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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Avoiding Romo-phobia in the Lutheran Church

My blogging buddy, Darrell, from over at SouthCon left the following comment on one of my earlier posts. I urge you to read it. And then my thoughts below it.

As a Catholic, I am officially authorized to announce to the other members of my Christian family (in other words, Protestants) that the RCC doesn't hold the copyright on things like making the sign of the cross, displaying crucifixes, statues, paintings and murals, liturgical music (as opposed to this stuff), etc. Feel free to add any or all of these things to your practice. You might be surprised at how much they help your focus and your devotion to our Lord and Savior. That's kinda why we use them in the first place.

I promise you that if you make the sign of the cross, no Catholic will swoop down on you, grap you up and say "Ha ha! You screwed up! Now you're Catholic! I'm taking you to Rome to be branded with the Fisherman's ring!"

And I'll tell you something else... but this part is top secret, so don't let it get out, OK? Ready? Here it is: We Roman Catholics don't hold the copyright on Mary, either. That's right! Our Protestant brothers and sisters are free to look to the mother of Christ for inspiration and for a beautiful Christian example any time they want to! In fact... and get this, this is gonna knock your socks off.. you can even pray the Rosary (and find that it's an amazingly rewarding meditative experience) without waking up the next morning tied to a pew in St. Peter's Basilica! Shhhhhh! Don't let that cat out of the bag!

Darrell is having a bit of fun and being playfully facetious. But he's right and I want to address it seriously.

Lutherans who object to paintings, mosaics, murals, icons, statues, or crucifixes in their churches simply do not know or understand their own heritage. The Lutheran Reformers NEVER objected to these things. In fact, Martin Luther came out of hiding, risking his own life, to put a stop to the radical destruction of churches that was taking place in his name during his absence.

On making the sign of the cross. It is precisely because some Lutherans frown on this practice that I will do it all the more. How dare anyone try to restrict my freedom to remind myself of my baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, as a pastor, I make the sign of the cross at numerous points throughout the liturgy, both upon myself and upon my congregation to mark us all as those redeemed by Christ, the crucified.

In 1529, Martin Luther wrote a morning and evening prayer in his Small Catechism, a booklet that every Lutheran should be instructed from. And Luther says: "In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say, In the Name of the Father.... Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer." And he gives the same instructions for in the evening when going to bed.

On private confession, Luther said in his Large Catechism, a book our church pledges to follow: "When I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian."

On Mary and the Saints, the Augsburg Confession (another text our church pledges to follow) says, "It is also taught among us that saints should be kept in remembrance so that our faith may be strengthened when we see what grace they received and how they were sustained in faith. Moreover, their good works are to be an example for us...." And of course, as Melanchthon was quick to add, "However, it cannot be proved from the Scriptures that we are to invoke saints or seek help from them."

Certainly there are real and substantive differences between the Church of Rome and the Lutheran Reformation. But it is counter-productive when the ill-informed try to create differences where they don't exist, all because of some irrational aversion to things that look Catholic. Many such Lutherans are really closet Baptists. (No offense intended to my very fine Baptist Christian friends. I'm just struggling for a renewal of Lutheran identity.).

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The Heresy Hunter said...

"And of course, as Melanchthon was quick to add, 'However, it cannot be proved from the Scriptures that we are to invoke saints or seek help from them.'"

That is something that I've been debating recently with my pastor - specifically, the matter of talking with our deceased loved ones. I was surprised to learn that the LCMS does not forbid this practice - nor condone - and pastors are divided on the issue. Personally, I see a lot of potential danger in it.

Kelly Klages said...

Hey Burr (and Darrell)-- don't tell anyone, but this Lutheran chick uses prayer beads. :o) I do not pray the Hail Mary or invoke any other saints while using them, but I do use them-- both standard 5-decade ones as well as the "Anglican prayer bead" format. Darrell is right that it can be a good way of staying focused in prayer (not to mention a great tool for memorizing Scripture). As I figure it, using prayer beads for certain kinds of prayer need be no different than using a bookmark in your Bible.

And of course, the comment about remembering the saints who went before us is certainly right and very Lutheran. I've been working on a series of paintings of saints myself lately.

Darrell said...

Oh, great... now my head is swollen up like a watermellon. ;)

Thanks for the post, Pastor Scott.

William Weedon said...

Insights from Wilhelm Loehe's "Three Books on the Church" that track along with your comments :


Agreement with the Scriptures was the earnest pressing demand of the Reformers. This agreement with the Scriptures they sought to establish in two ways. On one side, everything was regarded as an evil remnant of popery which did not have the Word of Holy Scripture *for* it; with unyielding severity everything was cut away which did not find express authority for it in a word of Scripture.

On the other hand, with all earnestness of reformation, everything was left standing which did not have the Scripture *against* it. Whatever could remain, without danger to the true doctrine, for example, the Liturgy, pictures and other ornaments of Churches and holy places, was differently treated, according as the first or the second tendency ruled.

The second tendency acknowledged that the Church since the days of the Apostles, that is, for fifteen hundred years, had not lived in vain. A development and exposition of the Apostolic doctrine through history were acknowledged. It was understood that the one Word reveals an ever greater fulness of meaning in the course of time. The history of the Church was respected and regard was had for communion with antiquity; there was no desire to cut loose from former centuries and to begin a new course which would be, as far as possible, original. But on the contrary, in the thread of Holy Scripture was sought the continuation of the Apostolic Church, and the endeavor was made to put away novelties. Just as we try to restore valuable pictures and buildings which have been covered with evidences of ignorance and bad taste, so then that which was ancient was sought, but freed from fraud. They did not aim to have everything as it was at the time of the Apostles, but only to maintain the historical development of the Church without blame before the face of Apostles and Prophets. A control of history by the Holy Ghost was acknowledged, but nothing was acknowledged to be the work of the Holy Ghost in history which contradicted the Scriptures and the clear Word. Unity of the Scriptures and history, communion with the Scriptures before everything and with the true Church of all centuries and lands, true catholicity, marked the second tendency, which was the tendency of Dr. Martin Luther. and consider the Symbolical Books, and you will undoubtedly find this harmonious conception of Scripture and history, this conviction that the true Church never dies out, this hatred of novelty, this reverence for the old, this correction of the old by means of the original, this discovery of the original in antiquity.

If the German Reformers had not been conscious that they were a continuation of the original and ancient pure Church, it would be inconceivable why they always insisted on appealing to a general free Christian council. They hoped to convince the whole world that they wished to put away novelties and abuses but not the unblamable tradition of antiquity. This was the sense of their Confession at Augsburg in 1530. With the light of God's Word in their hands, they went through all centuries and lands, rejoiced in every pure churchly scriptural confession and life, recognized in it the same spirit that filled them, and never dreamed that any one could charge them with having fallen away from the original, one, Catholic Church. So firm was their conviction that they were children of the Apostles and Fathers, so peaceful their conscience in the truth which they confessed, that they regarded the obduracy with which their opponents clung to the distinctive doctrines and abuses of Rome as nothing else than an apostasy from the ancient doctrine.... Over against this apostate Church the Lutherans then called themselves Catholic and Apostolic.

And who will blame them? Who will not acknowledge their right? Let that be asserted boldly which is the truth. The original pure Church of the West lives where the original pure Church is preached. All is ours, whether Christ or Paul or Peter or Linus or Anacletus or Clement or Cyprian or Augustine. The cloud of witnesses of antiquity has come over us; with us are their knowledge, their wisdom, their peace, their joy, their strength, their patience; and praised for it be the Lord.

Karianne said...

Pastor Stiegemeyer,

My husband and I really enjoy your blog. We read it every day. I think it takes us back to Pittsburgh, if only in our minds, and reminds us of what we love and miss about the city. We only lived there for a year, but it was the first year of our marriage and we feel like we really "grew up" there. We were members of First Trinity, which I consider my home church in a lot of ways because it was where I became Lutheran. We learned so much from Pastor Spittel and Pastor Andrae that really rooted us in the faith.

We really appreciate the observation you and Darrell have made about this issue of "Romo-phobia". As one of our Pittsburgh friends would say, sometimes we have a tendency to "beat ourselves up for being Lutheran." This kind of attitude is fairly prevalent in our church here in Austin, as well as most of the curches in this area. It's a stark contrast from First Trinity for sure. Maybe it has something to do with the strong Southern Baptist influence in this part of the country, but I suspect there are many "closet Baptists" frequenting LCMS churches around here. We're with you on the call for a "renewal of Lutheran identity"... we should put together some kind of revival and get a big tent of some kind... oh, wait.

Anyway, thanks for blogging about issues like this that our church faces. Your boldness is quite refreshing. By the way, how did you come across our dinky little blog??

in Christ,
Karianne Kurth

Tony said...

Nice post pastor. I think turnabout is fair play. We have been using Protestant hymns for 50 years. :)

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