Friday, December 21, 2007

Could Past Elder be the Anti-Christ?

Well, I bet that got the attention of at least one reader of this blog...

Seriously, Past Elder--a welcome guest of this blog for the past two years--is really beginning to drive me nuts. And I know I am not the only one. Try as I might, I have not been able to make sense of where he is coming from (or going to, for that matter). Lucian makes more sense in his less sane moments than Past Elder does in his most lucid.

Here is his comment in answer to a query from Joshua in one of the com-boxes below:
Hi Joshua! I take no offence at all that you do not find my actual position in my comment. It isn't there. I do not come here to advocate for my actual position, I come here to advocate for my former position, Roman Catholicism, which is an entirely different thing than what travels under the name now. [You've got to follow him on this one--it is crucial to coming to grips with PE's discourse]

And there is nothing to be forgiven in your questions; I'm happy to address them. I am not now nor have I ever been associated with SSPX. I am a member of a parish of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I came to that last year after professing confessional Lutheranism in the Wisconsin Synod, and having served as an elder there, hence my posting name. [PE's real name is Terry. (HT to Christine).]

I did not convert from Catholicism to Lutheranism. There was 23 years between leaving the former and converting to the latter, for most of which Lutheranism struck me as a well-intended but misguided effort to be Catholic without being Catholic. [Which sounds about right to me.]

I left the Roman Catholic Church because it became impossible to deny any longer that what it preached since Vatican II was no longer the Catholic Faith [a double negative there--he means that it was impossible to maintain any longer that what it preached was the Catholic faith; I guess I would ask whose preaching is he talking about?]; I left the Roman Catholic faith because if it were the true faith this could not have happened [Ah--I think there is a point here that we could engage], and, despite many efforts to convince myself otherwise over those 23 years, each time I came away clearer than before that it had.

I would not know of this blog except that its author from time to time visits one of the Lutheran blogs I visit regularly. Some months back, I made a point on that blog to clarify a matter of Catholic theology [this is why PE sometimes sounds as if he is still Catholic]. When I do that, I always add a caveat that this may no longer be the position of the RCC, since nearly everything they taught me has been stood on its head [cheap shot; it is a simple matter to determine what the Catholic Church teaches--that's what the Catechism is for]. Our host appeared and verified what I said as valid [by which he seems to mean that I recognised whatever argument he happened to have been making at that point as the true Catholic faith both before and after Vatican II], and in turn I checked out his blog, and it turned out he had been a Lutheran pastor who converted to the post-conciliar church.

While I can understand the desire of a Lutheran for there to be something like the RCC holds itself to be, it is a flight into the absurd to think the RCC now is that church, or even to think it is any longer the RCC. [Now if you can follow that statement, you are doing really well. He seems to be saying: It is understandable that a Lutheran might desire the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to exist as a visible society upon the earth, but it is a flight of fancy to think that the institution which calls itself the Catholic Church is actually that church, and anyone who thinks it is is deluded, including the Lutheran who converted to it.]

At least Lutherans who convert to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, but to get the pious fraud that is the RCC is really tragic. [Do I understand him rightly? Is he saying that those who convert to Orthodoxy because they want to be in full communion with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church on earth and in heaven actually DO get what they were seeking when they become Orthodox? That would raise the question of why PE does not become Orthodox?].

Ironically, these conversions themselves reinforce my point: they would not have happened to the RCC that once existed [so I would not have become Catholic if it wasn't for Vatican II?], and these converts do not sound anything like converts did [Is this a case of "They don't make 'em like they used to"?], which fits since what they have found is neither the RCC nor Roman Catholicism [Neither the "Roman Catholic Church" nor "Roman Catholicism"? He's really lost me there. Its like saying an strawberry isn't a strawberry because it doesn't taste as good as I remember it tasting when I was a kid. No, its more than that, he is actually saying that strawberries--real ones--don't even exist anymore and anyone who thinks they may be eating them is deluded. And even worse, strawberries never in fact ever existed, because if they did, they wouldn't have let themselves go downhill to the point of tastelessness that they have now achieved.].
He went on then to have a go at poor old Christine, who knows enough of both Catholicism and Lutheranism to have a valid opinion on this matter:
Christine, for God's sake ...Say the First Mass of Christmas at midnight or any time you wish, it will remain what any Mass of the novus ordo is -- a rejection of the Catholic Mass, to assist at which is for a person who believes the Catholic faith a venial sin [Do you get his sleight of hand there? It would be a venial sin, if the Catholic ideas about venial sin were true, which it isn't, because the Catholic Church and its mass are not the Catholic Church and its mass, which doesn't matter anyway, because... Oh, I give up. He goes on:].

Now: my "actual" position, what I believe now. I will step out of my usual role and say it -- what a person occupying an office bearing the marks of Anti-Christ does for the Nativity of Jesus is beyond irrelevant to the faith of Christ or his Church, which is the best possible construction to put on it. ["The best construction"? Is that what Luther meant when he used that expression in his catechism for the 8th Commandment? That the Catholic Church and its pope are "Anti-Christ"? I know Luther believed that of Alexander VI and Leo X, but Pope Benedict? Pope John Paul II? Pope Paul VI? I could keep going back, but these are guys who have proclaimed Christ and his gospel more clearly and to more people than any other human beings upon earth. Not even the Lutheran Church of Australia maintains any longer that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Does Missouri? If it does, then what Richard John Neuhaus quotes Pastor John Hannah as saying is really true: LCMS is a fundamentalist sect.]
Over time, I have read some really good fictional characterisations of the devil doing his temptation thing on Eve-like characters. Anne Rice's "Memnoch the Devil" comes to mind, as does C.S. Lewis's "Perelandra" (Philip Pullmann is his own fictional tempter). But there are times when Past Elder takes the cake for torturous, convoluted, circular, and finally incomprehensible reasoning that has just enough ring of truth about it to convince the wavering. But I will say this, like Old Nick himself, he is consistent and persistent.

None of this is intended as abuse, PE, and I hope that this will not stop you from visiting this blog, but I do plead with you for once to make your reason for not being Catholic perfectly clear. You have stated it many times, but something is missing in the logic of your argument. Let me see if I have it clear:

1) I used to be a Roman Catholic.
2) I believed what my Roman Catholic teachers taught me to believe.
3) After the Council my Roman Catholic teachers were teaching me to believe things that sounded like the complete opposite of what I had been taught before the Council.
4) I thoroughly investigated it for myself, and realised that it wasn't just my teachers but the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which had done a complete reversal.
5) I therefore concluded that the institution calling itself the "Catholic Church" wasn't "the Catholic Church" because it wasn't the Church I knew before the Council
6) I was taught that the teachings of the true Catholic Church could never change.
7) The teachings of the institution calling itself the Catholic Church had changed, therefore it was not the Catholic Church now.
8) Nor had it ever been the Catholic Church, for if it had been, its teachings would not have changed.
9) So I left the insitution called the Catholic Church.
10) 23 Years later I became a member of the Lutheran Church - Wisconsin Synod.
11) They were wrong too, so I became a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which is the true Church because it holds to the Lutheran Confessions which are true.
Now, forgive me, but I think there are a few links missing in the chain of logic there.

First: What are the particular instances that convinced you that in fact the teaching of the Catholic Church had changed in such a way as to negate what it had taught prior to the Council? (I assume you do not reject the possibility of any change at all in the teaching of the Church?)

Second: Do you believe that the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church exists and if so what do you understand it to be?

Third: Why do you assume that just because there exist in its midst wicked and evil people who distort the teachings of the Church that the Catholic church cannot be what she claims to be?

Fourth: Does not the Church affirm that she is "ecclesia semper purificanda"? Or, in Lutheran parlance, "semper reformanda"? Therefore, far from being the occassion for denying the ecclesiological verity of the Church (something not even Luther did), are not abuses in the Church something we should work actively to correct, rather than reject the Church herself?

Fifth: By what logic have you adopted Lutheranism, and why does Lutheranism seem to answer your questions in a way that Catholicism does not?

Sixth: Has not the teaching and practice of the Lutheran Church changed over time? Does this not, by your reasoning, invalidate it?

Seventh: If those converting to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, and those converting to Lutheranism get Lutheranism (as long as they join the LCMS), is the purpose of converting to get the kind of Church you personally would like be in or is the purpose to find the true Church and seek communion with her?

Go, on, PE, you old devil. Tempt me with an answer to these questions.


At Saturday, December 22, 2007 12:01:00 am , Blogger Jeff Tan said...

Yes.. that was dizzying.. I do have one point to share, though.

In my discussions with some former Catholics who became Evangelical or Lutheran, I am often puzzled when they point out errors which I agree with, but which I did not find taught nor practiced in my parish, e.g., that we are discouraged from reading the Bible except very recently. We grew up with two Bibles at our Catholic home.

I also commiserate with those who grew angry at the liturgical abuses they found in their parishes, perhaps shortly after Vatical II. And certainly the innovators seem open to declaring that they trace their creativity to "the spirit" of Vatican II. But I likewise am puzzled because I did not personally experience such abuses except once (in Hawthorn, I think). We did not have those abuses in the various parishes I'd been part of within my first 29 years (in the Philippines; I count seven different parishes). Nor did I encounter them (by luck!) in the last 8 years since I've moved to Melbourne (six different parishes).

My one and only point is that Pastor Elder's experience with the post-Vatican II Church, while hardly isolated (sad to say), do not reflect the life of the Catholic Church in her entirety today.

Actually I had a second point after all: is Pastor Elder seeking the Church as the one that is the same yesterday, today and forever, even as Christ is the same for eternity? It is not a bad goal, but I'm afraid there's be a few surprises along the way. Apart from possibly having to reconsider the Roman Catholic Church once more sometime in the future, it might also shock him to find out that the Church was never missing in the first place. Quite a few things did indeed go wrong after Vatican II (but moreso in western countries who embraced the 60s and 70s), but one must remember that God is much more faithful and loyal than we ever could be.

At Saturday, December 22, 2007 1:13:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I agree with you totally David and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.

Past Elder may have the "mechanics" of his new Lutheran identity down but he still doesn't have the ethos.

Past Elder still writes as an academic whereas being Lutheran, while certainly involving doctrinal integrity is also very much an affair of the heart. PE, if you are reading this, your long, windy posts are just too much to digest sometimes. This blog doesn't revolve, it seems to me, around your academic history.

If you are really, really rooted and happy in your identity as a Lutheran you need to let go of that baggage of hostility you still carry towards the Catholic Church, especially on this blog, whose committed Catholics (including myself) are just not persuaded. Not to mention that you keep repeating yourself on the same old issues.

I was addressing YOUR comment about the "pastoral" reasons your encountered in Masses that were held at 10:30 instead of midnight. You turn that instantly into a sarcastic rant about the Mass itself.

And please, one last thing. Don't insult me by continuing to lecture me about what Catholicism is and isn't. Unlike you, I had the privilege and benefit of growing up in a Lutheran/Catholic home and I was given the best of both. When my Dad took me to Mass it was the Tridentine Rite and I know what it is. I grew up in Bavaria (Lord, I'm beginning to repeat myself just like Terry does) and was surrounded spiritually and culturally with a Catholic ethos. We didn't know the "separation" of the two that the U.S. has.

Until you develop a more peaceful demeanor you'll never convince me that you've becoming authentically "catholic" as a Lutheran.

David, we'll just offer it up. I ask the Lord every day to bless whatever trials I may undergo. He graciously continues to answer that one in [some] of the people I encounter on this blog (let the reader understand).

At Saturday, December 22, 2007 8:03:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...


I will be with you and your loved ones in spirit around the manger of the Holy Child.

Wishing you and all of Christ's people a most joyful Feast of the Nativity!

At Saturday, December 22, 2007 10:46:00 am , Blogger Joshua said...

I seem to have stirred everyone up with my little question!

But seriously, there is a very big issue here, that many Catholics don't recognize. After Vatican II, with all the changes, both approved and unauthorized, both successful and disastrous, both doctrinally correct and incorrect (the unofficial ones), MANY Catholics reasoned as did PE, and left and gave up.

For instance, changes to the Mass certainly preserved its substance, but its outward appearance has changed enormously, and many abuses have crept in that would never have been tolerated in the past. Authorized changes, such as communion in the hand, etc., have also been occasions of scandal to people.

They had had drummed into them the infallibility and changelessness of the Church (true enough), and when faced with apparent and real changes they reasoned that what they had been taught could not have been true, and so they rejected the Faith, not without immense suffering and anguish.

I mainly attend the Traditional Latin Mass (aka the Extraordinary Form). People outside of those who go to this have no idea of the suffering and trials that faithful priests and laity have had since 1969 in getting to have what Benedict XVI has declared openly was NEVER suppressed.

It must be candidly recognized that priests and people living all sorts of scandalous lives have generally been treated with kid gloves in the last 40 years, whereas priests and people wanting what is rightful have often been victims of appalling injustice.

While the Trad. Mass certainly appeals to the young (e.g. me and my friends), it also has a valuable role in giving a safe place to those who have been through trials to their Faith by being scandalized by all the changes, real and apparent, good and bad, official and unofficial, authorized and unauthorized.

At base the Faith and the Church have not changed (we must apply the hermeneutic of continuity), but frankly too many priests and laity believe that both have, delight in this, reject what went before, and agitate for more change (the hermeneutic of discontinuity), and have little charity for those who want to keep the Faith.

As a certain priest taught me to say, I accept Vatican II - but then I accept all the Ecumenical Councils.

At Saturday, December 22, 2007 12:05:00 pm , Anonymous Lucian said...

By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:16, 20; 12:33; Luke 6:44).

Or, to put it in Latin: Res ipsa loquitur.

Or, to quote Dark-Vader: Resistance is futile.

As You Yourself had quoted above: [The] Truth [of things] itself speaks truly, or else there's nothing true [anymore].

I admire and respect Your conviction and belief that nothing changed, ... but You're talking to a man here that had witnessed to that fact first-hand. -- So show some respect here, OK?

At Saturday, December 22, 2007 4:49:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace ...

Gee, and only days ago I was wondering what I had not done so that I too could be called "infamous" on this blog like my brother Lito. Now, I'm possibly Anti-Christ! What better Christmas gift than that!?!?!

Well, Herr Schuetz, your handlers have trained you well. Build a straw man, then knock him down, and occupy the real man answering how he is not the straw man. If the ecumenism thing doesn't work out, I think you have the talent needed to adquire the skill set needed to do field interrogation of suspected hostiles.

I'm not going to answer the questions you propose, since they are designed to fill in the gaps you find in the 11 point programme of the straw man, a person tangentially similar to me at best. Rather, a comment or two on your interlinear remarks.

As to the cheap shot: it isn't a simple matter to determine what the Church teaches from the "Catechism". That's an example of the whole problem. That Catechism teaches something different and at points contradictory to what an entity called the Catholic Church taught me, yet is put out by an entity calling itself the Catholic Church. No, I will not rehearse specifics. They have been laid out better and more extensively than I can, and you can find your specifics in a link in a section on the sidebar of my blog called "The Tiber, for Swimmers et al". That miserable volume, which I have read but do not own, although a copy might come in handy if I run out of kitty litter, magnificently illustrates the point that the Catholic Church as it exists is not the Catholic Church and teaches a non Catholic faith.

As to the Orthodox: I did not say that our converts to Orthodoxy find what Orthodoxy claims to be and have. I said that they find in Orthodoxy the faith Orthodoxy has always held, whereas our converts to the Catholicism do not find the faith Catholicism had always held before Vatican II.

As to strawberries: I'm reminded of a line from Chesterton that error is never so wrong as when it is nearly right. I nearly lost you there? Bitte. This is the falsehood that most of the enemies of traditional Catholicism evidence -- they think that traditional Catholics think that the Catholicism they knew prior to Vatican II had existed as such since the Apostles, or must never change until the Second Coming, or both, and therefore the changes in post conciliar Catholicism are wrong simply because they are changes, and are not the same as before.

There may indeed be some romantic reactionaries like that. However, traditional Catholics do not reject Vatican II because it is change or because it makes some things different than before, traditional Catholics reject Vatican II because of the nature and content of the specific changes it has made which are not consistent, not in a hermeneutic of continuity as you say, with the tradition in which they claim to be. Again, the document on the Catechism will give you the details on that, and there is another one to do the same for the new liturgy, on my blog.

As to Christine: in no way are my comments to be taken to mean her opinions are invalid. I was pointing out that her reference to the Midnight Masses in her area starting at midnight completely misses my point in which I brought out that my old parish has it at 1030pm.

As to the sleight of hand: my statement follows an If -> Then paradigm, so discussion and criticism is then about whether the Then truly follows upon the If, not whether the If is true or if the presenter thinks the If is true. If is assumed to be true in such a statement, and whether it is indeed true or whether the presenter himself believes it to be true is irrelevant to whether the Then follows from it or not. Alles klar? Nein? If the traditional Catholic faith is true, then the novus ordo mass is a rejection of the Catholic Mass and participation in it is a venial sin. Whether I believe the traditional Catholic faith is true, or whether the Catholic faith is indeed true about Mass, venial sin or anything else, is not the point. The sleight of hand, Herr Schuetz, is in trying to make it so.

Re the Anti-Christ: I do not and did not say Josef Ratzinger or any of his predecessors is the Anti-Christ. I said they occupy an office which bears the marks of Anti-Christ. The Rat seems like a hell of a guy. JPII had a magnetism and charisma that I have experienced personally, details of which I will omit here. So what? Even the Prince of Darkness can appear as an Angel of Light. JPII was Joel Osteen with liturgy, vestments, and a message rooted in phenomenology. His eternal fate is none of my business and I trust him to the mercy of God. His visible earthly course was indifferentism and universalism with a mitre. As to Montini, his 1965 appearance at the UN was one of my first clues that whoever this was, he wasn't "Peter" by any stretch of the imagination. Neither are any of them, they're just men, David, and what a man in an office bearing the marks of the Anti-Christ does on Christmas is beyond irrelevant to the faith of Christ and his Church.

As to Neuhaus, having read some of his Roman fantasies, I could not care a popefig what he says about anything.

Finally, what is so difficult to grasp in this: I am not here to argue for Lutheranism against Catholicism, and did not reject Catholicism for Lutheranism but rather rejected Catholicism as a Catholic because it had rejected itself for something else under the same name, and only years later found in the Lutheran Confessions an answer to how this could have happened if Jesus is the Christ. So when I run across a Lutheran who has fallen for this pack of dung and tripe I bear the message that what you have found is not the Catholic faith and church but a vile and murderous impostor, whose ascent it was the curse of my younger days to see, passing himself off in his victim's clothes. Don't fall for it, brother.

Damn, wonder what's up over at Armstrong's blog? Dave, you reading this?

Joshua, a pleasure to meet you. Lucian, good to hear from you again -- all your moments seem quite sane to me.

Y Feliz Navidad a todo de ustedes. (That's some real late Latin called Spanish -- I'm tired of thinking in English and frankly I like Spanish better anyway -- and means Merry Christmas to you all. OK, it's literally Happy Nativity, bless us and save us Mrs O'Davis, shall we dance to the word-for-word vs thought-for-thought tune?)

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 1:17:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

Apropos, Past Elder, could You please help me out over here a bit? :D If You have the time, patience and will for this, maybe You could read my conversation with a Lutheran that starts here, and please help me by pointing out what exactly it was that I was wrong about (it seems that I was dead wrong about a lot of things in my comments there, and I would like to correct that if possible).

I'll totally understand if You say "no". (The discussion revolves around -and get this- "faithrighteousness").

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 7:21:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

Herr Schuetz,

in case You're still intersted, I've written a little something over here on why one should NOT be(come) Orthodox ... EVER! :-) Go on and read it: I think You'll like it.

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 12:44:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Hi Lucian! I just waded through all the nearly 100 comments. A first reading, quick, so these first commnents here will be preliminary and perhaps less specific than you may have wished.

Nonetheless, since you and I apparently share a reputation on this blog for questionable sanity and lucidity perhaps it will amuse the blog's readership to read us communicating directly.

As to what exactly you were wrong about, it seems there are two categories of wrong: what is wrong with the version of Christianity you hold, which appears to be Orthodoxy; what is wrong with your understanding of Lutheranism.

A few incomplete thoughts:

1. My brother LPC lays out the Lutheran position with considerable precision, and I think review of his comments would help better than new ones from me on What Is Lutheranism.

2. It has been my impression over the years that Orthodoxy in general sees the Reformation as a distinctly and characteristically Western reaction to problems that are distinctly and characteristically Western Church (read, Rome) in origin. Consequently EO views of Lutheranism seem to have a degree of remoteness that RC views do not.

3. The Eastern mind seems to be comfortable with and indeed cherish a fluidity that the Western mind does not tolerate well, seeking a precision uncomfortable to the East. Put the other way, the Western mind seems to want to impose a conceptual structure on a reality that does not need it to be understood.

4. That said, even in a Western context only, my experience has been, both in my contact with others and my inner experience having been RC and Lutheran, that it is very difficult for a Western RC to understand how his belief is not faith apart from works or how his works do compromise his trust in faith. I would think this to be even harder in an EO context.

5. Essentially,the problem is: the proper distinction between sanctification and justification. We (Lutherans) lean heavily on the idea of justification by faith as the doctrine on which the Church and Christianity itself stands or falls. My impression is the barriers to understanding are, either that such a distinction is a false one in the first place making a distinction where none exists, or that there is a co-operation between the two where the one follows upon the other and the other does not exist where the one is not found.

6. Unrelated to that, Romania has to be one of the most interesting nations in its people and history in the world.

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 3:28:00 pm , Anonymous Lucian said...

I knew about the distinction (and, unfortunately, sometimes even separation) that the Lutheran mind in particular, and Protestant mind in general, places between justification and sanctification. And Your comment on LP Cruz witnessing to a TRUE understanding of Lutheranism is releaving (phew!) ... as for re-reading his comments, I've already done that on more than just a few occasions ... and while his saying something about not commiting the idiocy of boasting like a bunch of ungrateful retards for the faith that He Himself has planted in us, ... he also seems to avoid my clear statement that, were it NOT for this faith, we wouldn't be redeemed ... otherwise we would just have automatically Universalism. At one point he said: "off hand, you're right, but it seems like you're being too sophistical also" -- so, it seems he somehow understands me, and I somehow understand him, but something's just not tickin' right.

Anyway, thanks for Your time and patience. (And what was that about Romania supposed to mean anyway?).

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 3:47:00 pm , Anonymous Lucian said...

LP Cruz also said something about the Ten Commandments (and other types of commandments as well), namely that they're NOT given to be fulfilled, but rather ONLY as a reproof for our consciousness, so that we might be found guilty (St. Paul, Romans). Now, the problem that I perceive with THIS kind of interpretation is that, IF this were to truly be the case, Luther did a lamentably poor job at presenting them (the Decalogue) as such in his Catechisms: he positively asserts the oposite at the conclusion of each of the Ten Commandments, not to mention the conclusion to the whole Decalogue.

At Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:32:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Hi Lucian! To start with Romania, in clicking around from the link you provided, it seemed you are Orthodox and from Romania. So the comment was meant to say, I find Romanian history among the most interesting chapters in the human story.

On his blog Extra Nos, my brother LPC had an excellent post called "Miles Apart", in which he contrasted two understandings of salvation by faith that, because they both speak of salvation by faith, seem to be similar if not the same, but in fact are radically different.

One understanding would be, we are saved by faith because of Christ, and the other is, we are saved by Christ because of faith. LPC is in a particularly good position to understand this, better than I am, because he not only began RC as did I, he also passed through a period as a Protestant and was a Protestant minister before becoming a Lutheran. I, by contrast, passed the years before becoming Lutheran by holding to but not converting to Orthodox Judaism (which I would argue is redundant, being the only real Judaism) punctuated with attempts to prove myself wrong and find the RCC still the RCC. So my experience of Protestantism, as distinct from Lutheranism in particular, is by observation rather than participation.

Here in America, besides the so-called mainline Protestant denominations, which seem to slug along maintaining their existence by trading on their historical place on the one hand and advocating liberal politics to show they are not museum pieces on the other, the face of Protestantism has acquired the term "evangelical", which once was associated with us (Lutherans) in Europe and still survives in the names of some of our parishes and synods here to denote our belief that the Gospel is rightly preached with us, but in American parlance has become associated with a distinctly unLutheran idea that some call "decision theology". You can hear this in their preaching -- the call at the end of preaching (even Joel Osteen does this) to make a decision for Christ and be saved, and then to continue in Christian living, a "walk with the Lord", as it is often called, by following a path of sanctification, as we Lutherans call it. In this understanding, while there is lots of talk about Christ, when one looks at it, it is really all about me, starting with MY decision about Christ and continuing with MY works to live according to that decision.

From Lutheran belief, the problem with that is, we understand the Bible to teach than Man is dead in sin and therefore is no more able, being dead, to make a decision for Christ than to decide to wake from the dead, as our (LCMS) first Synod President Walther put it. Rather, faith is entirely the gift of God the Holy Spirit and not produced by a decision or any other action on my part.

The further problem is, one being saved then by this decision for Christ, both Word and Sacrament attain a completely different understanding than we Lutherans have. The preaching of the Word will always have its focus toward and basis in this decision, and the Sacraments become not means of grace but customs whose validity is derived from the faith one brings to them. Which is why evangelicals in the American sense worship non liturgically too. Whereas to us Lutherans -- at least those Lutherans who haven't decided that the way to pack them in like the evangelicals do is to offer evangelical style worship -- we are liturgical because worship is God serving us his Word and Sacrament rather than us serving God by deciding to believe in him or waxing ecstatic because we have done so.

So back to LPC's distinction, we hold we are saved by faith because of Christ, whereas Protestants hold we are saved by Christ because of faith -- which faith is something I have by my decision at that! Sola fide, by faith alone, is a phrase, not a sentence, which word come from the Latin for thought, a sentence expressing a complete thought, whereas a phrase does not. Sola fide in Latin is an ablative of means, a phrase indicating how something happens, but does not express a complete thought about what that something is. The customary translation, faith alone, misses this: really is translates BY faith alone, but does not express WHAT by faith alone. Thus, we (Lutherans) are sometimes taken as meaning by Faith Alone that you don't need anything else and can safely ignore everything else, particularly works, and worse, as a reaction to both Catholicism (and by extension, Orthodoxy) and Protestantism, sometimes take ourselves to mean that too and recoil from any talk of works!

When we do that we become distincly unLutheran ourselves. In Lutheran thinking, the Law is not something just to be glad we are rid of now that Messiah has come. It remains part of the revelation of God and continues to have three uses: a curb to the sinful outbursts of both people and society; a mirror that shows us what sin is and where we are sinful; a guide as to how to live a God pleasing life. In this thread, the second use of the law, the mirror, has been relevant and therefore the one mentioned by LPC, but I have no doubt my brother would be the first to include the other two uses of the law in a fuller discussion.

I hope these further comments help. I always like to conclude this sort of thing with a little dessert, or cup of after dinner coffee, which for this time is: the Sign of the Cross as you know has a different order of which shoulder to touch between the East and West, and I have always though it humourous that in the West, as we discarded Latin for local languages even in academic and public life, we have retained the Latin method of making the Sign of the Cross which puts the right hand to the left shoulder first so it is over the heart at the word "spirit" when said in Latin, whose nouns precede their modifiers, but did not change the practice to touch the right shoulder first (which is how the East does it following Greek word order) so that in English or German for that matter, where modifiers precede their nouns, the hand is over the heart at the word "spirit" per the original intention of the gesture! So here we are, saying it in English but doing it, if we do it at all, as if we were still speaking Latin!

At Monday, December 24, 2007 6:07:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

1) is LP Cruz's distinction in his article traditionally Lutheran ... or is he just applying Newman's rule on Protestant soil, possibly under influence from the surrounding Evangelical "ocean" he lives in?

2) Are You sure about the "can't make any decision becasue we're dead" thing? Sounds rather [distinctly] Calvinistic to me ...

Actually, in Latin You can say it both ways. :-) But it is costumary to put the noun first. (And the same goes for Romanian as well).

Everybody crosses themselves backwards then we do: not just the West, but the Orientals also ... and both the later, as well as the Russian Old-Believers, cross themselves with just two fingers.

At Monday, December 24, 2007 6:21:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

The problem of choice was Calvin's since he was such an obsessed predestinarian, machinist, automatist, robotist, et al. ... but Luther's? He merely believed in not being able to do deeds ... and he thaught the way out of that was by placing our entire faith and hope in the deed that Christ has done for us on the Cross once and for all: paid in full ... but you still have to cash the check, and sign it with your constant faith, hope, and acceptance: no acceptance of undeserved salvation ==> no salvation is granted to you.

As regards predest., he simply believed "the predest. of some sons to glory" [=simple predest.].

At Monday, December 24, 2007 9:52:00 am , Blogger L P Cruz said...


Asking if the PE is the anti-christ is silly as you and I know, you being an ex-Prot know the answer to that - the position has already been taken. It is the Papacy and the Pope in his position in it.


At Tuesday, December 25, 2007 1:47:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

LPCs distinction between saved by faith because of Christ and saved by Christ because of faith is entirely valid IMHO.

Walther's time was not so different than our own -- then too the American religious landscape was full of revivalism, as it was called then. To-day, mega churches and TV replace big tents, otherwise it's much the same.

Where in Scripture does the apostolic preaching conclude: now I want you to pray this simple prayer with me, followed by announcing to Jesus your decision to accept him, then getting with the counsellors available and making a donation to "help support this ministry" for which you get the latest promotional material? "You must be baptised .. " gets a little lost in that.

My brother LPC is far more capable than I am of explaining the difference between Calvinism (which really is to say, the various things travelling under the name Calvinism along with Calvinism itself) and Lutheranism.

I'll say, though, that I think the ground of Protestantism, especially what is called evangelicalism in current nomenclature, is a well intended desire to put Christ first and make sure one is absolutely clear about having faith in him rather than assuming it's there because you're in a church and you follow its customs and try to live a good life following Christ.

When I was RC, and saw Lutheranism as another form of Protestantism, I used to think of it this way, based on the English phrase "all dressed up but no-where to go": the Protestants know how to get dressed up but have nowhere to go and just keep talking about how to get dressed up; the Catholics (and by extension the EO too) have everywhere to go but don't know how to get dressed up and just keep talking about all the places to go.

Maybe that helps, or at least entertains those who find us semi-lucid. We don't have altar calls because we have a sacrament of baptism which is a means of grace; they don't have baptism as an effective means of grace because they have altar calls. How about that? A frog perspective, as Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, would say, but maybe helpful.

Or how about this -- Protestantism and Catholicism alike confuse justification with sanctification, offering then a confusion of faith and works differing only in that one involves the sacramental system of the Catholic Church (and thereby the institution of the Catholic Church itself) whereas the other protests No it doesn't and involves a decision for Christ followed by various guides to holy, or in more recent forms, "victorious", living. In short, the difference is only in what set of works of sanctification one confuses and mixes with justification.

Neither Luther nor Walther were opposed to works, just to confusing them with faith or identifying faith as even in part one of them. As we teach our kids: we do good works not to be saved, but because we are saved.

Being Orthodox, your celebration of Christ's birth may not co-incide with mine, but as it's Christmas Eve in our calendar may I wish you a very merry Christmas when you celebrate it!

BTW, there are Lutherans in the Eastern as well as the Western tradition. On my blog, there is a link to a Lutheran Eastern liturgy, from which you can link to other things. It's Ukranian, specifically, but I'd be interested in what you think of it, plus it may present Lutheranism (not the best term for it, Luther didn't even like it!) in a more familiar context.

At Tuesday, December 25, 2007 4:37:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

Being Romanian, we celebrate Christmas tomorrow, the same as You. Merry Christmas! And thanks again for Your many and detailed explanations. :-)

As for the Roman Masses (in both variants) and Eastern Liturgies, they aren't at all so far apart. Neither are the services of the Monophysites or Nestorians, for that matter.

At Sunday, December 30, 2007 12:13:00 am , Blogger Jeff Tan said...

> It is the Papacy
> and the Pope in his position in it.


At Sunday, December 30, 2007 8:34:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Which is precisely the problem with the whole "Pope is AntiChrist" thing.

It means "Got that square filled, now we can keep an eye on him and don't have to bother keeping a look out for him anywhere else."

Of course, suggesting PE is the AntiChrist is silly. I know that. I just wanted to get everyone's attention--PE's included.

But it is just as silly to say that the office of the Papacy is the AntiChrist.

Lot's of good stuff here, guys, I can't answer it all in one go, as I have a couple of masses to cantor for at the Cathedral here this morning and then a paper to give at a Lutheran Student Fellowship Conference.

I did read the conversation between Lito and Lucian, by the way, back when Lucian first asked me too, and it was quite evident that, as PE says, Lito has a better grasp on the nuts and bolts of Luther's spirituality than Lucian does. You really have to live it to know it. And love it. And I still do to a great degree.

But nothing would make me go back to that institution that has built itself upon the systematisation of the spirituality of this one man.

At Monday, December 31, 2007 12:16:00 am , Blogger Jeff Tan said...

BTW.. I must note the contrast.. David's calling Pastor Elder anti-Christ is in jest (one I would not be comfortable making, but a jest nevertheless). Lito's branding the same of the papacy and anyone who fills it is apparently in earnest. Hence the sigh. :-S

At Thursday, January 03, 2008 2:29:00 am , Blogger L P Cruz said...


Thanks for the kind words, I think I will explore your thoughts on Lutherans simply systematizing Luther's spirituality one of these days, what about though the idea that Protestantism is really a product of Luther's wild libido?


Oh, my comment on the Papacy was in jest too. You guys should laugh once in a while, even at our expense, that is OK.


At Thursday, January 03, 2008 9:10:00 am , Blogger Dixie said...

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

I have been absent from the blogging world as well over the Nativity's good to be back and read what I have missed.

I have to say this from Lucian was the funniest thing I have read thus far.

As for the Roman Masses (in both variants) and Eastern Liturgies, they aren't at all so far apart. Neither are the services of the Monophysites or Nestorians, for that matter.

I have read several people opine that the faith is kept pure and true by the liturgy and the hymns. But the reality is, the liturgy/hymns, just like Scripture, can be the tool of various heresies as well. It kinda makes me wonder why anyone would have to go in and monkey with the liturgy at all when, with just a little creative re-interpretation, one can use it to support one or more of a variety of heretical points of view. OK...maybe not everything. I could see how X-ing out the references to the saints might be helpful for those who don't believe the saints remain alive in Christ and capable of intercession.

By the way, Joshua makes some very astute observations. I am Orthodox today because of the things he points out...

They had had drummed into them the infallibility and changelessness of the Church (true enough), and when faced with apparent and real changes they reasoned that what they had been taught could not have been true, and so they rejected the Faith, not without immense suffering and anguish.

It was a painful process, Catholic to Lutheran to Orthodox...but oh so worth it. I'd do it again 1000 times to end up where I am today.

At Friday, January 04, 2008 3:59:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

I have a really hard time harmonizing Lutheranism, and Lutherans, with Luther himself.

But, that again, I've never read the Book of Concord: only the 95 Theses and the two Cathechisms.

In my discussion with Mr. LP Cruz, he said, among other things, that:

-- the Ten Commandments are not given for a rule of life or conduct, so that we might do'em, but only for reproof. --> sounds fine, but that's hardly what Luther wrote with his own God-given hand in his Catechisms when penning down the conclusions for each of the Ten Commandments; or when drawing his conclusions to the Ten as a whole, for that matter

-- and that Luther's understanding of repentance was something else then what I thought it to be, and that it doesn't include, or necessitate, bringing forth good fruits ... but that's hardly in consonance with what Luther himself wrote at the beginning of his 95 little Theses.

-- and that Luther's not some Protestant Pope, or anything to that extent ... which is pretty fine with me ... but such enormous differences in central key-points of doctrine to be found between him and his folowers, who even bare his name??? -- that's bewildering to me ...

I see no way out of this. Do *YOU*?


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