Monday, December 10, 2007

The Wauwatosa Gospel

Awhile back a poster asked for discussion concerning the Wauwatosa theological perspective. I have done some reading on this topic and thought readers might be interested in clarify or commenting on this topic and "its impact on pastoral study, preaching, and teaching" (as discussed in a recent WELS paper cited below).

Here are a few sources I have located.

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Here is a recent WELS blog on this topic: http://wauwatosagospel.blogspot.com/

"Between 1900-1929, three professors at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, reshaped the theological approach of the Wisconsin Synod, especially through their writing in the seminary's theological journal, Theologische Quartalschrift.....Professor John Philipp Koehler, Professor John Philipp Koehler, and Professor John Schaller."

"...
Pastor Wayne Mueller’s dedicatory preface.... In the first 30 years of this century, these professors at the Wisconsin seminary in Wauwatosa refreshed the church with a direct appeal to the Bible."
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From Charis: http://www.charis.wlc.edu/publications/charis_winter04/braun.pdf
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Here is another recent paper:

http://www.welssc.org/Essays/2007-10%20Patterson.pdf

This recent paper suggests that the Wauwatosa approach is: The Historical Grammatical Approach.
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94 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't look like anyone wants to discuss this worthwhile topic.

Let's see if this generates some discussion: the Wauwatosa theologians didn't think we needed to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday.





(Just Kidding!)

Bespoke said...

What did the W. Gospel do to prevent WELS from falling to Reformed doctrine? Nothing. Who are the favored speakers today? Kent Hunter! Leonard Sweet! Martin Marty! Archbishop Weakland! Oh, he is Roman Catholic.

A. said...

John,

This is an interesting topic. I'm curious to see what those more knowledgable than I have to say about the W. Gospel.

Anonymous said...

bespoke,

Sounds like you have an axe to grind.

It was because of the w. theology that the Wisconsin Synod was able to offer its Scriptural testimony to the LC-MS in the 1930s-1950s.

Anonymous said...

"It was because of the w. theology that the Wisconsin Synod was able to offer its Scriptural testimony to the LC-MS in the 1930s-1950s."

Anon @ 6:28,

It sounds like you have an axe to grind.

Lay member said...

Is the basic premise that the w. theology focus is on the Scriptural context rather than a doctrinal dogmatic view. That is what I gleaned from the sources cited.

The most recent paper from Rev. Patterson states that "most pastors in our circles have a pretty good grasp of its basic meaning. Most lay member...do not have a clue what it means.."

I'm a lay member and I have heard the term tossed about, but I'm wondering if those pastors in "our circles" or on the fringe do have a good grasp of its meaning and application.

Patterson goes on to say that we should read Scripture from a horizontal perspective, meaning that the reader should take a broader context approach to interpretating Scripture.

Interestingly, Patterson on page 6 says the w. theology help to set the WELS straight on the doctrine of church and ministry. Stating that when disagreement arose with Missouri these men went straight to Scripture (I guess that he means they didn't turn to the Confessions??)

He goes on to say that Scripture clearly teaches
A) the Gospel creates its own forms of ministry
B) that the church is wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus name.
lay member

Anonymous said...

"He goes on to say that Scripture clearly teaches
A) the Gospel creates its own forms of ministry
B) that the church is wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus name."

It is funny to me that the WELS considers this being "set straight" on the doctrine of Church and Ministry. You need look no further than the proof texts cited by the WELS doctrinal statements to know that this is not what "Scripture clearly teaches."

Anonymous said...

I wish I could travel back in time and show the Wauwatosa theologians the unintended consequences of their "fresh" approach.

Anonymous said...

It is funny to me that people in the LCMS and elsewhere deride Wauwautosa as being less than Confessional, when in truth Wauwautosa encourages people to do exactly what the writers of the Confessions did: examine Scripture anew rather than relying on church dogma.

Anonymous said...

The irony in all this is that, thanks to Wauwatosa we have WELS sem profs saying that women can be pastors to other women (but we don't because it would offend some), yet in the LC-MS, which repudiates this novel view of the Church and Minstry, it is more common to see lay communion assitants and women reading scripture.

Anonymous said...

"I wish I could travel back in time and show the Wauwatosa theologians the unintended consequences of their "fresh" approach."

Hmm, sounds much like something that Rome might have said about Luther's fresh approach.

Anonymous said...

I think it's ridiculous to link Wauwatosa with things like CG in the WELS. ELCA and LCMS have much bigger problems with CG and they don't use the Wauwautosa approach. So if anything, the logical assumption would be that Wauwautosa hinders CG, rather than encouraging it.

Anonymous said...

"Hmm, sounds much like something that Rome might have said about Luther's fresh approach."

No, Rome would have wanted to eliminate Luther. My point is that I'm sure the W. theologians genuinely thought that they were helping, not knowing that they were creating a generation of Pastors and lay people that are unfamiliar or have little regard for our Lutheran symbols.

Anonymous said...

"My point is that I'm sure the W. theologians genuinely thought that they were helping, not knowing that they were creating a generation of Pastors and lay people that are unfamiliar or have little regard for our Lutheran symbols."

But you can't judge something by its unintended side-effects. The Wauwatosa men had a high regard for the Confessions. They were simply guarding against an abuse of the Confessions. Sadly, like you say, some have gone the other way and neglected the Confessions. But that's not the fault of Wauwatosa, it's the fault of some who came later and took it too far.

Would you say, "I wish we could go back and warn Luther about what the Pietists would do with his priesthood of all believers."? Of course not, there's nothing wrong with what Luther taught. The problem is with people who later took it to the extreme.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting, but during the election debate in the late 1800s, Walther used a Wauwatosa approach to election. Instead of quoting one old Lutheran dogmatician after another, many of whom were messed up on the "intuitu fidei" issue, he went straight to the Scriptures to show what God said and what God didn't say about our election in Christ.

RNN said...

John,

Thanks for the post on the Wauwatosa theology!

C.S. Lewis once observed that when one reads works from the past, oftentimes he notices that the differences between then and now are greater than the differences between two opposing groups then. The shared assumptions of both parties during a period of history are perceived better from afar with the passage of time, leading us to realize that the two opponents had more in common than they may have realized. I think that Lewis is right on this point.

For instance, the Wauwatosa theologians repudiated Missouri's approach as too dogmatic; what was needed was a return to scripture. But now, as we look back at both sides, we can see that the Wauwatosa Gospel gave an answer that was equally focused on doctrine. Both sides shared the assumption that what truly counted was correct doctrine and an individual's knowledge of it; they differed (to some extent) on how we were to arrive at that doctrine. That was the primary focus of both Walther and Wauwatosa.

(As someone observed, the charges against Missouri do need to be taken with a grain of salt. One of the papers linked to from this blog states that Pieper was prone to exaggeration. Missouri--yes, even Walther--did draw their theology from Scripture. Did they overemphasize dogmatics to the point where exegesis was denigrated? My answer is yes, probably to some extent. But when one reads Walther, we see him constantly turning to scriptures for his theology; so his work was not completely devoid of scripture. But I digress . . .)

What both sides were lacking (to some extent) was an emphasis on the kerygmatic nature of God's Word. Both sides were intent on getting doctrine straight--a necessary, good, and worthwhile task. But this task need always go hand in hand with ordering worship aright and proclaiming law and gospel. What goes on in church (and this goes beyond the sermon) cannot be placed below dogmatics or correct doctrine; for the church lives and breathes as the Spirit of God gives it breath through the word and sacrament preached and administered within the worship life of the church.

The Wauwatosa theologians, being men of their age, could sense this overemphasis on dogmatics in Missouri. I will grant that they had a point. But I think they came up with the wrong answer. Rather than emphasizing the importance of God's working through Law and Gospel, they argued that we needed to take a different approach to shaping our doctrine.

Also, being men of their age, Wauwatosa's answer is a renewed emphasis on history and languages. Scripture needed to be read within its proper context, they maintained. I agree. However, scripture is the book of the church. It is to be interpreted within the church. It is modernism and the Enlightenment that has taken interpretation out of the church and made it a part of the academy.

That is why the early church stood on a three-legged stool. The true church stood on the legs of apostolic scripture, apostolic ministry (and no, not today's idea of apostolic succession, but a recognition that Christ instituted the office and continued to send pastors and teachers to his church), and apostolic doctrine (i.e, the Creed). This recognized that Christ was present and active in his church, sending pastors to proclaim his word and teach the proper confession of the truth, the creed.

Wauwatosa ignored (practically speaking) two legs of this stool. What counted for them was only scripture. Ministry was redefined and no longer seen as Christ's man sent to his church, but as a representative of that church with its common rights. The creed and the confessions were placed lower than they ought to be. The early church recognized that the Creed was subject to Scripture and normed by it. But they also knew from sad experience that many could claim faithfulness to Scripture while denying the central truths of the faith. That is why creeds and confessions are necessary: as a sign and symbol that one confesses the correct teaching of scripture and professes the correct belief in the Triune God.

To sum up, Wauwatosa's shortcomings center around a de-emphasis of Christ's presence within his church to grant life and salvation. Or, in technical terms, it is a deficient theology of the church. What counts for Wauwatosa is that every believer know as much isagogical information about scripture as possible so that s/he might be able to interpret it properly for him/herself.

Rather, the better answer to Missouri would have been holding up Christ's rule through his church by his word as proclaimed by the pastors he sent to speak in his stead. What truly matters is not the historical circumstances of (for instance) Jonah, so much as receiving, treasuring and valuing God's gifts to us in Christ Jesus, given through his appointed means. This is not to say that historical circumstances are unimportant; a serious student of scripture needs to study these. But it is saying that there is more to understanding God's Word than historical circumstances.

So much for now; please, I would appreciate other perspectives on Wauwatosa. As I have time I will return to the topic; there is much that could be said here, much that we can learn from these men--from both their strengths and their weaknesses.

RNN

Bespoke said...

Wauwatosa hindersChurch Growth doctrine in the WELS? Dozens have been named who are not at all hindered or even shame-faced about their slavery to false doctrine, which they copy from others.

Most Lutherans laugh at the pretensions of the Wisconsin Synod, if they even think the group matters. The ELS has a low opinion of WELS.

So it comes down to - some WELS pastors think Wauwatosa innovations are way cool.

Anonymous said...

RNN,

That was an excellent post, providing much thought to the discussion! Thank you!

If you would, could you please further explain the following -

"However, scripture is the book of the church. It is to be interpreted within the church."

I think I understand your meaning here. Yet how does this differ from such thought as the Eastern Orthodox Church's Tradition? or the Roman Catholic Church's tradition? They also mention that the bible is to be interpreted within the church.

I am not looking to start a whole new thread, I simply was looking for clarification.

Again, RNN, excellent post and I pray it leads to a fruitful discussion!

NDT

Anonymous said...

I am also puzzled and a bit troubled by this statement:

"However, scripture is the book of the church. It is to be interpreted within the church."

As was stated above, this statement is used, verbatim, in the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church to put Tradition on the same level (or above) Scripture. Those churches also use it justify things like apostolic succession and papal infallibility. This is the very sort of statement that Martin Luther fought so strenuously against. He saw Scripture as the book of every Christian, to be read and interpreted by all Christians as royal priests.

Strangely enough, the above comment is also used by liberal, post-modern theologians who deny that Scripture has any universal, objective meaning. They claim that Scripture must be interpreted differently by the Church in various places and times and situations. Thus the truth of Scripture is only whatever the Church at the time decides it is.

Thus, the above statement is faulty; it will inevitably lead into one of these two camps.

Anonymous said...

You know, RNN, I thought that your example of the three-legged stool sounded familiar. I was right:

"It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."

That's from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Your contention that Scripture must be interpreted within the church (which is quoted twice above me) also sounded familiar. Here it is:

"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."

That's also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Whether you realize it or not, what you're teaching is simply Roman Catholicism. And this isn't just the knee-jerk Lutheran reaction of labeling all things "Catholic". The quote above show that what you're teaching is in agreement with what Rome teaches.

Anonymous said...

"The quote above show that what you're teaching is in agreement with what Rome teaches."

Is there anything else we teach that is in agreement with what Rome teaches?

Anonymous said...

"Is there anything else we teach that is in agreement with what Rome teaches?"

Umm, when it comes to interpreting the Bible, we and Rome definitely do not agree.

Anonymous said...

RNN:

Thank you for your well-thought-out post on the Wauwatosa Gospel.

A comment to the two anonymi who accused RNN of confessing Roman Catholic doctrine when he said that Scripture is the Church's book, therefore Scripture is interpreted within the Church:

How would you handle St. Paul's use of the Greek word paredooka in 1 Corinthians 15:3. The Latin New Testament translated that Greek word as tradidi . From that Latin word we can hear the word "tradition".

What Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:3 is "tradition" down the teaching of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When the Church, through Her dominically ordered men in the Holy Preaching Office, teaches Sacred Scripture, this is paredooka . When the people of God (aka the Church) receive this "tradition", it is parelabon . The Latin word is accepi .

Here we see a Divine conversation between pastor and people. The pastor "traditions" down what was first "traditioned" down to him. The Church receives the "traditioning" and "traditions" it down to the future generations.

Yes, the Church is about the "traditioning" of Holy Scripture. The Church interprets Holy Scripture through the "traditioning" of God's Word from one generation to another. That's called "the preaching of the Gospel", something all Lutherans rejoice when hearing!

This preaching is also in baptism, absolution, and the Lord's Supper. One might say that the Mass (oops, I said it!) is the "traditioning" of Holy Scripture; a back-and-forth conversation between the people of God and Her dominically ordered shepherd of the Good Shepherd's flock.

I hope my words add to the understanding that there is a right way to understand "tradition". Yes, there is the RoMan Catholic understanding. But there is a churchly, Scriptural way of understanding "tradition". It is that churchly, Scriptural understanding that we Lutherans boldly confess.

RMC (Does it really mean RoMan Catholic? You make the call!)

RTMM said...

"RMC (Does it really mean RoMan Catholic? You make the call!)"

Yo, homes, I thought you was a rapper, Run RMC. Peace out.

RTMM

Anonymous said...

RTMM:

Jesus says, "I am the Way".

So, I suppose, one may say "Walk this Way", just like Run DMC did.

Trying to walk the Way our Savior trod,

RMC (I own my own turntable)

UP said...

Dear Anonymi,

I don't think you read RNN's comment correctly. S/he did not mention tradition at all and made very clear that s/he was not talking about apostolic succession. Your arguments against Roman Catholicism are valid, but not to the point of what RNN wrote, which is copied below:

"That is why the early church stood on a three-legged stool. The true church stood on the legs of apostolic scripture, apostolic ministry (and no, not today's idea of apostolic succession, but a recognition that Christ instituted the office and continued to send pastors and teachers to his church), and apostolic doctrine (i.e, the Creed). This recognized that Christ was present and active in his church, sending pastors to proclaim his word and teach the proper confession of the truth, the creed."

UP

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification RMC. Because of my WELS upbringing, sometimes when people say the word "church" I hear "holy catholic church" which makes me assume that that are promoting Roman Catholic doctrine.

So please, people, stop using the word "church." My knee is getting tired.

AP

Anonymous said...

Question:

Is the Wauwatosa Gospel an "Occam's Razor" of sorts?

In other words, if something is not a proper, Scriptural application of Law and Gospel, using the "fresh" approach, it is to be ruled out as vaetertheologie, as the Three Horsemen of Wauwatosa were so inclined to call Missouri's "Dead Orthodoxy"?

Might one also say this is a different "Occam's Razor" than Walther's proper distinction of Law and Gospel. A better way to say it might be that Walther's "razor" concerned preaching and Koehler/A. Pieper/Schaller were concerned with applying the "razor" to the theological task.

Excuse me while I lay down, chew on an herb, and think this whole thing through.

Dormi secouri,

Br. William of Baskerville (unstuck in time just like Billy Pilgrim)

mav said...

Anonymous,


You wrote: "He (Martin Luther) saw Scripture as the book of every Christian, to be read and interpreted by all Christians as royal priests."

Where did Luther write this? I vaguely recall Luther writing something about a layman with a Bible, interpreting it correctly, being more powerful than the pope (or something to that effect), but can't remember where I read it. I don't know if that's the reference you mean, but either way, could you provide a source please?

mav


Welcome, Mr. Connery!

RandomDan said...

"We cannot simply ignore the confessions and return directly to the Scriptures as though they [the confessions] did not exist. To be sure, Scripture remains the source and norm of all doctrine. We know of no tradition as source of revelation. But no one can read the Bible without his understanding of the same being determined by the experiences of the history of the church. No living person, be he Protestant or Catholic, theologian or non-theologian, can read the NT as though there never were an Athanasius, an Augustine, or a Luther, as though he never learned the catechism. Even the text or translation of the Bible we read is determined by the history of the church. This history forms a commentary on the Holy Scriptures. And no one can entirely free himself from this context, not even the scholar who appears to study the Bible at his desk without presupposition in order to develop a system of Christian doctrine. Thus, for the one who seriously seeks the correct Evangelical teaching on crucial modern problems, there is no other way than the way which leads through the confessions of the church to Holy Scripture as the source of truth." - Hermann Sasse, "The Lutheran Confessions and the Volk" (1933), in "The Lonely Way" Vol. 1, p. 123-4.

This is an interesting post on the role of tradition within the Lutheran Church.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting thread. Thanks for posting, John. I'd heard the Wauwatosa term bandied about but hadn't researched it until now. I think it helps explain to me why things are the way they are in WELS today.

I think this is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but doesn't work so well in reality, so I have a few questions as I continue my research:

1) How is this different from the Reformed view? In a sense, it's a modified charismatic view, isn't it? Not in the sense of totally relying on the, or a, spirit to inspire, but it does rely on the "ability" of the pastor, no?

2) This then gets confusing when correlated with the Church and Ministry view in WELS, maybe contradictory. With that view of the role of the pastor, how could we take their word for anything? Aren't we to disregard what they teach and then horizontally view the Scriptures ourselves (even if we don't know Greek and Hebrew)?

3) In practical terms, I don't think I could disregard the teachings of others to prove everything myself. I don't know that could be accomplished in three years of seminary either. Seems unrealistic that you could ever not rely on the learnings of others - obviously delivered within the Church.

I could be missing the point, but I'm still reading about it. Thanks again.

Rob

Anonymous said...

"I could be missing the point, but I'm still reading about it."

Yes, Rob, I think you're missing the point. I'm not sure that your questions really pertain to what Wauwatosa actually is or says. Keep reading about it and studying it though.

Anonymous said...

And which parts of the Confessions did they feel were incorrect because of proof-texts? Or am I supposed to figure that out as well?

I'm pathetic.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Rob,

You're not pathetic. You raise excellent questions, ones that many of the rest of us have too. And they do pertain very well to Wauwautosa.

RTMM said...

Rob wryly writes,

"And which parts of the Confessions did they feel were incorrect because of proof-texts?"

Left to themselves and Scripture without the guidance of the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran Confessors the Wauwatosa theologians came away with a different understanding of the Ministry, rather they recreated one that was formless and void. For when everything is "ministry" (sic) and "everyone a minister" then nothing is and no one is.

RTMM

Anonymous said...

"Yes, Rob, I think you're missing the point. I'm not sure that your questions really pertain to what Wauwatosa actually is or says. Keep reading about it and studying it though."

Responses like this drive me nuts. It is so patronizing--"You're wrong, but I'm not going to explain how your wrong, other than to say, keep studying." No wonder the WELS is small and shrinking. Newcomers don't understand what they teach, and when we aks questions to try to figure it out, we're told either to "exercise our Christian judgement" or to "keep studying." And please, anon, don't dismiss my comment by telling me that I have "an axe to grind." Do you even know what that means?

John said...

Rob,

I hadn't read much about W. Theology until recently either. I think that the idea of getting people to dig into Scripture is excellent. But I, too, wonder about the horizontal reading of Scripture. I believe that to mean taking the context of the passages rather than passages in isolation. But what about standing on the shoulders of our Lutheran fathers and their writings?

Yet Pr. Patterson says that one "should study Scriptures on his own." He goes on to say that there are many "open questions"in Scripture (such as??) and studying alone will create "a more fair minded and understanding spirit."

Anonymous said...

"He goes on to say that there are many "open questions"in Scripture (such as??) and studying alone will create 'a more fair minded and understanding spirit.'"

That's interesting. One of my WELS pastors says the exact opposite (though maybe it is in reaction to statements like Patterson's). He always says (paraphrasing here) "It is good to read the scriptures on your own, but we can't have everyone going off to their rooms with their bibles and concocting their own doctrine every time they come across an 'open question'."

RNN said...

Dear NDT,

Thanks for your question. The comment I made needs further explanation. Here's what I mean when I write that scripture is the book of the church and is to be interpreted within the church.

Scriputre is the living, breathing Word of God that is powerful and active. It is God's address and his speech to man. It is intended to lead man to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. It creates the very things which it calls forth in man: repentance and faith. It creates man's response of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. It is the speech through which the Spirit of God creates the church, gathering believers into the church, that within that church thier sins might daily be forgiven.

A proper interpretation of scripture takes place within this context: the church. Scripture was not given to us to teach us ancient history (such as who the Hittites were), but to lead us to faith in Christ. So far, so good; I think all here agree on this point.

But, and this is key, scripture was also not given to us for the sole purpose of giving us dogmatic material that we can systematize. That is the goal of the academy (i.e., secular scholarship on scripture for the sake of knowledge). Some in the academy study scripture solely for historical data; others to formulate a system of theology. Both of these miss the point that Scripture is to create faith and by so doing to create the church. An interpretation that misses this misses everything. Or, to put it differenly, an interpretation that misses Christ misses everything, for that is who the scriptures proclaim.

In my humble opinion, that is the error made by Wauwatosa and other Lutherans in America during the early twentieth century. Their main interest was devising a system of doing theology. Wauwatosa perceived this in Missouri, with its emphasis on dogmatics. As previously stated, I think they were correct to some extent. But their answer was a different variation on the same theme: their thrust was developing a better theology and taking a different approach to our understanding of scripture.

And so they missed what is most important: that scripture interpret us; that God works through scripture to lead us to see who we are before him; as corrupt sinners through the law and as forgiven and redeemed by virtue of Christ applied to us.

This means that a proper approach to scripture is one from within the church: one that sees scripture as God's speech to us and seeks only to speak back (that is, to confess) what God speaks to us there. Such proper interpretation is a gift of the Spirit. It is done within the context and framework of prayer. This means more that a cursory prayer for the Spirit's aid before beginning study. This means a life shaped by daily meditation and prayer, so that through the Word the Spirit might work in us to bring about a proper understanding. Excellent resources for this are available in the daily offices of the church.

Wauwatosa's solution of the study of history and language is deficient. It places scripture on the level of the academy, as something for us to dissect and reassemble into our theology. This is an overstatement, of course, but the sole emphasis on academic study apart from the worship life of the church leads in that direction.

Scripture being the book of the church also means that we who are in the church do not--in fact, cannot--take a completely "fresh" approach to scripture. Nor, when we understand what the church is, would we want to. We do not approach scripture as individuals. Rather, through scritpure we are gathered into the church. We recognize that God has gathered a countless host into this same church before us; we recognize that those saints who have gone before have much to tell us--wisdom granted by the Spirit through the crucible of persecution, heresy, schism, and controversy. There is a certain streak of arrogance that says we can push this all aside and do better on our own. Worse yet, it is a denial of the Spirit's continued working in the church after Scripture was written. Good church men recognize the best of tradition as the work of the Spirit within the church. And yes, this tradition is always to be normed by scripture; but it is ignored only to our peril.

This idea of the fresh, contemporary approach being the best is the product (I propse) of modernism, admittedly unbeknownst to the W. theologians. A study of church history and the history of theology finds exactly the opposite view through much of church history. What was considered best is what is the most ancient. The closer to Jesus and to his divinely appointed apsotles, the better. Thus the continuted reverence given to the church fathers for most of the church's history, including the Reformers. (Check out the catalog of testimonies at the end of the Triglotta. The Lutherans even wrote histories to show that they agreed with the church of all centuries.) This reverence and respect for what the fathers can teach us is absent in Wauwatosa and absent in the WELS that follows their methods.

I once heard an LCMS pastor argue that the church that loses touch with its patristics becomes a sect, because it divorces itself from the catholic (small c) church of all time. I fear he may be right, and wonder what that means for Missouri as well as Wisconsin.

Now, hopefully this makes clear that this is not an avenue for tradition to take a place above or beside scripture. Rather, it recognizes that the Scipture creates the church and needs to be interpreted as such. The Spirit has worked through scripture to create this same church through the centuries and there is much that we can learn from our spiritual forbears--without equating their writings with scripture. As the 16th century Lutherans pointed out, the Fathers themselves wanted their writings subjected to scripture. But--and this is key--we don't ignore those writings. We treasure them for the value they give to us without equating them with scripture.

Nor is this a post-modern attempt to say that scripture can mean anything, depending on time and place. Rather, it seeks the best of the tradition of handing down the unchanging truths found in scripture through the centuries, and seeks to be faithful to this unchanging truth.

Enough on scripture being the book of the church. I'll take up other questions in another post or two.

RNN

RNN said...

Dear anonymi,

Several comments about scripture and tradition have been made above. First off, one has suggested that Luther saw scripture as the book of each individual Christian to interpret on his own.

You are correct to the extent that Luther wanted people to have access to scripture and be able to study it on their own. However, he never suggested that they should reach their own interpretation of scritpure. Nor did he argue that they should approach scripture as a blank slate. That's why he wrote the Catechism: to give an outline of scripture so that lay people could understand it. His prefaces to the Catechism make clear that they summarize Scritpure correctly; any interpretation that wanders from them is wrong. Moreover, they are to be the entry point into scripture. The layman armed with his thorough knowledge of the Catechism drawn from its daily study was then prepared to delve deeper into scripture with understanding.

The very existence and structure of Luther's Catechisms run contrary to the Wauwatosa theology. He gives no broad, horizontal context, but picks out passages and says: here are the central truths of scripture. For instance, he says that the Psalms are no more than an extended commentary on the first commandment. Not a word about the context of that first commandment, the authors of the Psalms, etc. Rather, what counted was the correct interpretation handed down in the Catechism. And the Catechisms were to be taught by the bishops, meaning that instruction in the church was to go hand-in-hand with Bible study--in fact, to precede Bible study.

Thus the three-legged stool. The idea was around long before the bishop of Rome became the pope, so we can't simply dismiss it as a Roman aberration. In fact, I don't think that the quotation from the Roman Catechism given above is too far off base. It does ascribe too much to tradition. But, as Lutherans we confess that God has given Scripture, ministry, and even the Creed (which is, after all, merely a summary of Scripture) as gifts to his church that are to work hand-in-hand. Each has its proper place, and the place of scripture is to be the norm. But scritpure is to be taught by God's men whom he sends and places into his office--and we dare not ignore that. For your "proof text" (do you hear Koehler rolling over in his grave) check out Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, who asks: "How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?"

So no; this is not closet Roman Catholicism. It is recognizing that God has not given Scripture by itself, but that he also creates the church and sends pastors to proclaim that word. We dare not tear apart what God has joined together.

As for tradition, I thank RMC, the ecclesiastic rapper, for his thoughts on tradition. I wholeheartedly claim them as my own--and will plagiarize them at the first available opportunity.

RNN

RNN said...

Rob,

Thanks for your observations and questions. I think they are spot on and very good questions to put to Wauwatosa.

I agree that this is a good idea on paper, but does not translate into reality so well. Thanks also to RandomDan for an appropriate Sasse reference and a link to a good post. No one can approach the scritpures completley unbiased and objectively. It is simply impossible; which means that Wauwatosa's primary hermeneutical principle is flawed.

For another good take on this, read the first chapter of the book Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall. He argues that the attempt to approach scripture anew apart from any tradition is itself a tradition. Check it out.

I agree with you that there is some odd similarity to the charismatics here. I see the link in W's appeal to scripture that bypasses 19 centuries of concrete church history. This is akin to the charismatics seeking the Spirit apart from means.

It also places everything on the ability of the pastor. If he is not a skilled linguist and a knowledgeable historian, Wauwatosa has little room for him. For one example of a man who grasped Luther's theolgoy without extensive work in languages and history, see the works of JS Bach.

Your second question also hits to the heart of Wauwatosa. The pastor is a nice add-on, but what really matters is that every Christian study scritpure for himself. Again, a deficient view of the church and the office. W. sees the church as something individuals attend to help their private study. Rather, the church is where God has located his forgiveness in the word and sacraments that are to be preached and administered there by her pastors.

And, to your third question, it is unrealistic that we can do theology apart from the work of others. We gain much by studying their works--without equating them with scripture.

Thanks again for your questions. I find them very pertinent.

RNN

Anonymous said...

The pastor is a nice add-on, but what really matters is that every Christian study scripture for himself. Again, a deficient view of the church and the office. W. sees the church as something individuals attend to help their private study. Rather, the church is where God has located his forgiveness in the word and sacraments that are to be preached and administered there by her pastors.

Well stated, RNN.

It is important to study God's Word together as the people of God. Corporate Bible Study is far from a cancer in the Church. But when it becomes a tutoring session for personal study of Holy Scripture, we can see how Wisconsin (and, more so, Missouri) have forgotten what it means to gather as the Bride of Christ at the foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom that has no end.

For my rappin' friends out there in Bailing Water Land: Word to your momma!

Please note: Momma=Church. After all, our Father is our Father, and the Church is our mother. Could one not say that Mary is a picture of the Church?

Oops, I said it again.

RMC (RoMan Catholic? You make the call!)

Anonymous said...

RNN,

I thank you for your time and articulate response!

I am not sure I quite fully agree with you concerning how the Wtheologians looked to develop a "better theology" rather than seeing Christ in all of Scripture. I was under the impression they simply wanted to go back to Scripture first without going to the Church Fathers first. I will have to do some more reading online.

It does bring up a question in my mind about how to approach Scripture. How does one approach Scripture? I have heard that we are to view Scripture through the lens of the Confessions and thus interpret them in that way. But that just doesn't sound right to me - please correct me if I am wrong. That way seems to imply that God does not have the ability to communicate His message without something "extra" and again reminds me of the Eastern Orthodox which I have been studying as well. On the other hand, can we approach Scripture - albeit imperfectly - on our own and then see if our reading coincides with the Fathers? If our reading doesn't add up with what has been taught, then we need to pause and rethink, reread, restudy and dig deeper into Scripture. I am not sure if I am making sense (trying to grasp it myself!) Maybe another way of saying it is - how do we use the Confessions in our approach to Scripture?

Again, RNN, I appreciate the time you have put in responding here. I believe this is an important topic and thank John also for providing the forum to discuss it.

By the way, found this paper online and am in the process of reading it. It addresses some of my questions, but I need to wade through it some more:

http://www.wls.wels.net/files/NaumannRole.pdf

Thanks!
NDT

Anonymous said...

RNN,

I thank you for your time and articulate response!

I am not sure I quite fully agree with you concerning how the Wtheologians looked to develop a "better theology" rather than seeing Christ in all of Scripture. I was under the impression they simply wanted to go back to Scripture first without going to the Church Fathers first. I will have to do some more reading online.

It does bring up a question in my mind about how to approach Scripture. How does one approach Scripture? I have heard that we are to view Scripture through the lens of the Confessions and thus interpret them in that way. But that just doesn't sound right to me - please correct me if I am wrong. That way seems to imply that God does not have the ability to communicate His message without something "extra" and again reminds me of the Eastern Orthodox which I have been studying as well. On the other hand, can we approach Scripture - albeit imperfectly - on our own and then see if our reading coincides with the Fathers? If our reading doesn't add up with what has been taught, then we need to pause and rethink, reread, restudy and dig deeper into Scripture. I am not sure if I am making sense (trying to grasp it myself!) Maybe another way of saying it is - how do we use the Confessions in our approach to Scripture?

Again, RNN, I appreciate the time you have put in responding here. I believe this is an important topic and thank John also for providing the forum to discuss it.

By the way, found this paper online and am in the process of reading it. It addresses some of my questions, but I need to wade through it some more:

http://www.wls.wels.net/files/NaumannRole.pdf

Thanks!
NDT

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the double post - my keyboard can get a little "touchy"!

NDT

Anonymous said...

NDT,

I think you hit the nail on the head. I, too, am uncomfortable with the notion that we ought to study Scripture through the lens of the fathers.

Think of the example of Martin Luther. His whole life he looked at Scripture through the eyes of the fathers. Thus, he never clearly saw Christ in the Scriptures because the fathers had so warped Scripture.

He only saw Christ clearly in Scripture when he was forced to sit down with Scripture itself and read what it actually said.

It's a sad commentary on the relationship between Scripture and tradition that during his ministerial training, he was steeped in what the fathers said, but had never actually studied Scripture himself until he became a professor.

That's the sort of situation that Wauwatosa was fighting against--one in which theological students are steeped in the writings of the fathers without ever actually cracking a Bible open and reading it and studying it for themselves.

I think NDT was right. Study Scripture first and then see what the fathers had to say. If there's agreement, good. But if there isn't, then it calls for even more study of Scripture. To say or imply that Scripture can only be understood when studied in the context of the Church or the fathers or tradition implies that God's Word isn't quite clear enough for the average man to read and understand. It also implies that the Holy Spirit works through the Church and not directly through the Word.

I also think that there is still some misunderstanding of what Wauwatosa actually is. It's often criticized (unfairly) as being anti-dogma. And yet here some have accused it of being just a different approach to dogma. I don't think it can be both.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous on 12/12 @ 9:46 AM writes:

Think of the example of Martin Luther. His whole life he looked at Scripture through the eyes of the fathers. Thus, he never clearly saw Christ in the Scriptures because the fathers had so warped Scripture.

He only saw Christ clearly in Scripture when he was forced to sit down with Scripture itself and read what it actually said.


I disagree.

Look carefully at what Luther writes concerning certain fathers, especially Bernard of Clairvaux. Luther is complimentary of the fathers, when their witness agrees with Sacred Scripture. When their witness goes away from Scripture into pious conjecture, their witness is not to be trusted.

Someone with the electronic edition of Luther's Works should do a word search on Bernard of Clairvaux and post some of the complimentary things Luther says about this man of God.

IIRC, he says some complimentary things about Augustine, maybe Chrysostom, and others. Luther also has pointed derogatory words toward the fathers too.

Another quote:

To say or imply that Scripture can only be understood when studied in the context of the Church or the fathers or tradition implies that God's Word isn't quite clear enough for the average man to read and understand. It also implies that the Holy Spirit works through the Church and not directly through the Word.

I don't think RNN ever implied such a thing. Please go back and re-read his thorough post.

Further:

I also think that there is still some misunderstanding of what Wauwatosa actually is. It's often criticized (unfairly) as being anti-dogma. And yet here some have accused it of being just a different approach to dogma. I don't think it can be both.

I agree.

My problem with the Wauwatosa Gospel is the use of the phrase "fresh approach to the Scriptures". People have taken "fresh approaches" for centuries. Yes, we will never fully mine the riches of Sacred Scripture. But one should be careful not to fall off the horse on one side (Wauwatosa Gospel) in order not to fall off the horse on the other ( vaetertheologie, so-called "Dead Orthodoxy", or an over-reliance on Gold and Silver Age Lutherans).

What is needed is a return to a churchly understanding of the Way of salvation. Such an understanding comes from careful study of Sacred Scripture, using language skills given through careful study of theological languages. Then comes careful study of the fathers, both ancient and more recent, to see how they interpret Scripture. Where they agree with the analogy of faith, we joyfully agree with them. Where they do not agree, we sadly cast those thoughts aside.

Methinks that's what Anonymous @ 9:46 A.M. wants to say. Whether or not I'm right, s/he will tell me.

Hosanna now through Advent!

RMC (not as RoMan Catholic as one might think, eh?)

Anonymous said...

Let me further clarify that Holy Scripture is always and in every way the norma normans. It may look like I support two sources and norms, but I don't.

I'm here, I'm quia, and I don't know how to ski. But I have enjoyed the refreshing taste of Ski, Diet Ski, and Cherry Ski!

RMC

Anonymous said...

RMC, you said,

"What is needed is a return to a churchly understanding of the Way of salvation. Such an understanding comes from careful study of Sacred Scripture, using language skills given through careful study of theological languages. Then comes careful study of the fathers, both ancient and more recent, to see how they interpret Scripture. Where they agree with the analogy of faith, we joyfully agree with them. Where they do not agree, we sadly cast those thoughts aside."

This paragraph is actually a fairly accurate summary of exactly what the Wauwatosa Theology advocated. Too many things have been said which caricature the WT and do not accurately reflect what it was stressing. Essentially, anyone thoroughly familiar with the writings of Pieper, Koehler, Hoenicke, and Schaller will tell you that their greatest desire was to be faithful to the Scriptures alone, to encourage scholarship shaped and held captive to the Word and not to mere human opinion, no matter how venerated the name of the person who may be stating that opinion. It was not an attempt to disparage theology. The Wauwatosa theologians were, after all, theologians. The WT did not at all disrespect the words of faithful theologians who went before. It simply tried to emphasize that the church cannot and should not resort to using the words and opinions of the fathers as the primary source of doctrine and theology. It was a sincere attempt to let the Word of God speak for itself, as much as possible within the context of its writing and with the full flavor of the text as conveyed in the original languages. I fear that in the caricature of the Wauwatosa theology, many fail to see the genuine good in it, and fail to acknowledge the real intent of those who wanted to stress the sola scriptura principle, as Luther did.

I believe this is the understanding of the Wauwatosa theology among those who teach at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Discarding the words of the fathers, especially when they reflect the truths of Scripture, would be the last thing that Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary or the WELS would advocate.

There will be those on this blog who will immediately disagree with what I just said. But I think my decription of WT (along with RMC's paragraph) is how the majority of today's WELS theologians and pastors would decribe their view of WT.

Michael Schottey said...

In response to the WELS' supposed lack of love for the church fathers.

Just an interesting note on the subject (exam week and I don't wish to take up any debating)The following are courses taught at MLC, I will do my best to highlight the course work of the classes i've already taken. Some of which was years ago.

-Patristic Readings
-Ecclesiastical Latin (Augustine, et al.)
- Post-reformation Lutheran Latin writings (J Gerhard, Quenstedt et al.)
- Luther German
- Survey of Theological German (Chemnitz, et. al)
- Symbolics (Creeds and Smalkald Articles)

Anonymous said...

M. Schottey's information does not sound like a curriculum or a synod which disparages the wisdom of the church fathers.

Anonymous said...

Show of hands: how many here have actually read the Wauwautosa theology?

If you haven't, I'm not sure you can determine a caricature from an apt description.

Anonymous said...

What?? Do you mean to say that there are actually people on this blog who dare to "darkens our counsel with words without knowledge?"

Anonymous said...

So, where did Wauwatosa Theology prove the Confessions were non-Scriptural? I'd like to read some of those.

Rob

Anonymous said...

"So, where did Wauwatosa Theology prove the Confessions were non-Scriptural?"

They didn't. Wauwatosa theologians have a quia subscription to the Confessions.

RTMM said...

Rob asks,

"So, where did Wauwatosa Theology prove the Confessions were non-Scriptural? I'd like to read some of those."

Anon. replies

"They didn't. Wauwatosa theologians have a quia subscription to the Confessions."

The WT did not say that the Confessions were unScriptural, and would insist they have a quia subscription (as their defenders and successors would as well). The issue is, is their understanding of the Confessions that of the Confessors? The WS doctrinal statments on the ministry, for example, show their understanding of that doctrine is different than the Confessors. Example. The WS says that everything done in the church is "ministry" subject to the fencing of 1 Tim 3:1-11 and Titus 1:5-10. They use Acts 6:1-6 to show that their are different "forms" of the ministry. This all conflicts with AC V, with which they say they agree. In other words, where the discussion on the issues of the Ministry, the Lord's Supper, the sufficiency of faith, infant faith between Lutherans will invariable begin with what do the Confessions say, (which is a discusssion of Scripture as well). This is why this poster, in particular, begins with the Confessions on what is ostensibly a "Lutheran" blog.

RTMM

esther said...

I'm confused. I'm reading through the material linked to by John and other commenters above, and yes, I'm reading the Wauwautosa Theology (a friend loaned me the three volumes); I'm also familiar with Kuske's "Bible Interpretation, the Only Right Way". They seem to be just replacing the Lutheran Confessions and the Church Fathers with themselves (WT & BItORW). How is this an improvement?

I agree with RNN that they had a point, considering what was going on in their time, but I'm not sure they arrived at the correct answer.

Thanks for any explanations.

Esther

Anonymous said...

So WS acknowledges differences with the Confessions but doesn't deem these differences unScriptural? Or they don't acknowledge they have differences with the Confessions?

If no differences, the Wauwatosa Theology is merely to prove all Scriptures from context but you will invariably arrive in agreement with the Confessions?

Or, when discussing doctrine, don't quote the fathers, study for yourself and arrive at the same conclusions as them? Or maybe you'll arrive at a different conclusion which is OK?

I guess these all strike at what is the practical value of WT other than to confirm the Confessions are Scriptural through self study of the Scriptures?

Rob, confused as you can see

For the record, I'm all for getting into the Word instead of just studying the words of the fathers. And I'm all for quoting Scripture to prove beliefs instead of using Martin Luther's words alone. But unless there is disagreement, what has WT accomplished other than a solid self study?

Lost.

RTMM said...

Lost writes,

"So WS acknowledges differences with the Confessions but doesn't deem these differences unScriptural? Or they don't acknowledge they have differences with the Confessions?"

The latter. And the consequence is that WS writers must reinterpret the Confessions to agree with their positions, as with the ministry example above, as well as with the matter of the consecration.

RTMM

Anonymous said...

"This all conflicts with AC V, with which they say they agree."

RTMM, couldn't it be possible that the Wauwatosa theologians actually agree with what AC V actually says, while you're the one whose understanding actually conflicts with AC V? You presume that it's a given that the WELS is wrong about AC V. I would maintain that you're the one who's wrong about AC V.

Here's an in-depth article that specifically examines AC V and shows that the Wauwatosa view on Church and Ministry is actually the one that agrees with AC V:

http://www.wlsessays.net/authors/B/
BrugPredigtamt.pdf

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I don't see how a Lutheran could ever study without having some preconceived ideas based on what the Confessions say -- especially if you were fortunate enough to be catechized.

So WT says to study the Scriptures with this fresh approach -- and when a difference occurs you use the WT method on the Confessions as well to validate your conclusion of Scripture? In that way, Scripture is elevated above the Confessions but they agree, assuming the current theologian was properly exegetical.

I believe I've confused myself.

Rob

Anonymous said...

The Wauwatosa theologians were, after all, theologians.

If so, then why the "fresh approach".

Example: John Schaller's essay "The Origin and Development of the NT Ministry" (Yes, I've read portions of The Wauwatosa Theology) says that the Preaching Office begins in Genesis 4, when Moses writes that people began to call on the Name of the Lord.

Can anyone tell me any other theologian who said such a thing? If not, then what Schaller wrote is not at all catholic; it doesn't hold up to Vincent of Lerins' stick of catholicity.

The "fresh approach" can lead to some innovative doctrine that, yes, is in Scripture, but never before confessed...especially by the Symbolical Books.

In sum, would Schaller's "groundbreaking" essay on the NT Ministry echo a "quia" subscription to the 1580 Book of Concord?

Just askin', man.

RMC

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, that's a fantastic article! Everyone here should read that. I particularly found interesting the list of traits of Romanizing Lutherans based on the writings of Hoenecke (WELS) and F. Pieper (LCMS):

1) interpreting Augsburg Confession V as a reference to the public ministry rather than to the means of grace (not everyone who holds this view is a Romanizer, but most Romanizers hold this view),

2) teaching that the office of the public ministry is not conferred by the call of the congregation as the original possessor of all spiritual power, but is a divine institution in the sense that it was transmitted immediately from the apostles to their pupils, considered as a separate ‘ministerial order’ or caste, and that this order perpetuates itself by means of the ordination,

3) taking away from the church the right to call and having the preacher become a preacher through ordination as a sacrament,

4) speaking as if the means of grace exerted their full power and efficacy only when they were administered by men of this ‘order,’

5) making the officiant a ‘means of grace’ alongside Word and Sacrament

I think some people on this board are 5 for 5!

It should also be noted that both Hoenecke and Pieper came before the Wauwatosa theology.

Anonymous said...

Show of hands: how many here have actually read the Wauwautosa theology?

Me, me, me, me! I've read portions, but not all of it.

And I'm LC-MS.

There. That ought to give you a glimmer of a clue as to who I am.

RMC (Does it mean Real Men Crochet?)

Anonymous said...

RMC,

Did you read that article? It shows how some of the views you hold are really the "imaginative" ones. If I remember correctly, it even uses that word in the conclusion.

Anonymous said...

"And I'm LC-MS."

Are there any WELS people who actually comment on this blog? It sure doesn't seem like it. I think that goes to show how far this blog has drifted from its initial purpose.

Anonymous said...

Esther:

Nice to have you join us. Feels more like Purim around here with you on board.

Using my ra'ashan everytime Haman's name is mentioned,

RMC

Anonymous said...

Or, when discussing doctrine, don't quote the fathers, study for yourself and arrive at the same conclusions as them? Or maybe you'll arrive at a different conclusion which is OK?

You've hit it on the nose!

The Wauwatosa Gospel treats the Symbolic Books as answer keys to be consulted after doing your exegesis.

If so, what is the answer to Leviticus 3:14?

RMC

Anonymous said...

Are there any WELS people who actually comment on this blog? It sure doesn't seem like it. I think that goes to show how far this blog has drifted from its initial purpose.

Is not the purpose of this blog to discuss doctrine and practice in WELS? Is not "outsiders" who fall under the ban of Romans 16:17f., 2 John 10:11, and Titus 3:10f. welcome to discuss these things with you?

Ecumenism isn't the dirty word that many make it to be.

I'm just sayin' (but not prayin'), man!

RMC

Anonymous said...

"The Wauwatosa Gospel treats the Symbolic Books as answer keys to be consulted after doing your exegesis."

It's funny how the Wauwatosa theology has to be caricatured before it can be criticized. If it's such a terrible thing, it should be easy to criticize directly without the crass generalizations.

Anonymous said...

Did you read that article? It shows how some of the views you hold are really the "imaginative" ones. If I remember correctly, it even uses that word in the conclusion.

If so, then is Hoenecke's conclusions about the Preaching Office in his Dogmatics now "imaginative" ex post facto? How about Walther?

RMC

Anonymous said...

It's funny how the Wauwatosa theology has to be caricatured before it can be criticized. If it's such a terrible thing, it should be easy to criticize directly without the crass generalizations.

It's a new record! An earlier post I wrote crystallized the Wauwatosa Gospel precisely, and now tonight I'm told I crassly generalize and draw a caricature of the Wauwatosa Gospel.

I wish I had my shrink on the speed dial....

RMC

Anonymous said...

"Is not the purpose of this blog to discuss doctrine and practice in WELS? Is not "outsiders" who fall under the ban of Romans 16:17f., 2 John 10:11, and Titus 3:10f. welcome to discuss these things with you?"

What you call discussing, I call proselytizing. I don't go to LCMS blogs to promote the WELS. Why do LCMSers feel the need to do the opposite? Insecurity about what's going on at home in St. Louis?

Anyway, did you bother to read the article that was posted earlier?

Anonymous said...

I just returned from the Aedificium Scriptorium, where a brother monk was kind enough to loan me a copy of your Doctor Luther's Works on the Gospel of St. John. Volume 22, if I recall properly.

Behold these words of Luther about St. Bernard of Clarivaux:

For approximately fifteen years I tormented myself miserably with Masses, although I heard the name of the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned daily, listened to sermons on His Passion, and read and sang the words of this text. In spite of an of this I thought that if I made a mistake in any part of the Mass or omitted any of it, I would be lost. It is strange and terrifying to think that people were so stupid, so possessed of the devil and so misled by him. Many, however, discarded cowl and other tomfoolery in the hour of death and would have none of it. St. Bernard was one of those. He hung his cowl on the wall and prayed: “God’s Son had a twofold claim to heaven: in the first place, as the Son of God, by inheritance, He was born to the kingdom of heaven; in the second place, He has also gained heaven. And since this was entirely unnecessary for Him, He transferred this right to me, which I must appropriate by faith.”

When monks and nuns hear that their cowls are worthless, they are afire with rage, and the whole Rhine is ablaze. And if you tell the pope today that cowl, holy life, or conduct count for nothing, he replies: “Nonsense!” They will let Christ be called the Savior of the world, but at the same time they refuse to have their own efforts condemned. When this is done, they begin to rave and rage. They remain in their darkness and shout: “The fathers, the councils, holy orders, rules!” Whenever monks were saved, however, they were constrained to crawl to the cross of Christ again. This is what St. Bernard did. I regard him as the most pious of all the monks and prefer him to all the others, even to St. Dominic. He is the only one worthy of the name “Father Bernard” and of being studied diligently. He is dressed in a cowl. But what does he do when matters become serious? He does not try to satisfy the judgment of God with his cowl; instead, he takes hold of Christ.

Hmmm. "Father" Bernard? I must read some more of this so-called "heretic". Perhaps things are not as they seem.

Off to Compline.

Br. William of Baskerville

Anonymous said...

What you call discussing, I call proselytizing. I don't go to LCMS blogs to promote the WELS. Why do LCMSers feel the need to do the opposite? Insecurity about what's going on at home in St. Louis?

Friend, when did I proselytize you? When did I invite you to leave your congregation and synod and join mine?

Is theological discourse "outside the framework of fellowship"?

As far as insecurity, both WELS and LC-MS would do well to pray as the ancients did:

Come, Lord Jesus.

RMC

Anonymous said...

http://www.wlsessays.net/authors/B/BrugPredigtamt.pdf

Anonymous said...

"I particularly found interesting the list of traits of Romanizing Lutherans "

I've been told by my WELS pastor that some changes were probably made just to distance themselves from Rome. I've wondered if that is the best motivation, this coming after being raised in a cult and told the RCC was the great whore who rides the beast in Revelation. Now i realize she's just the antiChrist.

Rob

RNN said...

NDT and the anonymous who followed immediately thereafter,

Thanks for the Nauman article. I found it quite interesting. I think he identifies some problems that are real. As many know, Fenton is now gone to Eastern Orthodoxy; he has some strange things to say about unwritten traditions. Voelz is confusing (at best) and may push things too far in a post-modern direction.

But the one Voelz quotation he has does not seem bad to me. Scripture is to be interpreted within the community of the church and within creedal boundaries. This will be a good starting point to look closer at tradition and its role in scriptural interpretation.

The catholic (small c) church has long noted that every heretic cites scripture in his defense. And so today we have Mormons, JWs, etc. who all cite Scripture and claim to have the right interpretation. They interpret it outside of the church and her creeds and so deny the Trinity, etc.

More to the point, our way of thinking is shaped by modern (and moving towards post-modern) views of authority. In modernism, authority is invested in the autonomous individual. Truth is determined by an idea's power to gain assent in the minds of individuals who judge for themselves what truth is. Living in the world we do, we all are influenced by this way of thinking.

And so we see this come up in our churches, where scripture is the authority. We know this; but we nevertheless have members--and we ourselves at times--who find something that they don't like in scripture and decide that it's not true. For instance, the members who are at church every week and happily living together outside of marriage; the world has progressed beyond that whole adultery thing, they tell us, in all sincerity believing that God will not count their actions as sin.

To sum up: in modernism authority is vested in the individual who judges for himself what is truth. That's the modern approach. It's also the approach of Wauwatosa, which makes scriptural interpretation a private affair where each individual approaches scripture for him/herself to judge for him/herself what is true.

The church has not always seen authority as such; in fact, I contend that using this modern conception of authority is damaging to the church. In the church, true authority rests with Christ, who rules all things by his word, and gives authority to his ministers to speak publicly in his stead. Truth is not determined by individuals; it is determined by scripture and confessed by the church as a whole. Individuals join their voices to this common confession of the church.

We have inherited this common confession; it has been handed down (traditioned) to us. We would be fools to try to approach scripture without taking advantage of this collective wisdom of the Spirit, filtered down through centuries of church history. For instance, we approach scripture knowing that the God of Scripture is the Triune God--a truth gained from the tradition handed down to us.

We need to be clear here about tradition. An excellent discussion of tradition is found in Volume 1 of Chemnitz's Examen. He describes 8 kinds of traditions and says that Lutherans agree with 7 of them. We differ with Rome only over those traditions that they claim are unwritten traditions containing truths not found in scripture. That's it.

And so Chemnitz points to faithful traditions of the teachings of scripture being handed down through the generations as a great aid to our faith and understanding. This is the kind of tradition that I mean: the confession and collective wisdom of the church catholilc as it has appropriated the truths of scripture through the centuries. It is this tradition that helps us to understand and interpret scripture; it guides us into truth by showing us what truths are there in scripture. It is, of course, not infallible and always to be normed by scripture; but where it is right, we are to gladly benefit from this knowledge and wisdom.

This is exactly what Luther does with the Catechisms. He lays out briefly: here are the main truths of scripture. This is what you need to know. Once you know this (and you never will, so study it daily), or rather, once you have familiarized yourself with the Catechism, you will know what God never stops teaching and so be able to dig further into scripture with understanding.

Practically speaking, we see this happen in the lives of people coming into church. How do we catechize them? With the Catechism--at least that is what our pastor does. We don't give them the Bible and tell them to read it and see what they come up with. We train them in the central truths of scripture that have been handed down to us; this allows them to delve deeper and further into scripture.

I think then that we need to be careful when we discuss the clarity of scripture. Yes, it is clear; but this does not mean that God sent only a book to reach individuals. God also sends pastors to preach the Word recorded in scripture. The Spirit's work did not end when Revelation was finished; he is still present in his church leading them into all truth. This does not happen infallibly, but it does happen. And so we benefit from the scriptures proclaimed by pastors and whose truths are summarized in the creed.

We also cannot romanticize Luther's rediscovery of the gospel. It was not Luther and only the Bible. Luther was steeped in the knowledge of the Church Fathers. His argument was not so much with the Fathers as with the scholastic theologians. Thus, for instance, Augustine's hand can be seen in Luther's theological development; even though Lutehr would come to disagree on some points with Augustine, it was Augustine's emphasis on sola gratia that Luther appropriated as his own. Moreover, Luther's discovery of the Gospel came from within the monastery, where he was steeped daily in the tradition and rhythm of daily prayer.

Luther's goal was not to send eveyone home with his own Bible to determine his own confession. It was to teach them the Catechism that they might use that as an entry to a profitable study of Scritpure that would lead to an increase of faith and love within them. But this study was guided by the Catechism and normed by the confession of the church.

This is the tradition of the church: the confession of the church gleaned from scripture and giving us its central truths. This is the tradition from which, I contend, we do best to approach scripture.

The alternative is to approach scripture from a different tradition. Wauwatosa's "fresh look" was just substituting another tradition--one whose central tenets are the individual's judgment based on his own study of language and history of what scritpure says. This is not a tradition-less approach to scripture. It is approaching scripture from a different tradition--one that fails to recognize God working through his church to gather his own and within that church to grant them forgiveness and life.

That is why I think Walther is right in calling Lutheran pastors to interpret scripture according to the Confessions. As he writes in that article cited by Naumann, the Confessions may err. We grant that. But that is not to say that they do err. Since we have subscribed them, giving public confession that this is the correct exposition and interpretation of scripture, we do well to use them as a guide for understanding scripture.

Otherwise our subscription is meaningless. It is saying: this is what Scripture says; but I am not going to use the summary of what Scripture says to help understand what Scripture says.

Please note that this still says that the Confessions are to be normed by Scripture. If they are shown to be in disagreement with Scripture, we will need to change our subscription. But until that happens, to take our subscription seriously is to use them as guides to interpreting scripture.

RNN

RNN

Anonymous said...

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RNN said...

Rob,

I think you summarized the Wauwatosa theolgoy nicely. At best, it is a solid self-study. It is double-checking the work on scriptures done by the Fathers and Confessors without consulting their work. But, being confessional Lutherans, they must still end up saying what the Confessions say. So, as you say, what's the point?

So either Wauwatosa will lead us to say that the Confessions are wrong or will lead us to reaffirm the Confessions--at which point we ought to be able to make use of them as the correct interpretation of scripture and a guide for hermeneutics. But Wauwatosa never goes that far; it calls for a constant fresh approach.

RNN

RNN said...

To all,

Just a word on vocabulary, to make sure we're all speaking the same language--when I speak of the Church Fathers, I have in mind the great theologians from the first 7 centuries of the history of the church--with Bernard of Clarivaux thrown in as the last of the fathers, due to his similarity to these theologians who lived centuries before him (i.e., no scholastic theology from Bernard). I DON'T mean the Lutheran fathers.

I recognize that we can refer to the Confessors and the dogmaticians in the following centuries as Lutheran fathers, but will not put them in the same boat as the patristic fathers.

I don't because the Confessors appeal back to those patristic fathers--normed by scripture. Nevertheless, they never kick them out of the church, but graciously interpret their work in the best light, highlighting the strengths and downplaying the weaknesses. The catholic (small c) church takes the same attitude towards the Church Fathers.

I hope and pray that Lutherans continue to uncover the treasures found in the work of the patristic fathers. Dismissing them as errorists without reading them misses the gold-mine of theological material they give to us. Perhpas Mr. Schottey can share some of the gems he gleaned from patristic readings with us once he gets done with finals.

RNN

RandomDan said...

The Meaning of Predigtamt in Augsburg Confession V

The Christological Character/Office of the Holy Ministry

I'm sorry, but Firefox will not show the whole web address when posted. For the sake of people like me who use Firefox, please learn enough html to post links.

Thanks.

John said...

Are there any WELS people who actually comment on this blog? It sure doesn't seem like it. I think that goes to show how far this blog has drifted from its initial purpose.

Yes there are WELS people that comment on here. Be careful about your presuppositions. Also, there are no levels of fellowship that include blogging on the internet with other Lutherans (as far as I can tell). We aren’t even a church (unlike some fresh thinking W. Theologians might suppose).

Welcome to the discussion Esther. I would like to thank those who have put forth thought filled posts and have signed their comments ~ RNN, RTMM, RMC, MAV, AP, UP, NDT, Br. William of Baskerville, randomdan (thanks for the html help), Michael, and Rob (and maybe some others that I have missed). And Lost sometimes I’m with you.

RTMM said...

Anon writes,

"RTMM, couldn't it be possible that the Wauwatosa theologians actually agree with what AC V actually says, while you're the one whose understanding actually conflicts with AC V? You presume that it's a given that the WELS is wrong about AC V. I would maintain that you're the one who's wrong about AC V.

Here's an in-depth article that specifically examines AC V and shows that the Wauwatosa view on Church and Ministry is actually the one that agrees with AC V: (Brug)"

Wow, a Wisconsin man saying Wisconsin is right!

So the church secretary and custodian are in the holy ministry. Yeah, I think that is what AC V is about.

RTMM

Michael Schottey said...

RNN-

For the record, I have yet to take Patristic Writings, and am not sure if I will (There is a possibility I will "pay per credit" next semester)

If you want to know anything about the Latin or German courses, or symbolics, feel free to ask.

I'm writing a 11 page symbolics paper right now! YAY!

Anonymous said...

Friends:

A good night's sleep puts everything in place.

I asked myself a very important question while half-awake in bed: "Should I be doing this now?" The answer is no.

I repent of my hasty and foolish words last night. The Old Adam got the best of me. A Christian dare not speak the way I spoke last night. It's not the way to make friends, win friends, or be a friend.

I am sorry. I want to do better.

I think it's best I leave this discussion. Arguing for the sake of arguing is sinful. I should be preparing my mind, body, and soul for the birth of Jesus in the little crib at Bethlehem.

Therefore, I say farewell. I beg your forgiveness as I leave you.

God's richest blessings to you all as we prepare to welcome Christ the newborn King!

RMC (RMC stands for Read Martin Chemnitz, the "Second Martin" whom I dearly cherish.)

Esther said...

Thanks to RNN and RTMM for your answers.

That is what disturbs me about the Wauwautosa approach, and so the WELS approach. If there is a question about Scripture or the Confessions, one is usually sent to the WT, Kuske, or a paper in the WLS essay file, many times by Brug. These have become the new norm in WELS. RNN is right. WT exchanged one tradition for another.

RMC,
Thank you for your contributions here. They were helpful and not out of line as responses to what was directed to you. Blessings on your Advent preparations!

Esther

Anonymous said...

When we were considering joining WELS a few years ago, I told the pastor we were just looking for a confessional church. He said they were, but wondered how I defined it. I didn't really have a solid understanding of what it means to be a confessional church -- I still don't -- but his being trained in Wauwatosa, and knowing I was coming from LCMS, probably caused him the hesitation.

I'll have to echo that I've been appreciative of much of the blogging on several of these subjects. I hope those who have been asked to leave by soem from within WELS will not take their suggestions seriously. You are certainly contributing much more than the bloggers who rush to criticize grammar or ridicule comments apart from using Scriptures and Confessions. I feel I've learned some things. Thanks for sharing.

God bless.

Rob

John said...

Rob,

Thanks for your comment. Things have calmed down a bit on BW. It might be because of the holiday season.

If anyone has a suggestion for a new thread just post a comment.

Anonymous said...

Are there differences within Lutheranism about the liturgical calendar? Coming from Reformed, I never even knew one existed. But I've noticed at least a recognition of some days within some confessional LCMS that WS does not (or at least ours doesn't), maybe even named differently?

Also, what about the use of a common cup for communion? We only have individual cups at our WS church. Is there anything within the Confessions about it - or from the history of the church that people might know? It's categorized as Adiaphora on wels.net.

I apologize if these questions are too basic. I was just curious and thought someone out there might know. Thanks for the help.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Along those lines, what makes something adiaphora? I've noticed a lot of differences between WS and LCMS with regards to crucifixes, making the sign of the cross, bowing when approaching the altar, the arrangement of the altar, the processional, altar boys, kneeling (we don't have a rail at our church), church art, etc. I've been told these are all adiaphora (or adiaphoron) and the removal of such is to distance WS from Roman Catholicism. But I've also heard that some WS include some of these things.

I don't know that any of the above-mentioned are in Scripture so I can only assume they developed within the tradition of the church. I've heard arguments that they are not adiaphora. Luther said to keep the good from the Mass. Are the inclusion or lack of these things at the discretion of the pastor or the church body? WS does seem to have a strong organization for church administration. Curious.

Rob

UP said...

Rob,

With the holidays fast approaching plus a wedding, I'll be brief, but you ask excellent questions. In all seriousness, I would recommend that you read The Motley Magpie (no, I'm not a relative of any of the editors, but I am a reader and really found it helpful personally). The editors dealt with many of the questions you have raised. They use Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in their explanations and criticisms, which are very helpful to those of us who grew up not really being taught the Lutheran Confessions. Some of the back issues can be found at MotleyMagpie

UP

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, that's a fantastic article! Everyone here should read that. I particularly found interesting the list of traits of Romanizing Lutherans based on the writings of Hoenecke (WELS) and F. Pieper (LCMS):

1) interpreting Augsburg Confession V as a reference to the public ministry rather than to the means of grace (not everyone who holds this view is a Romanizer, but most Romanizers hold this view),

2) teaching that the office of the public ministry is not conferred by the call of the congregation as the original possessor of all spiritual power, but is a divine institution in the sense that it was transmitted immediately from the apostles to their pupils, considered as a separate ‘ministerial order’ or caste, and that this order perpetuates itself by means of the ordination,

3) taking away from the church the right to call and having the preacher become a preacher through ordination as a sacrament,

4) speaking as if the means of grace exerted their full power and efficacy only when they were administered by men of this ‘order,’

5) making the officiant a ‘means of grace’ alongside Word and Sacrament

I think some people on this board are 5 for 5!

It should also be noted that both Hoenecke and Pieper came before the Wauwatosa theology.

December 12, 2007 8:49 PM"


To which RTMM responds:

"Wow, a Wisconsin man saying Wisconsin is right!

So the church secretary and custodian are in the holy ministry. Yeah, I think that is what AC V is about.

RTMM
December 13, 2007 12:03 AM"


The straw man has been decimated, never to rise again. All Hail RTMM!!

I would like to hear someone actually respond to the statement that "to interpret AC V as a reference to the public ministry rather than to the means of grace" is to read more into the article than is there. The LCMS editors of "Concordia- the Lutheran Confessions" include the note "While the most direct concern of Article V is to confess the Holy Spirit's work through the means of grace, there is also in view, indirectly, the Office of the Ministry".

Uh, yeeah, right, also...in view...off to the side...indirectly... at least that is how you want to see it.

Not good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

"not good enough for me",
That sounds like a good question about Augsburg V. Maybe even a tread topic.