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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Burden of Freedom

For no other reason than the fact that I am an editor of Gottesdienst, I get copied on notes like this from Fr. Stuckwisch. I see this as the main benefit, by the way, of being associated with Gottesdienst:

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“I get a little annoyed with the way CPH publications are treated like holy writ (as if we now look to Synod, Inc. for a papal imprimatur and nihil obstat )”

Everybody's searching for authority and certainty.

Plenty of people do the same sort of thing with Redeemer in Fort Wayne and Zion in Detroit.

And lots more people do the same thing with TLH.

In my opinion, figuring out how to answer "the question" (of what to do, when, and why) is THE compelling question, which touches not only upon liturgical practice, rites and ceremonies, but ecclesiology and justification (even though I'm not a Preus).

I'm sure I'm just late to the party, but it also seems to me that this is what led John Fenton, et al., out the door and Eastward: a search for authority and certainty.

Yet, for all its frustrations, and despite the ways it is abused, the Lutheran understanding of adiaphora, and of the freedom of the Gospel, is the right answer -- which refuses to find any absolute authority or certainty apart from Christ. Loehe was correct, I think, in saying that the "satis est" was one of the crown jewels of our Lutheran Confession. But how does one live in that without resorting to anarchy and chaos; and how does one guide and direct the church in a unity of consistent practice, without resorting to legalism?

I'm frankly still struggling to answer these questions for myself, and I go back and forth all the time; which is a big part of the reason that I have found it difficult to write about things.

In Christ, Rick

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I think he is right on the money. I think if we weren't going back and forth on these things all the time we'd either be legalists of one sort or another or we'd be in heaven. The right understanding of adiaphora is the blessing and curse of Lutheranism.

God, in His mercy, has left us free in many things, and freedom always suffers abuse. My analogy on this is freedom of the press. We could end all libel in a heartbeat. We simply take away this freedom. There is no libel in North Korea. But at what cost? So we suffer constant abuse in the press. It is hard to deal with, to discipline, and rarely is disciplined. But I don't think any of us would prefer the North Korean paper.

Fr. Stuckwisch finds it difficult to write about these things because he is not like me. Not only is he nice, he is also careful. So I've hi-jacked his e-mail and posted it. Because, despite his caution, I think he has written well, honestly and openly here, about the constant struggle of Christianity: how can we be free and slaves at the same time? In other words, were is my authority and certainty? And how does the Gospel rule me while the Law accuses me? And on and on it goes.

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