the conclave, or gathering, that elects a pope. (The red hats given to the four octogenarians are the church equivalent of lifetime achievement awards.) Of those 18 new electors, seven are Italians, five others are from Europe, and a total of 10 are Vatican officials.

Just three of the new cardinals — from Brazil, Hong Kong and India — are from outside the West, and in the biggest surprise, none are from Africa, where the church is experiencing its greatest growth, followed by Asia. Half of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live in the Americas.

That means Italians will form the largest national block and account for one-quarter of the 126 cardinal-electors (several will age out this year), up from 16.5 percent in 2005. In addition, 35 percent of the cardinal-electors will come from the Roman curia — up from less than a quarter when Benedict was elected in 2005.

John Paul II, who was Polish and the first non-Italian pontiff in 450 years when he was elected in 1978, deliberately sought to internationalize the College of Cardinals and the Roman curia, though he also brought in a number of fellow Poles to help run his administration.

Why has Benedict largely reversed that trend? Vatican-watcher John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter noted that before he was elected pope, Ratzinger spent nearly 25 years working in Rome and his appointments are “perhaps a product of his comfort level with Italian ecclesial culture.”

The other major factor is that Benedict is at heart an Old World, old-fashioned Bavarian Catholic, and both he and the cardinals who elected him believe that Europe remains the birthplace of Catholic culture. In that view, Benedict represents the best — and perhaps last — chance to restore that culture and use it to evangelize the rest of the world.

But in light of this latest round of cardinal appointments, and given growing concerns about Benedict’s health — he turns 85 in April — this set of electors may well be the men who eventually choose Benedict’s successor. Their numbers suggest they may be just as likely to look to Europe once again rather than to the future church in the global South.

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Categories: Roman Catholicism

News Flash: The Pope is Still Roman Catholic

September 23rd, 2011 2 comments

And lest anyone get a bit too carried away with PB XVI, we need to remember that he is still very much Roman Catholic and reflects the false and potentially damning doctrine of this church body in these remarks, on a visit to a Marian shrine, and we recall why we must, with a heavy heart and deep sorrow, continue to assert: papam ipsum verum antichristum est.

Pope Benedict: address at Etzelsbach Marian Shrine

Friday evening Pope Benedict XVI lead a congregation of hundreds in the celebration Vespers at the Wallfahrtskapelle, or Pilgrimage Chapel of the Shrine, located in the small hamlet of Etzelsbach, outside the city of Erfurt. Here are his remarks:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Now I am able to fulfil my wish to visit Eichsfeld, and here in Etzelsbach to thank Mary in company with you. “Here in the beloved quiet vale”, as the pilgrims’ hymn says, “under the old lime trees”, Mary gives us security and new strength. During two godless dictatorships, which sought to deprive the people of their ancestral faith, the inhabitants of Eichsfeld were in no doubt that here in this shrine at Etzelsbach an open door and a place of inner peace was to be found. The special friendship with Mary that grew from all this, is what we seek to cultivate further, not least through this evening’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When Christians of all times and places turn to Mary, they are acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his mother what she asks; and they are relying on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our mother – a mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us and ponders in a maternal way how to overcome them. How many people down the centuries have made pilgrimages to Mary, in order to find comfort and strength before the image of the Mother of Sorrows, as here at Etzelsbach!

Let us look upon her likeness: a woman of middle age, her eyelids heavy with much weeping, gazing pensively into the distance, as if meditating in her heart upon everything that had happened. On her knees rests the lifeless body of her son, she holds him gently and lovingly, like a precious gift. We see the marks of the crucifixion on his bare flesh. The left arm of the corpse is pointing straight down. Perhaps this sculpture of the Pietà, like so many others, was originally placed above an altar. The crucified Jesus would then be pointing with his outstretched arm to what was taking place on the altar, where the holy sacrifice that he had accomplished is made present in the Eucharist.

A particular feature of the holy image of Etzelsbach is the position of Our Lord’s body. In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord. Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way. It seems to me that a deep meaning lies hidden in this representation, that only becomes apparent through silent contemplation: in the Etzelsbach image, the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love. We know that the heart is also the seat of the most tender affection as well as the most intimate compassion. In Mary’s heart there is room for the love that her divine Son wants to bestow upon the world.

Marian devotion focuses on contemplation of the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son. The faithful constantly discover new dimensions and qualities which this mystery can help to disclose for us, for example when the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is seen as a symbol of her deep and unreserved loving unity with Christ. It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which can easily turn into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), as we have just heard in the Scripture reading. With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world. Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home” (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and conveys to us the strength of divine love.

Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from our plight? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand,” she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields unreservedly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise.” Where God is, there is a future. Indeed – when we allow God’s love to influence the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions. Amen.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Pope’s Remarks at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt

September 23rd, 2011 8 comments

Here is a transcript of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt. Following a brief video. The church you see at the beginning of the video is the church at the cloister, where Luther took his monastic vows. He was ordained a priest at the Erfurt cathedral (if I may correct the pope), the room you see toward the end of the video is the “chapter room,” where the monks would gather regularly to review their order’s rules and attend to matters concerning their life together. Say what you want about this Pope, but he knows and understands Luther’s theology much better than most of the so-called “Lutherans” in the mainline/liberal Lutheran churches today. What I’ve always appreciated about Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is that he has never compromised Rome’s doctrinal position, and has invited serious conversation and dialogue based on clear confession, something that can rarely be said about the leaders of any of the large liberal member churches of the Lutheran World Federation. Whenever an invitation for dialogue based on honest confession is offered, it is an important opportunity to bear witness to Christ and His Gospel.

 

September 23, 2011. (Romereports.com) (-ONLY VIDEO-) Behind closed doors the pope met with representatives of Germany’s Evangelical Church. In a powerful speech the pope spoke about Martin Luther, who led the Protestant Reform.  He encouraged the ecumenical dialogue to continue so both groups can strengthen their relationship even more.

Benedict XVI recalled the question once asked by Martin Luther, which gave rise to Lutheranism: “what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God.?” The pope went on to say,  that this question is still relevant. It’s a question, he said, that each person should ask themselves.

FULL SPEECH:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. I am particularly grateful to Pastor Schneider for greeting me and welcoming me into your midst with his kind words. At the same time I want to express my thanks for the particularly gracious gesture that our meeting can be held in this historic location.

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the Lutheran Church of Germany here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Now perhaps you will say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal. I would like to make two points here. The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task. Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted the first great ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord.

A German Pope Travels to the Land of Luther

September 2nd, 2011 1 comment

A very interesting article in National Catholic Reporter and, on the whole, balanced and fair. Link here.

Snippet from the article:

Back in 1966, a young German Catholic theologian penned a commentary on the final session of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), expressing some fairly strong reservations about what he saw as the overly optimistic and “French” tone of its concluding document, Gaudium et Spes, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” The document’s lofty humanism, this theologian charged, “Prompts the question of why, exactly, the reasonable and perfectly free human being described in the first articles was suddenly burdened with the story of Christ.” He worried that concepts such as “People of God” and “the world” were given an uncritically positive spin, reflecting naiveté about the corrupting effects of sin. Along the way, this writer offered an arresting aside. Gaudium et Spes, he opined, breathes the air of Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit, but not enough of Martin Luther, the German father of the Protestant Reformation. Saying so required a certain ecumenical chutzpah, given that Pope Leo X’s 1520 condemnation of Luther’s ideas as “heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears and seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth” remained on the books. That’s an irony worth recalling, given that the young theologian in question is today Pope Benedict XVI, and that in two weeks he’ll be heading back to the Land of Luther for his first official state visit.

 

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Ziegler-Hemingway Takes on the Media Frenzy Over Bachmann, the Pope and Lutheranism: Wall Street Journal Article

July 24th, 2011 2 comments

I’m a bit late to this party, but last Friday there was a wonderful editorial in the Wall Street Journal, written by that Lutheran maven of media, Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway. I thought it pretty much drove the nails into the coffin and put away the media nonsense over the non-story that Michelle Bachmann used to belong to a Lutheran congregation that is part of a church body that is Lutheran and actually teaches what Lutherans have always taught about the power and authority of the papacy. And, yes, yours truly was quoted in the article, but in spite of that it is a very fine piece of writing, don’t you think?

Here’s a bit of the article, with the rest available via the read more link at the bottom.

American political reporters aren’t known for their vocal support of Roman Catholic teachings. But when they discovered recently that Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was once a Lutheran, they began defending the papacy as if they were the Vatican’s own Swiss Guard. They asked with concern, could Catholics even vote for a former Lutheran?

Ms. Bachmann’s former church, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, hasn’t followed the mainline Protestant church practice of regularly revising its doctrines. The Lutheran confessions, or statements of faith, are found in the Book of Concord, first published in 1580. They explain the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. Accordingly, they don’t believe the pope’s authority comes from God.This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the Reformation, but it hit the press hard.

“Michele Bachmann leaves church accused of anti-Catholic bias,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The Atlantic Monthly: “Michele Bachmann’s Church Says the Pope Is the Antichrist.” From the Washington Post, we learned that the Lutheran Confessions use “unfortunate wording.” To be sure, the “antichrist” rhetoric is strong. Found in Martin Luther’s Smalcald Articles, such language is part of a tradition that reaches back into the 10th century.

As a National Council of Churches Committee has written, “Not only dissidents and heretics but even saints had called the bishop of Rome the ‘antichrist’ when they wished to castigate his abuse of power. During the Reformation, Catholic statements against Lutheran beliefs were similarly strong. The Council of Trent’s canons declared that anyone who believed in justification by faith alone was to be “anathema,” or cut off from the church. These words shock modern ears. But in the Reformation era “there was a much greater degree of rough and tumble in the way Christians addressed issues and those with whom they disagreed,” explained the Rev. Paul McCain, publisher of a 2005 reader’s edition of the Book of Concord.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

What Are We to Make of the “Beatification” of Pope John Paul II?

April 30th, 2011 6 comments

You may have noticed numerous news reports about the beatification of Pope John Paul II. What are we Lutherans to make of this? The short answer is simply: we do not recognize, nor can we accept, any of the theology or practice surrounding the Roman Catholic Church’s “cult of the saints” as it is known in our Lutheran Confessions.

Here is what the Augsburg Confession, Art. 21 has to say about the Roman system of saints:

The memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. 2] For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1: 4] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.

If you would like to read what we Lutherans believe, teach and confess about this issue, please read the following articles from the Book of Concord: The Apology [Defense] of the Augsburg Confession, Article 21; and The Smalcald Articles, Invocation of the Saints.

The practice of beatification is premised on the fact that we can never know, for a certainty, in this life whether or not a person was ever actually saved by God’s grace. This “monster of uncertainty” plagues both the Roman communion and, ironically, is the basis for many of the “decisions for Christ” that we witness among Evangelicals, who lack the concrete assurance of God’s grace, because they simply do not trust and believe that the objective promises of the Gospel are actually given, conferred, bestowed [use whatever word you want] on the individual Christian. We know that God does this through His Holy Word and Sacraments.

It is good for us to understand what “beatification” means in the Roman communion. Here is how the Vatican explains it, on their web site:

Throughout her history, the Church has always celebrated holiness as an expression of the “wonderful things” the Lord works in the life of his People. In response to sensibilities and historical contexts, the Church has paid special attention to the liturgical forms and procedures in which praise to the Most High is expressed and new life given to the faith and piety of the faithful.

These procedures and the significant wealth of such rites have also been carefully studied by the Church in light of the most recent ecclesial knowledge for a more incisive understanding and a more cogent effect of the very nature of holiness, which the Church celebrates with the rites of Beatification and Canonization.

To this end, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has introduced important new procedures for Beatifications.

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Categories: Roman Catholicism