Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Properly speaking versus most properly speaking

Oh, dear: the knots we sometimes tie ourselves into in theology. Check out this paragraph from Gerhard. The poor guy is trying to argue that penance, that is Absolution, is not really a sacrament like Baptism and the Eucharist. But then his Roman Catholic opponent throws Ap. XIII in his face. The resulting hoop jumping is, in my opinion, kind of funny.

In my secret heart I'm afraid I think I might feel the same way about the kerfuffle about "objective justification." I think I know what everybody means. I think both sides in the debate over the use of this term would agree to this: Jesus died for the sins of the whole world but that doesn't mean the whole world is going to heaven, but only those who believe in Jesus. So I just can't get myself excited about arguing over the terms. I tried once, while in seminary, to really get into this debate, but my heart just wasn't in it once I was convinced that both sides were holding to the truth above. Much as I don't care to argue with Gerhard about which are sacraments properly speaking and which are sacraments most properly speaking.

But that said, I have found both discussions very enlightening. In reading Gerhard's discussion I learned a lot about why he thought it was such an important point - it has more to do with what he wants to deny in Rome's teaching than in what he wants to affirm. Likewise, in reading through some of the "objective justification" stuff I have also learned a lot, and again I think it has more to do with denying certain heresies than in making the positive, simple, Biblical statement above.

At any rate, enjoy the distinction between proprie and proprissime. 

We respond. The name sacrament is attributed to repentance with respect to the purpose which it has in common with the rest which are properly called sacraments, that is,  the strengthening of our faith in regard to the forgiveness of sins, for the words read this way: “If we call sacraments those rituals which have the commandment of God and to which has been added the promise of grace, it is easy to judge those which are properly sacraments, to wit, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and absolution.” But a little later this follows: “If everything which has God’s command and to which promises have been added should be counted with the sacraments, why do we not add prayer, which can very truly be called a sacrament, for it has God’s command and very many promises, etc.” From this passage we draw the following conclusion: most properly speaking it is not enough for a sacrament to have the mandate of God and the promise of grace. Yet from this basis it has been asserted that absolution should be assigned to the sacraments. Therefore the Apology did not want it to be a sacrament most literally speaking. 

1 comment:

  1. I think it comes down to this: It's far more satisfying to the flesh, somehow, to say to your neighbor, "You're a knucklehead," than to admit "You just may have something there, brother. Why didn't I think of that gem, aside from the distinct possibility of my being a knucklehead?"

    I don't know if all prayer is sacramental (I'll leave that to Fr. Gerhard's fancy pirouettes), but a strong argument could certainly be made for the Mass' Oratio Domenica, which is blessed with both a compelling advisory ("When ye pray, say...") and a petition calling for the Father's forgiveness. Will He therefore proceed to give us prodigals a stone ... or rather a ring and a fatted calf; why, perhaps eve so great an assurance as His very own Son's Body and Blood?

    Your (unworthy) knucklehead,
    Herr Doktor

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