It Is Sufficient… w/ excerpts from Wilhelm Loehe on “Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith”

Musical Concert - Christian - clappingPopularly accepted terms for the church’s worship, whether the form of worship is traditional or contemporary contain within them the ideological wedge which creates division in the churches. This is especially so among the Lutheran churches, not least because we teach that, “…it is sufficient for the true unity of the Church, that the Gospel is preached therein according to its pure intent and meaning, and that the Sacraments are administered in conformity with the Word of God. And for the true unity of the Church, it is not necessary that uniform ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere observed, as Paul says, Eph. 4:4,5.” (Augustana, Art. 7)

The question which the Reformers originally took up in relation to the Word of God and worship, “What is the truth?”, has been converted at present to, “What works?” We are not so much occupied with the question of true Catholicity, what it means that we claim to believe, teach, and confess the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic faith. We have instead succumbed to, “the charms of whatever beast happens to arise out of the abyss, if only it speaks in a somewhat religious vein.” (Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, “Concerning the Freedom of the Church”)

Yet, the mode of worship, the form of the liturgy, does not establish Catholicity. It is not external forms which establish Catholicity. If one asks whether one congregation employs a contemporary form of worship (whatever that means), or a traditional form of worship (whatever that means), he does not go deep enough. He has not yet dug down and exposed the root. The deeper question, the persistent question which drives to the heart of the matter, to the truth, is the question our Lord asked his disciples on His way to Calvary: “Who do men say that I am?” How the Church answers this question is determinative for whether she can claim to be truly Catholic. Is she truly a Church of the New Testament and of the Lutheran Confessions? Listen to her confession of faith in the Divine Service and you will hear the truth.

That is, as Wilhelm Loehe put it:

The Lutheran Liturgy is an outgrowth from the Roman. The Lutheran Church itself is not a new building, but the old, cleansed from unauthorized additions. For more than three centuries the Church has advanced no new doctrines, but on the contrary has been purifying the old systems from added perversions. In a liturgical way, like wise, no new path has been marked out; but after the removal of inexpedient innovations, that which has proved valuable from the beginning has been preserved. It is for this reason that our Church possesses in common with the Roman the principal parts of the Communion Service.

For the same reason it was possible for the framers of the Augustana to assert: — “Nor has any perceptible change taken place in the public ceremonies of the mass.” Also: — “It is well known that the mass is, without boasting, celebrated with greater devotion and sincerity among us than among our adversaries.” If any one is inclined to charge this Order with a Romanizing tendency, the same must then be brought against every Lutheran Order, if not against the whole Church. It would, however be more correct to say, that the Romish Church had a tendency to Catholicize in those parts of the Liturgy which it holds in common with us, because in those parts the Romish Church stands high above its own standard, and agrees with that which is truly universal.

images (2)Further, Loehe writes:

I say, and without fear of contradiction, that Constitutions and Organizations, Liturgies and Ceremonies, valuable in the service of the truth as they may be, do not in the real sense constitute the Church. From these the Church does not derive its life; they are fruits of its life, but not its source. It is gratifying to the enemy, and humiliating to the devout, to see many overestimate the value of externals, thus going the way to Rome. In their insistence on externals they forget the great word of the Augustana, for our times perhaps the greatest word of that document, viz., the immortal: — ”It is sufficient for the true unity of the Church, that the Gospel is preached therein according to its pure intent and meaning, and that the Sacraments are administered in conformity with the Word of God. And for the true unity of the Christian Church it is not necessary that uniform ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere observed, as Paul says, Eph. 4: 4, 5.”

The Church does not rely on human innovations for her livelihood. She does not need human crutches to get along. Constitutions, Multiple Liturgical Forms, Political Statements, Convention Votes, and the like are not Word and Sacrament. They are not the Church’s one Lord and Head. They are not the holy Church of God. They are not the center. They cannot establish true unity and harmony in the Church. Only true worship of God, worship in the Spirit and truth, can accomplish this. That is, as Loehe writes, “The Order or Liturgy in which … worship is expressed ought therefore to be the image of the inner unity and harmony of the spiritual life — an ecclesiastical aesthetic in concrete form. In the Church’s inner life, as well as in the public expression of her worship, Word and Sacrament constitute the center. Like waves of the sea, breaking and falling upon the Father.” 


In fact, continues Loehe, “A close examination of [a truly Catholic] Liturgy must convince everyone that it is constructed on that which is fundamentally necessary for the right conduct of public worship.’ In public worship the Church experiences an especial nearness to God; she approaches into the very presence of the Bridegroom, and tastes the blessedness of Heaven even here below. Public worship is the prettiest flower that can bloom on human stems.”

What ought one to listen for then? How can one hear the confession of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church? First, is there Confession and Pardon of sins? Is there the Introit, which introduces the particular joys of the particular season? Where is the Kyrie that, in spite of its brevity, expresses a prayer for temporal and eternal deliverance? Where are the lofty strains of the Gloria in Excelsis where our Lord makes his first approach to the worshiping congregation? What about the Collect, wherein the congregation frames all its needs into a single petition, and unitedly presents it to the divine Throne? Are the Apostolical writings read? Do the people express their praise in the Hallelujah and Gradual? Does our Lord speak in the very words of His Gospel? Does the congregation confess its’ baptismal union with her Lord in the Creed? Is the face of God unveiled in the Sermon for you? What about the great prayer of the Church where she bears in mind the needs of one another, as well as those of the whole world? For here, writes Loehe, “With nothing but blessing for mankind in their hearts, the people are thus fitly preparing themselves for a right approach to the Altar. And along with this Great Prayer the thought comes to them, that the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven is the One Holy Catholic Church, and that the prayers of the pilgrims here and the prayers of the glorified there, are borne to the Father’s Throne by the same Mediator.”

After this does the Church then approach the Altar, to receive the Sacrament? What about comes the Sanctus wherein, writes Loehe:

“…the worshiping people see the Lord’s approach to the Sacrament, and they hail him in prayerful Hosanna. The people can rise no higher; they are as near Heaven as it is possible for a human soul to come on earth. A brief, but deep and expectant silence now settles on the people. Without transition the verba testament (words of the testament) are now heard. He comes in the name of the Lord! God and his Lamb, slain for the sin of the world, are present! Humbled, the congregation lies before the Highest, not indeed as though cast down from the heights of the Sanctus, but by it deeply impressed with the near ness of God, commends to him in the Agnus and Pater Noster everything which is necessary for time and eternity.”

Then, concludes Loehe:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe worshiping congregation now receives the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, From faith to faith, from one height to another, the devout soul has gone up to the most blessed experiences of the of the divine nearness and pardon. The soul can reach no higher station, except in death (Nunc Dimittis). The service closes, and the worshipers, with hope, born anew, seek in their daily occupations that which God has given to each as the discipline preparatory to glorification. Brief and incomplete as this examination of the Liturgy will necessarily be found, I am nevertheless persuaded that a perusal of it will show more clearly the beauties of our matchless Order for the Public Worship of God. And may God himself so preserve and Order his Zion, that the time may speedily come, when imperfections shall be no more, and the Church give him nobler praise in Heaven.

Along with our fathers in the faith the Lutheran Church in this generation must concern herself (again) with the question about the truth of God’s Word and whether our worship is God-pleasing in form and content. The Church in every generation is called to do this. Not that she might bind weak and terrified consciences through the implementation of forms of worship which contradict God’s Word and cause division in the body. Not to cause others to stumble in faith because of the rubbish men pile on to the true worship of God with the best of intentions. The Church hungers after the truth about God’s Word and Godly worship so that she may be free from bondage to sin, from “ceremonies instituted by men,” that the teachings of the one, holy Catholic and apostolic faith might abound, and the true unity of the Church be establish steadfast therein.

Therefore, “…it is sufficient for the true unity of the Church, that the Gospel is preached therein according to its pure intent and meaning, and that the Sacraments are administered in conformity with the Word of God. And for the true unity of the Church, it is not necessary that uniform ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere observed, as Paul says, Eph. 4:4,5.”

 

All Loehe quotes are from, “Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith,” by Wilhelm Loehe, from the preface to the First Edition.

 

 


Comments

It Is Sufficient… w/ excerpts from Wilhelm Loehe on “Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith” — 14 Comments

  1. Pastor Donovan,

    It would be even better for you to simply outline the Apology for art 7 and 8.
    The distinction is made, in that article between the Holy Catholic Church being a carnal government just as is the household and society, which is entered into by Holy Baptism and includes false believers and true believers,

    …., then, in with and under that, is the Communion of Saints, which is the invisible kingdom that is entered, through the same baptism, alone, by Faith, alone, in the Works of Another.

    many modern lutherans get their doctrine of the church from the last article titled ecclesiastical power. It amazes me that they do not get it from art 7 and 8 which is titled to contain the Lutheran doctrine of the church. I guess that is about our focus on power and separation of church and state?

    I propose, that in this article, is the Lutheran answer to the worship wars and also things such as women´s ordination.

  2. From the main post (Loehe): “In public worship the Church … approaches into the very presence of the Bridegroom….”

    Are we not always in His presence? Matthew 28:20, Psalm 139, Romans 6:5, Proverbs 5:21, etc.

  3. @Carl H #2

    yes we are Always in the presence of God carl H.
    Loehe means it this way:

    We receive forgiveness in the Holy Supper and in the words of Absolution. Yet we are already forgiven arent we? So how can we receive again in the supper and absolution something we already have?

  4. Didn’t this guy also teach that unless a person hears absolution from the mouth of an ordained pastor their sins were not forgiven?

    Didn’t this guy split with Martin Luther over whether the office of the keys is truely a peculiar church power? Haven’t others on this site claimed that Loehe taught that the office of the keys exclusively belongs only to the clergy? If that is true, wouldn’t Loehe’s position necessarily violate sola scriptura? Wouldn’t his position undermine the reformation by re-establishing the Roman error that the church is defined by the clergy and not by the whole body of believers? Doesn’t this position remove the Word from the people and replace it with a pastor? Seems like this conclusion would lead to the laity being discouraged from ever reading the Word or thinking on their own, but rather being confined to only listening to the liturgy and being told what to believe by Christ’s vicar over them.

    I didn’t notice all of this in the quotes from Loehe posted above, but it could easily explain his motiviations.

  5. @Joe #4: “Didn’t this guy split with Martin Luther over whether the office of the keys is truely a peculiar church power?”

    Loehe’s split came in 1853 two years after meeting with C.F.W. Walther and F.C.D. Wyneken, then president of the Missouri Synod, to try and resolve their disagreement on the doctrine of church and ministry. Contrary to C.F.W. Walther’s Kirche und Amt on the understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry, Wilhelm Loehe held a non-Lutheran view:

    Everywhere in the New Testament we see that the holy office begets the Churches, never that the office is merely a transfer of congregational rights and plenary powers, that the Churches confer the office. The office stands in the midst of the Church like a fruitful tree that has its seed in itself. As long as the examination and ordination remains in the hands of the Presbyterium (the pastors), it is right, and can be maintained that it completes itself and propagates itself from person to person, from generation to generation. Those who hold it pass it along, and he to whom its incumbents transfer it holds it as from God. … The office is a stream of blessing that pours itself from the apostles upon their disciples, and from these onward into future times. (Aphorismen über die neutestamentlichen Ämter [1849], p. 71; quoted in C. A. Hay, “Article V: The Office of the Ministry,” Lectures on the Augsburg Confession [Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1888], pp. 172-73)

    Later Loehe did admit that the position of Walther and the Missouri Synod was congruent with that of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions:

    The sad experiences which the former Stephanites [the Missourians] had with their hierarch, [Martin] Stephan, have made their hearts very receptive to the doctrine of the ministry held by Luther and subsequent theologians, a teaching also reflected in the Lutheran Symbols, especially since this doctrine not only commends itself highly to the Christian mind but also seems made to order for American circumstances. Conversely, some of us were led by experiences of an opposite and different nature to have an eye for a different conception of ministry and church, a conception which was present already at the time of the Reformation in the church of the Reformers and had been recommended particularly in some parts of southern Germany. Where it differs from the specific-Lutheran and Lutheran-theological course (Richtung), it seems to commend itself by virtue of a more artless attachment to Holy Scripture and antiquity and by greater truth in practice. (Kirchliche Nachrichten aus und über Nord-Amerika, No. 8 [1859]; quoted in C. F. W. Walther, “Do We Draw the Lines of Fellowship Too Narrowly?”, Editorials From “Lehre und Wehre” [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1981], pp. 75-76)

  6. @Carl Vehse #5

    Thanks. He also admits that his own opinion is primarily shaped by experience and tradition as opposed to the Word:

    “Conversely, some of us were led by experiences of an opposite and different nature to have an eye for a different conception of ministry and church, a conception which was present already at the time of the Reformation in the church of the Reformers and had been recommended particularly in some parts of southern Germany.”

    What does he mean by this next sentence?:

    “Where it differs from the specific-Lutheran and Lutheran-theological course, it seems to commend itself by virtue of a more artless attachment to Holy Scripture and antiquity and by greater truth in practice.”

    What is “it”? Walther and Luther’s position? Is that what Loehe is calling “artless attachment to Holy Scripture?” I wonder what “artful” attachment would be. Either way, greater truth in practice should trump art or connection to antiquity.

    It is interesting that Loehe also acknowledges that Walther (and Luther) reached this position after first experiencing abuse under clergy but doesn’t stand on the Word to indicate a conclusion one way or the other.

  7. It is crucial to understand this notion of “transference.”

    It is not enough to simply say that it works this way. God gives the power to the congregation then the congregation transfers it to the pastor.

    That simplistic view sets up the pastor and congregation at odds in a non-Biblical way.

    The best language to use is to say that God calls the pastor through the local congregation. It is God who does the calling. He doesn’t first give away his authority to someone else then let them do the work. He does the work through them.

    Likewise we must ask, does the congregation own the keys? No. Does the pastor own the keys? No. God owns the keys and speaks forgiveness through the lips of the pastor.

    One last thought, let us not forget that the pastor is a part of the church. It is useless to pit pastor against church or vice versa because the pastor is a part of the church. so, whatever transference means, it does not mean one party granting a seperate party something.

    Have at it Carl – this is your wheelhouse! 🙂

  8. It is nice to see the picture of ULC in this article. Exemplary Word and Sacrament ministry is always worthy of note in this type of context.

  9. @Pastor Tim Rossow #7

    Your explanation was very good.

    “Likewise we must ask, does the congregation own the keys? No. Does the pastor own the keys? No. God owns the keys”

    This is also made clear by C.F.W. Walther who refers to the Church not as the owner of all church power, or the Keys, but rather the Inhaberin (possessor, holder, custodian, proprietor). The original German and six translations of Walther’s theses can be seen in the paper, “Kirche und Amt Theses and Translations.”

    The Übertragungslehre (transference doctrine) is covered in Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt, particularly in discussions on Theses IV, on the Church, and VI, VII, and IX on the Ministry, as well as in Walther’s Die rechte Gestalt einer vom Staate unabhaengigen Evangelisch-Lutherischen Ortgemeinde (The Proper Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Independent of the State). The 66 theses from The Proper Form along with Scripture references and numerous citations from the Confessions and Lutheran theologians are given in Walther and the Church by William Dallmann, W.H.T. Dau, and Thomas Engelder (editors) (CPH, St. Louis, 1938). There is also a translated collection of Walther’s writings from Der Lutheraner during 1860-61 in The Congregation’s Right to Choose Its Pastor (Fred Kramer, translator, Concordia Seminary Series, St. Louis, 1997).

    Carl S. Mundinger also discusses Übertragungslehre in his book, Government of the Missouri Synod (CPH, St. Louis, 1947). Walther’s theses on Church and Ministry, including Übertragungslehre, are summarized in the Christian Cyclopedia. There is a discussion of the Thesis IV on the Church and Thesis VI on the Ministry, in the paper, “Church and Ministry” by Dr. George F. Wollenburg presented at the 2002 Walther Free Conference.

  10. Brother in Christ:

    Out of curiosity, where can one get this Loehe writing? And is it in English, or would it have to be translated?

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  11. Loehe’s book, Liturgy for Christian congregations of the Lutheran faith (translated by Frank Carroll Lonaker, 1902), can be read and downloaded in various formats here or here. The “Preface to the First Edition” is on pages IX-XVI.

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