“O Come, Let Us Adore Him”

I don’t know if this guy is a Lutheran, but I find his comments fitting for this season. (Not only that, but I identify with the fact that I can’t turn my mind off, even in worship. My wife finds this annoying at times.)

Christmas isn’t over; it’s just beginning!


Is the Reformation Over?

No. Just misunderstood. Part of the problem, it seems, is that the disagreement between evangelicals and Catholics consisted of comments like, “‘We should confront each other not as representatives of the same faith, but as representatives of quite different faiths,’ Methodist minister C. Stanley Lowell wrote in CT in 1960. ‘Protestants should confront Roman Catholics in dialogue much as they would confront Jews.'”

Lutherans have never considered individual Catholics as non-Christians. We’ve also never had a problem (theoretically) with working together with anyone for pro-life causes, for example. Nor have we engaged in proselytizing among Roman Catholics (or evangelicals for that matter–until the megachurch ideal infected Lutheranism, that is).

What’s the primary issue?

The justification dialogue also shows the limitation of Noll and Nystrom’s main question. How do we know when the Reformation is over? On the one hand, the authors write, “If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that … justification is the article on which the church stands or falls, then the Reformation is over.”

But the Reformation also produced a severe disagreement over the nature of the church. Protestants cannot fathom why the Catholic Catechism approvingly quotes Joan of Arc saying, “About Jesus Christ and the church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” Noll and Nystrom say, “In sum, the central difference that continues to separate evangelicals and Catholics is not Scripture, justification by faith, the pope, Mary, the sacraments, or clerical celibacy—though the central difference is reflected in differences on these matters—but the nature of the church.”

Absolutely backwards. What people like Noll and Nystrom do not understand (apparently; I haven’t read the book) is that Justification is not one among many doctrines to be believed. When Justification is called the “article on which the Church stands or falls,” that does not mean that if we have lip-service agreement on that, then it’s all good (e.g., the JDDJ).

What it does mean is that if someone claims to believe in justification by grace through faith (usually the “alones” are conveniently omitted), but denies it by other doctrines, then we do not have concordia.

Regardless of claims to the contrary, if Trent stands, the Church falls. And on the other hand, when Justification becomes one doctrine among many (with the “church” as the primary point of disagreement! as if one could truly have “church” without Justification!), Justification is also denied. That, and not any anti-ecumenism, is (should have been?) the reason why the LC-MS did not sign the JDDJ. There is not true agreement, and there cannot be as long as Trent’s anathemas hold. The funny thing is, Trent cannot be reversed. It is binding and eternal dogma, which simply goes to show that the “Reformation” is not over.

Noll and Nystrom, according to their depiction in the article, reverse Church and Justification. It is not the difference in Church that is primarily reflected in Joan of Arc’s statement, leading to disagreement on Justification; rather, it is a disagreement on Justification that can allow Rome to accept her statement. It is exactly this problem (i.e., that the Church–meaning essentially the Roman Church under the papacy–and Christ are the same) that shows the denial of justification by grace alone, and not the other way around.

In some sense, the Reformation is over. Trent was convened. The Formula of Concord was written. (Of course, I’m speaking about Lutherans and Catholics, not the name-stealing “evangelicals”!) But until one or the other of the churches that abide officially by the understandings found in those documents change, the consequences of the Reformation will continue.

[Just noticed, Josh has this at Here We Stand. Creepy, indeed.]