Saturday, November 15, 2008

Augustana: Of God

A couple of posts back I began a discussion on the Lutheran Confession with the first article of the Augsburg Confession. So before I go on to the second article, let us make a comment or two on Article 1.

When we say, "Our Churches," we are making claims, not merely about individual isolated parishes, but for a whole jurisdiction. These "Churches" are dioceses, whole cities or areas, which work together for the sake of the Gospel. One of the benefits of this way of thinking of "churches" is that while they do comprehend the "congregation," they also potentially include much more. For example, schools, universities, seminaries, other non-parish ministries, such as prison or military, or even missionary church planters, etc. Though Lutherans in the Missouri Synod tend not to think of monastic communities as legitimate part of the church, I would suggest that they too are included. It is significant and instructive that the early Lutheran divine, Martin Chemnitz, addressed some of his writings to both the heads of parishes (pastors), and the heads of monasteries (abbots).

Another thought: there is a wonderfully Lutheran mode of confession that takes place in this article, and you will see it quite often in the Book of Concord, not everywhere, but quite often, for example in many of the articles of the Augsburg Confession, and it is developed most explicitly in the Formula of Concord. Namely, there is a confession of the truth, and a corresponding condemnation of false teaching, thesis and antithesis. The first paragraph is governed by the "docent," the second by the "damnant." Preaching the truth of the Gospel in the midst of today's spirit of acceptance and ecumenicity gone awry requires that we make clear not only what the Gospel is, but also what it isn't. So, for example, Luther shows us in his Small Catechism that it is vital to learn of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives by first seeing that we cannot, by our own reason or strength believe in Christ, etc. (In that case, we see a beautiful example of Luther's brilliantly unsystematic way of writing, so that he can accomplish both positive and negative teaching within the same sentence.)

A couple other lines of thought are merited by Article 1, which we will explore a bit tomorrow, the Second Last Sunday of the Church Year (and commemoration of Saint Gertrude.)


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thanks for discussing this topic, Latif. I want to be clear on what you're saying. Are you saying that "Our Churches" means:

a. Our parishes gathered as a jurisdiction; or
b. Our jurisdictions--i.e. groups of territorial churches.

It's a subtle distinction, but one with great import.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Thanks for asking for this clarification, Father. The point I was trying to get across was precisely that I read it according to your second option. In turn, these whole territorial, or diocesan, or I suppose in some cases archdiocesan churches are united in their common confession.

In several of Luther's writings we even see pastoral arguments for the notion that individual parishes must not do things our of harmony with the others in their city, etc. (eg. Letter to the Livonians), so that there was certainly a much higher sense of fraternity, of ecclesiastical family, outside the isolated "congregation," than there is today all too often.