Introduction And Warm Up Act.
OK, right off the bat: The title of this post is a parody of Bertrand Russell's essay "Why I Am Not A Christian", published in 1927 with related essays in a book of the same name. My fondness for irony and parody in writing -- no doubt derived from quotation technique in Jazz improvisation, and bolstered by the sheer fun of it all in the writing style of Friedrich Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading -- sometimes leads those under the influence of stultified studies from tedious teachers who have made prose, well, prosaic, to misunderstand prose that is not "prosaic".
I also think the writers for Bugs Bunny were absolute geniuses, and my first Victor Borge concert changed my life, or at least my piano playing. Call it Borge blogging.
Perhaps I will expand on all that in a future post, possibly titled "Why I Post Such Good Posts". Oh Judas in the scriptorum, there is is again -- a parody of a section title from Nietzsche's Ecce Homo called "Why I Write Such Good Books", the irony being that such a post would not be on why I think my posts are good.
But now to the present matter. The reason for the Russell parody in the title of this post is that, among a good many of those with whom I agree on pretty much everything else about what we unfortunately have to call these days "confessional Lutheranism" to distinguish it from the non-Lutheran Lutheranisms that abound, not using Treasury of Daily Prayer (TDP) and/or Lutheran Service Book (LSB), while it may not call into question one's Christianity, does call into question one's grounding in confessional Lutheranism, particularly as these two books are often rallying points for the cause of confessional Lutheranism. Blows your street cred.
Damn, there it is again -- a long convoluted sentence in standard English followed by a short one in colloquial English; fun to write, I do it a lot. Also longer paragraphs in standard English followed by short ones in colloquial English, which this will no longer be if I don't stop now. But I digress. Now I continue.
What is "Vatican II For Lutherans"?
Why I am not a TDP or LSB user is summed up in the phrase I use a lot "Vatican II For Lutherans". What it is that is summed up in the phrase has not always come across on the blogs. Here is what it does not mean: the Divine Service and the Divine Office as found in LSB and TDP are just rehashes of the novus ordo that came out of Vatican II.
Now, some, not all, some of it in fact is. There is a lectionary and church year calendar in LSB and calendar in TDP that derive from, and would not exist without, the three-year lectionary and revised church calendar of the novus ordo of Vatican II. Vatican II For Lutherans, regarding the lectionary, took the following path: it begins with the Ordo lectionem missae of Vatican II produced in 1969 and taking effect in 1970, then in 1983 several groups of non-Catholic churches and the RCC itself produced the Revised Common Lectionary, which after a trial period was published in 1994, which in turn has been slightly modified by many churches for their particular use, including our beloved synod the LCMS.
Well Judas H Priest on a committee, what's so wrong with that? Ain't no lectionaries and church year calendars in Scripture! We're free! Just give me Jesus, man, and don't trample on my Christian Freedom with all this crap. Now, if you're revving up for a less colloquial audience, you will want to change "crap" to "adiaphora" to refer to non-essentials it's best not to get all that caught up in lest you lose sight of the essentials -- "indifferent things" literally from the Greek.
The Original Adiaphora.
Here's what's wrong with that. For starters, "adiaphora" is not Greek for "doesn't matter" or "who cares". It actually isn't even a Christian concept. It comes from the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece. "Stoic" itself has come to mean "indifferent" in popular usage, but that isn't what either stoic or indifferent is at all. The Stoics' main concern was how to live so that your inner life is not dictated by what happens to you in the external world. They saw the world as a matter of reason, physics and ethics. These were the main things in life. They saw the study of them as the way to avoid the errors in reason which lead to disruptive and destructive emotions that make you miserable over what happens in life when in fact it may only be what you think is happening in life.
This is not anti-emotion; rather, it was to free one from destructive emotions based on incorrect judgements so one could enjoy emotions associated with well-being and peace of mind having corrected one's judgements by reason and brought them into alignment with reality, the totality of which is God.
Man, even the word for peace of mind has gotten all twisted around on this "indifferent" thing. The word for peace of mind was apatheia, yup, the ancestor of our word "apathy" and didn't mean apathy in our sense at all, but rather being free of pathos (plural pathe), the destructive emotions resulting from incorrect perceptions, and also propathos or pure instinctual reactions, to enjoy the eupathos (plural eupatheia) emotions that come from perceptions that align with reality. A-pathetic is not indifference but being free of destructive emotions whose opposite is eu-pathetic or constructive emotions.
So what was adiaphora? Those things that are not part of reason, physics and ethics and are not in and of themselves destructive or constructive but could go either way depending on how you're doing with what is part of reason, physics and ethics in getting free of pathos and enjoying eupathos -- like getting rich, neither good nor bad in itself, but can go bad in a person who is, well, pathetic, literally, or go for good in a person who is a-pathetic in the literal sense above.
How The Idea of Christian Adiaphora Started.
It's easy to see how all this could be used by Christians. The term "logos" itself is the biggest thing, starting from Heraclitus (whom Nietzsche btw regarded as the only philosopher worth reading) who used it to denote the fundamental order of the universe, then became the root of our word logic as the idea of rational speaking in the Sophists and Aristotle, but with the Stoics became the divine that is immanent, present throughout the whole universe, which Philo took into Jewish thought, then become theos, God, himself and Jesus as the Word (logos) of God in St John and early Christian apologists.
Both Stoicism and Christianity too emphasised a progress from the passions of the world to something clouded by those passions (God as creator and an afterlife though not being Stoic ideas, lest it be thought I am saying Christianity is just Stoicism with Jesus; for that matter the logos thing does not mean that either, Arius getting carried away with the idea that it did and the church had to define how it didn't at Nicea).
Christian concern about adiaphora is often held to begin with St Paul's answer in First Corinthians chapter 8 to the question of whether one can or cannot eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. However, in that passage, while stating that one is no better or worse for eating or not eating such meat per se, he is far from saying "doesn't matter" or "who cares" but also states that those who eat it do not use their freedom to do so in a way that becomes a problem for others who do not eat it. It does matter, we are to care, and the criterion is not that eating or not eating is forbidden or commanded, but what we Lutherans typically call good order in the church.
This whole adiaphora thing really got rolling with the Reformation. Poor old Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was originally presented, tried to keep the same lid over both Lutherans and Protestants by a series of measures, the first being the Augsburg Interim -- the "interim" being until a church council could be called to settle the matters -- which allowed for priests to marry and Communion to be given in both kinds (being bread AND the fruit of the vine, not just bread) but otherwise restoring Roman practice. Since that compromises the justification by faith alone thing, although Melancthon was willing to go along with it pretty much everybody else wasn't, unwilling to compromise an essential, THE essential, teaching for a therefore false unity. That lead to the Leipzig Interim, which Melancthon also pursued, wherein Lutheran churches could hold their beliefs but would hold the Roman line in worship, which ticked everybody Catholic and Lutheran alike right off, Catholics seeing the measure as usurping the church's authority and Lutherans split between those who supported it (the Phillipists, after Melancthon's first name) and the "real Lutherans" (Gnesio-Lutherans) who didn't, the whole thing resulting in a war whose conclusion was the principle cuius regio eius religio, whose the rule his the religion, meaning the local ruler decided what was to be followed, and Lutherans resolving it among themselves with the "second Martin", Chemnitz, in the Formula of Concord of 1577, wherein the adiaphora were identified as things like church ritual, which is neither commanded not forbidden in Scripture, but again not in a "doesn't matter" or "who cares" sense but as distinguished from the doctrine of justification by faith alone which we believe IS laid down by Scripture.
So, if we think this adiaphora worship wars stuff is bad now, well, it is but it's been a hell of a lot worse.
Didn't This Post Start Out To Be About Why I Don't Use TDP or LSB?
The only reason I bring all this old stuff is the only reason I ever bring up old stuff -- not for its own sake but for the contribution it makes to understanding what we are even talking about, where we are and how we got there, toward where we ought to go. To me, the old stuff has no other "sake" than that, which is a huge one.
There is something common to all these uses of adiaphora, whether it's the Stoics concerned about reason, physics and logic, the first Christians trying to explain, to themselves as well as others, who and what Jesus is, or the Reformation trying to explain what exactly needs to be reformed and who is going to do it. The story of all of these I bring up here to illustrate that adiaphora is not a matter of who cares or doesn't matter. Be it the example of getting rich with the Stoics, eating meat sacrificed to idols with St Paul, or church rites in the Reformation, these are things that can go either way, for good or bad, not essentials in themselves but completely dependent as to whether they go good or bad on the essentials, and if they go bad are a source of great harm to those essentials, therefore, they are hardly, though not essential, a who cares or doesn't matter kind of thing. In that sense, there are no "indifferent" things.
Neither Commanded Nor Forbidden in Scripture.
This phrase does not mean, for Lutherans anyway and we're the ones who wrote it, "if it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it". It also doesn't mean, as adiaphora never has since well before we took up the term, "who cares" or "it doesn't matter". It relates to things that can go either way, good or bad, therefore they do matter and we must care.
Our Lutheran principle is, if it contradicts Scripture we ain't doing it. Being commanded or forbidden in Scripture is not the only source of a good idea, it is rather the only source of a good idea that is divine. The care and concern that we take about ideas that are not divine is entirely based on their effect of being for good or bad on the ideas that are divine. And this care and concern, as we said before, we typically call good order in the church.
This whole business about rites and ceremonies in the church is all about that. God commanded in the Law rites and ceremonies in the Temple. He hasn't commanded bupkis about rites and ceremonies since. But he does command care and concern for our fellows, he does speak against doing things that may be OK in and of themselves but are not helpful to the common good, good order in the church, the touchstone always being what he has commanded or forbidden.
So in and of itself, there is no rite, lectionary or calendar that is essential and any number of them that are legitimately possible. The thing is, that does not mean any rite, lectionary or calendar is fine, nor that any possible one is a good idea or even OK. For about 1500 years, three fourths of its elapsed history to date, the Western church has used a lectionary and calendar that goes back to the influence of St Jerome, a rite for the Divine Service that goes back to the influence of St Gregory, and an order for the Divine Office that goes back to St Benedict, not once delivered unchangeable for all time, but in a continuous and organic development over many places and times with many variations. The Eastern church has a similar story.
The point of all of it being good order in the church. Yet what do we see to-day?
Good Order In The Church.
Well, the Eastern church didn't have Vatican II so there we see about the same. But in the West, and for us Lutherans, completely at odds with the idea stated in our confessions of for the most part retaining the ceremonies previously in use simply reformed to exclude what contradicts the Gospel, we see nearly everywhere a lectionary and calendar derived from the model of 1960s Rome, and an approach to service books derived from the model of 1960s Rome as well.
What happened here? Was there no Reformation? Does Rome still really run things just a little less forcibly than before?
What did our Lutheran fathers do? Ride out the "interim", then when Rome sought to put some order to things at Trent say "Well there you go, now let's get a commission going to implement this ourselves"? No, and in the words of the great theologian Chris Rock, Hell No. They stuck by our aim of preserving and defending the liturgy, by continuing the ceremonies previously in use corrected not by the overall liturgical agenda of some movement but simply to remove what contradicts the Gospel. This is why we could continue to benefit from Luther's sermons and liturgical writings, all of them from before Trent, and why we could benefit from centuries of others' sermons and liturgical writings since.
So why would one break from that and start a completely new thing? Actually we could end the post right here, with the answer that there is no answer, there is no reason to break with that and start a completely new thing, and continue with what the church has continued with for centuries heading to millennia. Except we didn't do that; something else already happened.
What Happened Instead.
Sometimes it's all laid up to Dom Prosper Gueranger, OSB, (1805 - 1875) who founded Solesmes Abbey and worked long and hard to bring a participation with understanding of the liturgy to ordinary people. Well hell, all the revisionists say that, and thereby try to justify themselves in doing things Dom Prosper of blessed memory never ever had in mind. Such as a complete revision of the liturgy offering all kinds of options. He in fact promoted the popular use of Gregorian Chant, and as to reform, proposed little by way of change and worked to reforming people rather than the liturgy.
The so-called Liturgical Movement took it much further. While it began within the Roman church, it became involved with the Ecumenical Movement, and not incidentally, the historical-critical method of Biblical criticism. The so-called "Higher Criticism" originally meant the work of scholars at the University of Tuebingen. Well guess who was one of the early ones involved in that -- Phillip Melancthon! The movement took shape with Ferdinand Christian Baur, morphed into a general approach to Scripture as maybe the revealed word of God but also a human document capable of being studied like other human documents, began at this same time to have followers offering a radically different view of Jesus and the New Testament, particularly David Strauss (1808 - 1874) in The Life of Jesus (1846) and Ludwig Feuerbach (1804 = 1872) in The Essence of Christianity (1854) then Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus (1863). Tuebingen continues to this day to have notable alumni, for example Hans Kueng and Joseph Ratzinger, the latter operating these days under the name Pope Benedict XVI.
All of these movements, while distinct, share characteristics typical of the age, whose proponents two centuries later still think are cutting edge. And that is, that much if not most of what we have thought before about Christianity, and the divisions over it in the Reformation, were essentially products of ignorance from which we can now emerge with the discovery of sources lost to previous ages and methodology inspired by the Enlightenment and Rationalism to evaluate them. Thus, in doctrine maybe Scripture doesn't say what we thought it said, in ecclesiology, maybe church isn't exactly what either Catholics or Protestants have thought, and in liturgy, maybe our worship is much farther from the worship of the apostolic age than either Catholics or Protestants have thought. Thus began the impetus to change doctrine or resist change, change church structures or resist change, and change liturgy or resist change.
And that's where we are right now, still working all of this stuff out.
Here's The Problem.
At Trent, the Roman church sought to end the problem, end the "interim" with the appropriate council, in liturgy revising the Roman liturgy to both provide a single use throughout the church ending the confusion of variations all over the place, and at the same time preserve the liturgy from the doctrinal errors of the reformers, by restoring the liturgy to the original form and essence of the apostles and the early "Fathers". Thus the Roman Missal of Pope Paul V in 1570 (the Roman church officially names liturgy by the name and date of the pope who authorised it).
The Mass of Pope Paul V of 1570 did not, any more than any of the others, stay once delivered and never changed. It was revised just 34 years later by Pope Clement VIII, and 30 years after that by Pope Urban VIII, on through to my own lifetime, in 1955 Pope Pius XII making extensive changes to the liturgy for Holy Week, and finally by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
"Finally" because at Vatican II something altogether different was done. From a confluence of trends from the Liturgical Movement, the Ecumenical Movement and the Higher Critical Movement discussed above, it seemed the Paul V liturgy, also called the Tridentine Rite, could not due to the limitations of its time fulfill its own goals of restoring worship to the form and nature of the Apostles and the Fathers, and an entirely new order, not a revision of the existing order, was constructed -- new Mass, or rather Masses, new calendar, new lectionary, the works.
Well Judas H Priest on a committee, what's so wrong with that?
Yeah I know, we asked that way back up there somewhere. Then we said "For starters". It's just my way of saying by parallel construction that we're now ready for the enders, so to speak.
You know, a guy could look at all this and say hey, liturgy is a pretty broad term for something that has changed and changed again at various hands for centuries and centuries, so the changes at our hands in our time simply take their place in that unfolding story. After all, there's no revealed liturgy, and as long as it's grounded in Jesus and Scripture, it's OK.
That would be so nice. But it would ignore some huge, essential things.
1. Adiaphora, from the Stoics to the 21st Century LCMS, are not matters of indifference in the sense of "who cares" or "doesn't matter", but in fact, precisely because they are neither good nor bad in themselves, neither commanded nor forbidden, can, and WILL, go either way, and therefore require serious attention for the sake of good order in the church, the building up of the brethren and the spreading of the message, which IS something commanded in Scripture and therefore good in itself.
2. What was the liturgical aim of the Lutheran Reformers? To restore the liturgy to the form and nature of the Apostles and the Fathers? No, that was Trent, not us. To restore the liturgy to the form and intent of the Apostles and the Fathers, crafting a new whole with tools they did not have and therefore produced faulty restorations of the form and intent of the Apostles and Fathers which if retained at all can be at most alongside our new whole? No, that was Vatican II, not us. Our aim, stated in our Confessions, was to invent no new liturgy any more than to invent a new Christianity, but conserve, zealously guard and defend, the ceremonies previously in use, pruning only by the criterion of whether something contradicts the Gospel, faithful to the tradition handed on in the actual experience of the church and not to some imagined lost ideal. That is an entirely different agenda. There is no point in a Lutheran version of a non-Lutheran agenda. Actually, there can't even be such a thing, try as we may to produce one.
3. Not only that, the "reforms" of Vatican II were a conscious and intended break with the past. Was this the liturgical aim of the Lutheran Reformers? No. They wanted to correct the abuses of the past, and in doing so demonstrate our continuity with the past, that in this aspect too we are not some new idea or church but the same one. Dropping a centuries long development with an associated centuries long preaching tradition does not demonstrate continuity with that. Rather, it expresses, intended or not, continuity with the heterodox churches doing this Vatican II style thing in our time in line with the various modern movements (Liturgical, Ecumenical, Higher Critical) discussed above.
4. Having done that, though, can we not use both it and what came before, having the best of the new and the old, and in line with our belief that rites and ceremonies need not be the same everywhere? Well, before even getting to that, as stated in Points Two and Three the "new" is not in line with the aim of the Lutheran reformers, so there is no "best" to be desired. But if one were to proceed anyway, what is the result? That rites and ceremonies need not be the same everywhere for one thing primarily addresses the legitimacy of our efforts to reform liturgy apart from the supposed authority of Rome, and for another, consistency at least within a given area was desired, for the sake of the good order stated in Point One. A situation where in one parish it's this calendar but in another it's that calendar, here this Divine Service "setting" there that Divine Service "setting", here these readings and there those readings, etc, all drawn from between the covers of the same book, in no way corresponds to the varied development of liturgy over time and place; rather, it simply reflects the judgement of whoever determined what goes between the two covers, and mistakes variety over time and place for variety within a given time and place. Which is why the historic liturgies, say those associated with St Gregory in the West or St John Chrysostom in the East, evidence nothing of "Way To Pronounce Absolution A, Way To Pronounce Absolution B; Gloria but here's something else you can do too; here's this "setting" but here's some others too; here's a cycle of Scripture readings but here's another one too; here's a calendar of observances but here's another one too" etc, on through our relatively late The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941. The modern ones, including ours, do, Vatican II style.
5. And once that happens, or rather, since that has happened, it only invites endless discussion of that judgement. The covers of such a book settle nothing, can settle nothing, about the "worship wars" since the covers themselves do not uphold the historic liturgy but are limits imposed on "what else too", leaving the judgement as to what else too forever open to question -- since we look East, or to Rome, or cut and paste from this or that past order like kids playing mix and match dress-up in their parents' closets, why not look to Willow Creek or other places drawing good numbers to services too? And why would they not ask that question: we now already have "contemporary worship" that places liturgy that proceeds from an agenda different than ours alongside our historic worship, that tries to supply a Lutheran content to a non-Lutheran agenda, and with that, it is no longer the zealous guarding and defending of the mass of our Confessions but simply a competition among various ideas of what "contemporary worship" will be allowed too, with LSB and TDP, despite the best intentions, being part of the problem they seek to address.
And that is why I am not a TDP or LSB user.
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