Catholics, Lutherans and Unity: What Cardinal Ratzinger Said

This post is a little more academically-oriented than my usual fare. As such, I ask more questions that usual ūüôā If you’re interested in Catholic/Lutheran dialog keep reading. If not, please come back tomorrow ūüôā

I just finished reading an interview of (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. It is entitled “Luther and the unity of the churches: an interview with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.” I’m not sure where it was published, as I just stumbled upon it and the article didn’t include publication information. If you know, please leave a comment so I can correct it.

Pope Benedict made some fascinating observations. I’d always heard that he was a Luther scholar, and it is evident in this interview. In these days when he has opened a path for Traditional Anglicans to enter in communion with the See, some of what he says of Lutheranism is telling.

In one instance he refers to a quip made by Cardinal¬†Volk who was on-hand to celebrate the anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1980. A different Cardinal remarked that in reading the Augustana that “the roots remained.” Cardinal Volk replied, “Now I would like to know if the contraption of which we speak here is, for instance, a potato or an apple-tree?” Benedict explains that remark this way: “Is everything, with the exception of the roots, merely leaves, or is it the tree which grew from the roots that is important? How deep does the difference really go?”

Unpacking further: if Lutherans and Catholics were to seriously sit down and try to find agreement, is the Augsburg Confession (or the entire Book of Concord, for that matter) enough or will we be dealing with everything that’s happened since too? I have my answer, as I suspect Pope Benedict does as well, and I think we both have our reading glasses on. What do you think?

As far as real impediments to any kind of reconciliation, the (at the time) Cardinal offered two: congregational polity and the distinction between Law and Gospel. (And so the Pope proves himself a hypo-European). He acknowledges that for Lutherans the organization of separate congregations is “empirically useful, indeed necessary, but they are also interchangeable under different circumstances.” He acknowledges this as completely opposite the Catholic understanding, “the community of bishops among themselves together with the Pope . . .instituted by the Lord.” (221)

As for Law and Gospel, Ratzinger said, “I would say that the dialectic of Law and Gospel expresses most poignantly Luther’s new experience and that it illustrates most concisely the contradiction with the Catholic concepts of faith, salvation, Scripture, and church.” This statement is somewhat vexing for me. I think Ratzinger infers that Law and Gospel presuppose the primacy of forensic justification against a God who, by virtue of my sinning against the Law, is the enemy. Thus for Ratzinger Law/Gospel would necessarily entail such things as the assurance of salvation, the chasm affixed between justification and sanctification and other, non-Catholic doctrines.

So, if there are any Catholics out there who are knowledgeable about Lutherans and the Law/Gospel dialectic, speak up. Did Ratzinger understand Law/Gospel correctly? Is this really the most poignant and consise illustration of the divergence of Lutheran and Catholic theology? From the Lutheran side, Does the distinction between Law and Gospel necessarily entail such things that Ratzinger believed it did?

Best Laid Plans and All

I had great plans for the week, but everything is now derailed. I’ve been feeling ill for about three or four days, but Monday night I started feeling worse, and Tuesday morning I realized it was no use ignoring it. I¬†spent yesterday at home not doing too much but resting and helping Marjorie, who may have pneumonia again. I did read some Chrysostom on Romans, though, in prep for Sunday. I also finished up the Newsletter article and a few other odds and ends. Today I’m back at Church, but am moving (and thinking) pretty slowly, trying to priorize what else needs to happen today and this week.

Needless to say my great plans for the week are unraveling. I’m not sure a trip to the doctor is warranted yet, though if I don’t start improving soon I’ll need to go.

This Week’s Plan

The month of insanity is almost behind us. It began with Oktoberfest and Redeemer’s 75th Anniversary; included our District Conference, at which I was the preacher at worship and coordinator of our guest presenter; continued with our Stewardship Sunday; Soccer games; out-of-town guests (parishioners who study at Concordia, Seward); and Reformation Sunday with our annual Voter’s Meeting.

The last even went pretty well. Voter’s Meetings can be a mixed bag, but our outgoing President ran it well, the officers elected, the budget adopted and nary a dissenting opinion or any other kind of unpleasantries. Thanks be to God.

This week I plan on visiting the last few shut-ins for the month, working on my Lutheranism class which starts next Tuesday, beginning study of Romans for my next Bible Study topic and, if there is time, some reorganizing and cleaning my study.

At home I plan on doing some work on the kitchen remodel (finish and touch-up work on Phase I), clean my car and re-organize my garage and generally get ready for my parent’s return later in November to start Phase II of the remodel. I also hope to spend some time working on my current novel and do some prep work for next month’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Boring Computer Hardware Post

I’m through with Dell Computers.

This time it’s the power supply. Our home computer has taken to shutting down¬†suddenly and without notice every so often. That computer runs Ubuntu most of the time, so it doesn’t freak out about “not shutting down correctly”, but it’s annoying and could eventually cause some data loss.

No big deal, right? Just replace the power supply. Amazon and Newegg and, well, every place besides Staples has good deals on power supplies. Just four screws hold it in.

Unless you have a Dell. They use proprietary power supplies which either: 1)Has connections which fit but subversively supply different voltages than the standard connections, potentially destroying your components; or 2) Use an additional connection to the motherboard, which if missing, will not allow the computer to work.

So your options are to find a replacement dell power supply, which are over priced, or…buy a new case, power supply, AND motherboard. Why all of those? Well, not only are Dell power supplies proprietary, but so are their boxes and motherboards, having unique mounting points and, as mentioned, power requirements.

Again, I could simply replace the power supply with a Dell or OEM that will fit, but when the motherboard eventually fails–they always do at some point–I will be in the same place I am now. No upgrade, stuck in a proprietary mobius strip.

So, I’m done. Now I am saving some money and assemble something that will last. I plan to re-use the memory, hard drives and gpu from the old home system. Thank God I have this church laptop to use when I need it!

And take this advice: if you are in the market for a new desktop and are entertaining the possibility of one day, some day possibly opening it up and doing an upgrade, just build your own now. Take the plunge. It is not only cheaper (though not much cheaper than a brand new shiny Dell), but it is more satisfying and will definitely be cheaper in the long run when parts need upgrading or replacing.

H1N1, Nasty Viruses, the Common Cup, Jewish Heredity and Reason Versus Faith

A few days ago I pulled a long quote from Pastoral Meanderings and now have included the link to his post.

At the risk of being a one-note Betty, he posted todayregarding the Common Cup and disease tranmission, including summaries of actual, honest-to-goodness medical studies. It is excellent, and you should read it.

But I have one thing to offer.

Isn’t it funny how a pastor can tell a person, “You cannot get sick from drinking the blood of Jesus Christ,” and people will wonder. But when a scientist says, “The probability¬†of disease transmission using a common cup at religious services is as close to zero as possible and presents no genuine risk to participants,” people believe them? Why is it that medicine often carries more cache than theology?

Here is another example. I am Jewish. I was raised culturally as an American of German/English descent, and baptized as a Lutheran six weeks after I was born.¬†But several years ago my mother discovered that her direct maternal great-grandmother was a German Jew who was buried in the Jewish Cemetary in her village near Hanover. Jews trace heredity through the mother, and through the mother alone. She’s Jewish, so I’m Jewish, but my children are not. In other words, even if my father was named Saul Moishe Goldstein, if my mother didn’t have a Jewish mother, I would not be Jewish.

But what about genetics? What about the liklihood of Tay-Sachs disease? From a scientific view, I have so little Jewish DNA that it’s no issue at all. I mean, if we were talking other races, I wouldn’t even mention it. If my great-great-grandmother on another branch were Chinese, would that make me Chinese? I would hardly think so.

But according to the Jewish theological understanding, I am 100% Jewish. Jewish mother, Jewish children. End of story. This understanding is not quitementioned in Scripture, but the basis is there. Rabbis teach this based on such passages which forbid Israelites from marrying non-Israelite women. The thought became that the women were the important ones who passed on the heredity of Abraham. From a Christian perspective, I see nothing in the New Testament that would refine this teaching, except of course that all nations are now blessed by Jesus Christ, and all people may call Abraham “Father,” by faith and not by blood. It does not contradict the issue of¬† heredity, but includes all gentiles as descendants of the Father of Faith.

So which view is correct? The Theological View or the Scientific View?¬†Am I all Jew or just 1/64th? Or whatever that percentage would be? Personally, I really don’t care “how Jewish” I am. In Christ there are niether Jew nor Greek (Gal. 3:28).

But there is a serious issue here. Who are we going to believe? Does theology and the teaching of Scripture direct my mind and describe reality, or does modern science give the ultimate answer? There is no reason they cannot sit side-by-side in this case: I am Jewish (apostate in the Rabbi’s eyes, of course), and have little to no risk of transmitting Tay-Sachs.

But the question remains. Does science inform us best, and we all breathe a sigh of relief when it doesn’t come right out and contradict Scripture? Do we live and think scientifically or theologically?

This is not the issue of creationism versus evolution. One can think of creationism scientifically, like all the Creation Museum, apologists out there who believe one can proove Creation and give scientific explanations for the miracle of this lonely planet. It’s scientific thinking, not theological. It is the same scientific thinking that the new Lutheran Study Bible engages in when it explains the plague of blood as a toxic algae bloom.

I cannot solve the reason versus faith argument. At least not in this brief blog post. But I do leave you with these questions:

Will science inform you best about the nature and reality of the Common Cup and the Sacrament, or will Scripture and faith?

What if there were studies that proved that communicable diseases were passed via the common cup? That participating in the Lord’s Supper put your health at risk?

What if it were scientifically proven that the hosts transmitted communicable diseases? That even removing the host from the paten yourselftransmitted disease from the person who put their fingers in the paten before you? What if medical studies proved that there is no realistic way of receiving Communion at a public worship service without the likely possibility of transmitting disease?

Would you believe that or would you believe Christ who says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”? Would you believe the CDC or would you believe Christ who says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John¬†6:53¬†ESV)

Augsburg Confession? No Thank You!

UPDATE: Here is the original post at Pastoral Meanderings

HT: Weedon

Here is a section of a post Rev. Larry Peters wrote. I encourage you to read his whole post.

We are not the church that the Augsburg Confession said we were. There are multiple reasons for this — not in the least of which is nearly 500 years of history. There is also a more pointed reasons for this — look at most Lutheran denominations and you find that most do not WANT to be the same church the Augsburg Confession said we were.

The drift between what we were and who we claimed to be and what we have become and who we want to be today has come slowly but surely. It is my conviction that the Lutheran struggle today is not between us and Protestants or Evangelicals or Roman Catholics. Our struggle is internal. We have become uncomfortable with our own skin. We have looked over the fence into the yards of other traditions because we no long like our own. It is not that we ditched all the history, we have reasons for what we do. Mission, outreach, evangelism, marketing, fitting in, becoming more American, science and technology… the list goes on. We have reasons for this and yet we also have a little guilt about the drift. This guilt is kept alive by those within every Lutheran church body who keep alive the confessional identity.

For Missouri the Augsburg Confession has become less important to our history than Walther and democracy and congregationalism. When some in Missouri felt threatened by liberals in control, this became the means to maintaining orthodoxy. When some in Missouri felt threatened by conservatives, this became the means to maintaining their moderation. In the end it has crippled our church body and our style of governance looks like a bruised and battered body held together with splints, tape and bandaids. What Augustana spoke about has been filtered through the democracy of America and the urgency of Walther and a few ship loads of people who needed to justify the voyage. So the conservatives are out conservativing each other and the moderates are insisting that we are dying unless we change enough to make Jesus our first concern… all the while everyone pays lip service to a inerrancy… and confessionals speak a language about liturgy, sacramental theology, and life that flows from them as well as the efficacy of Scripture (that God’s Word does what it says) and is attacked by both sides.

Like Grant and Lee in Class at Westpoint

I was speaking with a professor at Concordia Seminary last week. He said something very alarming to me about some of the first-year students at the seminary. While many classes on the whole are good, he said, there are more and more students coming in who have never witnessed liturgical worship and to whom the hymnal is a completely foreign thing.

It’s frightening for those students. Could you imagine being raised in a church using consumerist worship with all of its emphases and experiences believing that this is what the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was like and then being dropped into the flagship seminary and attending worship for the first time? Talk about bait-and-switch! I can’t imagine what kind of culture shock that must be for those young men.

Of course it’s frightening to me too. The seminary does a pretty poor job of educating about the liturgy in any systematic kind of way. One class in worship which pretty much relates to technique and the rest must be pulled from this or that textbook, this or that professor, a few who emphasize our worship and liturgy more than others, but most remaining silent for whatever reason. For these young men who have no experience of what Lutheran worship had been–uniformly–for 450 years, I’m afraid that they will leave the seminary still not knowing.

When I was there a few of the men were ardent supporters of jettisoning the liturgy for the consumerist worship we have today. Those men were rather in a minority, at least in their outspoken disdain for the Synod’s history and confession. They saw their years at the seminary as either missionaries to convert the rest of us heathen about our dead tradition, or, failing that, as a cross to bear and hoops to navigate until they could leave and go back to their former ways. I remember one couldn’t take it and left. He eventually was ordained through “alternate” means and is now serving somewhere out west.

I know some who read here are not as convinced about the historic liturgy as I am. I’m glad you read anyway. But I think we can agree on this: when you have, in the same synod, at the same time, the Lutheran Service Book, the tooth-less and relatively meaningless “Theses on Worship”¬†the Council of Presidents produced, and a generation of future pastors who have only known contemporary worship, it does not bode well for our unity.

Save Me from Evil Death

Save me from an evil death!

Yes, but what?
Cancer. Always cancer.
Or the lungs filling, drowning from smoke.
Too brief a heart attack, or the bus on Michigan Avenue,
Now evil death be long and excruciating,
Lingering, wasting, weakening.

Or is it?
The days to know springs are slackening loosened,
The key slows evermore,
The nights to pray and pray and pray at length,
The phone to answer, the mercy to share,
The moments to wait for Gray Havens westbound

The bomb, the bus, the infarction
Rob us of such holy things.

Give us time and save us from evil death.

Good Conference!

The conference is over, and all things went well. Our presenter, Dr. David Maxwell, did an excellent job teaching us about the growth of the early Church, how the Romans saw them, and how the Church received and responded to the prevailing culture. What was particularly good was his discussion questions interspersed throughout the sessions.

As nice as it wasn to have to travel, I did miss the usual setting of Roman Nose State Park, as did others. Perhaps if the lodge is renovated by next year….

It was also a little odd this year for me. Our Circuit hosted the event, so I had work to do with that, but this was my first Conference as a Vice President, which meant some more responsibilities. Frankly, I also missed the usual level of semi-anonymity I usually enjoyed at things like these.

Now, off to start sorting my inbox, which is overflowing…