"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



If you read an article and wish to comment, then please do.


Do not worry about the date it was written.

I promise that I or the articles author will answer.


This is Fr. Daniel Hackney's response to the article I wrote about him and his turn toward the Eastern Orthodox Church:

I am Father Daniel Hackney. Drew I would like to commend you for your zeal for the faith in relativistic times such as these. I discern that you are a man of conviction, thus I will invest this time in reply to your posting. However if you or anyone would like to talk further, you may contact me at dch1993@live.com. However, I prefer to speak on the phone, since e-mail is such a limited way to communicate (devoid of sound, intonation and the like).

First of all, you are now hearing from Father Daniel Hackney himself. In your posting you were reacting to an article about Father Daniel, but for anyone who has been interviewed by a newspaper you know that what ends up in print does not always accurately quote or capture the essence of the interview (mine was about thirty minutes long). This is analogous to trying to react to or understand Jesus by reacting to an article written by the Jesus Seminar about Jesus. And yes I know that I am no Jesus.

Some germane examples of what I am talking from this article are that my family "lapsed" from attending church before I was born (not after). Thus I was not raised in any particular liturgical or non-liturgical atmosphere. Accordingly, I did not begin to attend church until I was seventeen years old. Yes, it was a “Jesus movement” church, but it was a stable one as far as they were at that time: No hyper-spirituality or over the top manifestations or the like.

Next, it is true that after high school, I entered a college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but during my first year there I started worshipping at an Episcopal church, and became a conservative Anglo-Catholic shortly thereafter. Some four years later I became Lutheran. Thus out of the twenty-eight years that I have been attending church, twenty-three of them have been spent worshipping in a “western-rite” liturgical service. Its hymns, prayers and scripture readings have shaped most of my Christian experience. I am thankful for that.

I could go on about inaccuracies in the article that you referenced; nevertheless, I believe the reporter did the best he could. But I can assure you that much of my time was spent in the conversation talking doctrine and praxis. Anyone who knows me (and many good Lutheran pastors do) knows that I care foremost about “taking heed to my doctrine, for in so doing I will save both myself and my hearers”.

In my ten years of pastoral ministry, I shunned away from writing articles for publication. I instead applied myself toward being a responsible “steward of the mysteries of God”. The only reason why I am writing this is out of a soteriological concern for those who may dismiss Orthodoxy due to the article that I was asked to interview for. I will attempt to keep this brief, but would welcome meeting with anyone either personally or by phone to discuss these things further.

Why did I become Orthodox after serving ten years as a pastor in the LCMS? Instead of trying to write a complete account (if such a thing is even possible), I will simply give a couple of important starting points for discussion. I hope that when I am done, it will at least begin to demonstrate that I have thought and have prayed about this as the thinking, rational-spiritual human being that I am. God created man in His own image and likeness. He has elevated all of us far above all other creatures on this earth. Thus we are all unrepeatable persons who are unique and valuable in the eyes of God. When we differ from one another (especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God) we should be careful to answer one another based upon the issues at hand.

So for instance, I am aware having been Lutheran for years (most of my adult life) that there are honest differences in this tradition over such things as church government (Walther vs. Loehe) or the Ever-Virginity of Mary. The important thing is that when speaking with someone of a different point of view, that we do not resort to such things as claiming that just because they have come to a different conclusion, that they have been “bitten by a bug”. This metaphor either reveals a lack of serious consideration of theology (in this instance) on the part of the one being demeaned, or it reveals such a vacuum on the part of the one resorting to such an accusation. Let the reader decide for himself which is the case. Either Father Daniel has been bitten by a bug, and is incapable of rational and coherent argument (whether you agree with it or not), or possibly the one resorting to such a level of discussion needs to repent and at least admit that “we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect (that being neither Rev. McCain, nor me) comes, then we will know, just as we are fully known”. As we enter this Holy season of Lent, let us all ask for forgiveness from one another. And may we turn our hearts toward Him who “being in the very form of God, considered equality with God something not to be grasped, but humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant”. He emptied Himself for us; we have all been made rich in grace, life and light.

Why Eastern Orthodoxy? First of all, because she is the only Church that has kept the Initiation rites of Baptism, Chrismation (which is nothing less than the “anointing” or “chrisma” mentioned by the Apostle John in his first epistle) and Communion intact in their proper place and time. And how did I come to that realization? Not by reading “Orthodox materials” (although they certainly are beneficial)! Rather, a couple of years ago I actually followed a debate on several Lutheran Blogs concerning communion for all who have received Christ in baptism, including little children. One pastor recommended reading a book by J.D.C. Fisher entitled Baptism in the Medieval West. This work (by a Roman Catholic Scholar) details how the undivided church of the east and west gave communion to all the faithful- even infants. I read this book, and what was important is that it copiously quotes the Church Fathers in each century of the first Millennium of Christianity. The evidence is overwhelming in my opinion. But of course I would challenge anyone who truly desires truth not to avoid reading the church fathers, but rather to buy this book off of amazon.com, and check the author’s references to infant communion (such as Cyprian around 250 AD speaking of an infant still suckling as taking communion).

After studying this issue for years (as all pastors should) I came to realize that due to factors such as the Western bishops not entrusting the presbyters with the chrism (thus delaying communion for many children) and the attendant Barbarian invasions; the West began to see one’s worthiness to partake of Christ in the Eucharist as dependent on the person’s being of an “age of reason” [i.e. Aquinas, the Reformers]. Along with this departure of viewing Christ revealed in the Bread and Wine as a gift given by grace to all the faithful, faulty exegesis developed to support this hitherto unknown practice of withholding Christ from some of those “who have been united with Him in His death and Resurrection”. One key example of this is the applying little children as a referent in the Pauline letter to the Corinthians regarding “discerning the body of Christ”. The reasoning was that in order to partake of Christ in communion one must be able to possess a developed intellect in order to share in this grace/gift. But all earlier commentaries (and the text itself) demonstrates that the referent here are those who “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” by overindulging in food and drink at the Eucharistic feast. Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.

Connected with this issue is the matter of our requesting the prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs. For years I did not accept, let alone practice this. For I did not see any evidence of it in the earliest Fathers such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, or even Cyprian; However, one day I met a man who had studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. I asked him whether there was any evidence for this practice in the early church. He said that it was written all over the walls of the catacombs, and that he had seen it with his own eyes! At the time that he saw all of this he was Roman Catholic, not Orthodox. This was unsettling for me, since I have never been one to run away from opinions and evidence that challenges my own imperfect knowledge of God and His Kingdom. Truth stands by itself; it does not need a hedge built around it, or rather around Him who is Truth.

Later it dawned on me that whenever something of an heterodox innovation was introduced into the church of the first few centuries, this church “founded upon the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone” reacted with righteous fervor against any and all intrusions. Gnosticism, Montanism, Catharism and Arianism all were addressed by name and in detail. Thus if requesting prayers of departed saints/martyrs had been an innovation, the church of Ignatius of Antioch, or Irenaeus of Lyons, or Clement of Alexandria, or Cyprian of Carthage and especially the Nicene Fathers and their immediate sons and daughters would have reacted overwhelmingly against such a supposed paradigm shift from praying only to God to also requesting prayer of someone who was with God. But such is not the case! We even have a prayer that is fairly well attested to being addressed to the Theotokos from Alexandria, Egypt around 250 AD. This prayer (called in Latin the sub tuum praesidium) is still prayed in an Orthodox prayer office.

Thus it is unreasonable and impossible (in my opinion) that such disparate Christian communities as existed in Egypt, Gaul, Syria, Spain, Rome and Greece would have all been “bitten by such a large infectious bug” without trying to fight against this with all of their might. Would it have been possible for all of Christendom in the fourth century and afterwards to completely buy into “false praxis” like this? Impossible! There would have been some remnant communities of those who baptize but do not commune infants and small children, some leftover evidence of those who did not want their children chrismated/confirmed until they had reached an age of reason; indeed I contend that if these assumptions are true there would be extant today some obscure village somewhere that stayed faithful in not allowing their baptized infants/little children to partake of Christ in the Eucharist. But no such people have been or are attested to in real (not philosophical) history. Either such communities slowly devolved over a millennium with respect to communion (Roman Catholic), or arose at the time of the Reformation (forbidding invocation of Saints while retaining the Roman Catholic devolution with respect to the initiation rites of the church) in an attempt to get back to what they thought (with scarcely the resources we have today such as the discovery of the authenticity of the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch in the last century or so) was the teachings of the “ancient church”.

As a Lutheran pastor when teaching adult instruction, after laying a scriptural foundation for the practice of Infant Baptism; I would reference an obscure religious group in modern day Iraq called the Mandaeans who are partly the descendants of those who had been baptized by John the Baptist, but who had not received the baptism of Christ. I would say that if a tiny group like that has still survived, “where is the continuous community who has survived not baptizing babies?” As I mentioned above certainly with a huge movement like Christianity spread over so much land mass from Roman occupied Britain all the way east to Persia, most assuredly there would be pockets of such people in existence, or at least well attested to”. From there as I became convinced from actual, real Christian texts written by Hippolytus, Cyprian, Augustine and the like [Western Fathers] that the undivided church of the first thousand years had both initiated people into the faith as the Orthodox do today, and that that same church requested the help, salvation and prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs- I came to apply the above rule to searching for such a community as well.

“Where is the continuous community that forbids Christ from entering the mouths of little ones”? It is nowhere. “Where is the church that has always shunned from asking intercession of Saints”? I am not talking about some isolated reference in some patristic text, but I am asking, “Where are these people”? They have not, and do not exist. So you mean to tell me that all of Christendom was deceived on such major points as these during and immediately after the persecutions of the third and early fourth century- and that without a public record of such a fight? Impossible!

In conclusion, be assured that I did not come up with this spiritual reflection out of “Eastern Orthodox books or prayer resources”. Instead, I believe that the Holy Spirit guided me as He promises to guide all believers. He is the authority in the Church. One does not enter into the Church by “our own reason or strength”. We are initiated into the church by Baptism, Chrismation and Communion. Only when these three rites are “administered rightly” do we get a proper view of salvation as a gift given by grace in the sacraments of the church. If we displace any of these from one another (of course excepting an emergency), we tear apart their unity. Indeed we tear apart the body of Christ. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father alone calls us into a relationship with the only Begotten Son and Word of God, whose desire is that we “be one, as He and the Father are one”. This unity can only happen by a work of the Spirit who has established a continuous catholic community with Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons (c.f. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome) serving the laity. The memory of this community is preserved and cherished in its scriptures, icons, music and architecture. It is connected as one “communion of saints”; time and space do not limit its essence as una sancta. It is a suffering church, but it is purified by such trials- not obliterated.

In the fiery furnace the three young men were not diminished; in the same way the womb of Mary contained the one who is an unquenchable fire. She became more spacious than the heavens! Who are we to question God’s ability to enable requests of prayers from believers to Saints to reach their destination? Could not God by a divine energy enable such requests to reach their destination? To absolutely rule this out is to fall into the error of Zwingli, whose God “was only as big as his own mind”. Just because in our finite minds such requests for intercession may seem as ridiculous as the “body of Christ stretched all over the universe”; God is able to manifest His Body wherever and in whatever manner He wishes. God is not bound by our rational thought, our self-limiting laws; or by our unbelief. Instead He is merciful to us all, enabling us to share as “partakers in His Divine Nature”.

Finally, regarding Orthodox references to the “Holy Theotokos saving us”. These have to be some of the most difficult exclamations for those outside the Orthodox Church to understand. I definitely did not apprehend such songs and prayers before I had entered the church. Now that I have spent some time on the inside, I will do my best to give my experience with such prayers and hymns.

The short answer that you will sometimes be told is that the Ever Virgin saves us by giving birth to Christ. This is true as far as it goes. But admittedly not only does the Orthodox Church sing and pray to the Theotokos asking for salvation, help, protection and the like; but also to the Saints and Martyrs whom she commemorates does she beseech such aide. How is this to be understood?

II Corinthians 1:9-11 reads, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us; you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many”. This passage illustrates the Orthodox understanding of salvation. It is initiated at Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist unto a new life of good works. Clearly Orthodox understands that only Christ died, was buried and rose again for our salvation. But having been made one with Christ, we now are saved together in the Church, the Body of Christ. We are aided by one another’s prayers. We are shielded by one another’s faith. We are protected and kept until the last day by the intercessions of the all, especially by the Ever-virgin Mary. This is just simply a praxis of believing in the efficacy of prayer, “for the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. All in the context of a life lived in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church.

Thank you for reading this response. Maranatha to all who await His appearing again in glory.

Here is my response to his response:

Fr. Hackney,


In the spirit of something you said in your response, which was:


The important thing is that when speaking with someone of a different point of view, that we do not resort to such things as claiming that just because they have come to a different conclusion, that they have been “bitten by a bug”...As we enter this Holy season of Lent, let us all ask for forgiveness from one another.”


So, in the spirit of humility, let me start by asking your forgiveness on areas of my article where the conclusions that I had drawn seem to be a bit unfair, that is after having now heard a little bit more of your story.


When I stated:


His affectionate self-description as "ecumenical-mutt" is pretty accurate given his personal history, but, for now pay close attention to the Pentecostalism of his background and just keep that fresh in you[r] minds as I shall return to it later.”


and then later I said:


While, admittedly, these two Churches are different, there are similarities between them, and one can see that it wouldn't be too hard for a deceiver like Satan to bridge the errors of both, that is if one still harbored a soft spot in their heart for the heterodoxy of their youth.”


I must admit that your right. I used you as an example, and at times I painted your story in a light of someone who's been “bitten by a bug”, as you say. I should have been more prudent in my judgment of your story, in that a person always deserves the benefit of the doubt. I should have assumed that this decision of yours was made responsibly and not done on a whim, or acted upon “willy-nilly”, but rather, one that was evidently deliberated with caution and careful forethought.


Also, I was quite to casual in drawing inferences regarding certain positions you held in your youth, and then claiming that these positions were direct evidence of why you hold the current theological stance that you do. This attitude in my piece was irresponsible and I ask for your forgiveness.


Now, with that said, I would like to address some of the points of your response.


Unfortunately, I feel that many of the things I could say in response to your response are answers you probably already know having been a practicing Lutheran for so many years. And, as you are most assuredly aware that the theological divide between the Eastern Orthodox and Confessional Lutheranism is one that is basically unbridgeable.


Here are some reasons why.


First, when you say such things as:


Why did I become Orthodox after serving ten years as a pastor in the LCMS?...I hope that when I am done, it will at least begin to demonstrate that I have thought and have prayed about this as the thinking, rational-spiritual human being that I am. God created man in His own image and likeness. He has elevated all of us far above all other creatures on this earth. Thus we are all unrepeatable persons who are unique and valuable in the eyes of God. When we differ from one another (especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God) we should be careful to answer one another based upon the issues at hand.” [emphasis mine]


or:


Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.” [emphasis mine]


I can say, that you have presented yourself as quite a rational man, a man filled with much knowledge regarding the position you've taken, however, I believe your inquiring into things, and the realizations you've come across, in the end ultimately means nothing. Here's why. You have demonstrated that you are a great student of ecclesiastical history, but by putting pieces of history together and coming to realizations about certain connections really does nothing in regards to convincing me that the way you went about your exploration of the Eastern Orthodox Church and its theological validity as a Church body, in fact, lead you to anything but valid or invalid conclusions. You see, there must be some source, some rule or norm by which we can judge the traditions and practices of the Church.


To you, it is evident that you believe:


Only when these three rites are “administered rightly” do we get a proper view of salvation as a gift given by grace in the sacraments of the church. If we displace any of these from one another (of course excepting an emergency), we tear apart their unity. Indeed we tear apart the body of Christ. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father alone calls us into a relationship with the only Begotten Son and Word of God, whose desire is that we “be one, as He and the Father are one”. This unity can only happen by a work of the Spirit who has established a continuous catholic community with Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons (c.f. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome) serving the laity.” [emphasis mine]


So, the only thing I can gain from this is that for you, the rule and norm is the Church itself. As a former Lutheran you must know what I and other Lutherans think of this. We do not believe that salvation ultimately is something entrusted to the physical Church, but that it is something entrusted to the entire “priesthood of all believers”, that is, the universal and catholic church we are essentially unable to see. This would be the Church that is visible to God's eyes only. We also believe that the final arbiter is God's Word, and not the traditions or Fathers of the Church.


I guess you could say we have two fundamentally different views of what the Church actually is. For you it is a physical and spiritual institution given to the Apostles, by Christ, and kept pure (under Apostolic succession) by the Fathers since Christs ascension. For us it is an institution given us by Christ, formed by and under divinely inspired and inerrant Apostles, and preserved by God's Word given us through His Holy Spirit.


The Church is not the center for us, Christ is, for without Christ there would be no efficacy in the Church, the sacraments, or in God's word by the proclamation of the Gospel. I know you probably won't agree with this, but without Christ, there would be no purpose for the Holy Spirit either, for His sole purpose, according to Scripture, is to point us back to Christ. (John 15:26; 16:7; 20:20, Gal. 4:6)


Also, just a couple more things, you say:


After studying this issue for years (as all pastors should) I came to realize that due to factors such as the Western bishops not entrusting the presbyters with the chrism (thus delaying communion for many children) and the attendant Barbarian invasions; the West began to see one’s worthiness to partake of Christ in the Eucharist as dependent on the person’s being of an “age of reason” [i.e. Aquinas, the Reformers]”


While this sounds like an interesting read and a possible reason for the whole “age of reason” mentality, this is not the reason for Lutherans withholding communion from infants. It has always been a position of protection for the communicant. It seems that you might have anticipated this answer, for you then said:


But all earlier commentaries (and the text itself) demonstrates that the referent here are those who “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” by overindulging in food and drink at the Eucharistic feast. Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.”


However, its not just the “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” (although that is the serious consequence of eating the supper unworthily), or the referent to the lascivious Corinthians that's the issue for Lutherans, it is the “but let a man examine himself” part that's the problem. A child is incapable, until they've proven it through confirmation, of being able to accurately examine themselves. Paul Kretzmann in his Popular Commentary explains the biblical need for worthiness of the communicant when he says:


But the wonderful content and purpose of the Holy Communion demands, at the same time, a most careful preparation on the part of the communicant: So that whoever eats the bread, or drinks the cup of the Lord, unworthily, guilty is he of the body and blood of the Lord. To eat unworthily is to be in such a spiritual condition or to conduct oneself in such a manner as to be out of harmony with the dignity and the sanctity of the heavenly meal. Should a person come to the Lord's Supper as he would go to any other meal, considering his actions to be the mere eating of bread and the mere drinking of wine, if he feels neither desire for the grace of God nor devotion at the prospect of partaking in the miracle feast, then such a person will be guilty, not merely of a thoughtless eating and drinking, but of desecration of the body and blood of the Lord. He will show that he has neither a conception of his sinful-ness nor a longing for the grace of God; and thus his guilt will consist in his hindering the grace of God in the Sacrament, which is ready to bestow upon him forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

It follows, then, for every earnest Christian: But let a man examine himself, make a careful test of his own mind and attitude, explore all the secret recesses of his heart, not, as some commentaries say, to see whether he is religiously and morally qualified, personally worthy of being a guest of the Lord's, but, as our liturgical formula very properly says, to see whether he heartily repents of his sins, believes in Jesus Christ, and sincerely and earnestly purposes to amend his sinful life. Having made this examination, preferably with the aid of the questions in the Fifth Chief Part, in the Table of Duties, and in the Christian Questions offered in our Small Catechism, a Christian may come and partake of God's meal of grace. The purpose of the admonition, therefore, is not to deter and scare away such Christians in whom self-examination reveals many sins in thoughts, words, and deeds, but to stimulate the right desire for the grace of God, the need, of which this self-exploration has shown to exist.61) "Therefore we should here learn diligently and mark that such persons do not receive the Sacrament unworthily as say and confess they are poor sinners, feel various temptations.… If you did not want to receive the Sacrament unless you were free from all sins, it would follow that you would never go to the Sacrament. But they that knowingly continue in sins receive the venerable Sacrament unworthily; as, murderous hatred of their neighbor, murder, fornication, adultery, and other, similar public transgressions, and do not purpose to discontinue them. For the Sacrament has been instituted by Christ the Lord, not that people should remain in sins, but that they should obtain forgiveness and grow in sanctity. ... I can speak with authority of what results follow if a person abstains from the Sacrament for a time; I have also been in such fire of the devil that I became estranged from the venerable Sacrament, and that I attended with the greater unwillingness, the longer this lasted. Be sure to beware of this and get into the habit of going often, especially if you are fit to go, that is, if you find that your heart, on account of your sins, is heavy and shy, in order that you may not forget our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but remember His sacrifice and death; for otherwise He asks nothing of us." 62)

But of the unworthy the apostle says: For he that eats and drinks unworthily, judgment, condemnation, he eats and drinks to himself, because he does not discern, discriminate, the body of Christ. He makes no distinction between an ordinary meal and this heavenly meal; he does not realize that the true body and blood of his Savior are here present, and that for this reason a thoughtless use of the Sacrament is blasphemy and results in the final righteous punishment of God. For he that approaches the table of the Lord in such a spirit of frivolousness will indeed also receive the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine, but not as that of his Redeemer, rather as that of his Judge, who will, on the last day, demand an account of him with sharp reckoning, since the outward behavior is only an indication and demonstration of the unbelief of the heart. "We teach, believe, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guests, those namely who do not believe, concerning whom it is written, John 3, 18: 'He that believeth not is condemned already,' And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11, 29." 63)”

This has been the interpretation in Lutheranism since days of old. For instance, in the correspondence between the theologians of Tubingen, one of them being Jacob Andreae, with the Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople regarding the Augsburg Confession, they state:


We often exhort our people who have repented to partake frequently of the Lord's Supper. However, we do not commune the infants, for Paul says: "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the Lord's body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself" [1 Cor 11:28-29]. And since the children are not able to examine themselves and, thus, cannot discern the Lord's body, we think that the ceremony of the baptism is sufficient for their salvation, and also the hidden faith with which the Lord has bestowed them. For through this faith they spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, even if they do not, in the communion of the supper, physically eat it. That spiritual eating, which Christ speaks of in Saint John's Gospel, is always necessary; but the other, the mystical one [the Lord's Supper], is not always necessary.”

Augsburg and Constantinople (Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), p. 143.

and Martin Chemnitz:


It is clear that one cannot deal with infants through the bare preaching of repentance and remission of sins, for that requires hearing (Rom. 10:17), deliberation and meditation (Ps. 119), understanding (Matt. 13:51), which are not found in infants. With regard to the Lord's Supper Paul says: "Let a man examine himself."Likewise: "Let him discern the Lord's body," a thing which cannot be ascribed to infants. Moreover, Christ instituted His Supper for such as had already become His disciples. In the Old Testament infants were circumcised on the eighth day, but they were admitted to the eating of the Passover lamb when they were able to ask: "What do you mean by this service?" (Ex. 12:26). There remains therefore of the means of grace in the New Testament only the sacrament of Baptism.

Martin Chemnitz (Fred Kramer, translator), Examination of the Council of Trent, Part II (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), pp. 165-166.


and from Johann Gerhard:


Since the Apostle Paul expressly requires in 1 Cor. 11:28,29 that a person first examine himself and then eat of the consecrated bread and drink of the consecrated chalice, so that he does not become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord through an unworthy reception, it thus indisputably follows that not only Christians ... are to be admitted to the holy Supper, but specifically those who examine themselves; that is, those who judge themselves, 1 Cor. 11:31, discern the Lord's body, v. 29, and proclaim His death, v. 26. Therefore, the following are herewith excluded:


... [then follows a list of those excluded, with the ninth and final in the list being:] The minor children, who have not yet arrived at the age of understanding, for they cannot examine themselves and discern the body of Christ.

Johann Gerhard (Elmer Hohle, translator), A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Malone, Texas: Repristination Press, 1996), pp. 427,430. (Original published in 1610.)


and finally from C.F.W. Walther, he says:


Since according to God's Word everyone who wants to go to the Lord's Table should first examine himself and discern the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:28-29), the holy Supper is not to be administered to children who are still incapable of doing so. It was an obvious misuse when it [communing children] was rather generally done, from the the third to the fifth centuries, out of a misunderstanding of John 6:53, which was [incorrectly] understood as referring to receiving the Sacrament. This misuse was also practiced by the Bohemian Hussites and is the rule still today in the Greek church.


Luther writes: "I cannot consider it right that the Bohemians give the same (the holy Supper) to the children, even though I do not call them heretics because of it" (1523 letter to Hausmann).

C.F.W. Walther, Pastoral Theology (New Haven, Missouri: 1995), pp. 146-147. Translated and abridged by John M. Drickamer from the fifth edition, 1906.


So, as should be evident, the Lutheran position has nothing to do with “age of reason” or the like, but rather a position of love and extreme care for the potential communicant, as any good and responsible Pastor should do for the souls under his care. And furthermore, in regards to your argument of personal incredulity regarding how it is beyond your imagination for infants to eat damnation unto themselves, well, I can only say that the scriptures very clearly spell it out in reference to a Christians need to examine themselves. We must surrender our reason to Scripture, for it is the only objective source given us by God to judge the things of God.


Now, let's just propose that the reason the western Church focused more on the worthiness of the communicant is because of what you say; that would still not impugn the Lutheran position. Luther was of the mindset of taking the Churches traditions and liturgies and purging them of error by the light God's Word. Just as Stuart said before, where the Fathers are in agreement with Scripture they are right, however, where they are in opposition to God's Word, then let them remain wrong (ie. “let God be true, and every man a liar”).


Next, you say:


Who are we to question God’s ability to enable requests of prayers from believers to Saints to reach their destination? Could not God by a divine energy enable such requests to reach their destination? To absolutely rule this out is to fall into the error of Zwingli, whose God “was only as big as his own mind”. Just because in our finite minds such requests for intercession may seem as ridiculous as the “body of Christ stretched all over the universe”; God is able to manifest His Body wherever and in whatever manner He wishes.”


and then further on you say:


The short answer that you will sometimes be told is that the Ever Virgin saves us by giving birth to Christ. This is true as far as it goes. But admittedly not only does the Orthodox Church sing and pray to the Theotokos asking for salvation, help, protection and the like; but also to the Saints and Martyrs whom she commemorates does she beseech such aide.”


My opposition in praying to Mary and/or the Saints that have gone before us has nothing to do with me thinking such a proposition “ridiculous”, that would be a meaningless argument of personal incredulity. Rather, it has to do with Biblical warrant. Quite frankly, I, like Stuart, just do not see a reason to bring our “prayers and supplications” to anyone other than God the Father as Christ taught us to pray in the “Our Father” prayer.


These are just a couple of things that I thought I would bring to your attention regarding your response. However, I do thank you for all your thoughts and explanations concerning your turn toward Eastern Orthodoxy, something that definitely needed more clarification given the poor nature of the original article.


Thank you and God bless!,

Drew


3 comments:

Drew,

You are forgiven. Please forgive me as well, for I fall short in so many ways myself. May our entire life be one of continued repentance, lest this gift of grace become a pretext for sin. As Paul says, "What shall we say then, shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound? God forbid. How are we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?"

I am sure you had not thought about it, but I would respectively ask that you put back up the "thread" of my dialogue with Stuart. I understand why you wanted to add the exchanges between us, so that the reader is not left with only your to the front page itself. But unless the rest of this dialogue is made available, then the reader does not know who the "Stuart" is that you are refering to in your last response (neither does the reader get to benefit from his fine thoughts expressed so far). You could just simply put those previous conversations at the beginning of this thread.

With respect to your response I can tell you did your homework. I commend you for that. In response to your statements, I will attempt to provide my understand of Orthodox praxis in relation to this issue.

Regarding the "rule and norm" of the Church, we believe that this rule and norm is the "rule and norm" itself. In other words the "rule" or "canon" is entrusted to the Church for our salvation. The church is the Body of Him who is indeed the center of all things, Jesus Christ; for "all things that exist are made and held together by Him".

Thus "canon" or "rule" which has been given by grace to the Church is the PARADOSIS, "that which has been handed down to us". It is that which is spoken of in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold on to the TRADITIONS which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle".

In english, the word "tradition" is tricky. From a Protestant perspective, this word has largely negative connotations (with such Biblical passages as Jesus speaking about "traditions of men" in the Gospel. But to those who lived the faith as it was "handed down to them" just one to two generations later, men like Irenaeus, there was a clear distinction between traditions of men and the TRADITION.

Thus Scripture is part of, or within the TRADITION. To demonstrate this, we could not even be discussing these things unless faithful monks and others copied them througout the centuries. The sacred Scriptures have been handed down to us. Likewise, making the sign of the cross, fasting on Wednesday and Frisday (c.f. the Didache), the mystery of private confession and the Liturgies and Offices of the Church (to name a few) have been "traditioned" to us.

Without receiving all of the TRADITION in the context of the church with the Holy Spirit guiding us, one is left with such questions as "How should our Sunday services be constructed?" Or, "Do I really need to make the sign of the cross as a part of my regular devotional life?" Not that these things in and of themselves save us, but they are part the fullness of the faith.

As for the Holy Spirit, he existed before Christ (who was incarnate two thousand years ago in the womb of Mary). However, I am guessing that your comment regarding "without Christ there would be no reason for the Holy Spirit" refers to the eternal Word. My response is that this potential question is an impossiblity. The eternal Word existed from the beginning being begotten from the Father with the Spirit proceeding from the same source (namely the Father). Thus I cannot conceive of any one persons of the Trinity existing without another. This is what has been revealed to us by God; othewise, I a finite creature would know nothing of the Trinity in this created world.

Regarding requests for prayer, with the approach that when in need we should only go directly to God; this negates the impetus to request intercession on such things as prayer lists, or from one another. Just as we request prayer from the church militant; so likewise the church triumphant.

Finlly, your response regarding communion is raises great questions. Why would anyone bring someone to communion if they cannot speak for themselves? However, this same approach often if used against infant baptism. The child cannot speak for himself, so why bring him to receive Christ in Baptism without his consent? Also it has tended at times to exclude the mentally disabled from communion as well (I dealt with such an exclusion while serving as a Lutheran pastor). Instead, our receiving Christ is not based upon our worthiness, but upon his mercy. If the child or disabled person cannot speak for himself, and those who are speaking in their behalf consent- we err on the side of grace and give Christ revealed in Bread and Wine to the recipient, just as we provide the life-giving water of Baptism.

One of the pre-communion prayers in the Eastern Rite is a prayer of Saint Basil that is as follows: O Lord, I know that I am unworthy to receive thy Holy Body and Precious Blood; I know that I am guilty, and that I eat and drink damnation to myself; not discerning the Body and Blood of Christ my God. But trusting in thy loving-kindness I come unto thee who hast said: He that eateth my Body and drinketh my Blood shall dwell in me and I in him...

Father Daniel

March 6, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

Drew,

I noticed that the important prior thread is still available either by the reader clicking on the red "article" at the beginning of our latest post, or by going back to the orginal March 2nd posting of yours by scrolling down to it. I would recommend anyone wishing to interact in this dialogue to read those postings to be fully filled in on this exchange.

Thank you for your example of humility in this Lenten season.

Glory Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Father Daniel

March 6, 2009 at 3:03 PM  

As a former adherent to the LCMS and now Orthodox, I thoroughly enjoyed this dialogue. While I cannot add anything to it which Fr. Daniel has not already said, I particularly appreciated the humility and respect shown by both sides in this conversation. I have been part of many internet "debates" and more times than not they quickly degrade into who has the cleverest come-back and are downright disrespectful and unChristlike.

Both sides insisted on keeping with the topic at hand and not getting personal to best of their ability. Only in this way can we work to understand each other and learn from Truth (rather than searching for that which matches our personal vision of the Truth).

God bless both of you. Christ is in our midst!

Joshua G.

August 21, 2009 at 2:53 PM