Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Course of Error in the Church

Yesterday Fr. Weedon posted the following both at ALPB Online and on Weedon's Blog where is was his "Old Lutheran Quote for the Day"—one of the very nice features of his blog. Though I go right by his church every time I drive to-and-fro the St. Louis area, and we've both been on a Lutheran liturgy list for years, Fr. Weedon and I have not yet actually met. Some day that will change. In the meantime, I very much appreciate his own contributions and his regularly lifting up quotes from the Church Fathers and our Lutheran Church Fathers. He's on my list of Blogs for Faithful Churchmen and I encourage you to check it out.

One of our American Lutheran Church Fathers is Charles Porterfield Krauth, who was a leader of the Confessional recovery Lutherans experienced in the mid-19th Century, battling Schmuckerism (which included re-writing the Augsburg Confession to take out things that were "too Catholic," like the Lord's Supper being the Body and Blood of Christ, Baptismal Regeneration, etc.) and helping form the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, from when the ELCA draws deep roots. To those who think things are hopeless in the ELCA, I encourage them to learn about 19th-Century North American Lutheranism, for things were far worse then.

A fine overview of that history is Lutherans in Crisis: The Question of Identity in the American Republic by David A. Gustafson, published by Augsburg Fortress about 15 years ago but, alas, out of print. But you can usually find a copy or two via the Amazon.com link above or at Alibris, though not always at a reasonable price. It is especially important to read when we are told that certain innovations in the Lutheran Church are inevitable or "the youth don't think it's a very big deal." Maybe your library can find a copy.

Until then, catch this paragraph by C. P. Krauth (I've made a couple of minor correction's from Fr. Weedon's posts), sub-headed "Course of Error in the Church," in his The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, one of the keys to the ELCA's own pre-history, but published today by Concordia Publishing House, rather than Augsburg Fortress
When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking for toleration. Its [sic] friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ, is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is asserting supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not at first in spite of their departure from the Church's faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it.        (The Conservative Reformation..., pp. 195-196)
If any of this seems familiar, you're paying attention to what's happening in the old "mainline" North American churches. But having read this, you are now better prepared for the upcoming news about the ELCA.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

Pr. Zip, you're so right about the issues that led to the beginning of LTSP. For my undergrad American Church History class I did a paper on that. The research was eye-opening to me. Peace.