Strange title, strange subject matter for me. I've been delving into some new theological territory recently. As stated earlier, I believe that the saints on earth may ask the departed saints for their prayers concerning various things. I then put the Hail Mary (Ave Maria) at the end of my last post to show my change of heart. But many of you who actually read this (from the minimal response I got....Tony :-)), most likely would have responded with gasps at my more Catholic leanings on this matter. Well, for those of you who think that all non-Catholics are non-denominational Christians who get together in buildings with no character and have praise bands, this might be news for you.
The Lutheran Church are those churches which agree with the Lutheran Confessions as found in the Book of Concord (which is indeed shorter than Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" which most Reformed theologians will use as their founder...and for those who don't know, Reformed is usually [unless there are some I am not aware of] synonymous with "Calvinist") which is actually several works put together. There are the three main Creeds of Christianity which were settled upon by the early church (before 1000AD): The Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed (complete with Filioque action, which interestingly enough is not spoken in the Vatican during services as an act of ecumenism with the Christian east), and the Athanasian Creed (complete with stopwatch for the five minutes it takes to recite it :-)). There is then the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (that means defense of the Augsburg Confession), Luther's Smalcald Articles, the Small Catechism, Large Catechism, Treatise on the Power and Priacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord.
For those who don't know who Martin Luther is, you might have heard about that little thing called the Reformation in the middle 1500s and onward in Europe which "began" when he nailed 95 of his theses on a church door. The theses spoke against the sale of indulgences, which were pieces of paper which could be bought that would free yourself or a departed loved one from time in Purgatory (which is a purely Catholic idea within Christianity and is suppsoed to be a place where the actual sins of a person are cleansed. Whatever was not cleansed in life is cleansed in Purgatory). This angered Luther so much that he penned the Theses, and because the Pope had asked for indulgences to be sold, he took offense at Luther's "loud mouth" (even though, not knowing of the pope's wishes, Luther devoted his work to him), and eventually Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church as a heretic. Keep in mind, Luther was a priest, monk, and scholar.
He retained some Catholic ideas. Some can be found in the Book of Concord, and some can be found in his other writings, most notably "Bondage of the Will" and "Freedom of a Christian." Some Catholic ideas that were retained are:
1. The use of the liturgy
2. The concept of Sacraments (though in a much different and more narrow concept).
3. The view of Mary as the Holy Mother of God (Theotokos, which is the Greek term for her).
4. The sign of the Cross being made (which is why if you go to a Lutheran church, you might see the Invocation written:"In the Name of the Father, and the Son (+), and the Holy Spirit..." The + is the sign of the Cross.
5. The concept of the Real Presence of Christ within the bread and wine of the Eucharist (though the concept was made less Aristotelian by denying the concept of Transubstantiation....and no, we do not accept Consubstantiation, which is what the actual definition of Transubstantiation is at least as far as I understand it).
6. The importance of personal Confession and Holy Absolution.
7. The regular (usually weekly) practice of the Lord's Supper.
8. The retention of the Apocrypha as useful though not necessarily Scripture (though in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession when the invocation of the saints is brought up Melancthon responds by saying that the practice is not found in Scripture "except in the dream in 2 Maccabees," thus suppossedly saying it is Scripture).
9. An altar.
10.A deep reverence for church history and tradition (if you can find a good church), and a philosophy that is not iconoclastic (i.e. we face a processional crucifix, we have a statue of the resurrected Jesus flanked by Michael and Gabriel on our altar, etc.).
11. In some churches you will find laity and clergy who ask for the intercession of saints and who still celebrate the different saints' feasts.
What you won't find in the Lutheran Church are:
1. Purgatory....none, zilch, nega-megatori.
2. Seven Sacraments (you'll find Baptism, Communion, and in some cases Absolution).
3. No Pope (Bishop of Rome).
What you MIGHT find in the Lutheran Church are:
1. Individuals with pious opinions that it is not evil nor non-effective to ask the saints for their prayers.
2. People who still consider the Saints of the Eastern and Western Churches as people whom God blessed and who should be revered.
3. Individuals who don't believe the Genesis 1 Narrative to be history (not that I hold this view, nor do I hold the view that it is ONLY history).
4. Individuals who believe that the Gospels can be put together to form one cohesive story or individuals who believe that the Gospels are four different takes on the same story (I'm the former).
5. Varying ideas concerning the end of time.
6. People saying the Pope or the office of the Papacy will be the Antichrist (I claim the fifth :-)).
7. People who don't respect church history.
8. People who think Catholics are going to Hell (nice example of "Judge not, lest ye be judged").
9. People who believe in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin(this is possibly the ONLY Marian doctrine I do not agree with).
This is a little different from what many of you probably thought. I'm sure many people from CRU thought that to be Lutheran was to be Protestant but just a "little Catholic." Many Catholics call Lutherans "JV Catholics" or "Catholic Lite." The Catholics are more correct in this matter :-). I also don't like the term "Protestant" at all since my religion is not determined by how against the Catholic Church I am. I prefer the terms Lutheran, or Reformed Catholic, Christian, or even Evangelical which is the term Luther originally wanted to use since he did not wish the Christian church on earth to be broken apart......boy, that really didn't work. Because of him we now have about a thousand (yes over exaggeration) splinter groups that think such things as "Reprobation" and "Limited Atonement" ;-) (that was for you guys Bish and Derek
I've been taking a pounding for my thoughts on the departed saints at Lutherquest.org. Why? They believe that I am going against the Book of Concord, and as a result I would not be a good candidate for a Lutheran Seminary because I would be "taking up space." Now, why is it I believe what I do? Is it expressly stated in Scripture? No, but neither is the exact terms which the church fathers used to defend the divinity and separate natures of Christ from heresies, but no orthodox (little o) Christians would argue with that.
Luther himself made a comment that if a teaching of the Church was not mentioned in Scripture and didn't contradict Scripture, it should not be discarded (at least not blindly), and that is why we still use the liturgy in worship or make the sign of the cross! But what of Scripture? Well, as I have argued before, there are the 24 elders in Revelation (8:5) bringing a bowl to God's feet which contain the prayers of the saints (and I also commented about how these are not the saints on earth as those who are sealed seems more likely). The 24 elders are most likely the OT patriarchs and the Holy Apostles. There is also the transfiguration which has Elijah who is not dead but was taken up to Heaven in a fiery chariot talking to Moses (not explicity mentioned, but they were talking and it stands to reason that they would have not ignored each other) who not only died, but we are told in Dueteronomy that God buried him Himself! It has also been mentioned that this is a "vision" and if that is the case, you still have heavy symbolism. There are the dead rising from the grave when Christ died, but wating till His conquering of death when He ressurrects to go and appear in the town (the idea that they didn't talk to people who saw them seems like nonsense to me). There is the aforementioned 2 Maccabees. There are then theological arguments. For starters, we are told that all believers in Christ form one body....the Body of Christ (BoC). This includes those who have "finished the race" (Hebrews 12:1), and stand "around" us as a "cloud of witnesses." In James we are told (some would now make this a command, for the language is thus used in that manner) that we are to pray for our fellow saint on earth for his troubles. If this is a command we must keep in life, why not keep it when we die and shuffle off this mortal and sinful flesh? Surely the state of the church on earth would be revealed to them by the Holy Spirit since they are held together in the BoC by Him.
So we have saints praying for us in Heaven, and one unbroken body of Christ. The question now (and indeed in Lutheranism the most vexing and most important one) is that we are not told nor shown an example that we should invoke the departed saints....but we are also not admonished from doing so. So while we may, since it is not from Scripture it cannot be done without certainty, so it is done without full faith, and prayer works only with faith (this is the counter-argument). However, we are told that Christ's body is not broken (and you thought the idea of His physical body not being broken when it was taken down from the Cross which is where He sacrificed Himself for the sins of all only applied to prophecy fulfillment :-)...since when did God not have multi-purposes for what He does?), and in the absence of the physical and sinfully weak flesh, how much more alive in Christ are the departed saints! When we ask them to pray for us it is no different than asking a friend on earth to pray for us, except we know that the departed saints are united to us by the power of the Holy Spirit and since they are no longer sinful they will not forget to pray, nor will their prayer be unrighteous (see James for this reference to the mention of the prayer of the righteous is effective).
Some would also argue against this and say it "is not necessary" even if this theological point were true since we can pray right to Christ. But this is not a good argument. It is not necessary to eat and drink earthly food when dealing with concepts of Heaven and eternity, but we do it anyway. It is not necessary to ask that our Father's name be hallowed even though we are told to pray it by Christ himself in the Lord's Prayer. It is not necessary to conclude His prayer with "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen" but we do it anyway. It is not necessary for those who have received salvation to progress on the path of Sanctification (or Theosis in the Eastern Church) after Justification since Justification is all that is "necessary." This chipping down of the fullness of our faith for reasons of pure functionality ignores the work of the Holy Spirit working to inspire and guide those theologians and fathers before us, who knew more and who prayed much more often than we do. It destroys our rich tradition which (as long as it is not contrary to Scripture or given equal authority with it) defines and protects us from heresy within and without. The destruction of our tradition is much in line with what the Devil has planned!
To end this post, a brief quote from Saint Augustine concerning the concept of Sola Scriptura (when used PROPERLY): "The mediator (Jesus Christ), having spoken what He judged sufficiently first by the prophets, then by His own lips, and afterwards by the Apostles, has besides produced the Scripture which is called canonical, which has paramount authority, and to which we yield assent in all matters of which we ought not to be ignorant, and yet cannot know of ourselves. (from City of God).