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A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Augustana Ministerium on Eastern Orthodoxy - and Ecumenical Dialogue With McG

Old Testament: Exodus 4:19-31
New Testament: The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark 15:16-32
Psalms: Morning - 38
Evening - 126; 102

WARNING: The discussion you will read about is true. The names have been referenced in case I get everything wrong. Cue: Dragnet music.

At McG's blog, he and I have begun a series of discussions (3 as of this date: 1, 2, 3) regarding Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. I am arguing that there is much more in common than either of us realize, and he is listening and thoughtfully digesting what is said. I am hoping to do the same.

He references a series of talks given by the Augustana Ministerium. While I have not listened to all three, I have listened once to the talk of Fr. Rutowicz, and twice to the talk of Fr. Juhl. In both talks, one could hear Fr. Weedon chime in (and timely I might add) to clarify a point or to give a suggestion. The problem was (at least in these two talks), I think Fr. Weedon was largely ignored or not fully understood (and indeed, if I have done the same here Fr. Weedon I beg forgiveness). He seemed to have suggested several times, particularly within Fr. Juhl's talk, that we in the Lutheran church are thinking too often in terms of "either/or," when the answer could potentially be "both/and" (I would argue that it does seem that Eastern apologists can seem to talk this way as well, thus perhaps showing a certain "infection" of Western philosophy and rhetoric gained during the period of "Catholic captivity" or simply due to the large impact the Western world had on the East even if they choose to ignore it or treat it negatively).

I would highly recommend one listen to the talks.....SEVERAL times. Listen carefully to the questions and comments as well. The comment in Fr. Rutowicz's talk that really aggrivated McG was, "Irenaeus could sure use a Pelagian controversy because the way he talks about free will, I think, is at the root of the Eastern view of original sin.....the way he [St. Irenaeus of Lyons] talks about free will, I think, is at the root of the Eastern view of original sin." McG went on to say that such a comment shows the pre-reflective committment to St. Augustine which the Lutheran father brought into the statement (McG's comments of free will and Augustine's arguments not-withstanding, which I disagree with).

To an extent, McG is right. Even though I understand what this Lutheran priest said, for he is echoing an opinion regarding heresy and the growth of doctrinal elloquence Fr. Burnell Eckardt had mentioned (the exact context of the quote escapse me...so I apologize), I would agree that the statement is somewhat irresponsible. However, I don't think either group is fully appreciating the differences (or similarities) of free will and original sin that both groups possess.

Here is what I have taken from the talks so far:
Lutherans - 1. Need to realize that the inversion of the "catholic principle" found in the Lutheran Confessions (not defined by that name, but present particularly in the Formula on "Adiaphora") is hurting us in terms of both ecumenical dialogue and internal issues regarding worship and ecumenism with those who use Scripture WITHOUT tradition. Here is an essay by two former LCMS priests who joined the Orthodox Church. Here is a response from CAT 41.
2. Need to stop always thinking in terms of "either/or" and begin using "both/and." The East's theology focuses on making "things" persons or energies (Fr. Weedon aptly pointed out that because grace is uncreated, the Orthodox have the propensity to effectively treat grace as the Holy Spirit...a point emphasized in a podcast of "Faith and Philosophy" - though I cannot remember what the podcast was), relationships, and eschatological goals with a focus on the process of getting there.
3. Begin to look into the fact that we actually do have a tradition that makes use of BOTH Greek and Latin fathers. I swear when I heard who Patriarch Jeremiah II cited against the Lutheran scholars of Tubingen I about laughed....with the exception of Augustine, most were GREEK fathers. Such shows a fundamental thought process of looking primarily to the Greek/Eastern fathers in the Eastern church.
4. Study the issue better and REALLY look at Orthodoxy on their terms, THEN come to the Lutheran Confessions and the Western tradition to see if there is a true contradiction or disagreement.
5. Continue to use Scripture, but also stress patristics as a source of our own authority. The Confessions don't make the statement that we have not deviated from the church catholic because it sounded cool at the time!

Orthodox - 1. Need to realize that post-modernism has demonstrated that no one, including the "traditionless Lutherans" brings no tradition into their reading/interpretation of anything. Our tradition is based on the Lutheran Reformers who were in turn trained as Scholastics and well versed in the Latin (and I'm sure not too shabby in the Greek fathers as well)...thus, we operate with a Western tradition which views most things theologically in terms of objects, deffinite beginnings and systematics.
2. Need to look into the Latin fathers critically and not just accept what you have been taught regarding the unanimity of the church based on Theologoumena. If the west are still Christians, why has the Holy Spirit not worked through them as well? It seems to me like the West has the better grasp of the true nature of the theologoumena, even though we don't always emphasize the Greek fathers (sometimes to our loss, but often just because they don't speak to our heresies and issues per se).
3. Appreciate our having to deal with heresies. Lutherans respect the 7th ecumenical council even though our use of icons is somewhat stagnant. We don't say, "we don't see what all the fuss was about." Please don't do the same to justification and divine monergism, particularly after you look at our theological and historical baggage. The presentation of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V is our version of the "triumph of Orthodoxy."
4. Need to come to grips with the fact that the West deals with theological topics that "you don't like to mention." Fr. Juhl pointed out that Bishop Kalistos Ware in "How are We Saved" says that the Orthodox repudiate Augustinian original guilt (which he means as "imputation of guilt," something that is anti-Scriptural [Ezekiel 18:20, Christ does not answer directly the question about the blind man sinning or his parents sinning being the cause of his malady - John 9:2], the "guilt" is our own but is still dependent on the presence of original sin..or our "inborn corruption" and spiritual death)...yet later Bishop Ware says that to an extent we did have a part in Adam's sin....huh??? Similarly Bishop Ware says that the Orthodox "do not feel at home" with "imputation" nor do you like talking about "substitution." Sorry, but not liking something doesn't give you an excuse to deny the work other theologians and church fathers have done. Scripture is still clear that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us (Ezekiel 18:20) and that a substitution is necessary for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). In essence, I'm saying not to simply dismiss the Lutheran theological positions because the Greek fathers don't get into much detail with it or don't feel comfortable discussing it....that is not a strong argument at all!
5. The fathers' interpretation of Scripture is still seen as almost irreproachable, and their closeness to the Apostles is almost seen as a trump card, yet if this were such a strong argument, WHY did Irenaeus need to write his whole book explaining why the heretics were wrong...he could have said all that paper and just said, "I heard Polycarp who was taught by John the Apostle....you didn't, therefore, you suck and I win." That also might work 200 years after the fact but it gets a little hard to believe 2000 years after the fact, particularly when the blemishless church has its own internal issues (on both sides). Christ and His church may be infallible, but I'm willing to bet that to say the church is one visible ecclesial communion on church today is a bit naive. We have Scripture interpreting Scripture....200 years between Irenaeus and the apostles is a long time for the same words to change meaning (i.e. gay now and gay 50 years ago)....thus you are left to explain why the same criteria of hermeneutics we use to interpret and understand Scripture doesn't seem to be used on the fathers. Thus the church becomes solely the consensus opinion of the fathers....I recall a certain Second Council of Ephesus that acted the same way, before it was recalled.

Both sides need to stop the "pissing match" (yes, one of the pastors said it in the audience...and I was thinking it too), realize this is primarily about "East vs. West" and ask whether or not we are in different communions makes a whole Hell of a lot of difference when we are talking about fathers and doctrine that fundamentally developed prior to the Schism in 1054...thus they were part of the same ecclesial communion. I think if both sides swallowed their pride, pulled the 4x4 beam out of their eyes that reaches the moon, be nice to one another and not get super-pissed when one priest goes from the Missouri Synod to the East (or vice-versa), and MAYBE we can start to act like the spotless bride of Christ.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Rev. Eric Stefanski said...

You wrote: "Here is an essay by two former LCMS priests who joined the Orthodox Church. Here is a response from CAT 41."

Just to be accurate, the response is not 'from' CAT 41 in the sense of it being 'a CAT 41 response', but simply that the response was posted on/through CAT 41--as, indeed, was the original paper that Fenton delivered at the Melrose Park conference in 2004. The two papers serve as a basis for ongoing debate; it would have been wonderful to see Fenton/Hogg and Peperkorn/Woodring have a continued exchange, but such was not, apparently, to be. (Of course, of the four only Peperkorn remains a Lutheran, so with all that has happened since the Autumn of 2004, it's not that surprising that the debate was not more fully joined by those gentlemen.)

Rev. Eric Stefanski
Dean of Communications, The Augustana Ministerium

MOM, etc., Confess and Teach for Unity (CAT41.org)

6:35 AM  

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