Friday, April 16, 2010

The teachings of men....

Quite often when discussing the liturgy and whether or not we need to discard it or modify it, I am told it is just the "teaching of men..." and an adiaphoron, in any case, so why not just get rid of all that so we can bring in more people?

The problem is that I do not see a reason to discard the "teaching of men..." over the centuries and replace it with the teaching of a couple of men in the here and now--without Scriptural warrant. In other words, there is a burden to be overcome, it is not enough to show that a particular practice isn't commanded in the Scriptures so we can do whatever we want. We have to at least respect what was handed down to us and not just discard it--because in many ways what is handed down to us is what "works" for Gospel proclamation.


Chris Jones said...

I don't think it should be so easily conceded that the liturgy is "the teaching of men." An examination of the history of the liturgy and how it has been reverenced throughout Church history suggests to me that it is one of the "traditions ... by word" to which the Apostle command us to hold fast (2 Th 2.15). If so then it is just as Apostolic and just as binding on us as the written Scriptures.

Edward Reiss said...


I was making more of an "internal" cririque. If we can discard the liturgy because it is the "teaching of men" why should we accept the "teaching" of a few men today? It then boils down to power and authority.

William Tighe said...

But aren't Lutherans committed, historically, if not confessionally, precisely to the position that it is an adiaphoron (which is what I take "the teaching of men" to mean)? After all, that part of SW Gwermany that became Lutheran in the 16th Century (Wurttemberg, Baden, smaller territorial states, and city-states like Strassburgh, Ulm and others) completely discarded the whole of the Western liturgical tradition in favor of a pattern of services based on the same model as the Reformed in Switzerland: the medieval "Prone," or preaching service -- with the Eucharist as an optional add-on at the end (rarely more than 3 or 4 times amiong the Reformed, more frequent among the Lutherans)? In the last 75 years or so, these churches have caught the "liturgical revision" bug as much as any others, and I think in some cases have adopted more "mainstream" Lutheran liturgical forms as one option among others -- but they have ended up, like all of the other historical German Lutheran landeskirchen, in an extremity of apostasy that embraces WO and, increrasingly, SS.

These SW German Lutherans were as strongly anti-Reformed and, later, anti-Calvinist as the most zealous Lutherans elsewhere, as witness Johann Brenz (1499-1570) and his successor Jacob Andreae (1528-1590), but their churches entirely discarded the Western liturgical tradition and, so far as I know, no other Lutherans, in their own day or subsequently, critiziced them for it, much less rebuking or criticizing them for it.

Edward Reiss said...

Dr. Tighe,

Did each pastor in each congregation make up his oen liturgy, or were the liturgical changes more "ecclesial", if you know what I mean.

I agree with your assessment of the landskirchen, BTW.

Also, I take SS to mean "Same Sex", is that correct?

Anonymous said...

It's still the tradition of men, Ed.

-- Lucian.

William Tighe said...

SS = Sanctified Sodomy or "the blessing of homosexual 'partnerships'" (the "later-born twin" of WO).

No, these SW German Landeskirchen all has "Kirchenordenungen" or "Agende," state-imposed "liturgies" and other regulations, just as in all the other Lutheran territorial or urban "state churches" in Germany and Scandinavia. I don't think that pastors had any more freedom to "do their own thing" in these SW German landeskirchen than they had elsewhere. Later on, in the 18th C, the Wuerttembergische Landeskirche was heavily influenced by pietism, but, then, so, too were other ones in other parts of Germany. Apparently even in the 18th Century unordained theology students could be licensed by the Tuebingen University divinity faculty to preach and "administer the sacraments," which is how Count Zinzendorf came to be a "preacher" (the Moravinans made him a bishop, but he always considered himself a Lutheran, even if Henry Melchior Muhlenberg had to wage a long struggle against him as a "sectarian" in the 1740s and 50s). I thought that "lay celebration" among Lutherans was a pietistic conceit that only obtained widespread acceptance in the 1920s (in Germany) although it came in amongst the Norwegian Lutherans in the early/mid 19th Century.

William Tighe said...

And, to ramble a bit, the late Prof. Marquart of Concordia-Fort Wayne Seminary used to term the 1989 MoSynod "regulation" of "lay celebration" the "Wichita Amendment to the Augsburg Confession," although he once told me in a telephone conversation that however bad it was "it was impossible for a Lutheran to rule it out as a matter of principle."

Steve Martin said...

The liturgy is not centered on or derived from the "teaching of men"...but rather on the gospel of Christ Jesus.

As Lutherans, we ceratainly are free to do liturgy...or not.

But we keep it because as Ed says, it connects us to what is handed down to us and our Christian brethren from the past, and more importantly is acts as an anchor to keep us grounded in Christ, that we don't start to float hither and yon with the winds of a fickle culture that doesn't care one wit about the church.

L P said...

I think it is also a matter of usefulness or is it salutary, does it give good order? Is it Scriptural?

If I remember rightly, Sasse had good things to say about this liturgical war that is going on in Lutheran circles.


Edward Reiss said...

Dr. Tighe,

It sems to me that the pastors were not working as individuals but within an ecclesial framework. For that reason it does not track well to what I am discussing. I also think it dhows the pitfalls of a government regulated liturgy.

Regarding Prof. Marquart, IIRC, a Lutheran cannot argue against it on principle because if they are called by a congregation, they are in effect ministers.

Edward Reiss said...


I agree with your principles, but a legitimate question can be asked: Why isn't e.g. a hoot nanny a valid liturgy? There is no slam-dunk argument from the Scriptures or the Confessions. ISTM that the Reformers didn't really address this issue because it hadn't really arisen within Lutheran circles.

Chris Jones said...

a Lutheran cannot argue against it on principle because if they are called by a congregation, they are in effect ministers.


No, we cannot argue against it "in principle" but that is only by reducing rite vocatus almost to a nullity. That is, if the congregational call itself is all that makes a priest, that makes a mockery of any sort of mutual accountability among local churches as it relates to the calling of clergy. The wider Church is supposed to have some say as to the standards a man must meet to exercise the sacred ministry, as well as some role to play in exercising the Church's discipline to ensure that her ministers remain orthodox in faith and practice.

That is why in our Church body we have a system of colleges and seminaries, a reasonably well-defined colloquy process for men coming in from other denominations, the requirement for a quia subscription to the Confessions, and finally an offical roster of qualified clergy which represents the successful completion of all of the foregoing. In the normal course of events all of that precedes the "congregational call." So it is highly misleading to say that it is only the call that makes a minister.

In reality, it is more than a little disingenuous to argue that "if they are called, then they are ministers," because lay celebration is not, and was never intended to be, a way to create "quickie pastors." It is designedly a means to allow men who are not pastors, do not claim to be pastors, and do not intend to be pastors, to exercise the pastoral ministry, in direct contravention of Augustana XIV. And it is advanced by those who truly believe that there is no difference between a priest and a layman. That is what makes it disingenuous.

L P said...


Why isn't e.g. a hoot nanny a valid liturgy?

Point well taken. So the debate becomes a matter of all sorts of arguments mainly from Scripture and perhaps what is deemed "wise" use.


Edward Reiss said...


I think it is more than just a question of style. It is where the liturgy, which includes actions as well as words, points us. Does it enjoin us to have certain feelings, or does it point us to the Sacraments? In my no so humble opinion, a hoot nanny style is more about engendering feelings than pointing us to Christ. I also think this is sort of baked into the style.

Charles Hedrick said...

Perhaps what you're looking for is the regulative principle? While style is in some regards adiaphora, (1) worship is based on Scripture to a reasonable extent, and (2) there's some sense to the old saying that the medium is the message. The way we do things does have effects on us, and thus some styles may be more or less conducive to worship (at least in a given culture). The difference between music based on the Psalms and on mindless repetition of "We praise you" is not just personal taste.

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