Thursday, September 16, 2010

Et Tamen Virgo Mansit

[Note: The following is a guest essay by the Rev. Dr. John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is also the General Editor of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series and the author of volumes 12 (The Lord's Supper) and 13 (Eschatology) in the series.]

Et tamen Virgo mansit—Und gleichwohl eine Jungfrau geblieben ist—And yet she has remained A Virgin

Some thoughts on the dogmatic status of FC SD VII, 24 from John Stephenson

Permit me to make an oblique approach to a topic that the Book of Concord treats in the context of the “lofty articles of the divine majesty” in general (Smalcald Articles, Part I), which are “not matters of dispute or contention,” and of the Person of Christ in particular (FC SD VIII).

When they reach the years 1547 to 1549, Martin Chemnitz and his fellow writers of the History of the Sacramental Controversy (i.e., Timothy Kirchner and Nicholas Selneccer) tell how Peter Martyr Vermigli denied the real presence so crassly as to arouse censure even from the Calvinising theologian, Martin Bucer. The co-authors register their own offence at Vermigli’s Reformed sentiments on the Blessed Sacrament, appending a sentence that takes aim at Vermigli on other matters also.

And a Christian heart is justly horrified by his horrible, detestable talk about Mary the pure Virgin and other such things—Un[d] was der grewlichen abschewlichen redden/von Maria der reinen Jungfrawen/under dergleichen mehr sind/darob ein Christliches Herz billich erschrecket.[1] (512)

Despite repeated efforts during spare half hours over the last several years, I have been unable to discover what off-colour remarks Vermigli let slip concerning the one whom St. Elizabeth described as blessed among women (Lk 1:42). Indeed, speaking under the same inspiration as her aged relative and hence with luminous humility, St. Mary the Virgin herself prophesied that all generations would call her blessed (Lk. 1:48); as the Church sings the Magnificat at Vespers, she concurs with these holy women.

Unable to confirm my initial suspicion that Vermigli was among the first to deny the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God, I remain impressed by the disposition of heart and tone of voice in which the three co-authors of the History speak of one whose nativity the old Missouri Synod once saw fit to celebrate on the 8th of the present month (see William Weedon’s blogpost of 8 September 2010: )

Clearly, the generation that promulgated the Formula of Concord was unanimously minded to express itself with deepest reverence on the subject of the Mother of our Lord. Equally clearly, as a glance at a single paragraph of the article of the Formula of Concord devoted to the Person of Christ will show, that generation of Lutheran confessors solemnly and deliberately reaffirmed a dogmatic decision taken (at the latest) by the Fifth Oecumenical Council that assembled in Constantinople in A. D. 552-553.

In the company of other mainline Western confessions, Lutheranism professes the Chalcedonian Definition forged at the Fourth Oecumenical Council of A. D. 451. But, as David Yeago has pointed out in an article[2] that I used to have my students read in the years when I taught Lutheran Confessions II, historic Lutheranism views the Chalcedonian Definition through the lenses of one and only one of the two main schools of Christological reflection that flourished in the fourth and fifth centuries of our era.[3]

Somehow, by way of exegetical reflection, Luther embraced the mindset of ancient Alexandrian Christology when commenting on the Christ hymn of Phil. 2 in 1519. In the course of the sacramental controversy of the 1520s, Luther’s grasp of Alexandrian Christology deepened greatly, and he researched its historical nitty-gritty for his On the Councils and the Church of 1539. As is well known, the major patristic scholar Martin Chemnitz plumbed the depths of this brand of Christology, with the result that St. Cyril of Alexandria features as the most quoted ancient author in the Second Martin’s Two Natures in Christ.

To cut a long story short, FC SD VIII and its official appendix, the Catalogue of Testimonies (which the next edition of Kolb & Wengert should bump up from the companion volume of Sources and Contexts to the actual text of the Confessions themselves—presumably we are no longer to be intimated by a Reformed-leaning elector in a tantrum), view Chalcedon through thoroughly Cyrillian spectacles. Yeago has shown how Luther’s distinctive theology remarkably mirrors that of the Fifth Oecumenical Council,[4] which anathematized selections from the works of three Antiochene (sadly, Nestorian-inclined) bishops of the fifth century (namely, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyhrrus, and Ibas of Edessa), who had managed to escape censure in their lifetimes. Is it an accident, pray, that LSB invites its users to commemorate, on 14 November of each year, Emperor Justinian (+565), among whose many claims to fame is his having been the prime mover and shaker of the Fifth Oecumenical Council? Indeed, our Calendar highlights the late emperor as not only a Christian Ruler but also a Confessor of Christ.

As it stands shoulder to shoulder with Alexandrian Christology in general and with Justinian and his Council in particular, FC SD VIII recoils from the Antiochene brand of Christology that produced Nestorius, attacking it as picturing the Two Natures of our Lord as juxtaposed in the manner of two boards of wood stuck back to back (SD VIII, 14-15). And it reserves especial ire for the low Christology of Paul of Samosata (SD VIII, 16) who deemed our Lord a mere man adopted into a sonship of God different from that of Christians only in degree, not in kind. Paul of Samosata and his Unitarian successors reduce the hypostatic union to an especially glittering instance of the mystical union.

It is an open secret that, in the wake of the Enlightenment and all that, Antiochene Christology has come back into vogue—even such a meticulous scholar as J. N. D. Kelly found it hard to write kindly of St. Cyril of Alexandria. And all major Western confessions now nurse within their bosom vipers sympathetic to the perspectives of Paul of Samosata.

Given classical Lutheranism’s predilection for the Christology of Alexandria and its most famous confessor of the truth of our Lord’s Person, namely, St. Cyril, paragraph 24 of FC SD VIII simply fits. Of course, a Samosatene would repudiate this paragraph with vigour, and a modern Antiochene would want to qualify it, at least.

Their Alexandrian-Cyrillian perspective rendered it inevitable that Chemnitz and his fellow confessors of FC SD VIII would voice their Yea and Amen to the dogmatic decision of the Third Oecumenical Council, held at Ephesus in A. D. 431, to the effect that St. Mary “wahrhaft Gottes Mutter …ist/vere Theotokos, Dei genitrix est—is truly the Mother of God.”[5] Of course they are going to say this, since they are completely at home in the Alexandrian thought world of the hypostatic union and the communion of natures and with the things that are “wont to be said—dici solent[6] by those who have stood, stand, and shall stand in this diachronic line of tradition.

Oddly, having reiterated the foundation of hypostatic union and communion of natures,[7] Chemnitz and his fellow confessors could have passed straight to their confession of Mary’s divine motherhood,[8] but careful readers of the Solid Declaration will notice that they deliberately and solemnly make a further point that culminates in a crystal clear proclamation of a truth that (to my best knowledge) was first dogmatised by Justinian’s council, that is, the Fifth Oecumenical Council of 552-553. Permit me to quote the German and the Latin texts, subjoining thereto my own rendering of the Latin:

Welcher seine göttliche Majestat auch in Mutterleibe erzeiget, daß er von einer Jungfrauen unvorletzt ihrer Jungfrauschaft geboren; darum sie wahrhaftig Gottes Mutter und gleichwohl eine Jungfrau geblieben ist.[9]

Is filius Dei etiam in utero matris divinam suam maiestatem demonstravit, quod de virgine inviolate ipsius virginitate natus est. Unde et vere Theotokos, Dei genitrix est, et tamen virgo mansit.[10]

He the Son of God showed His divine majesty even in the womb of [His] Mother by being born of a Virgin without detriment to her virginity. Whence she is truly the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and yet she has remained a Virgin.

Call in question the wisdom of the confessors of 1577, if you will, but please do not pretend that they were making an off the cuff remark with which they thought pious Christians free to disagree. No, for their own part they were confessing dogma, giving voice to the rule of faith to which they were committed, standing in a great diachronic and synchronic consensus of Holy Christendom from which they would have shuddered to depart.

As they incorporated the hymnody of early and later Lutheranism into the liturgy, the classical Lutherans were memorizing, meditating on, and singing dogma, the rule of faith that they both derived from Scripture and used to unlock its meaning. A friend drew my attention a couple of years ago to an edition of the hymnal produced by a sainted pastor of the SELK, one Pfarrer Schwinge, that was published by the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in the former East Germany and that continues in use among those in Germany who stand in communion with the Wisconsin Synod. Pfarrer Schwinge’s great merit was to recover the original wording of the classic Lutheran hymns whose content was progressively watered down in successive editions of the “generic” hymnals of the German Lutheran-Reformed hybrid “Church”.

For starters, let’s look at Luther’s 1524 rendition of St. Ambrose’s Veni Redemptor Gentium (“Saviour of the Nations, come”). The third stanza of the East German Lutherisches Kirchengesangbuch’s #69 is simply omitted in my 1975, Hanover-printed edition of the generic Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch’s #46. The third stanza appears as LSB #332, 3, but does “Yet remained a virgin mild” capture the fullness of “doch blieb Keuschheit rein bewahrt—and yet chastity remained purely preserved”? Then let’s turn to the famous hymn of Lutheranism’s first female composer, Elisabeth Creutziger (whose husband, Caspar, according to Chemnitz & co. in their History, later took off at a Zwinglian tangent). In its second stanza EKG #120 wreaks great damage upon the original text preserved in LKG #120’s version of Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn. LSB #402’s The Only Son From Heaven reduces five German stanzas to four, and, alas, weakly renders the watered-down (actually, mutilated) version found in EKG’s second stanza (okay, translation is difficult, tell me, but let’s consider the original). “O time of God appointed/O bright and holy morn” loses the eschatological overtones of “Für uns ein Mensch geboren/im letzten Teil der Zeit—For us born a man in the last segment of time,” preserved even in the generic hymnal. But—get this—the generic hymnal replaces Frau Creutziger’s “der Mutter unverloren/ihr jungfraulich Keuschheit—the Mother undeprived of her virginal chastity” with “daß wir nicht wärn verloren/vor Gott in Ewigkeit—that we should not be lost before God in eternity.” Foul play, eh?

As we shall shortly see, the good Frau Creutziger has not been the only victim of inner-Lutheran dirty pool in the matter of an author’s saying one thing concerning the Blessed Virgin only to have their words either crassly changed or severely distorted.

It seems to have become a standard opinion among many contemporary Lutherans that the NT evidence overwhelmingly overturns the dogma confessed by those ignorant old coves, Chemnitz & co. (not to forget the first Martin, who forthrightly labeled Helvidius (infamous in the ancient Church for his denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity) a “coarse fool—ein grober Narr.” So let’s ponder the inspired text.

First of all, the author of the NT Apocalypse pictures the Blessed Virgin Mary in ch. 12 of his work as the Mother of One Seed, on the one hand, and of “the rest of her seed”, viz., all Christians, on the other, with nothing in between. Since the Apostle to whose care Christ committed His Mother is the likely author of the last book of Sacred Scripture, this description is surely significant.

Secondly, Johannes Ylvisaker was so impressed by the dying Jesus giving His Mother into the care of the Apostle John, the Blessed Disciple, that he expressed his conviction that Mary could have had no other children living at that time.[11] Note well that “from that hour the disciple took her eis ta idia, into his home” (Jn 19:26-27). The Blessed Disciple does not recall that a few weeks later, sometime in Eastertide, he handed over the Blessed Mother to a natural son, now converted, who in due course stood at the head of the Church of Jerusalem. That pious, even saintly man, dear Dr. Marquart of blessed memory, found these verses of the Johannine Passion narrative thoroughly convincing with respect to the support they give to the dogma propounded in FC SD VIII, 24.

Thirdly, if the James who presided over the Apostolic Council recorded in Acts 15 was indeed a natural son of Mary and Joseph remarkably converted during the Easter period and constituted an Apostle by the Risen Lord, isn’t it mighty odd that St. Luke omits to record this startling fact? He does tell how St. Matthias took Judas’ place among the Twelve, and he carefully introduces Saul to his readers before relating his subsequent ministry as Paul. But, as in ch. 12 he describes the blessed end of James brother of John first introduced in Lk 5:10, of whose induction into the apostolate we learn in Lk 6:14, he conspicuously avoids mentioning more than the name of the James who presides at the apostolic council (Ac 15:13); he sees no need to supply further detail concerning him. This is an indication that James Bishop of Jerusalem is to be identified, most likely, with the 9th-named apostle, described as the son of Alphaeus in Lk 6:15, or—less likely if this figure is someone distinct from the second apostle with the name James—with the James mentioned in the Lucan resurrection narrative at 24:10, whose mother was a certain Mary. As he mentions this same woman in Mk 15:40 and specifies her son as mikros/little-small-“lesser” James, the second evangelist opens up the possibility that this man was the second James of the apostolic list, whose stature whether physical or personal put him somehow in the shade of his namesake the son of Zebedee. At all events, insistence that three evangelists would introduce the Mother of God into their accounts of the Passion and/or Resurrection, listing her after other women and under a different identity is, as we say in the North of England, too daft to laugh at. St. John leaves us in no doubt concerning his companion at the foot of the Cross when he solemnly tells how “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother …” (Jn. 19:25), self-evidently listing her before the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.

Whether those mentioned by the synoptists, John, and Paul as “brothers” of the Lord were, as the East supposes, children of St. Joseph by an earlier marriage, or, as Rome teaches, cousins of Christ on whichever side of the Holy Family, does not affect the integrity of FC SD VIII, 24 or its biblical support.

I am much impressed by an argument in favour of FC SD VIII, 24’s “and she has remained a Virgin” advanced by Burnell Eckart in an entry on his Gottesblog website dated 6 November 2009: . To put Eckart’s point in my own words, I just cannot wrap my mind around the possibility that St. Joseph, a devout Jew who needed no lectures on what all is involved in the holiness of God, would presume to effect and exercise physical union with a body selected by the Almighty from eternity to be the womanly holy of holies. If a personalized ark of the covenant were living in your house, you would not treat such a one according to the analogy of a regular piece of furniture.

A note of oddity attaches to Mary’s initial response to Gabriel’s announcement that she is to be the mother of David’s greater Son, for “How shall this be since I know no man—poos estai touto, epei andra ou ginooskoo? (Lk 1:34)” is not the reply one would expect from an engaged woman, who would have no doubt concerning the physical mechanics of her forthcoming conception of a child. I would not wish to entertain the notion, popular in some Roman Catholic circles, that Mary had already, nun-like, vowed lifelong celibacy, but I cannot refrain from registering the singular quality of her answer.

An advocate of the perpetual virginity of the BVM once remarked to me that some explanation has to be sought and given concerning the explosion of virginity as a permanent lifestyle in the early Church from the time of the NT onwards. Okay, we Lutherans have an instinctive aversion to virginity in the form of lifelong celibacy and cling—in this point at least—to a sentence found in the Apocrypha: “For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome” (Wisdom 1:14). But we cannot expunge from the sacred text St. Paul’s big plug for celibacy in 1 Cor 7, in which chapter he imparts commands concerning sexual conduct that blow antinomianism out of the water and challenge our cowardly accommodation to current mores. Again, I would point to an odd turn of phrase in this chapter (which might be expounded under the heading “sacramental ethics”), where the Apostle favours, in certain cases, the non-consummation of a standing engagement (1 Cor 7: 37). “To keep her as his virgin—teerein teen heautou parthenon” might make better sense if we add the words, “As Joseph did.” Why did the four daughters of Philip, of whose burial in Asia we hear from Eusebius, preserve lifelong virginity? It makes sense if, along with many others, they were following two supreme examples from the time of the Church’s foundation.

Alas, as he confessed FC SD VIII, 24 in the second volume of his Christian Dogmatics, Francis Pieper joined Elisabeth Creutziger in the ranks of victims of foul play. Over the years, as I read Pieper’s Christology section (to my shame only in English translation, although a complete German set of his work sits on my bookshelves), this writer struck me at one point as a crusty, even bad-tempered old cove prepared to offer a forthright opinion without offering much textual backing for his view.[12] Around a decade ago someone brought to my intention how Pieper’s translators took unfounded liberties with the words he actually wrote, moving a small quantity of footnote material into the body of the text, omitting some sentences intended to form part of the main argument, and then brusquely omitting the footnote extended over three printed pages in which he carefully substantiated his contention that honest exegetes can doch (after all) subscribe to FC SD VIII, 24.[13] In the German original of this section, by way of contrast, Pieper appears as an elegant and erudite author in command of his subject matter. If Pieper is still to be used in the classroom and not relegated into forgetfulness as new works of dogmatics (however slowly!) appear, CPH would do well to revise the translation, checking its accuracy and, above all, ensuring that contemporary readers have access to all that the St. Louis dogmatician committed to paper and saw through the press.

C. F. W. Walther was much blunter than Pieper in his own attitude to FC SD VIII, 24. Whereas Pieper (especially in the German original) followed the medieval scholastic technique of setting forth arguments on both sides of the issue before coming down firmly for one option over the other, at the 1867 Colloquium held in Milwaukee between members of the Iowa and Missouri Synods, Walther declared the perpetual virginity of Mary off limits for discussion:

Grossmann: “When you subscribe to the confessions, were you aware of the fact that they declared the permanent virginity of Mary?” Walther: “Yes, I can say so in the presence of God.” Grossmann: “Do you still believe this to be true doctrine?” Walther: “Yes, I can say so in the presence of God.” Grossmann: “What are your reasons for considering this a true presentation?” Walther: “Pardon me, but you have no right to ask this question.”[14]

At the end of its doctrinal articles, the Augustana pointedly aligns itself within and not outside the preceding tradition of the Western Church (AC, conclusion of first part, 1[15]), and the Solid Declaration gives a hugely important direction concerning Lutheran theological method in SD RN 17, which I quote from Tappert: “In the first place, we reject and condemn all heresies and errors which the primitive, ancient, orthodox Church rejected and condemned on the certain and solid basis of the holy and divine Scriptures.” Luther himself had, after all, declared in 1532 how “it is a perilous and dreadful thing to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church.”[16] There is, then, such a thing as rightful Lutheran appeal to the Vincentian Canon, the determination of orthodoxy in virtue of what has been taught everywhere, always, and by everybody—quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. This un-Roman Catholic way of doing theology (check out John Henry Newman’s Development of Doctrine!) might not in fact be the sole preserve of the Christian East and High Anglicanism.

Which leads me back to a point close to where I began, namely the Christology proclaimed by the Fifth Oecumenical Council held in Constantinople in A. D. 552-553 under the aegis of Emperor Justinian of blessed memory. As it ensures that Chalcedon be read through Cyrillian lenses (i.e., with the spectacles worn by the confessors of 1577), the Sentence of Contantinople II against the “Three Chapters” refers (if I count correctly) four times to the “ever virgin” Mary.[17] If the Fathers of the Fifth Oecumenical Council were wrong to speak of the Lord’s Mother in this way, why should we trust their appraisal of the Christology of the three Nestorianising Antiochene bishops whom they consign to the heretical side of the aisle? If we may not be confident that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, described by St. Paul as the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim. 3: 15), into a diachronically and synchronically ascertainable confession on which we may rely and to which we must cleave in our exposition of the Word of God, then are we not ipso facto “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4: 14) and hence no better situated than the mindless chatterboxes of a decaying Liberal Protestantism? For the sake of the peace of our earthly Zion, we may admit with Pieper that, “If the Christology of a theologian is orthodox in all other respects, he is not to be regarded as a heretic for holding that Mary bore other children in a natural manner after she had given birth to the Son of God.”[18] But for the reasons set forth above I respectfully maintain that Pieper is right to contend that those who profess, according to the dogma (re)stated in 1577, that the Mother of God “has remained a Virgin” are not exegetically out to lunch, and that there is much wisdom in sticking on this and other points of doctrine and practice with the “unanimous testimony, belief, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church.”

[1] Histori des Salramentstreits, 512.

[2] David S. Yeago, “The Bread of Life: Patristic Christology and Evangelical Soteriology in Martin Luther’s Sermons on John 6,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 39, 3 (1995): 257-279. “[T]he Christology on which Luther’s theology of faith …depends is …identical with Patristic orthodoxy, as articulated at Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and II Constantinople. Luther’s loyalty to the catholic dogmatic tradition is not something extrinsic to his evangelical message, arising perhaps from a conservative temperament. On the contrary, apart from the context of catholic dogma, Luther’s evangelical convictions make no sense whatsoever. In fact, we must go further and say that this distinction is ours, not his: for Luther, catholic dogma itself provides the substance of his distinctively ‘evangelical’ theology” (257).

[3] The Definition itself masterfully walks a tightrope between the Antiochene and Alexandrian ways of approaching the Christological mystery, deftly preserving the positive contributions of both sides (viz., Antioch’s insistence on the full humanity of our Lord, and Alexandria’s confession of His full divinity and of the unity of His person), while canceling their respective defects (viz., Antioch’s tendency to split Christ into two persons, and Alexandria’s to secure the unity of His person at the expense of the completeness of His manhood). As it walked the golden middle way between Alexandria and Antioch, Chalcedon offered the option of understanding its Definition in terms of one or other of two sets of supporting documents, namely, the letters of Cyril to Nestorius or the Antiochene-sounding Tome of Leo. While our Catalogue of Testimonies dutifully quotes Leo the Great, its perspective is overwhelmingly that of Cyril.

[4] “Specifically, Luther’s Christology stands firmly in the broad stream of what modern scholars call ‘Neo-Chalcedonianism,’ which originated in the effort to interpret and receive the definition of the Council of Chalcedon so as to show its compatibility with the central concerns of the Christology of St. Cyril of Alexandria. This Cyrilline reading of Chalcedon, which achieved conciliar approval at the second Council of Constantinople in 552, was developed in the sixth and seventh centuries by such figures as Leontius of Jerusalem and Maximus the Confessor, and was given influential text-book formulation in Book 3 of John of Damascus’s The Orthodox Faith. Luther certainly knew the main lines of the Neo-Chalcedonian Christology from the Sentences of Peter Lombard, who cites John of Damascus at considerable length …Luther’s Christological priorities …are precisely those of the whole Cyrilline tradition” (“Bread of Life,” 268f.)

[5] Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 8th ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhock & ruprecht, 1979), 1024, lines 39-40.

[6] BS 1024, line 25.

[7] BS 1024, 30-35.

[8] BS 1024, 39-40.

[9] BS 1024, 36-41.

[10] BS 1024, 35-40.

[11] “If she had children in the flesh at the time these words would be unintelligible, to say the least.” Johannes Ylvisaker, The Gospels: A Synoptic Presentation of the Text in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1932), 218, n. 229a. In this lengthy and intricate footnote, Ylvisaker observed that “the Hebrew ach occurs frequently in the Old Testament to denote a connection which is more remote” than “brother” in the sense of fellow biological child of identical parents. Curiously, he could still talk going on a century ago of “the view of Protestantism, viz., that the brethren of Jesus are really His cousins.” And he declared himself “forced to the conclusion that James in Gal. 1:19 is the apostle James the Less, the son of Alphaeus.” “After the demise of James the Elder in 44, the Acts refer to one James only, invariably without any added designation (Acts 12:17; 21:8; 15:13). The name James was sufficient. There were no others.”

[12] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: CPH, 1951) II:308f.

[13] Franz Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik (St. Louis: CPH, 1917) II: 369, n. 848.

[14] See J. L. Neve, A Brief History of the Lutheran Church in America, 2nd. ed (Burlinton, IA: The German Literary Board, 1916), 289, n. 221.

[15] “As can be seen, there is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers” (Lat., qtd from Tappert). “Haec fere summa est doctrinae apud nos, in qua cerni potest nihil inesse, quod discrepet a scripturis vel ab ecclesia catholica vel ab ecclesia Romana, quatenus ex scriptoribus nobis nota est.” BS 83, 7-11.

[16] WA 30/III: 552. 13-15.

[17] Norman P. Tanner, S. J., ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, two vols. (London & Washington: Sheed & Ward & Georgetown University Press, 1990) I: 113, line 17; 114, line 20f.; 116, line 29f.; 121, line 29.

[18] Pieper, Christian Dogmatics II:308.


  1. I know this will be highly unpopular here, but... "Et tamen Virgo mansit—Und gleichwohl eine Jungfrau geblieben ist" can just as properly be translated as it is in the Triglotta: "and nevertheless remained a virgin." German often uses this tense as a simple past, not as an English Perfect.

    What's more, a simple past fits the context better of FC:SD:VIII. The miracle of the Person of Christ (the subject of that paragraph) was not that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life, but that he was conceived of a young woman who had no relations with a man at any time from his conception to his birth, and thus there could be no question as to his divine origin. She remained a virgin the entire time. This entire paragraph is really about Christ, not about Mary, just as the confession of Theotokos is really a confession about the Person of Christ, not a confession about the exalted nature of Blessed Mary.

    The hymn stanzas referenced by the professor likewise emphasize how the Virgin "remained" when Christ was born. That's all. Nothing else. There is comfort in that, that there can be no doubt of Christ's divinity, and therefore, of our salvation. Where is the comfort for the Christian in Mary's condition thereafter?

    What the Confessors believed or didn't believe about Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ, I will leave you to try to prove or disprove. Since the Scriptures give no definitive dogma one way or the other, it doesn't matter one way or the other. No dogma of the Church can be declared upon a Scripture-less foundation.

    One last thing: With all due respect to the knowledgable professor, the woman of Revelation 12 is not a definitive depiction of Mary (although Rome likes to think so), but more appropriately a depiction of the Church Herself (Old and New Testament combined), represented by the #12, who is still being protected and cared for on earth during this New Testament period ("1,260 days"). But that's another discussion.

  2. Oh, I think you quite miss the point of Formula there, Pastor. The way the Lord showed his divine majesty even in his mother's womb was in that he was born of a virgin without violation to her virginity. Something that no mere man could ever do! It shows that He was Himself God. Thus she is the Mother of God and yet has remained a virgin. This is the same notion that is referred to in SD VIII:100.

    I've asked contemporary Germans what the language of this section implies. They puckered their brows and said: "But that's not right. She wasn't always a virgin, was she?" I've asked a friend who has a friend who is a scholar of 16th century German to give his read of the passage - he had no dog in the hunt whatsoever - and he said: it means she continued a virgin.

    Sasse, a native German speaker, admitted that the PV IS taught in this passage; but he disregarded it because he could think of no Scripture that actually taught it. Yet he never questioned that it IS taught here.


  3. I appreciate Dr. Stephenson's thoughts. I'll just add that those who may wish to read a bit more of what Luther in particular had to say about Mary's perpetual virginity, and related questions, are invited to take a look at this collection of materials.

  4. Rev. Dr. Pieper's position on the Semper Virgo is actually quite strong, for he makes a point of noting that as long as a man is orthodox in all other respects regarding Christology, but does not affirm the SV, he is not to be regarded as a false teacher, a point that Dr. Scaer also notes in his work on Christology as well, though, to my knowledge, Dr. Scaer does not personally confess the SV.

  5. Actually, in his recent Logia article, Dr. Scaer quite decisively confesses against the semper virgo. This disappointing article was not, in my opinion, written as carefully as it could have been, or with proper balance or fairness to the classic semper virgo tradition in Confessional Lutheranism.

  6. To put Eckart’s point in my own words, I just cannot wrap my mind around the possibility that St. Joseph, a devout Jew who needed no lectures on what all is involved in the holiness of God, would presume to effect and exercise physical union with a body selected by the Almighty from eternity to be the womanly holy of holies. If a personalized ark of the covenant were living in your house, you would not treat such a one according to the analogy of a regular piece of furniture.


    This is where the entire argument falls apart. Because sex here is treated as something negative. Having sex with Mary would be treating her as something common. Something, in the exact definition of the word, something profane.

    And of course, this is what Jerome thought. He was that virginity as a whole was better than marriage. Superior. Are we surprised that he "discovered" that Mary remained a virgin as well? When you approach Scripture with such pre-suppositions, doubtless one reads all sorts of things into the text.

    No: sex is a holy union. it is not profane. It is blessed by God. God wanted us to marry and have sex. It is a wonderful thing.

    And indeed is would have been a wonderful blessing for Mary to have sex with her husband. It would have spoken to the fact that Jesus was human and came from a normal human family.

    The fact that the early (earlier) church continued to be swayed by the original false teaching, is no reason for us to continue in the pattern. We hardly need to have Mary remain a virgin for us to confess that Christ was God and man. Having her as a virgin, because of false teaching, does nothing to speak to our concern for truth.

  7. The key point we must always come back to, as also regarding Christ's descent into hell, is that there is no godly reason to argue about this one way or the other. Why? Three reasons: (1) The evidence is too equivocal to lead most people to change their opinion on the matter, regardless of how long or how passionately we discuss it. (2) Believe SV or disbelieve it, it doesn't effect your salvation. (3) The only actual danger of false doctrine lies in either side of this debate condemning the other. Which pretty much amounts to a big flashing neon sign saying: "Drop it!"

  8. That said, I am grateful to Dr. Stephenson for his enlightening article, especially where it touches on the bowdlerizing of classic Lutheran hymns and of Pieper's Dogmatics. Walther's last words on this topic (quoted, to Grossmann) are priceless.

  9. Thank you. This essay has assured my conscience which may yet be bound to all the thetical statements of the Confessions.

    I would like to comment upon the editorial manipulation that Pieper's Dogmatik was subjected to in translation. I was comparing the english to the german on the dcotrine of "Woman and the Divine Image" and noted an omission at the end of the section. The english ends thus "If women prove themselves good teachers in home (Titus 2:3), they thereby wield a greater influence on the coming generation than the men, including the pastors and schoolteachers." The german continues thus: "Und wie hat im allgemeinen die Ehrerbietung gegen das weibliche Geschlecht abgenommen, seit es as Konkurrentin des Mannes in das oeffentliche Leben eingetreten ist! Als der Verfasser dieser Dogmatik noch Student war, bot jeder Vertreter des maennlichen Geschlects jeder Vertreterin des weiblichen Geschlects, einerlei ob arm oder reich, sofort seinen Sitz im Strassenbahnwagen an. Schon seit etwa szei Jahrzehnten geschieht das nur noch ausnahmweise. Die Welt mit iher Klugheit erweist sich auch in diesem Falle als toericht und blind."

    That the doctrine of the order of creation would have consequences for our manners and propriety -- what a novel idea!
    Furthermore, I find it encouraging that Pieper put up such an open fight against feminism.

  10. While I lean toward agreeing with Pr. Rydecki's comment on the matter, my question concerns our quia subscription to the Confessions. How can I instruct, say an adult Bible class that we subscribe to the Confessions because they are a true exposition of God's Word revealed to us if we can relegate passages such as FC SD VIII,24 to personal opinion?

  11. @Uncle Rod

    This is another reason why I think it is foolish for us to insist that the Confessors were trying to slip a confession of SV into the Confessions, knowing full well that SV was based on tradition and not founded upon God's Word. Our forefathers were more careful than that, and I give them more credit than that.

    At best, the Scriptures allow for SV (although I personally think they suggest otherwise). No one (right?!?) dares to say that it is a revelation of the Holy Spirit which is to be believed. And no one (right?!?) would dare to say that a "quia" subscription Lutheran must confess a doctrine as a "true exposotion of God's Word" if that doctrine is not founded on God's Word.

    I agree with the comment above that when it comes to debating SV (since it is not a revelation of Scripture), we are better off to simply "Drop it!" If carried on too long, these extra-Scriptural debates turn into the "devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith" (1 Tim. 1:4).

  12. The discomfort that arises for those who hold a quia subscription to the Symbols is not eased by lying to one's conscience that the Symbol cannot say what it plainly does simply because I do not believe it. One can take the Sasse route and have a bit of a cracked quia but at least honestly admit that it says what it does.

  13. It gives me great pause that denying the SV was simply not done (except by heretics) until the "age of reason." In fact, many who deny the SV do so based on rationality. No Lutheran dogmatician (or that of any historic communion) denied SV until after Lutheran dogmaticians began accepting higher criticism and denying the virgin birth itself.

    Pieper's argument is interesting in that he makes it a matter of orthodox christology. I don't go so far as Pieper, but he is making a historic dogmatic argument. He also makes it a "mulligan" - a one-time allowance of christological deviation that is permitted as long as it's the only one. Again, I don't agree with him on that (that denying SV is holding to a heterodox christology). I do agree with Piepkorn that lacking an explicit proof text, we can't make it a dogma - but by the same token, it says what it says in our confessions, and the church has confessed it universally to ancient times. That ought to be our default position, unless we think we know better than all the church fathers combined.

    It is "chronological snobbery" for us to dismiss that consistent universal testimony of the fathers because we think we (20 centuries after the fact, living in a highly skeptical and sexualized society) think we know better than "primitives" like Jerome, Augustine, Luther, and Walther.

    And I do not go as far as Walther either insofar as he claimed it necessary for a quia subscription. But we're living in a non-denominational fantasyland if we think the default position is for a "sexually-active Mary." We even call her the Virgin Mary to this day in hymnody and liturgy. The belief in a "former-virgin Mary" is an innovation, not the other way around. If any woman in the church's history had cause to be a consecrated virgin, it would be Mary (and we know there were such virgins among the OT church). Mary is simply a unique person, and the normal rules just don't apply to her. I don't believe God has revealed everything to us about her unique station.

    And the church does hold to matters that are not scriptural - such as the martyrdom of St. Paul, our belief that various saints died in the faith (we don't know for sure that the Blessed Virgin Mary is even in heaven if we rely only on Scripture - can we be sure she didn't deny the faith some time after she is no longer mentioned in the Bible?), and which books are in the canon and which are not (we received the canon from our fathers in the church, not from the Scripture itself).

    Rather than treat it as an "elephant in the parlor" not to be talked about, I think it is a helpful barometer of whether or not we see ourselves as superior to our fathers, or whether we have adopted a Protestant "me and my Bible" view of the faith.

    As for me, I'm going to stand with Luther, Pieper, Walther, and every Lutheran dogmatician until the 20th century, and back in history through all the great fathers and biblical exegetes who believed firmly in SV. Our confessions say what they say. There is no way around it. And I think Stephenson's article bolsters that historic position for us Lutherans.

  14. I realize that I am treading on dangerous ground here, but this discussion does evoke some interesting thoughts. If in fact Mary did "remain a virgin" for life, then Joseph would have been a celibate husband...for life. It seems to me that it is one thing to be single and remain celibate, but something entirely different to be married to your bride and never consummate that union. Unless I am mistaken, there is no other precedent for this kind of marriage in Scripture. Just some thoughts...maybe I should stop thinking!

  15. God being born of a virgin without the DNA of a man is certainly unprecedented! And if the tradition of Joseph being an elderly widower is true, an asexual matrimonial union is less unusual than you might think. There are many instances of older men taking younger brides even in the 20th century (especially when they were able to pass along pensions to their wives) and in the days before Viagra, many of these unions would not have been consummated.

    I know of one contemporary case of just that kind of a marriage. There are elderly couples who are more interested in companionship than sex. 2,000 years ago when marriages were family arrangements and matters of survival for young women as much as they were romantic situations, it isn't a stretch at all.

  16. You must remember that Luther eventually had enough of Augustine. Luther certainly did not arrive at his "tower moment" because of the fathers. The reformation was not the product of some intense patristic scholastic activity. Luther eventually did have to reach beyond the fathers. (I'm not in the office, and I prefer real books, so I can't cite this from LW right now.)

    Personally, I wrestle with this, and have sought advice from plenty of folks who have been around a fair while longer than myself. Its unfair to label those who cannot accept SV as being dirty protestants who think themselves smarter than the fathers. Its also rather unfortunate that this seems to be a barometer for some as to whether or not a man is truly orthodox.

  17. Luther could not have arrived at the reformation without his being versed in Scriptures, fathers, tradition, life of the Church, etc. He was a monk, priest and Doctor of Old Testament theology so there was much more involved than a moving experience. Obviously, one thing led to the next and the bridges were burnt. Yet, even after 1517, 1521 and other events, Luther, the Reformers and the Confessions did not hesitate to quote Scripture and the fathers together. They did not go as far as the radical reformers in destroying anything that smelled "Catholic," including all that took place in theological learning and understanding between the time of the early church and the reformation (12+ centuries). These reformers simply thought they could start over. Luther, on the other hand, did not seek to leave the Catholic Church but sought to address abuses and initiate debate. In fact, everything Luther emphasized regarding the Gospel can be found in the Scriptures, the early church and the church fathers. There is nothing new under the sun. The Gospel and false teaching have always been there. The Holy Ghost did not move away after the time of the Apostles and ignore the following centuries only to pop down again at the time of the Reformation. We need to be careful about separating God from history such that He has only been active at the time of the Scriptures, at the Reformation and today in my heart. His work has continued on earth from the Creation to the Cross and even to Judgement Day. I did not always accept the SV but I then I realized that all the Church Catholic, Luther, and almost every major Lutheran teacher who Lutherans "venerate" held that position. Pieper's concession to those who did not only underlines his own understanding and acceptance of the teaching.

    Chesterton has something to think about when he says, "The Reformer is always right about what is wrong . . . He is generally wrong about what is right."

    Of course, we should be familiar with the fathers and read them. There were those who struggled over the blessed Trinity and the divine and human natures of Christ leaving us the rich teaching and tradition we have today. The reformers quote from them regularly. Are we, who today take the Trinity and Christ for granted, seeking even to rewrite the Creed or even omit it from the liturgy, to think that somehow the fathers are less orthodox than us because we have evolved in our knowledge and understanding or because we prefer to discuss other issues than what the fathers discussed.
    Much theology today has nothing to do about God anymore but has plenty to do with man. If repentance begins with self, we need the fathers to remind us again and again "to seek the face of God." Orthodoxy can never be measured by the "here and now," the existential feeling in my heart. Nor will we ever learn if we think that the present and/or the future is all there is.

  18. What if we resolve to call it a draw and refer to her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. That's it. What if no one preaches about either Jesus' brothers or Mary's perpetual virginity? Would either side lose anything?

  19. It's not a matter of "sides" - at least not to me - but what the Symbols actually say. One can disagree with what they say, but they DO say that sie ist ein Jungfrau geblieben. Let's deal straight with that historical fact.

    I do confess to concern about where it finally leads when one asserts that one can drop in the Symbols that which alleges no Biblical basis. AC XIV advances none, and so we see in the LCMS now for 21 years it has been acceptable to flagrantly violate AC XIV.

    But on PV, all I ask is honesty. It says what it says. One is free to disagree with it and still be a Lutheran - Sasse was - but one is NOT free to deny that the Confessors confessed what they confessed.

  20. So, those of us who do not accept it should say that we no longer maintain a quia subscription? (I had issues with this before graduating, but was assured that there was no problem.)

    You must admit that this is not on the same level as current rejection of AC XIV or AC XXIV... right?

  21. Those who reject it, do so because it is not held to be dogma, no? I also affirm with St. Basil the Great that to the Church's dogma per se it matters not a whit whether the Blessed Virgin remained in her virginity. Yet I also affirm with him that there is no reason to teach that she did not.

    I do NOT put the matter on the same level as the violations of AC XIV, but I do wonder if it is a matter of slippery slope?

    Also, it was said above somewhere that it would be odd to have Joseph not have relations with his betrothed. I think a review of 1 Cor. 7 would be in order.

  22. If marriage between man and woman is the same as between Christ and the church, what does it mean then to say that it is an advisable thing for marital consummation to never occur? I am thinking Ephesians 5 here. It does not seem that Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 7 that they should withhold perpetually.

  23. Dear Kyle:

    I don't mean that this issue is a barometer of any individual. Most Lutherans (including pastors) have not even considered this issue. They read Protestant books and make Protestant assumptions. They are products of their times.

    But it is a collective barometer of where we stand as a "church culture," for lack of a better term. The defaults have flipped. What was once a universal, a truly catholic teaching, has now been turned on its head (at least in our circles). Today (at least among American Lutherans) the default is for a deflowered Mary. How did we get to this point?

    Reason. Protestantizing tendencies. Historical myopia (if not amnesia). Lack of general knowledge of the confessions and of the original languages of the confessions. Unfamiliarity with the fathers of the church and of the fathers of our own Lutheran tradition. All of these play a role.

    It all adds up to a radical shift from one understanding to the other in a very short period of time.

    And if we're willing to surrender this former Lutheran understanding (I won't call it a dogma), one can hardly be shocked to see vestments, liturgy, and various other elements of our tradition go down the toilet as inconvenient to modern sensibilities.

    Once again, what if it is my pious opinion that St. Paul fell away from faith before he was killed? What if I believe that Jesus was secretly married to Mary Magdalene? What if I want to believe that Clement's first letter is part of Scripture. Can you prove me wrong with only a Bible? One could argue that these are matters in which the Bible is silent, so consciences are free. And they would be were it not for the rightful use of tradition within the church.

    For the record, I do not believe Clement's letter to be inspired, nor do I believe St. Paul fell from faith, nor do I believe Jesus was secretly married, nor do I believe St. Joseph took Blessed Mary's virginity - even though the Bible is silent about all these things.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. I promise you that I don't not confess the SV because of reason. I doubt that no one else is depending on reason either when it comes to this matter. The argument comes from Matthew's use of the word "ews" and from the Scriptural picture of marriage. Can you really question anyone for their reliance on sola scriptura?

    Its okay with me if 1 Clement is part of your canon. Its okay with me if you think that Paul didn't fall from faith and was martyred. It is also fine with me if you think that Mary remained a virgin till her assumption. I just don't think that this needs to be something we are preaching on, and binding consciences to. Is that fair to say? A word of Mary's virtuous perpetual virginity from the pulpit is a wasted word, and places the whole sermon in jeopardy. Does anyone know if Luther ever preached regarding SV?

  26. Dear K:

    Is a word of Mary's supposed biological children equally a wasted word? I have heard this from the pulpit. At very least, there is a bias against SV in American Lutheran circles. A man using the word "ever virgin" (as our confessions do) from the pulpit runs the risk of being accused of going beyond Scripture, whereas a man who presumes Blessed Mary's defloration would hardly raise a brow.

    Matthew's word "heos" is used all over the New Testament (as well as its Hebrew equivalent "'ad" in the old). It is simply a different word than "until" in English, which implies something that "heos" doesn't. And this ought to be obvious, as otherwise it means that every biblical exegete for 2,000 years - including Luther - somehow missed this obvious smoking gun.

    Furthermore, I would be shocked if Luther never referred to Mary's perpetual virginity from the pulpit. We know he certainly did in his lectures.

    I am not saying we ought to preach on SV. But I do think that if (as some have suggested) this is a verboten topic, the sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander, and all talk of Mary's supposed biological children and sex life ought to cease as well. But it is never an equal situation.

    Again, I'm just going to side with what the universal church has always taught: Mary remained a virgin, Paul remained in the faith, and Jesus remained single. I'll leave the new and sexy innovations to the Protestants and Dan Brown. You're welcome to them. But speaking only for myself, I will not buy into them.

  27. K:

    You might or might not have let reason enter into your thinking at all on this, but it is a bit naive of you to doubt that others might be depending on reason. The denial of the ever-virginity of the Mother of God was unthinkable among orthodox Christians before the Age of Reason. That is a point of history that is hard to deny.

    I would welcome an exegetical argument against Mary's lifelong virginity based upon the Matthaean narrative. Lay it out for us. If so, please be willing to have your grammatical assumptions challenged. And then, if your exegetical thesis remains convincing, your next challenge will be to explain why no one before the modern age considered it before.

    "Scriptural picture of marriage"? Please expand on that as well.

    "I just don't think that this needs to be something we are preaching on, and binding consciences to...A word of Mary's virtuous perpetual virginity from the pulpit is a wasted word, and places the whole sermon in jeopardy."

    There is a great distinction between preaching on Mary's perpetual virginity on the one hand, and binding consciences on the other. It is a pity that you won't even consider that distinction because you go on to say that even one word on the topic from the pulpit is wasted, and places the whole sermon in jeopardy. I fear that any who make such a claim has either never heard good preaching on this, or has decided ahead of time to stand in judgement over the value of any preaching that contains Mary's purity and virginity. Good evangelical sermons based upon Mary's holiness and virginity abound. But if you should find your search to be lacking, I'll write one for you.

  28. By the way, this radical flip-flopping of the default position among us is one of the results, I suggest, of abandoning German in the seminary classroom. Wilhelm Loehe asked, requested, really, that this not happen. Perhaps he foresaw potential theological dangers that would blow into the house when the door was thus opened. I suggest that today, in an obviously English dominated church, we should at least do what A. C. Piepkorn did, namely, expect his students to study the Symbols in their official German and Latin texts.

  29. Now we're comparing Jesus' singleness to SV? Really? It's gotten quite out of hand, hasn't it? Can anyone be taken seriously who makes such a comparison?

    Father Hollywood says he's willing to consider SV verboten from the pulpit if we'll consider talk of Mary having other biological children verboten. Amen! Let us not make a dogma out of either, and let us not speak as the mouthpieces of Christ things that Christ's Spirit has not revealed. Surely the Holy Spirit would have made it clear if it mattered.

    But Pr. Weedon's comment makes it exceedingly clear that the SV supporters don't just want to be left alone. They consider the rest of us to have a "cracked" quia subscription - liars to our own consciences, to be inferior "Lutherans," if we even deserve the nomen, stuck as we are on trying to found our faith on the Scriptures, deniers of the universal church's dogma.

    As for learning German, I'm all for it, and in fact, have done it. The German of FC SD IX is very interesting indeed. It says that Christ "ist geblieben" in the tomb. Translate that with an English perfect! It's simply another example (among countless) of the German tense that looks like an English perfect, but should often be translated as an English past. First-year German students learn that, and anyone who reads and speaks German knows it to be true.

    Then the question still remains: did they mean she miraculously conceived and gave birth to a Son, having "remained a virgin" throughout her pregnancy, or that she piously "remained a virgin" for the rest of her natural life? Since the context is the miraculous birth of Christ and not the devout life of Mary, it would seem to suggest the former.

    What some assert to be so "clearly confessed" in the Confessions is not nearly as clear as they would have us believe.

  30. Latif,

    You are most certainly going to offend people if you mention Mary's perpetual virginity from the pulpit. Is it worth it? I'm all about offensive preaching, but the offense must come from Law and Gospel. I just don't see how Mary's virginity fits. (By the same token, preaching about Jesus' biological brothers doesn't really fit either.) I too would be surprised if Luther never used it, but I also haven't ever come across it either.

  31. The question was raised about Luther mentioning this from the pulpit. Here you go:

    She was without a doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in birth, and after birth, and she was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and certainly could have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption under the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity but actually strengthened it; but in spite of this, not only the mother, but also the son, allowed themselves to be considered unclean according to the Law. House Postils III:256 - preached at the parish Church on the Eve of the Circumcision, 1540.

    Nor is he alone in this. So did Gerhard, from his sermon for Christmas day (Postilla I):

    "By this fiery bush is also indicated that the Son of God wanted to assume His human flesh from a pure virgin, without violating her virginity. For, even though the virgin body of Mary became pregnant by being filled with the Holy Spirit and by the overshadowing of the Highest, yet her virginal chastity was not damaged." (46)

    "Thus the pure virgin Mary alone of all women, through the working of the Holy Spirit, received this heavenly Christ-dew, about which Isa. 45:8 states: Drop down you heaven from above. Later this dew came upon the entire earth, that is, the fruits of this birth pertain to all mankind; however, Mary once more became a dry pelt, that is, she remained a pure virgin after the birth, just as she was before the birth." (51)

    "Finally, it is proper also to observe that Christ is called the First-born - not that Mary may later have had more children, but rather in keeping with the mode of the holy language, He is the First-born who is born first, no matter whether He later had brothers or not." (54)

    Hope that is of help.

  32. I want to be clear that I do not regard Sasse or Pr. Rydecki as in any way "inferior" Lutherans for not holding to the PV. The whole quia notion, I think, has proven over time not to be the help and bulwark that it was hoped to be. That's a conversation for another day. But I still hold that the Symbols teach it, and that as such it should be reckoned with. It is amazing to me that IF the text was ambiguous, a fine native German and Latin linguist such as Sasse would not have leaped on that right away. Rather, he confesses it is there, but that he does not held himself bound by it because there is, in his opinion, no Scripture upon which it is based. Piepkorn, who did hold to it, noted that there is no Scripture provided for it in the Symbols and asked the important question: Do the Symbols speak where Scripture is silent? and pondered a bit of what that might mean.

  33. One last p.s., I do not know for certain, but suspect that it was a certain professor NOT willing to let this rest, but attacking the PV in public writing, that was responsible for drawing forth Dr. Stephenson's fine article.

  34. "You are most certainly going to offend people if you mention Mary's perpetual virginity from the pulpit. Is it worth it?"

    Nothing is more predictable, or reasonable & pastoral sounding, than that this prediction would come up in this conversation. However, the great tradition of preaching beautiful, gospel, pastoral, sermons on this cannot be gainsaid so easily; in fact, that tradition continues to our own day. Nor is it proper of you to assume that a preacher would be so cold that he wouldn't exercise great care in the matter of whether, when, and how it is brought up before his hearers.

  35. As much as I love Dr. Scaer and respect his right to profess and argue his view in the class, in the pulpit, and in print, all of which he has done, Fr. William's comment above (and I don't even know for sure if he is referring to Scaer's LF article), and the tone of some of these reactions, bring this question to mind: where was all this talk of the topic being out of bounds in those cases?

  36. Besides the passages Weedon brings up, I can think off the top of my head of at least one other, a Christmas sermon in the Church postil. Then consider Luther's statements about the Mother of God in his Prayer Book, a work designed for the daily use of the average Christian, which was published several times throughout his lifetime and after his death.

  37. "You must remember that Luther eventually had enough of Augustine."

    I would challenge this claim, and I would ask what its relevance might be for this topic even to the extent that it were true.

  38. I may not be remembering correctly (seems to happen more and more these days!), but the "done with Augustine" statement, I think, was when Luther realized "the third thing" with the Sacraments - so that he moved away from just word and element and realized there must also be mandate. So beyond res and res signata. Does that ring a bell for anyone?

  39. Dear Paul:

    It is Walther (not me) who claims denying SV is to surrender one's quia subscription. I actually disagree with him on that. And it is actually Pieper who holds that denial of SV is a heterodox christology. I disagree with him too. And we also know where Luther stood regarding the denial of SV.

    The BOC says what it says. Every Lutheran dogmatician until the 20th century echoed it. And so did the church throughout the centuries.

    Don't take it out on me. I'm actually way more liberal about the whole thing than the vast majority of our doctors and fathers of the church. I agree with Piepkorn that consciences cannot be bound to it. I cannot demand that a parishioner believe in it any more than I can demand that they believe that Martin Luther was a real person. They are free to believe anything (however much at odds with the church or world) so long as it doesn;t contradict scripture.

    This "let's all stop talking about this" is like the classic example of the bully who constantly beats up his victim. And when the victim has finally had enough and takes a single poke back, the bully whines about it and cries foul.

    In simply following the great train of our dogmatic tradition - before, during, and after the Reformation - we who confess SV are often accused of Romanism, of not believing the Bible, of being un-Lutheran, etc. It is simply not true. We are the ones with history and the voice of the church on our side. Those who claim Mary did not remain virginal are the ones who are the ones with an innovative doctrine and often resort to isogesis to push their claims.

    And then they tell us to shut up about it.

    Next thing you know, there will be calls to censor the December 25 reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer and to edit Luther's sermons. I sometimes quote the confessions in my sermons - especially the Small Catechism and once in a while the Augsburg Confession. Maybe someone could give me a list of which parts of our confessions ought to be hidden from our parishioners - which parts of the Book of Concord we are to be ashamed of and pretend don't exist?

    This whole discussion does blur the line between quia and quatenus. If we only hold to the parts of the BOC that are "scriptural," that does create a fuzzy relationship between quia and quatenus.

    This isn't about you or any individual. It is about what the church has collectively and universally confessed - and more importantly: why.

  40. Fr. Weedon:

    I recall reading a passage in Sasse a few years back, in which he actually says that Luther should have gone further in extricating himself from Augustine. That had to do with the "sign" in the sacraments being, to Sasse, a bit too much potential neoplatonism. On the other hand, Luther's debt to Augustine was lifelong.

  41. "The BOC says what it says. Every Lutheran dogmatician until the 20th century echoed it. And so did the church throughout the centuries."

    Fr. Hollywood:

    On that note I think it is more than fair to mention the official Latin version of the Smalcald Articles, where "semper" is hardly open to debate. For it is significant that no objection was ever raised, no qualified signature (like Melanchthon did on the issue of Roman authority). Of all the thousands who signed on in that age, it was fully embraced as part of our confessional heritage. What was the matter with those people? Why did they all fail so badly in drawing a sharper distinction between the teachings of scripture and the teachings of men? Or, maybe they actually read the scriptures in ways that were 1. fully formed and informed by the christological tradition of the Church, to a degree to which we should aspire, 2. and untainted by later biases, which infect the Church today in ways we may not even fully realize.

  42. I have a theory on how the change came about, but I've not done the hard work yet to substantiate it. You find Luther and Gerhard and others drawing on images like Aaron's rod that budded and Gideon's fleece as images for the perpetual virginity of Mary. They may seem strange today, but it was the HYMNODY of the Church that taught them so to think - and those Latin hymns continued sounding in the Lutheran Church for several centuries. When Latin was finally removed, that hymn corpus was by and large NOT translated - it was left in Latin. Thus a generation began to grow up that did not know how the Church had read and celebrated these things, and so on. The result was finally the loss of that way of reading the Scriptures with the Church. The liturgy of the Magdeburg Book - a century after the Reformation - is replete with liturgical confession of Mary's perpetual virginity. It shows up on Purification, on Annunciation, and I think at Christmas.

  43. I also have a theory as to how Confessionally-inclined American Lutherans came to depart from the assumptuion of semper virgo. We know that Walther and Franz Pieper held to semper virgo. Other Lutherans of their era also, at the very least, believed that semper virgo was more likely to be true than not to be true. But when the so-called "Wauwatosa Theologians" in the Wisconsin Synod began to revisit and rework a whole lot of the church's formulations on the basis of their higher-than-average suspicion of all things "traditional," I think they are the ones who began the process of introducing into the larger Confessional Lutheran American context a degree of skepticism concerning semper virgo that previously had not been there.

    The Wisconsin Synod is often perceived to be "conservative" and even "ultra-conservative" on many matters. But in some ways the influence of the "Wauwatosa Theologians" was a liberalizing influence. There are other examples that could be pointed to as well, besides the semper virgo topic, such as August Pieper's allowance in principle for women to speak didactically in the public Divine Service, as long as it is done "with the observance of modest reserve" ("Are There Legal Regulations in the New Testament?").

    But on the topic at hand, this comment by August Pieper regarding Walther's weaknesses and shortcomings (as he perceived them) is where I see evidence of the beginning of the shift in American Confessional Lutheran circles away from assuming semper virgo, and toward assuming the contrary, and even toward a dismissive attitude regarding the traditional view:

    As brilliant a dogmatician as Walther was, he was also an inferior exegete. His knowledge of the original biblical languages was good, but not outstanding. He took over dozens of proof passages from Luther and the dogmaticians which do not prove what they were supposed to prove. He failed to recognize that he was basing his position on translations and not on the original text. Thus, for example, he believed in the semper virgo, as he confessed at the Milwaukee colloquy with the Iowans, but without a firm scriptural basis. On the whole, his knowledge of Scripture was more an intimate acquaintance with Luther's Bible and a knowledge of passages than a knowledge of the whole line of thought of a biblical book and of the original text. ("Anniversary Reflections")

  44. Still wrestling with this...
    I agree, there can be no doubt about what the the Confessions say and we faithfully subscribe to them. My question is, why would it be important to the Church that Mary remain a virgin for the rest of her life? What does it mean to Christendom that Mary remained a virgin? Certainly it is critical that she remain a virgin before and during her pregnancy, but what does it teach the Church that she remained after Christ was born and did so for the rest of her life? The Confessors must have thought it important so what does it mean to us as confessing Lutherans?

  45. This essay is an excellent placing of Christological teaching, including a high view of the Blessed Virgin Mary, within the Lutheran confession and tradition. Pieper's concession to difference of opinion on the "semper virgo" of the FC only highlights his own understanding and acceptance of the teaching. There is much weight given here to Alexandrian Christology and the Ecumenical Councils that cannot be dismissed.

    Rightly, the "semper virgo" is a Christological teaching and, as so, it upholds the blessedness of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Although many of us are not as versed in this matter, including the ancient Christological questions and the questions of the languages, this essay cannot help but draw us to more serious consideration of a teaching that seems natural to discount. This erudite study deserves a few re-reads.

    Having no opposition to the argument, I humbly suggest that the teaching of the "semper virgo" as the "unanimous testimony, belief, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church" may also be designated as the testimony, belief and teaching of the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Thank you to Dr. Stephenson for this hearty apology.

  46. Gerhard provides a clue. He sees Mary as a type of the Church - and thus the simultaneity of Church as "virgin, mother, bride." From Sacred Meditation XXIII: She is mother because she daily bears spiritual sons to God. She is as a chaste virgin, because she keeps herself pure from all unholy alliances with the devil and the world. She is a bride, because Christ hath betrothed her to Himself by an eternal covenant."

    Yet neither Gerhard nor Luther nor Chemnitz ever forgot the wise words of St. Basil on this:

    "But this could make one suppose that Mary, after having offered in all purity her own service in giving birth to the Lord, by virtue of the intervention of the Holy Spirit, did not subsequently refrain from normal conjugal relations. *That would not have affected the teaching of our religion at all, because Mary's virginity was necessary until the service of the Incarnation, and what happened afterward need not be investigated in order to affect the doctrine of the mystery.* But since the lovers of Christ do not allow themselves to hear that the Mother of God ceased at a given moment to be a virgin, we consider their testimony sufficient." PG 31, 1468B.

    Whatever value the perpetual virginity has in providing typology of the Church, it has NO value dogmatically; the Blessed Mother's virginity was required for the birth. That explains why Pieper was not willing to consider heretic the person who denied it while otherwise orthodox in his christology.

  47. This is in response to an earlier comment:

    Luther could not have arrived at the reformation without his being versed in Scriptures, fathers, tradition, life of the Church, etc. He was a monk, priest and Doctor of Old Testament theology so there was much more involved in the reformation than a moving experience. Obviously, one thing led to the next and bridges were/are burnt. Yet, even after 1517, 1521 and other events, Luther, the Reformers and the Confessions did not hesitate to quote Scripture and the fathers together.

    They did not go as far as the radical reformers in destroying anything that smelled "Catholic," including all that took place in theological learning and understanding between the time of the early church and the reformation (12+ centuries). These reformers simply thought they could start over. Luther, on the other hand, did not seek to leave the Catholic Church but sought to address abuses and initiate debate. In fact, everything Luther emphasized regarding the Gospel may also be found in the Scriptures, the early church and the church fathers. There is nothing new under the sun. The Gospel and false teaching have always been there. The Holy Ghost did not move away after the time of the Apostles and ignore the following centuries only to pop down again at the time of the Reformation. We need to be careful about separating God from history such that He has only been active at the time of the Scriptures, at the Reformation and today in my heart. His work has continued on earth from the Creation to the Cross and even to Judgement Day.

    All the Church Catholic, Luther, and almost every major Lutheran teacher who Lutherans "venerate" today hold the position of the SV.

    Chesterton has something to think about when he says, "The Reformer is always right about what is wrong . . . He is generally wrong about what is right."

    Of course, we should be familiar with the fathers and read them. There were those who struggled over the blessed Trinity and the divine and human natures of Christ leaving us the rich teaching and tradition we have today. The reformers quote from them regularly. Are we, who today take the Trinity and Christ for granted and, seeking even to rewrite the Creed or even omit it from the liturgy, to think that somehow the fathers are less orthodox than we are because we have evolved in our knowledge and understanding or because we prefer to discuss other issues than what the fathers debated?

    Much "theology" today has nothing to do about God anymore and has plenty to do with man. If repentance begins with self, we need the fathers to remind us again and again "to seek the face of God." Orthodoxy can never be measured by the "here and now;" the existential feeling in my heart. Nor will we ever learn (humbly) if we think that the present and/or the future is all there is.

  48. "Gerhard provides a clue. He sees Mary as a type of the Church - and thus the simultaneity of Church as "virgin, mother, bride.""

    And it is worth emphasizing that he does not spin these ideas out of his head, but inherits them from Saint Ambrose, and other fathers of the Church.

  49. I think the issue also shows our tendency toward a "holiness switch" that can be turned on and off, or the "temporary *is*" in which the Virgin Mary's virginity is temporal and functional (widely held by some Lutherans uniquely among the historic communions) - like the belief (widely held by some Lutherans uniquely among the historic communions) that the body and blood of Christ are temporary and functional.

    This is how it is that men who reverently commune and treat the elements as holy, will five minutes later, discard the reliquiae and its vessel in the garbage as common.

    After all, if holy blessed Mary became common after the functionality of the incarnation was carried out, why should the sacramental body and blood be permanent? And that view is just a hop, skip, and jump from the heretical view that the Lord's divine presence left him at the cross.

    To clarify: I am not saying that denying SV means one is a heretic, but I am saying that the Church (including the Lutheran tradition) has often defended SV christologically rather than simply as a sideshow piece of historical trivia.

    Is holiness (her bodily set-apartness as the mother of God) an accident, a temporary quality, or is it ontological and eternal? Mary's holiness (her "set-apartness") as a vessel lies in not so much what she did by her own will, but rather who she is ("all generations will call me blessed") by God's grace. And in that sense, she is a type for the Church. She contains God within her body by virtue of the incarnation in a similar way that we contain God within our body by virtue of the incarnation in the Sacrament.

    Just as we would never (hopefully) retire a sacred communion chalice and use it to guzzle common Diet Coke out of like a common tupperware tumbler, the Church has traditionally and universally taught that Mary retained her set-apartness even in the context of her married state.

    Just some thoughts...

  50. Fr. Beane:

    Your comments here bring to my mind this line of thought. The Mother of God is a sacred vessel; her womb is the paradise in which is planted the Tree of Life Himself. It is the kingly hall from which the Lord stepped forth. That which is appointed by God as a sacred vessel because it bears what is holy is covered, guarded, protected, even when it does not hold what it once held. Paradise is guarded by angels. Saint Luke clearly portrays Mary as antitype of the ark of the covenant. She is the ark of the new covenant, or of the New Testament. How reverently the first ark was treated! She is also the Temple, containing the Holy of Holies; and as Ezekiel teaches, no one but the prince himself may enter through the portal of the temple which looks toward the east. It "shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; therefore it shall be shut. It is for the prince."

  51. This comment has been removed by the author.

  52. Grossmann: “When you subscribe to the confessions, were you aware of the fact that they declared the permanent virginity of Mary?” Walther: “Yes, I can say so in the presence of God.” Grossmann: “Do you still believe this to be true doctrine?” Walther: “Yes, I can say so in the presence of God.”

    Very interesting. I offer here the following additional quote from Walther's understanding of quia subscription:

    "Whatever position any doctrine may occupy in the doctrinal system of the Symbols, whatever the form may be in which it occurs, whether the subject be dealt with ex professo or only incidentally, an unconditional subscription refers to the whole content of the Symbols and does not allow the subscriber to make any mental reservation in any point. Nor will he exclude such does as are discussed incidentally in support of other doctrines, because the fact that they are so used stamps them as irrevocable articles of faith and demands their joyful acceptance by everyone who subscribes to the Symbols."

    continued below....

  53. "However, since the Symbols are confessions of faith or doctrine, the Church necessarily cannot require a subscription to those matters which do not belong to doctrine. He who subscribes to the Symbols of the Church and accepts them unconditionally as his own does not declare them to be the rule and norm for German or Latin orthography or for a perfect linguistic style, nor does he declare that his subscription refers to some other things which belong in the sphere of human knowledge. For the servant of the Church is not bound by that which falls within the sphere of criticism or of history. The same is true of the interpretation of certain Bible passages. The only criterion of an incontrovertible 'prophecy,' or interpretation of Scripture, which St. Paul demanded is 'Whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith,' Rom. 12:6. If, for instance, an exegete does not reach the specific sense of a Bible passage and yet interprets it in such a manner that his interpretation rests on other clear Bible passages, he is indeed mistaken in supposing that a certain teaching is contained in this specific Bible passage, but he is not erring in doctrine. In like manner he who unconditionally subscribes to the symbolical Books declares that the interpretations which are contained in the Symbols are 'according to the analogy of faith.'" [Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church, an essay delivered at the Western District Convention in 1858, translated by Alex. Wm. C. Guebert for the Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. XVIII, APRIL, 1947, No. 4]

    continued below...

  54. Given the first Walther quote above, not only professing that the Confessions declared the permanent virginity of Mary, but also saying that his quia subscription required agreement, I find it piquant that in commenting directly upon this statement the late Rev. Dr. Robert Preus opines:

    "Notice that Walther's description, like the confessions themselves, [Tr. Conclusion; FC SD Rule and Norm, 10ff; FC SD Introduction,3], makes the object of our subscription the doctrinal content of the confessions. That is what we pledge ourselves to, and that is all. To my knowledge no Lutheran ever required any more. Walther makes this clear, and so do the Lutheran Fathers before him. It should be unnecessary therefore constantly to repeat this obvious fact, unless theologians are deliberately beclouding the issue. We do not pledge ourselves and subscribe to the Latin or German grammar of the confessions, or to the logic or illustrations used there, or to what they might say about historical or scientific matters, or liturgical usages of vestments, or the numbering of the sacraments, or to the mode of baptism (which seemed to be immersion. See SC IVJI. Latin: quid autem significat ista in aquam immersio?), or to non-doctrinal "pious" phraseology like the "semper virgo" which we find in Selnecker's translation of the Smalcald Articles." [Faithful Confessional Life in the Church, ch. 6, Confessional Subscription, Lutheran Congress, August 31 - September 2, 1970, pg. 47-48]

    Perhaps Dr. Preus did not know about Dr. Walther's statement at the 1867 Colloquium held in Milwaukee. In any case, Dr. Preus seems to have taken a bit more liberty in interpreting these words than Dr. Walther intended to convey in his 1858 essay.

  55. It seems that, every so often, things must begin to taste flat, and so someone has to add a shake or two of crushed red pepper just to liven up the leftovers...

  56. No leftovers, Father John. The feast prepared by our Lord and served up to His Church in all its fullness for our forgiveness, life, and salvation! But I admit, it is a tangy dish!

  57. The Augustana says that its confession does not differ from the "ancient catholic church". Where in the ancient catholic church do we find any talk about the Mother of God begetting children? Or does that statement from the Augustana, and the question raised from it, matter anymore? This is the crux of the issue.

  58. Precisely, Dan.

    Regardless of how relatively "unimportant" some might think various points of doctrine are, isn't ANY point of departure false teaching that represents a danger to faith?

  59. My translation of the above exchange (please correct if you find errors):

    Insp. Grossmann: When you subscribed to the Symbols, did you also know that the point of the perpetual virginity of Mary is stated therein?

    Prof. Walther: Yes, I can assure you of this before God.

    Insp. Grossmann: Do you also still believe this is the true doctrine regarding this?

    Prof. Walther: Yes, I can assure you of this before God.

    Insp. Grossman: What are your grounds for it that you regard this as the correct representation?

    Prof. Walther: They don't allow you a followup question.

    Insp. Grossman: I only asked in such a way because I cannot understand how a human teaching can have such a fixed conviction.

    Prof. Walther: You say “human teachings”. Thus you have an enormous difference admitted between the teachings which are clearly stated in God's Word, and such and similar points as those which you raised a while ago; certainly not regarding the Lutheran that subscribes, but regarding the church, if they are to explain whom they regard still as a Lutheran.

    Prof. S. J.: Professor Walther wills that everything that is taught in the symbolical Books is to be binding...

    Prof. Walther: Because if one does not confess even that which he does not yet understand clearly, a lot of other problems will result.

    Insp. Grossman: For example?

    Prof. Walther: For example the teaching of a still approaching thousand year reign, of the Antichrist, let alone all the explanatory and substantiating arguments and statements.

  60. When Walther was confronted by Grossman to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary scripturally, the argument could have gone on for ever if Walther had taken the bait, just as these discussions have multiplied in recent years.

    To me, the perpetual virginity of Mary is not the important point here - confessional subscription is.

    Walther's argument is similar to (and as important as) Rev. Robert Baker's argument against Barth's "Strong Divine Command Theory Ethic."

    As he puts the point regarding Scriptural interpretation: Orthodox Lutherans followed the sedes doctrinae method already in vogue by the time of Erasmus. "Seats" of doctrine were assembled under doctrinal catagories. The reductionistic tendency today is only to look for passages specifically mentioning the topic. This, as you know, is the error of Rehwinkel and thw CTCR re contraception.
    Reductionism plus pitting Luther vs the Orthodox Lutherans (a Erlangen reaction against v.Hoffman) has brought us where we are today. Read Chemnitz and Gerhard, not anything from the 20th century. Huge difference especially in doctrinal and moral matters. Huge.

    Over the past century, Lutherans have increasingly rejected long-held doctrine and practice based on the mistaken belief that if their personal interpretation of Scripture is not as "clear" as one might think necessary as an individual to uphold a point, he can eject whatever doctrine or practice he wants. More importantly, it has come to pass that no one can bind another to any doctrine, no matter how long it has been held, nor even if it is included in the Lutheran Confessions, unless one can convince the other that Scripture is "clear" on the matter. We should have more respect for our fathers in the faith and what they have handed down to us, and such an attitude should inform confessional subscription.

    Walther warned that disastrous things would happen if we allowed ANY doctrinal exceptions to confessional subscription. The virginity of Mary was simply the point Grossmann tried to trip Walther up on. While affirming it as a confessional statement, Walther did not allow himself to be drawn into defending Mary's perpetual virginity. Instead, he goes right on the attack, warning his listeners (and us) of what will happen if such exceptions are allowed, however minor they may seem.

    The following comments (split up due to comment size restrictions) provide a much improved, extended, corrected, and verified translation of a large section of Walther's dialogue from 1867. I am indebted to Dr. Ben Mayes for his expert assistance and correction of my earlier translation. There are some VERY important points made by Dr. Walther.

  61. Insp. G.: Als Sie die Symbole unterschrieben, haben Sie da auch gewußt, daß der Punkt von der immerwährenden Jungfrauschaft Mariä drinnen steht?
    Insp. G.: When you subscribed to the Symbols, did you also know that the point of the perpetual virginity of Mary is stated therein?

    Prof. W.: Ja, das kann ich Ihnen vor Gott versichern.
    Prof. W.: Yes, I can assure you of this before God.

    Insp. G.: Glauben Sie auch noch, daß dies die rechten Lehre hierüber sei?
    Insp. G.: Do you also still believe this is the true doctrine regarding this?

    Prof. W.: Ja, das kann ich Ihnen vor Gott versichern.
    Prof. W.: Yes, I can assure you of this before God.

    Insp. G.: Was ist Ihr Grund dafür, daß Sie dies für die richtige Darstellung halten?
    Insp. G.: What are your grounds for regarding this as the correct presentation?

    Prof. W.: [Wenn] Sie erlauben, darnach haben Sie mich nichts zu fragen.
    Prof. W.: By your leave, you have no reason to ask me about that.
    Insp. G.: Ich habe nur so gefragt, weil ich nicht begreifen kann, daß einer von einer menschlichen Lehre eine recht feste Ueberzeugung haben kann.
    Insp. G.: I only asked that because I cannot understand how someone can have such a fixed conviction about a human teaching.

    Prof. W.: Sie sagen "menschliche Lehre". Damit haben Sie einen gewaltigen Unterschied zugegeben zwischen den Lehren, die klar in Gottes Word stehen und solchen und ähnlichen Punkten, wie der, den Sie vorhin nannten; freilich nicht in Bezug auf den Lutheraner, der unterschreibt, sondern in Bezug auf die Kirche, wenn sie erklären soll, wen sie noch für einen Lutheraner halte.

    Prof. W.: You say “human teaching”. By doing so you have admitted an enormous difference between the teachings which are clearly in God's Word, and such and similar points as the one which you raised previously; certainly not regarding the Lutheran who subscribes, but regarding the Church, if she is supposed to declare whom she still regards as a Lutheran.


  62. ...continued

    Prof. S. F.: Prof. Walther will, daß alles, was Lehre in den symb. Büchern ist, verbindlich sein soll. Nun ist hier ein Punkt genannt, der ist eine Lehre. Weil es eine Lehre ist, darum verpflichte ich mich darauf bei der Unterschrift. Nun ist aber entweder eine menschliche Lehre, die aus Gottes Wort nicht klar erwiesen werden kann, da verstehe ich nun nicht, wie Sie dabei noch fest halten können, daß alles, was ich unterschreibe, im Wort Gottes fest begründet sein müsse, oder es ist eine Lehre der heil. Schrift, so sehe ich nicht ein, wie man dann eine Ausnahme erlauben könne, wenn der Unterschreiber seine Abweichung anzeigt.

    Prof. S. F.: Prof. Walther wants everything that is doctrine in the symbolical Books to be binding. Now here a point of doctrine has been mentioned. Because it is a doctrine, therefore I commit myself to it when subscribing. Now, either it is a human doctrine, which cannot be clearly proved from God's Word--now here I do not understand how you can still maintain that everything I subscribe must be firmly founded in the Word of God--or that it is a doctrine of Holy Scripture--[and] then I do not see how one could permit an exception, if the subscriber indicates his deviation.

    Prof. W.: Weil man, wenn man das nicht gleich sagt, was einem noch nicht klar ist, eine ganze Menge anderer Dinge auch für Probleme halten kann.
    Prof. W.: Because if one does say right away what is not yet clear to him, he can consider a huge amount of other things as problems.

    Insp. G.: Zum Beispiel?
    Insp. G.: For example?

    Prof. W.: Z. B. die Lehre von einem noch bevorstehenden tausendjährigen Reich, vom Antichrist und überhaupt dann alle erläuternden und beweisenden Argumente und Ausführungen.

    Prof. W.: For example, the teaching of a still approaching thousand year reign, of the Antichrist, and then all illustrating and substantiating arguments and explanations.


  63. ...continued

    Past. Hügli: ... further comments ...

    Prof. S. F.: ... further comments ...

    Prof. W.: Ich wollte nur darauf aufmerksam machen, daß wir früher schon öfters darauf hingewiesen haben, wenn der Unterschied zwischen principalen und lesser principalen Lehren gemacht werde[?], so heiße weniger wichtig nicht unwichtig. Sie wissen ja den Unterschied zwischen principalis und minus principalis gut genug, und ich brauche ihn daher hier nicht weiter anzugeben. Nur das will ich bemerken, daß Lehren der einen sowohl als der andern Gattung eben allemal Lehren sein müssen. Daran, auch die Probleme unter die weniger wichtigen Lehren zu rechnen, haben wir nie gedacht. Wir haben unter Lehren immer wirklich in Gottes Wort geoffenbarte Wahrheiten verstanden, nichts Anderes, und Gott helfe mir daß ich das nie vergesse, daß alles was Lehre, dem Glauben vorgegeben, sein soll, in Gottes Wort offenbart sein muß, denn Gottes Wort steht über der Kirche. Wenn Sie Gerhard anführen dafür, daß in der Kirche nur eine Fundamentaleinigkeit sein könne, so kann doch unmöglich seine Meinung sein, daß man darum alle weniger wichtigen Lehren für nicht verbindlich erklären solle; aber das ist wohl wahr, wir werden es auch bei aller Achtsamkeit und allem Eifer nicht weiter bringen in diesem Leben, als zu einer fundamentalen Einigkeit. Sie haben wohl die Stelle aus der Confessio catholica entnommen?

    Prof. W.: I only wanted to point out that in former times we already repeatedly indicated [that] whenever the difference between principal and less principal doctrine is made, "less important" does not mean "unimportant." You do know the difference between "principalis" and "minus principalis" well enough, and therefore I do not need to indicate it further here. The only thing I want to note is that doctrines of the one as well as of the other category must always be *doctrines.* We have never thought about this, even counting the problems among the less important *doctrines*. By "doctrines" we have always really understood truths that are revealed in God's Word, nothing else, and may God help me never to forget that everything that is supposed to be doctrine, set forth to faith, must be revealed in God's Word, because God's Word stands over the Church. If you quote Gerhard in favor of the position that in the Church there can be only a fundamental unity, then his opinion cannot possibly be that therefore all the less important doctrines should be declared not binding; but this is probably true: even with all carefulness and all zeal we will not get any further in this life than a fundamental unity. You probably took the passage from the Confessio catholica?

  64. Do you know what the most pathetic thing about this already-embarrassing conversation is, dear Fathers? That I, an Eastern-Orthodox layman, am more Lutheran than all of you here calling yourselves "Lutheran" pastors and priests and deacons put together.. -- shameful.

    What Would Luther Say?

    Father William Weedon,

    from now on your name shall no longer be called Chancellor, but "the last Lutheran Mohican of the Lutheran Synod in Resistance of the Lutheran Continuum".

  65. EVEN *Calvin and Zwingli* will give a better answer at Judgment Day than modern "Lutherans".

    Actually, why bother the memory of the two great Doctors of the Reformation in the first place?.. :-\

    EVEN *Muslims* will give a *better* answer at Judgment Day than modern "Lutherans": Muhammad had more respect in his Qur'an for the Blessed Virgin than you who call yourselves Christians (and "traditional" ones at that..)

  66. This comment has been removed by the author.

  67. Lvka,
    Not one person here was denying the virgin birth of our LORD. Whether or not we agree on what panned out privately with Mary and Joseph's marriage does not matter. In fact, it's none of our business. Do you go to the average Joe or Jane on the street and ask him or her personal questions about their private intimacy? Why would you bother the one to whom grace has been shown, Mother Mary, about such things? What is important is that a virgin woman bore God and remained a virgin in bearing Him.

    If God asks me about the semper Virgo, I will probably not have any answer... Hopefully, the only person's name I hear is Jesus. Christ is our righteousness. Denying the virgin birth is denying Christ's righteousness and our own. You would agree with me on that. But assuming that Blessed Mary was a blessed wife and had relations with her husband to whom she submitted herself to is not blasphemy. Personally, I don't know. She could have remained a virgin her whole life. Dr. Stephenson made his points clearly, and he has shown that it is Lutheran to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. It is also Lutheran to not give two cents about it, and instead confess to your death that Christ, our God and Lord, was born of Mary Virgin Mother, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died, buried, and rose again, defeating sin and death, and crushing the devil's head, opened the Kingdom of His righteousness for all beleivers, which He offers to us in Word and Sacrament. Mary represents the entire Church of Christ, since we, by faith, are the Theotokos. This is Lutheran. That Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary is irrelavent unless we emphasize that we, too, are the Theotokos. These things were written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The Scriptures do not make clear whether Mary obstained from knowing her husband her whole life or not. When I am at the throne of judgment, I pray that I remember no name at all except for Christ's name.

    We, Lutherans, usually don't waste our time arguing for or against the perpetual virginity of Mary. We talk about things that pertain to justification by grace through faith propter Christum (The Lord's Supper, the Office of the Ministry, Baptism, the Order of Creation, the virgin Birth of Christ, His death, resurrection... pretty much everything in the Bible). If Mary and Joseph abstained from sex their whole lives, hats off to them. I'm going to go talk about Jesus now, and how He gives us his righteousness by the means of Grace with the Holy Ghost (not medicinally or progressively, as the Platonists claim...).

  68. My first post was the same one; I deleted it by mistake.


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