25 February 2011

Liturgical Chaos in Catholicism

If you want to see a bit of the cooky stuff that happens in the Roman Church (and some Episcopals), check out the video. I do not in anyway subscribe to the thank you given to the pope at rome at the end of the show.

HT: Bad Vestments

16 February 2011

A Question for one of Better Hebrew than I


So, I have been doing some studying, and I've come across a few sources who seem to think that in Genesis 34 that Dinah is not raped, but rather that when she is "taken" by Shechem it is a willing thing - that it is not "seized" her but, takes her as a wife, but they aren't married yet. Thus the dishonor and humiliation isn't rape but rather pre-marital sex.

Now, here I must admit - my Hebrew is... well, let's just say I've learned to hate the BDB with a passion. The Greek just has "labOn" - which is take. What nuances come out in the Hebrew - וַיִּקַּ

Anyone know? Okay, I'm sure one of you know - could you lend any insight this way?

09 February 2011

Music and Hymnody as Catechesis, Confession and Pastoral Care (Audio & Video Recordings)

For those who may be interested in checking it out, there are audio and video recordings from the Faith Lutheran Church, Plano, Texas, Free Conference on Music and Hymnody now available on their website. In addition to my presentation, Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown gave an excellent and edifying paper on the role of hymnody in the 16th Century Lutheran Reformation. Check it out.

07 February 2011

Because I said so

How much do principles of parenting apply to the pastoral office? This is a question that I have pondered much. Luther does say that those who teach the Word are a "third kind of father," i.e. spiritual fathers in the Large Catechism. Elsewhere I have written about the value of learning to understand ourselves as such "spiritual fathers" in relation to our congregations. But how does this look in practice?

For example, as a parent, there are times (many, in fact!) when the children want to know why we say "yea" or "nay" to something. It is not always beneficial to them to explain everything, especially if they are younger. Sometimes it is best to tell them, "Because I said so." Because I am the parent. That is why. Because this is the way I want it. It does boil down to personal preference. The reason you are to be home by 9:00 even though your friends can stay out until 10:00 is because this is what I prefer.

Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't save ourselves a lot of headaches when it comes to matters of adiaphora (true adiaphora, that is) to simply appeal to our pastoral authority. Why do I only allow boys to be acolytes? Because I said so. Because I am the pastor. I can give you several reasons explaining my preference, but none of these would likely matter in the long run.

Of course, I realize what people will say: "Herr Pastor!" "Grabauite!" "Domineering in the Office!" "Lording it over his flock!" But is it? Where in the Scriptures does it say that all matters not commanded or forbidden by a Word of the Lord must be decided by a vote of the people, or simply by the preference of the congregation, without the input of the pastor? What would be so wrong with pastors exercising some of that fatherly authority and saying, "Because I said so. This is how I want it. I am the pastor," particularly in cases where the people have become unruly? Is this a violation of the pastor/sheep relationship?

This is the way most questions on the S.E.T. are asked: "What is your preference regarding ___________?" Mostly they don't want reasons or explanations, just to know what your preference is. Why would there be anything wrong with a pastor explaining to the congregation that this is just his preference, offer explanation as to why it is, and ask that they would honor that preference? Maybe I am just an idealist.

How Does the Conservative Reformation Guide Us Today

Pastor Weedon gives and excellent look at Lutheran Cathedral services in 1613 at his blog - something well worth looking at. Weedon essentially points out that the services listed shows "the catholic principle of the Lutheran Reformation, that they rejected in the tradition that which CONFLICTED with the Gospel, but accepted that which could be harmonized with it."

I think that is an excellent summation of the catholic principle.

Now, how is that principal to be applied today? How do we who are in the Lutheran Church almost five centuries after the Reformation, on a completely different continent, apply this idea?

I see two, I don't know if I want to call them streams of thoughts, but maybe concerns or responses to that principal. I'll call one the restorative approach and the other the "harmonizing" approach.

1. The Restorative approach. I find that many Lutherans, when finally studying the Reformation in detail, are amazed at how much was retained... and upon seeing how much has been lost among us seek to restore the richness and fullness of that which we had generations ago. (I'm going to assume that to a greater or middling extent, the Blackbirds will have strong leanings this way). That when the the Lutheran Church of the Reformation (historically speaking, not the little modern synod) is viewed, that it ends up being the "ideal" that is striven for, that is aimed for.

Now, of course, different folks will latch on to different aspects to strive for. The Churches in different places had different "flavors" if you will... some might strive more for Magdeburg, some might strive more for Luther -- and on occasion those who strive for slightly varying ideals might bludgeon each other repeatedly in brotherly debates.

But what remains is a principal that there needs to be change - that what we are doing now is lacking and that what was lost needs to be restored.

2. The Harmonizing approach. There is another aspect or approach that can play in very well with this principal - and that is the harmonizing approach... that we retain what can be retained as long as it harmonizes with the Gospel. Here, rather than seeking to restore some lost ideal of the past, the present is observed - and what can be maintained, even if it isn't necessarily classic or traditional.

For example, take the pastor who arrives at a congregation that has individual cups. Are they ideal... probably not. However, can they be maintained without conflicting with the Gospel. One can most definitely argue yes... and so one taking more of the harmonizing approach could thrust that issue to a back burner and not worry too much about it, or even feel a need to try to change the practice.

I'd argue that this is taking that catholic principal and applying it not to the time of the Reformation but to the current, modern day. The reformers were willing to live with much for the sake of the Gospel, so shall I.

3. The Licentious Changers Now, keep in mind, I am making a distinction between those who *introduce* new things to the Church in an attempt to... whatever they are attempting, and those who simply come upon what they have received. We do have those who are much more radical in their efforts for change and who will attempt to introduce anything they think they can put a Lutheran sheen on.

This is how we have much of what we have received. We put a Lutheran spin on things - which is why the lifelong Lutheran can say, "I love the hymn Just as I am" while the convert from 7th Day Adventism has his eyes bulge out. Historical, at least in America, there has been, especially in the 20th Century, a tendency to Lutheranize things... sure, we'll sing Amazing Grace, but we'll just drop that verse out about grace teaching the heart to fear. Sure, the schools will have the "Christian Flag" even though it was created to assert that people who held to distinctive doctrines (i.e. Lutherans) were stupid troublemakers.

Time tends to sanitize.

We see today many who aren't even waiting for time to sanitize but are rather aggressively introducing enthusiast-style practices into the Church willy-nilly, and of course, all for the sake of reaching people with the Gospel (note: there is a vast different between "for the sake of the Gospel" and "for the sake of reaching people with the Gospel." One sees the Gospel as truth to be proclaimed, the other sees it as a product to be trussed up and sold).

+ + + + + + + + +

Now, what does this mean? I think it is clear that I think the 3rd option is right out and un-faithful. It's the radical reformation, it's the worst parts of pietism and rationalism, it's the New Measures. 2nd verse, same as the first. Let me be clear that I am not advocating the random introduction of an "anything goes" approach... so please, no slippery slope arguments, no "two has to lead to three" because, for one, it doesn't, and two, if it does then you have to concede to anyone who says that the first approach automatically means you want to become a Roman Catholic. If one side of the hill is slippery, there's a good chance the other side is as well.

But, to what extent are the restorative desires balanced with harmonizing desires? I think that sometimes it seems as though we will put up with things until we can restore them to the reformation ideal we tend to like... a 1 automatically trumps 2 approach. Are there some things that we should simply let be, that have been introduced, and while they aren't necessarily good or idea, it's okay that they were introduced?

(But... don't you know why that was introduced! Individual cups were brought in to parrot protestants... and Latin was introduced in lands where people didn't understand it simply to maintain institutional power - yet Magdeburg was able to maintain an awful lot of it. Not every practice that has become cherished was introduced for lily pure reasons. And even if *I* know... how many people know, and is that what they are thinking of when they see the practice. The Christian flag annoys the tar out of me because I know it's history... but when little Aunt Bertha sees it, I doubt she's thinking "Let's start having open communion" - or if she is, it ain't because of the flag.)

The second seems to me to be more of what the reformers did in their own day -- should that also be the guide for our actions, or should we seek more to restore things unto what the reformers had? (Shoot, now I'm going to have that power ballad "Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone" running through my head... perhaps in mentioning it I can at least let Pastor Stuckwisch share my misery.) Have we started doing things the Reformers, in their conservative approach, wouldn't have done, and if so is that necessarily a bad thing? And does the "catholic" part of the principal really mean that you try to do things like other people do... did Wittenburg really care what Magdeburg did in her cathedral... as long as it wasn't in gross error.

Just things to ponder whilest humming a 20+ year old song this morning.