Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reflections from the Symposia - Part 3

It took a bit longer to return to Wisconsin than I originally hoped, but I made it home in time for supper last night. Although ideally I would love to stay for the final lectures on Friday, I usually use this day for travel since it takes upwards of 9 to10 yours for the trip back. It's tough to travel alone for that many hours, but I have found over the years that listening to a book on tape (now CD) helps to pass the time and remain alert. Although it has nothing to do with the Symposia, per se, I would still like to recommend the book I listened to on my way back. Written by Vicki Constantine Croke, The Lady and the Panda is a fascinating and engaging story of the first American explorer to bring back a live panda from China in the 1930's. Well, enough of my recreational reading.

I did not catch all of the lectures on Thursday, but as I said in the previous post, I did make sure to be there for Dr. David Scaer's. The hall by this time was predictably packed. His lecture was entitled "The Metamorphosis of Confessional Lutheranism." The thesis of the lecture centered on the progression of change evident among confessional Lutherans over the last decades, first in terms of biblical studies, and then in terms of liturgical renewal. As always his paper was direct and pulled no punches, yet it was also quite informative. He expounded on the difference in approaches within Missouri as the "Catholic Principle" (CP) and the "Evangelical Principle" (EP). The CP looks to the past tradition of the church catholic for guidance, insight and example for practice. The EP, which has dominated the synod's exegetical and liturgical practice in a previous generation, seemingly discounted or ignored this tradition. The results of this are certainly evident as one looks back over the last several decades, such as in the greater frequency of Holy Communion, and the restoration of the Divine Service from its "page 5" Protestant format where the liturgy of the Word was divorced from the Service of the Sacrament.

The day's speakers included two from the ELCA. While I missed the first one, I heard about it later. I hope that it is included on the web site so that I can read it for myself. Apparently he betrayed his left-leaning insights more than most. The second ELCA speaker was Dr. Carl E. Braaten. Dr. Braaten may be known to many for his collaboration on the dogmatics text he wrote some years back that is used in ELCA seminaries. His lecture was entitled "Confessional Lutheranism in an Ecumenical World." The emphasis of his paper, however, centered on his premise that Lutherans "are Catholics in exile." From his perspective the largest impediment to returning from our 'exile' is the "false government" in Rome. Like the Eastern Orthodox we reject the "universal jurisdiction" of the pope. I was disappointed, though, that Dr. Braaten did not appreciate the more significant differences, especially regarding the central doctrine of the church: justification. It was actually surprising to hear him refer to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) as "a miracle of grace." He seemed to be caught up in the belief that Rome and Wittenberg really do agree on this central doctrine, although anyone who has examined the document itself, and reflected on the use of terms between these two communions, will eventually realize that Rome conceded nothing and that they still believe everything they did at the time of Luther. The Council of Trent, although perhaps ignored or discounted by some Catholic and non-Catholic scholars today, is still the 'official' teaching of Rome. He stated that the "mutual condemnations" of the two churches "no longer apply," but what he failed to mention is that Rome did not removed them. The agency of the church that approved JDDJ on Rome's behalf was not the arm of the church that defines or enforces the teachings of the church. For those who wish to study the background of this document and the terms involved, should read Dr. Robert Preus' book Justification and Rome, published by CPH.

As always worship was a highlight, and the morning Matin's service was no exception. It was the annual Epiphany Lessons and Carols. I almost missed this service, and when I came in and heard the Kontorei singing "Of the Father's Love Begotten," I remembered why this service has always been so inspiring.

For me the Symposia ended with the Thursday evening banquet. The food was delicious and the company at my table enjoyable and stimulating. They dispensed with the usual banquet speaker this year, which was OK. Following the banquet was the annual "Sabre of Boldness" award by Gottesdienst. The recipient was Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn. Dr. Feuerhahn is now suffering from Parkinson's disease and it was inspiring to hear him address those present for the award. A truly humble theologian.

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