FL Blurb On Lutheranism In The Baltics

Started by James_Gale, March 19, 2015, 09:28:45 AM

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Donald_Kirchner

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 01:25:25 AM
μικρός is not a word that means "babies." It's an adjective that means "small." It refers to insignificant people regardless of age - or within this context, perhaps new converts regardless of age.

No, in this context its not the new converts.

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 01:25:25 AM
βρέφος, which doesn't occur in Matthew, but in Luke 2:16 is the technical term for a newborn.

If it did occur in Matthew but not in 18:6 your assertion might have some legs. As it is, you make my point that infants/babies are included in these, the little ones.

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 01:25:25 AM
There are no passages that indicate a βρέφος has faith.

And there's your typical straw man.

As I said, this is what Lutherans confess. "Faith and the kingdom of God are not limited by age or mental abilities. They are gracious gifts of God." By requiring a statement you undermine the gift and deny that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe.

"Here a question occurs by which the devil, through his sects, confuses the world, namely, Of Infant Baptism, whether children also believe, and are justly baptized. Concerning this we say briefly: Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds, and refer it to the learned. But if you wish to answer,  then answer thus:-

That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost, as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit. 51] This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.

Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.

For even though a Jew should to-day come dishonestly and with evil purpose, and we should baptize him in all good faith, we must say that his baptism is nevertheless genuine. For here is the water together with the Word of God, even though he does not receive it as he should, just as those who unworthily go to the Sacrament receive the true Sacrament, even though they do not believe.

Thus you see that the objection of the sectarians is vain. For (as we have said) even though infants did not believe, which, however, is not the case, yet their baptism as now shown would be valid, and no one should rebaptize them; just as nothing is detracted from the Sacrament though some one approach it with evil purpose, and he could not be allowed on account of his abuse to take it a second time the selfsame hour, as though he had not received the true Sacrament at first; for that would mean to blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst manner. How dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it?

Therefore I say, if you did not believe then believe now and say thus: The baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright. For I myself also, and all who are baptized, must speak thus before God: I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command. Just as I go to the Sacrament trusting not in my faith, but in the Word of Christ; whether I am strong or weak, that I commit to God. But this I know, that He bids me go, eat and drink, etc., and gives me His body and blood; that will not deceive me or prove false to me.

Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err." [LC, Of Infant Baptism, emphasis added]

Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Dave Schumacher

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 01:25:25 AM
Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on March 22, 2015, 11:21:01 AM
Why a statement? Babies have faith. Babies believe. Matt 18:6. Lutherans confess that. YMMV.


μικρός is not a word that means "babies." It's an adjective that means "small." It refers to insignificant people regardless of age - or within this context, perhaps new converts regardless of age.

παιδίον is used in Matthew 18:2, 3, 4, 5 refers to a child below the age of puberty, but of teachable age.

νήπιος is used in Matthew 11:25 and refers to a child at the end of infancy to about 3-4 years old.

βρέφος, which doesn't occur in Matthew, but in Luke 2:16 is the technical term for a newborn. There are no passages that indicate a βρέφος has faith.

Luke 18:15,16 - "People were also bringing babies (βρέφη) to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."


Donald_Kirchner

#47
I realize it's a long quote, but I think it one of the best parts of Giertz' book and one reason why Dr. Nagel suggested that we read it and re-read it once a year. Anticipating the reflex objection to your post, Pr. Schumacher:

"The children needed to come to Jesus to become partakers in the kingdom of God, just as much as publicans and all other sinners. That is why they must not be turned away. Jesus did not say, `Let them play in peace. They are already blessed. Instead, he said, `Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them nit. Then he laid his hands upon them and blessed them, and received them into his kingdom."

"But he did not baptize them!"

"Neither did he baptize anyone else. He took people directly into the kingdom. But to his church he has given baptism, that through this gateway we might be brought into the kingdom of God. He has given us no other way of entrance. `Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."'

"But children cannot believe," said Ahlberg, whose eagerness ness was increasing. The others listened in complete silence. "`He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Thus faith is necessary for baptism."

"No, not for baptism, but for salvation. Jesus does not in that passage say what is necessary in order to be baptized, but what is necessary in order to be saved. Faith and baptism are two that belong together. Don't you see, Ahlberg, how dreadful it would be if children could not believe? In that case they could not be saved, either."

Fridfeldt was himself startled by this thought, which just now came to him. Was this just juggling with words? But then he remembered Frans, the dying old man, and his grandchild, and he felt that there was a deep and edifying connection. "It may very well be that we have drawn wrong conclusions sions regarding faith," he continued. "Faith does not dwell in our brain or in our thoughts. Faith is not a work which we accomplish; it is not a gift that we give to God. Being made righteous by faith does not imply that faith is some kind of payment that will serve as well as our almsgiving and good works. Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life."

The farmers from Sorbygden nodded assent. Those who followed the leadership of Ahlberg had a questioning look. Ahlberg himself looked intently at Fridfeldt. It was evident that this was new to him, but also that he was honestly trying to understand it.

"But must not a man nevertheless himself open his heart?" he asked.

"Of course-if he has himself closed it. But I am wondering if it is not so with the little children, that their hearts are not really closed to God. Why do little children more easily enter the kingdom of God than we grown-ups? Why do we read that unless we receive the kingdom as little children we shall not at all enter it? Why do we as adults have to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom? Is it not because a child's heart is open so that God can fill it with his grace, shed his Spirit upon it, and regenerate it? When we grow older, it becomes more difficult, for then resistance begins; we are stubborn and evasive and shut up our heart by intentional sins. Not until the heart is opened in conversion have we become as little children-and then we can enter again into the kingdom."

He became silent, utterly surprised at his flow of words. But he had caught a vision, had glimpsed a solution to his search. In order not to lose it, he began to speak again.

"How is it now, friends? If faith means to receive God's grace in our hearts, and if the child's heart is always open toward God, it surely follows that the child is able to believe. It can, then, certainly receive grace. If, however, faith resided in our heads, in our thinking and understanding, it would not be possible. When we therefore bring a little child, with its corrupted nature, to God in baptism, what can hinder God from being gracious to it, taking it up into the kingdom of God, and giving it forgiveness of sins? Look," he said, as he held out his hands in the shape of a bowl. "This is your heart, a vessel full of corruption, being born of sinful nature and having evil desires at its bottom. When you were born into the world, the vessel was open toward God. You were not for that reason a child of God, for the vessel of your heart was not that of an angel, but a bit of corrupted human flesh. Then you were brought to baptism. God poured his Spirit as a stream of grace into this vessel. It was still sinful, and evil tendencies lay within it, but it was all covered by forgiveness; over it lay a white cloth, the righteousness of Christ, the redemption of Christ. You were then a child of God, for Jesus's sake. Then you grew up. Perhaps you were guilty of intentional sins and lived in unbelief. It was as if your heart were covered over again." Here he lifted one hand and held it over the other as a lid. "Then things were really bad. But you know that God took hold of you again, and there was penitence and confession and faith." The covering hand was removed, and the hands together again formed an open bowl. "This is your spiritual state today. The sinful nature still remains, and the struggle against sin and for sanctification of life continues. Some hearts become almost clean in this life, while others retain so much of the bitter dregs that it takes extreme watchfulness and care to keep it from flowing over into intentional sin. Yet, over us all shines the atonement, and all of us have exactly as great a portion in that which is the foundation and content of our salvation: Jesus only.

"And when you shall die some day," he continued, with hands still extended, "and your consciousness is clouded, you may lay your broken vessel down, with all the darkness that is still within it, before the throne of grace and say, `I know whom I have believed.' In the heart, evil may still bubble ble forth and wrong desires rise up and, though your mind is no longer active, your lips may perhaps form wicked words. What does it matter? It is only the old nature that is falling to pieces and letting the black contents run out. The new nature already rests securely on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus only." He let his hands drop. He saw old Frans all the while before his mind's eye. So now he had an answer also to the question raised by the circumstances of his death. There was a long silence in the room. Finally, Erik Svensson spoke up, with a voice that seemed a bit unclear.

"Our pastor has really given us a sermon of his own that we shall not soon forget. As for me, I am putting all my trust in my first baptism and do not need anything else. I think we ought to sing a song and leave for our homes."

When the others nodded approval to what had been said, Ahlberg made haste to ask for the word. He was not content to have the discussion end at this stage.

"To me, this is such a new way of thinking about faith," he said, "that I hardly know just what to say about it. You asked a question, Pastor. May I now ask one of you?"

Fridfeldt nodded assent.

"Can you mention a single passage of Scripture that states that a little child can actually be born again?"

"Not one, but two," said the pastor, after a moment's thought. "We have already heard them. One is, `Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' and the other, `Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. Do you see what I mean, Ahlberg?

The first passage, then, says that God's kingdom is received through regeneration in baptism. tism. The other states that children can receive the kingdom and that it is just they that receive it in the right way. If, then, it is the children who enter the kingdom in the right way, and if that way is to be born again, it also becomes clear that children dren really can be born again. And it becomes equally clear that we all received the kingdom of God when we were baptized as children."

Bo Giertz, Hammer of God, Kindle Edition.

Exactly as taught by Dr. Nagel. What is faith? Faith receives the gifts. Faith is to be given to.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on March 23, 2015, 08:43:18 AM

As I said, this is what Lutherans confess.


Exactly. You go to the confessions to understand scriptures. That is not scripture alone. We look to the church fathers, creeds, and confessions for our doctrines, not to scripture alone. All your quotes from the confessions support my point.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Donald_Kirchner

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 12:46:54 PM
Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on March 23, 2015, 08:43:18 AM

As I said, this is what Lutherans confess.


Exactly. You go to the confessions to understand scriptures. That is not scripture alone. We look to the church fathers, creeds, and confessions for our doctrines, not to scripture alone. All your quotes from the confessions support my point.

No, they do not. Norma normans vs. Norma normata.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Dave Schumacher on March 23, 2015, 10:14:50 AM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 23, 2015, 01:25:25 AM
Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on March 22, 2015, 11:21:01 AM
Why a statement? Babies have faith. Babies believe. Matt 18:6. Lutherans confess that. YMMV.


μικρός is not a word that means "babies." It's an adjective that means "small." It refers to insignificant people regardless of age - or within this context, perhaps new converts regardless of age.

παιδίον is used in Matthew 18:2, 3, 4, 5 refers to a child below the age of puberty, but of teachable age.

νήπιος is used in Matthew 11:25 and refers to a child at the end of infancy to about 3-4 years old.

βρέφος, which doesn't occur in Matthew, but in Luke 2:16 is the technical term for a newborn. There are no passages that indicate a βρέφος has faith.

Luke 18:15,16 - "People were also bringing babies (βρέφη) to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."


Yup, no mention that the βρέφος are believing (or even baptized), just that Jesus has given the kingdom to παιδία. Some interpret such words to indicate that children are saved without believing or baptism before the age of accountability. The kingdom is freely given to them. Once they have reach the age of accountability, they need to express their faith and be baptized. (I'm not arguing that that's the way it should be interpreted, but that it can be and is interpreted that way by some.)

It is the doctrines that we believe before going to scriptures that often determine our interpretation of scriptures. For those with a doctrine of believer baptism - they will find that taught in scriptures. For us with our teachings about infant baptism, we find that supported in scriptures.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Donald_Kirchner

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 22, 2015, 10:56:48 AM
Our practice of infant baptism comes from an argument of silence. It is not always wrong. Why shouldn't we interpret, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved," as requiring a statement of belief before baptizing?

For all the given reasons, those with which you now claim support your point which now seems to be different from the above-quoted point.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Pr. Don Kirchner on March 23, 2015, 01:03:42 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on March 22, 2015, 10:56:48 AM
Our practice of infant baptism comes from an argument of silence. It is not always wrong. Why shouldn't we interpret, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved," as requiring a statement of belief before baptizing?

For all the given reasons, those with which you now claim support your point which now seems to be different from the above-quoted point.


My point is to disagree with the statement Scripture defines our doctrine. Rather, I've attempted to show how our doctrines define our interpretations of scriptures.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Donald_Kirchner

The Lutheran view is:

"As men of faith, we affirm not only that Holy Scripture is powerful and efficacious, but also that it is "'the only judge, rule, and norm according to which, as the only touchstone, all doctrines should and must be understood, and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.'"(FC, Ep, Rule and Norm, 7)
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

James_Gale

I was back in the Baltics (Vilnius and Riga) last week and thought I'd drop a brief note here with some observations that may or may not be of interest. 


Vilnius, of course, is the capital of heavily Catholic Lithuania.  Through an internet search, I located on Lutheran Church there.  It's very small and the entrance is from a courtyard found by crossing under an archway.  It supposedly was open a couple hours each day.  But when I stopped by, it was closed.  The sign on the door did announce times for worship, fellowship and Bible study.  In the streets, you could see signs of Palm Sunday's approach.  People were selling arrangements anchored by tree branches and adorned with other bits of plant life (small flowers, berries, nuts).  In the US, we of course manage to find palm branches.  In much of Europe, palm branches are hard to find and tradition dictates using parts of other plants.  The many Catholic churches were well kept, tended to advertise Mass times, and tended to be populated by a small number of tourists and a small number of people praying.


Riga, in formerly Lutheran Latvia, was different.  I saw no signs in the streets that Palm Sunday was approaching.  The two largest churches are Lutheran, at least in name.  According to the internet, the Lutherans hold worship in the Cathedral.  However, I saw no signs at the church announcing worship or worship times.  The Cathedral did not contain any worship materials, Bibles, or literature about the faith.  The Cathedral charged for admission.  I have mixed feelings about this.  The building is enormous, old, expensive to keep up, and filled with more tourists than the faithful.  Financing the tourist flow makes some sense, therefore.  On the other hand, even a small admission fee (I think that it was 3 Euros) also keeps people out.  The other large church is St. Peter's, which is huge and boasts the tallest spire in the city.  As best I can tell, this church is run jointly by the city and the Lutheran church.  However, it seems that the church does not hold regular worship services there.  As at the Cathedral, St. Peter's was devoid of any signs directing anyone to a time or place of worship and boasted no written material regarding the faith.  (There was a sign that the King and Queen of Sweden had worshiped there some time in the 1990s, so there is that.)  You had to pay to get into this church as well.


One other note.  I happened upon the Cathedral just before noon last Saturday.  A 20-miunute organ recital was set to begin. I'd guess 250 people were seated quietly and listening to this short performance.  Some of them no doubt were like me -- tourists who happened to be there at the right time.  But many of them must have chosen to be there for the short recital.  So even if Lutheran worship is out of style, organ performance is not.


One other, other note.  The language engraved into the stonework in the churches was in German.  As best I can tell, one reason for the decline of Lutheranism is that those of German background left in large numbers at the outset of Soviet occupation. 

John_Hannah

The Germans seemed to have built the cities all around the Baltic. It seems that engineering and agriculture "R US."

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Dave Benke

Quote from: James_Gale on April 01, 2015, 01:05:47 PM
I was back in the Baltics (Vilnius and Riga) last week and thought I'd drop a brief note here with some observations that may or may not be of interest. 


Vilnius, of course, is the capital of heavily Catholic Lithuania.  Through an internet search, I located on Lutheran Church there.  It's very small and the entrance is from a courtyard found by crossing under an archway.  It supposedly was open a couple hours each day.  But when I stopped by, it was closed.  The sign on the door did announce times for worship, fellowship and Bible study.  In the streets, you could see signs of Palm Sunday's approach.  People were selling arrangements anchored by tree branches and adorned with other bits of plant life (small flowers, berries, nuts).  In the US, we of course manage to find palm branches.  In much of Europe, palm branches are hard to find and tradition dictates using parts of other plants.  The many Catholic churches were well kept, tended to advertise Mass times, and tended to be populated by a small number of tourists and a small number of people praying.


Riga, in formerly Lutheran Latvia, was different.  I saw no signs in the streets that Palm Sunday was approaching.  The two largest churches are Lutheran, at least in name.  According to the internet, the Lutherans hold worship in the Cathedral.  However, I saw no signs at the church announcing worship or worship times.  The Cathedral did not contain any worship materials, Bibles, or literature about the faith.  The Cathedral charged for admission.  I have mixed feelings about this.  The building is enormous, old, expensive to keep up, and filled with more tourists than the faithful.  Financing the tourist flow makes some sense, therefore.  On the other hand, even a small admission fee (I think that it was 3 Euros) also keeps people out.  The other large church is St. Peter's, which is huge and boasts the tallest spire in the city.  As best I can tell, this church is run jointly by the city and the Lutheran church.  However, it seems that the church does not hold regular worship services there.  As at the Cathedral, St. Peter's was devoid of any signs directing anyone to a time or place of worship and boasted no written material regarding the faith.  (There was a sign that the King and Queen of Sweden had worshiped there some time in the 1990s, so there is that.)  You had to pay to get into this church as well.


One other note.  I happened upon the Cathedral just before noon last Saturday.  A 20-miunute organ recital was set to begin. I'd guess 250 people were seated quietly and listening to this short performance.  Some of them no doubt were like me -- tourists who happened to be there at the right time.  But many of them must have chosen to be there for the short recital.  So even if Lutheran worship is out of style, organ performance is not.


One other, other note.  The language engraved into the stonework in the churches was in German.  As best I can tell, one reason for the decline of Lutheranism is that those of German background left in large numbers at the outset of Soviet occupation.

The LCMS has invested significant dollars in Latvia through the years - I'm very surprised to hear that the main churches in Riga are not holding liturgies.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

Newt Kerney

I spent close to three months in Vilnius as an interim at the International Church in Vilnius three years ago, which is housed in the Lutheran Church that goes back to the 1500's ( if I recall correctly). For some years the ELCA would be the connection partner for sending clergy.  The sanctuary was turned into a gym and a workshop by the Soviets, but has been restored and has a very nice pipe organ.  Last time I checked they had a pastor who was going to stay for two years.  The church has a ministry to the many international students, and to the various embassy personnel who work in Vilnius.

The English speaking church meets about 9:00 and the Lithuanian church still meets about 10:30.

Michael Slusser

Quote from: Newt Kerney on April 06, 2015, 08:24:32 PM
I spent close to three months in Vilnius as an interim at the International Church in Vilnius three years ago, which is housed in the Lutheran Church that goes back to the 1500's ( if I recall correctly). For some years the ELCA would be the connection partner for sending clergy.  The sanctuary was turned into a gym and a workshop by the Soviets, but has been restored and has a very nice pipe organ.  Last time I checked they had a pastor who was going to stay for two years.  The church has a ministry to the many international students, and to the various embassy personnel who work in Vilnius.

The English speaking church meets about 9:00 and the Lithuanian church still meets about 10:30.
Thank you for that fresh information based on your personal experience.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

MJohn4

Quote from: Newt Kerney on April 06, 2015, 08:24:32 PM
I spent close to three months in Vilnius as an interim at the International Church in Vilnius three years ago, which is housed in the Lutheran Church that goes back to the 1500's ( if I recall correctly). For some years the ELCA would be the connection partner for sending clergy.  The sanctuary was turned into a gym and a workshop by the Soviets, but has been restored and has a very nice pipe organ.  Last time I checked they had a pastor who was going to stay for two years.  The church has a ministry to the many international students, and to the various embassy personnel who work in Vilnius.

The English speaking church meets about 9:00 and the Lithuanian church still meets about 10:30.

Nicely restored judging from the picture on their website: http://www.vilniuschurch.org/International_Church_of_Vilnius/Home.html.

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