Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar. For what that stuff in the banner means, scroll to the bottom of the sidebar.

25 June 2009

The Augsburg Confession, 479 Years On, 25 June 2009.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

So we say every Sunday. Well, a lot of us Lutherans mean to say that, but we say "Christian" instead of "catholic", though the word in the original, and we're supposed to be so big on what's in the original, is katholike, which means whole, complete, entire, universal. So does the cognate word in English, catholic. But, there's this very large and well-known church that uses the word in its name, and we wouldn't want to seem to be saying we believe in IT, now would we? Of course, some of us say it on Saturday late afternoon as if we did mean IT, following their new custom since Vatican II of Saturday Sunday services, so hey.

Much is said these days about Lutheran church bodies abandoning classic Lutheran doctrine, and doctrine in motion, otherwise known as liturgy, for things that supposedly will bring greater numbers and we can add Lutheran content. Why one would seek to infuse a form that evolved as it did to omit the content one seeks to put back in, or think that any numbers gained thereby represent a gain for the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered, cannot be explained by anything but giving up mission for marketing. But little if anything is said about how we have let in the back door what we try to keep out the front, and the unintended influence of the former on the latter, being two ways of doing the same thing, goes largely unrecognised. And the damage continues from Vatican II For Lutherans and Willow Creek For Lutherans alike.

On the face of it one might indeed wonder whether there is not much a Lutheran can appreciate about the changes in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II. For example, using an Old Testament passage along with the Epistle and Gospel, praying the Canon out loud so the Verba are heard by the congregation, using the local language rather than Latin, for restoring intercessions and petitionary prayer of the people and not in a fixed form but one that can be adapted to what is going on. Are those things so bad? Do they not return to an older and better tradition than what was set in the Tridentine Rite? While there is much that may be questionable about Vatican II liturgical reform, must we then ignore it altogether or not find in it good things we can use too?

It may, at first, seem so from a Lutheran standpoint. I don't, now, have any problem with the "blessings" mentioned. But a Catholic, which I once was, ought to have tons of pixels of reasons why those "blessings" are a few of the things that are neither necessary nor even desirable, and obscure other things that are necessary. But Catholics don't anymore. They taught me something, then started teaching something else; I still believed what they taught me before, so I left thinking the whole thing must be screwed up before and after.

That's then, and is a lot of the "you think this is Catholic but it isn't" stuff I post mostly elsewhere re our Tiber swimmers. It isn't now. When I first read the BOC along with Adult Information Class, I would see in my mind the implementation of what is said there in contrast to the implementation that I saw before me during and after Vatican II. WOW. Throw in Babylonian Captivity, and I'm on board!

So here's the deal -- WE didn't get those blessings just listed from Vatican II, THEY did! So what is that to us? With the exception of the OT reading, which kind of jacks with Jerome's model of Torah/Haftorah from the synagogue lectionary to Gospel/Epistle, but adds on without destroying it so no problem, WE ALREADY HAD THEM, four hundred and some years before they started playing catch-up! And they sure as hell didn't produce the ESV.

My problem is: when we DON'T use our version of the pre-V2, and pre-Trent for that matter, historic liturgy, and instead start to worship after their new ones; when we DON'T add an OT reading to the historic lectionary going back to Jerome but instead use their new one which was a conscious intended break with that tradition and the preaching associated with it; when we rehash their stuff no different than others of us rehash American "evangelicalism" and Willow Creek or stuff like that.

So let 'em play catch-up. Hell, Benedict keeps reading Luther and who knows? Good for them. For them, not us. We don't need to start playing catch-up to their catch-up!

In short, the things from Vatican II which we cheer, we already have and a Catholic should deplore, and if they are now cheering them and doing them, something changed.

OK, well then that's a good thing, right? Well, again, from our point of view, yes. So, with all this good stuff happening, maybe we can even look at getting back to-gether, going "home to Rome", huh?

Just a second though. Something doesn't quite add up. If Rome has this divinely instituted guarantee in the bishops in succession from the Apostles in communion with the successor to St Peter, the Pope, where the church will always conserve the true faith of Christ, and we don't, we deny it and live outside it, we aren't even church in the strict sense of the word, how is it that we do all this stuff 400 some years before without this guarantee, and if it's such a good idea, what held things up with the guys with the guarantee for 400 some years? Seems like it oughta be the other way around; it's the guys without the guarantee and all who oughta be catching up, so if there were changes here lately with them, they must have been a different sort of change than the sort of change we did centuries ago.

And indeed it was. Which is our whole point here.

What was our intent? Whether we achieved it or not is another matter; what was our intent? Our Book of Concord makes it clear again and again our intent was not to come up with anything new, but quite the opposite, to preserve what was already there.

This is meant across the board; here, since the matters mentioned above are liturgical, let's look at how this works out liturgically. Just as we aim to teach no new doctrine, but the constant doctrine of the church pruned of later accretions, so also we seek no new order of worship, but the same order, corrected of abuses.

From the Augsburg Confession: in the Mass, nearly all the usual ceremonies are preserved, the only thing new being throwing in some German hymns among the sung Latin (ACXXIV) and we stick to the example of the church, taken from Scripture and the Fathers, which is especially clear in that we retain the public ceremonies for the most part similar to those previously in use, only differing in the number of masses (ACXXIV), and even though the observance of holy days, fasting days and the like has been the basis of outrageous distortions of forgiveness of sins by Christ's merit, nonetheless the value of good order in the church, when accompanied by proper teaching, leads us to retain the traditional order of readings in the church and the major holy days (ACXXVI).

What is the intent here, what sort of change and by what means is confessed here -- to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it closer to that of the early church, to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it taking into account other rites of earlier origin, to make our worship more authentic by coming up with a new set of readings to offer more Scripture especially more moral teaching and less miracle stories, to make our worship more authentic by offering options throughout the same rite, to make our worship more authentic by regarding abuses and distortions along the way as invalidating the way itself and the rite developed along the way, then, part stepping back in history, part stepping across in other rites, and part creating new things alogether, to step forward with a new order of mass, new lectionary, new calendar, to show we have gone beyond the abuses and distortions of the past and are now ready to address the future?

Nothing of the sort! In fact, the opposite of the sort!

We ought remember too, that when the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, the Tridentine Rite, as it is called now, was 40 years in the future, and when the Book of Concord was complete in 1580, it was only 10 years old. The "Tridentine Rite" was precisely Rome's effort to both address the legitimate concerns of the Reformation and at the same time guard against its doctrinal errors, establishing one norm to effect both aims for the Western Church as a whole, allowing other rites observed locally or by religious orders only if they were no less than two hundred years old (which is to say, before 1370, the Tridentine Rite being promulgated in 1570) and therefore untainted by the Reformation.

The 1570 typical edition would have four revisions: 1604 by Pope Clement VIII, who had also revised Jerome's Vulgate (Latin) Bible and the two needed harmonising; 1634 by Pope Urban VIII; 1884 by Pope Leo XIII; 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, mostly making official the work of the late Pius X; 1962 by Pope John XXIII, mostly making official the work of the late Pius XII.

Revised typical editions don't just happen out of the blue. They codify and formalise specific papally mandated changes made in the years before. For example, when I was an altar boy, the 1920 typical edition was in force, but Pius XII had made extensive revisions to the Holy Week liturgy binding in 1955, which were controversial then -- I remember older people grousing about this new stuff that changed what Holy Week was even like -- and remain so now, in the larger context that some advocates of the Tridentine Rite do not accept the 1962 edition which incorporated them, and/or John XXIII's later revisions to the edition, but none advocate the original 1570 edition as some sort of purity, and Rome insists upon the 1962 edition where the Tridentine Rite is allowed.

The point is, when we speak of how we've "always worshipped", nobody, absolutely nobody, takes that to mean that nothing ever changed, any where, any time, and never will -- it has, it does, and it will, change not being the question, but rather what kind of change and change into what.

The Tridentine Rite was replaced entirely by the novus ordo missae, the New Order of Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and coming out in 1970. It too did not just happen, bam, but was a codification, a finalising and formalising, of things introduced prior to it, this time during and after the Second Vatican Council. The new rite was a NEW rite, with a new calendar, a new series of readings over three years replacing the one that stood and grew for about 1500 years, and unlike anything before it in the same rite, different options for doing one thing such as confession and absolution, not to mention four different eucharistic prayers for the heart of the mass itself.

The old rite was not declared invalid, but replaced, with certain exceptions granted for its use. The motu proprio of 2007, summorum pontificum, did not change that at all, but rather made simpler the conditions for exceptions. And then went one better -- while the novus ordo remains the lex orandi, the rule of prayer, for the church, now, in addition to the new multiform lex orandi, the 1962 edition of the Tridentine Rite will be considered an other-than-ordinary (the word extraordinary meant literally) expression of that same lex orandi! All the same thing, of course -- implying too, one must recognise the novus ordo as the normal use of the Roman Rite to use the Tridentine Rite as its extraordinary use, which does not in the least address the entire reason why some from the get-go continued with the Tridentine Rite, namely, that the new order was false to prior orders.

Thus, for those to whom the new mass was a great step forward, and to whom continued steps forward consist in being faithful to the new mass rather than endless departures from it in its supposed "spirit", this is at best an unneeded step and at worst a step backward from that reform, and for those to whom the new mass was the step backward, indeed a step away, from the true mass, this requires an acceptance of the invalid as valid.

So, change everywhere. Indeed. But again, change is not the issue. The issue is, what kind of change and change into what.

The fact is, the liturgical reforms of Vatican II proceed from a basis completely different than, and completely foreign to, the liturgical reforms of the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, there are points of similarity, certainly. There are large areas of similarity across the board. But the totality, and the underlying agenda, is an entirely different effort than ours, and in fact utterly hostile to the very thing our reform set out to reform and pass on.

The late Neuhaus, in his writings about his conversion to the post-conciliar RCC, expresses better than anything I have read in some time the utter disgust and rejection of the Catholic Church, all politely expressed and quite unrecognised by Neuhaus himself, of the sham fantasy illusion put in its place at Vatican II. An entirely new church, containing nothing of anything before it, which it clearly despises. The violent caricature that mindset offers of anything before the Council -- borrowing from yet another who constructed, like Newman, his partly Protestant partly pagan "Catholic Church" to address his own needs, Maritain -- is as much the church before the Vatican II as the "spirit" of Vatican II is Vatican II, and utterly obscene in its gross falseness (again, unintended and unrecognised) and in its disconnect (and again, unintended and unrecognised) more radical than anything in the entire range of the "Reformation" from the Catholic Church.

Just as there is a "spirit" of Vatican II and Vatican II itself, there was a "spirit" of Trent and Trent itself too. Then, as now, this confusion of the two is seen in primarily two places, one being popular piety, where things are done thinking they are based in the real thing whereas they are based in the grossest of misundertood caricatures of it, the other being the actions of priests and bishops who do essentially the same thing but with far greater implications due to their position.

How utterly ironic, as the post-conciliar RCC attempts to address the confusion of Vatican II with the "spirit" thereof by some sort of "reform of the reform", the real Vatican II itself is based on a confusion of Trent with the "spirit" thereof.

The things which, as a Lutheran now thank God, I am happy to see seem to indicate the RCC is in the early stages of catching up with where the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has been for some cernturies now, are largely the same things which, as a Catholic, indicate the RCC is in the final stages of becoming a Protestant church but with the pope at the top, as my dad, a 1941 RCC convert, used to put it.

Newman, Bouyer, Maritain, on and on, Protestants all, constructed a "Catholic Church" intellectually that allowed them to remain essentially Protestant but with the external validity supplied by the institutional RCC church, which at Vatican II was crystallised and codified and made official by the institutional RCC church itself. These theologians were collectively called the Nouvelle Theologie, the New Theology, and in the decades leading up to Vatican II were repeatedly warned against by popes up to and including the last pre-conciliar pope, Pius XII.

de Lubac in 1946 was forbidden to publish by the Catholic Church; de Lubac was a peritus at the Council and was made a cardinal by JPII. Chenu's book Le Saulchoir was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pius XII; Chenu was a peritus at the Council. Urs von Balthasar in 1950 was banned from teaching by the Catholic Church; JPII named him a cardinal. Congar was banned from teaching or publishing by the Catholic Church; after the Council, JPII, greatly influenced by him, made him a cardinal.

All of them, along with Rahner, Kueng, Schillebeeckx, Bouyer, Gilson, and Danielou, were the Nouvelle Theologie, warned against not by name but by description by Pius XII in Humani generis. Chenu and Congar, along with Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Kueng, were part of the founding of the journal Concilium, begun in 1965 during the Council as a scholarly journal of the thought behind the reform. Urs von Balthasar and de Lubac, along with Bouyer, Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger, were part of the founding of the journal Communio, founded after the Council in 1972 thinking Concilium though on the right direction had gone too far.

The direction was not the issue; it is the same for both, the question being only how far it goes. The more conservative answer is Vatican II Catholicism as officially taught by the hierarchy collectively and the post-conciliar popes, the more liberal answer being the "spirit" of Vatican II, the "excesses" etc, from which the conservatives think a "reform of the reform" will deliver that church.

The point being, all of that is dissent, and was recognised as such by the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. That has one kind of consequences within the Roman Catholic Church, which amount to this: what is now normative Catholicism was prior to Vatican II dissent from Catholicism. A more conservative version of that dissent won, and now maintains supremacy over the more liberal version of the same dissent.


What is important for us Lutherans about that is this: both Trent and Vatican II resulted in new Roman missals, but neither effort sought what our reforms seek and therefore neither are the models to which we turn and neither produce a lex orandi consistent with our lex credendi. In the novus ordo, while on the surface it may seem to move closer to our reforms, we see an order of service that resulted from entirely different ideas and objectives than our reforms, ideas and objectives which in fact are contradictory to ours and reject their entire basis, ours seeking to retain the usual ceremonies except where contraindicated by the Gospel, theirs seeking to replace the usual ceremonies with new ones based on the concepts of Nouvelle Theologie. The fruit of their effort has nothing to contribute to ours, and, in seeking to "Lutheranise" this manner of worship we are no less attempting to make Lutheran a kind of worship based on a kind of belief that is not ours, attempting to make a lex orandi from something based on a lex credendi that is not ours, than those who go to Willow Creek et al seek to "Lutheranise" a content and a lex orandi also derived from a belief and a lex credendi that is not ours. If the latter has become popular and in many eyes not only permissible but desirable, why should that surprise us when we have done the same thing in the former?

Concilium, Communio, Nowayio!

Textual Note: This is a revision of my post "On being catholic, on being Catholic" from 18 March 2009. Understanding the nature of the two seemed more urgent than ever on this anniversary of the presentation of our most fundamental confession.

12 June 2009

The Summer of '69. And '84 and '09.

Summer 2009 marks the 40th and 25th anniversaries of probably the two most pivotal Summers of my life.

It has nothing to with six strings, Bryan Adams or rock music, none of which is particularly appealing to me. In the Summer of 1969, two big events happened in my life. About a month at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, and about two months in Europe.

No, I was not a scientist at the level of ORINS; my dad was, and mom and I tagged along. It was an eye-opener indeed to see you could be elsewhere in the United States and yet be in a rather different kind of place that I knew growing up in Minnesota. It was my first extended time in a culture different than, and at least at that time to some extent foreign to, a culture and environment I knew.

But way more than that, it was the exposure to the level of scientific thought going on there. The absolute high point of that was a lecture by the director of ORINS, William Grosvenor Pollard, a physicist who was also an Episcopal priest (which did not call to mind then quite what it does now).

It seemed to me the lecture was about nothing. Literally. Not a lecture that had no particular topic or point or content, a lecture about nothing, that in looking at the coming into being of the universe we don't really get that nothing is not something that is empty, it is nothing.

We think of nothing as emptiness, or more formally the Empty Set, the set with no members in it, but that too is something. If something, even something that is empty, is not eternal but began, then what came "before" it and may "exist" outside of it is literally nothing, not emptiness, nothing, out of which nothing in the usual sense of an empty something comes to be. And since it is outside any frame of reference we have, being part of the something that has come to be, being members of a set that is not empty, we have no terms to describe it, can therefore barely grasp it and usually confuse it with emptiness.

And yet, Christian faith speaks of an existence outside of the universe. Distinct from the totality of the universe, not identified with any part of the universe. The gods of the world identify god with one or another or all, either collectively or as a whole, of the forces and powers in the universe, but the Bible speaks of a god apart from any and all of that, on top of which calls and wills all of that into existence. A Creator. The universe is then a creation, and the being outside of it creates even the nothing from which the something we experience and are a part of is created.

This takes the mind around the block. But once outside the confines of the terms of the existence we experience, the slight glimpse afforded into the God beyond it is overwhelming. The revelation of Genesis stood out in absolute distinction from human mythology -- no theogony here, no evolution of the gods or God, no primal chaos, but God himself, so fundamental a fact that it is not proven because proof no less than mythology falls short of that which simply is, and is revealed to us.

God is not the universe or anything in it or anything in the heart and mind of that aspect of the universe that is us, Man. All that is overthrown by the revelation of God, whose overwhelming greatness we yet barely grasp at the frontiers of human knowledge. Genesis reveals:

1) a God who is the Creator of the universe, which universe then as a whole and in its parts is not god but a creation of God, who having no dawn will have no twilight either;
2) that Man is the goal of the universe, which universe is not simply then a process without meaning except that with which we invest it, and Man as that goal of Creation shares an image of the God who created everything;
3) that Creation is fundamentally good, a goodness which is from and of God, so much so that when Man ruins it by turning from God to his own will, God promises a deliverance from that state;
4) that the Sabbath is not simply a day off but a demarcation of work from the essence of Man, which is to rest in the Creator who is the source of all, a breaking forth into this life and time of the eternal Sabbath which is the company of God and now of his creation too.

Next to this stunning revelation of God, dragging it back into the confines of the thought of fallen Man by such things as whether "day" means a set of 24 earth hours or not is the real anthropomorphism. Dr Pollard's lecture was indeed a "journey through a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind", "between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge", but the signpost up ahead was not that our next stop was a twilight zone but the God who began to reveal himself in Genesis, and who after in the past speaking to us in various times and ways through the prophets has now spoken to us in His Son, drawing all men and all creation unto himself toward the great Omega point of convergence in the Sabbath rest of God, the Alpha and the Omega, an expression of totality, who created an Alpha Point so that there would be an Omega Point to include us and all creation in the joy of fellowship with God. A love unfolding.

Following that was my experience of other parts of that Creation, namely, Ireland, England, Holland, Germany (West Germany at the time), Austria, Italy, France and Spain. At the time I had no idea that my ancestors came from England, and I was grateful too that growing up in Minnesota and being in the process of being educated by a bunch of German descended Benedictines I was able to enjoy this time and these places on their terms rather than force it into mine. A turn of mind that has stayed with me, though these days my "travels" are via the Internet.

Fifteen years later another pivotal event would happen. That was when, having come to Nebraska, a place about which I previously "knew" only three things, that it had a one-house or unicameral legislature, that there was a club in Lincoln called The Zoo which often features Blues, and that there appeared to be so little else that they actually went on about college football after Saturday, I found it actually a rather nice place to be, and when I became the then newest victim of university politics, decided to stay and seek a new life and career in this new place.

Twenty five years later I am still doing that, in a series of situations absolutely unknown and unthought by me at the time. And in the course of that, this God who not only broke into our existence but created it in the first place broke into mine with the Gospel, the word rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered and the grace to believe it and I became what is called a "Lutheran".

And I experienced a miracle -- no, not becoming part of Husker Nation though that happened at the Homecoming game in 1983, but that into this shaken reed blown and tossed by every wind, the Holy Spirit could breathe and create a faith that would not be shaken even by being thrown into widowerhood and single parenthood. Gott sei dank!

01 June 2009

A Survivor To Remember, Titanic Update.

A little over a month ago, this blog posted a couple of times about Millvina Dean, the last living survivor of the Titanic, who was facing a financial crisis about nursing home costs and selling her remaining memorabilia from the sinking to cover it.

Like so many others, her retirement and health care expense problems are over now, but not this side of the grave.

In April 2009, in response to her plight, three Titanic societies, the Belfast, British and International, set up The Millvina Fund to help with her expenses. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the leading stars of the movie Titanic, James Cameron its director, and Celine Dion who sang its hit theme song, each donated $10K, in response to a challenge from Irish author Don Mullan who had sold an edition of special photography of her for the Fund.

At Mullan's suggestion, remaining funds will be donated 80% to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which operates lifeboat and lifeguard stations on the coasts of the British isles with an average of 22 people saved every day, and 20% for care of the graves of the victims of the sinking.

Millvina Dean passed away 0800 on 31 May 2009.

The hull of the Titanic was launched 31 May 1911.