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Taking God’s Name

Posted by Remy on April 27, 2009

We don’t take God’s name enough. We’ve come to think that the 3rd commandment means to not take God’s name at all. We’re are so superstitious that we’ve expanded this command to His title. Exclaiming “God” is not taking His name in vain, it might be taking His title in vain, which isn’t wise, but it isn’t the same as His name. But the sin is “in vain” not the “taking”.

The Vatican last year banished the name Yahweh from their worship, which should be no surprise since both Romanists and Constantinians ar rife with Old World thinking. I would expect the Constantinians to make the same announcement except making any changes to their liturgy might mean knocking some of the dust off. But on the name Yahweh the Vatican says:

“As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘Lord.'”

Meaning, using Yahweh is disrespectful. Hopefully this daft thinking won’t spread to the use of Jesus.

This thinking is so backwards. Jesus likes to hear His name, we are commanded to pray in His name. I remember listening to adults pray concluding with “in our Lord’s name” or “in the name of the Savior” and I thought that using “in Jesus name amen”  (which is what I was taught) was somehow a childish way to pray. Adults are so full of crap pietistic add ons that continue to drag us from a rich understanding of Jesus.

Jesus is Lord, yes, but Jesus is also our friend, Jesus the buddy. Jesus is also our brother, Big Brother Jesus. It is important that we speak of Jesus in these familial terms, because He presents Himself almost entirely in these terms. But we think we know better. We think it’s insulting to act like Jesus is really our friend, we think it’s disrespectful to call Jesus by His name, we think it’s rude to call Jesus our brother. This is a satanic impulse that keeps us from Jesus.

Jesus, Jehovah, Yahweh : these are His names, He draws near when we use them. So use them.

52 Responses to “Taking God’s Name”

  1. Josh said

    The Vatican makes the decision to not use Yahweh’s name and you remark, “I would expect the Constantinians to make the same announcement except making any changes to their liturgy might mean knocking some of the dust off.” This was sharp. Most people would have missed this connection, but you nailed it. Dude, you nailed it!

    Remy, what you’re saying here is just really cool. “Jesus the buddy.” I like how you drew that out. I really do think that the church today just really has a hard time accepting Jesus as their buddy. We want Jesus to be this religious figure, and we just totally forget about the relational aspect. I think you are right, though, and I do think the Romans ought to follow the Protestant example of drawing close to Jesus and having Jesus as their friend. Most Catholics I know, especially Guido (even though he won’t tell this to you), confess to me on the phone, “I miss that close relationship I had with Jesus back when I was a Protestant. There was just a certain closeness I had with Him back then.” Well, the same is true for me!

    Your remarks here are just a breath of fresh air. The newness of your understanding of the New Covenant, especially as Jesus is concerned, feels so different than the dusty ol’ Orthodox Church I go to. What was really convicting for me and probably for any Catholics was at the end you mentioned “the satanic impulse” of not wanting to be really familiar with Jesus. I struggle with this, I know, as does pretty much everyone else who goes to my church. We tend to not talk about Jesus very much. Who needs Jesus when you’ve got the saints? We try not to talk about Jesus, too. We put pictures of Him up, but secretly we don’t like them and want to take them down. They make us feel so guilty and like He isn’t a buddy!

    If only you could get your words here out to more Catholics and Orthodox Christians, then maybe they could see the friendly Jesus like you have.

  2. Remy said

    Ah sarcasm. Aren’t we both so tedious?

  3. Josh said

    Sarcasm nothing. I believe what you say and am blown away by, above all, the accuracy of it. Especially that comment about “knocking the dust” off of Orthodox liturgical practices. I can tell by the manner you write about Orthodox liturgy that you’ve been to a number of Orthodox services- especially, like, Paschal celebrations. In fact, most Orthodox Christians constantly complain about how old and dusty their celebrations are. They aren’t joyful at all, and their liturgical practices are boring and simplistic. Most Reformed people I know who read books about liturgy written by Orthodox priests are just like, “This is ridiculous!” So, again, good work on the careful scholarship you put into this piece.

    I just feel so trapped, you know? But don’t tell anyone. That’s how I feel secretly and I’ll never admit it! Also, my life has gone down to the tubes since I started venerating icons! It’s the idolatry, I think.

    It’s good that your church isn’t bound to old liturgical practices. That helps keep worship lively, I’m sure. It also allows you to keep the pace with modernity and all the exciting developments in the Church world over the last few decades. I’m sure your church doesn’t keep archaic rules about who can serve the Lord’s Supper, who can preach, who can be an elder, and I’m sure women play large liturgical roles in your service, reading the Scriptures and so forth. It’s not like there are degrees of closeness between man and God anymore. It’s not like men can do things in the church that women can’t, because that means there’s gradations. The curtain is torn! We’re all priests! We’re all the same! Or rather, your church is. Mine isn’t.

    Your church just sounds better and better all the time. No lie.

  4. Remy said

    All or nothing, it’s always all or nothing with you.

    It is neither the immaturity of THE OLD WAYS ARE PERFECT. Nor the immaturity of WE CAN DO ANYTHING WE WANT.

    I mention something as fact, that the Orthodox church doesn’t ever change, something that they note as a matter of pride.

    I suppose you’re just being funny. I suppose you’re demonstrating your serrated edge, something you’re very good at. But this isn’t a your church/ my church discussion. This is aimed at “my church”, this is a website for “my church”, and while certainly I like to cast off and poke at various misguided aspects of the Romans and Constantinians, my aim is not to say which is the true church, or the truer church, or the truest church, I’ll leave that to the bozos, my aim is to be worth a damn to the church.

    That’s what I want for you.

  5. Remy,

    Here’s a slightly more thoughtful discussion on the use of the Divine Name. Also, make sure you scroll down and see Peter’s comments.

    You may have a decent point, here, but the substance of your post is lost in uncharitable rhetoric. Did you really expect Josh and other Catholics or Orthodox would react differently than he has? Why, if your point could be made just as well with out the slurs, make the slurs at all? The slurs amount to nothing more than “I am of Christ.” Perhaps you are correct, but if you claim to be of Christ, you almost certainly are just a sect.

    “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

  6. Also, I’m not at all sure how you can object to the quote you cite. What it says is indisputably true, and, unlike you seem to suggest, is offered as historic background, not the reason for the ban.

    Here’s the full text.

    Note that the Cardinal’s for the ban is simply that the use of the Tetragramaton is against the universal witness of the Church, and its use obscures New Testament passages which say Jesus is YHVH.

    Also note, that Cardinal Arinze cannot be categorically against the use of the Tetragramaton precisely because he uses it in that document. Indeed the word prior to the section you quote is the tetragramaton (spelled out in Hebrew).

  7. Actually, here’s the full text.

  8. asteroidb612login said

    Gibbs,

    Can I please just say that you are doing EXACTLY what you are accusing Remy of? How many times have you been to Auburn Avenue? As a former congregant, I can tell you that after reading Remy’s post it was quite obvious he was mostly talking about his church, and other churches like it (mine, for example). We’ve gone so overboard trying to do the opposite of modern evanglicalism that we’ve lost some of the personality of Christ. Now, don’t get me wrong, he does take a couple of jabs at Catholics and the Orthodox, but sheesh, dude, are you seriously taking it that personally? I’m sure he’s not right about EVERY C/O (namely you and Guido) but have you been to EVERY Catholic and Orthodox church in America? I mean, I’ve been to a couple of each up here, and what he says seems to be dead on. I haven’t done a hell of a lot of research on the subject, so I’m sure you’ll probably slam me, but I went into those services with an open mind, and I was a bit disappointed. Specifically with some of the points that Remy makes here. All of that to say, you could just take it easy and be less of a jackass and maybe your rhetoric would make more of a mark on our mutual friend. I’m not trying to be an ass, I’m simply telling you what it looks like from someone’s point of view that has sympathies both ways (though admittedly protestant).

  9. Josh said

    Oops, that was melton up there btw. sorry.

  10. Remy said

    Matt:
    Uncharitable? I don’t know. It is true that Rome and New Rome divide the body of Christ in an old covenant way. And what I said jokingly about the dusty liturgy they would say with pride.

    But it is true that while the substance of the post was aimed at a silly avoidance of the name of Jesus I couldn’t resist in a bit of goat getting. Surely you don’t begrudge me a little goat-getting do you?

    Thanks for the links, good stuff.

  11. Josh said

    Melton,

    Remy’s point is sound. When he says that I always want it all or nothing, he’s right. I think every story and poem I’ve ever written more or less support the fact that I’m not a careful, precise thinker. I’m entirely monolithic.

    If you’ve gone to Orthodox churches with an open mind and you felt turned aside, hey, that’s okay. The Orthodox church isn’t for everyone. I’ve even heard my priest comment at least once of people who have been “better off” staying Protestant and not converting to Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy didn’t do them any good, it only hindered their spiritual growth because it was too difficult for them.

    Remy,

    In that this is addressed primarily to people at your church, I’m glad it’s you who’s tackling the matter. You have a secure grasp on Orthodoxy and what it means when Orthodox Christians talk about the constant nature of Orthodoxy: it means that absolutely nothing about Orthodoxy has changed whatsoever in the last thousand years no matter where you go or who you talk to. We all believe exactly the same thing on every doctrinal matter whatsoever, and if we didn’t, Orthodoxy as a whole would fall apart. Orthodox Christians don’t even know why they still write books- everything in David Hart’s “The Beauty of the Infinite” was probably written by some dude named Gregory, like, nine hundred years ago! And further, if a doctrine is not going to be pronounced dogma by an ecumenical church council, what’s the point in saying it, right? We just waste our time going round and round in circles. Whenever I hear Reformed Christians talk nice about Alexander Schmemann, I want to take them by the shoulders and say, “Dude! He was an idolater stuck in the thousand year old, dusty Orthodox rut! What can he possibly know that James Jordan hasn’t already said?”

    Crackjack reporting here, April O’Neil. I’m still looking forward to your thoughts on the newness of the New Covenant.

  12. Or better, what could Schmemann say that Walter Lowrie didn’t already.

    But of course, the old Russians hated Schmemann, just as very many of the Greeks hate Hart (who is very Western and very modern- I say this mostly as a fan).

  13. joshgibbs said

    I can’t say so for a fact, but Steven is probably right. There’s lots of disagreement and argument, hostile even, in the Orthodox church. Shoot, I mean Tolstoy got excommunicated, right? For what?

  14. Josh said

    Yes! Another slam to Remy with all sarcasm and no substance! Because THAT’S doing a shit ton of good. But, hell, he started it so, whatevs, right? Man, you’re starting to sound like my sorry ass!

    And I never said I felt turned aside by either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. There were some things about each liturgy I really liked. But looking around each place of worship, I saw a lot of exactly what Remy speaks of. People in jeans and t-shirts, looking at their watches, wondering what they’re going to order for lunch. As for Orthodoxy, they just looked bored and totally uninterested in their liturgy. I couldn’t get into it, man. No singing, and a lot of smoke. I’m not saying this as a fully-researched slam on Orthodoxy (I completely admit I don’t know enough to comment on the specifics intelligently), this is merely an observation related to Remy’s points. And at the Catholic church? America the Beautiful as the closing hymn. So please don’t act like nothing Remy says has any bearing in fact anywhere in the known world. There is some valid stuff here, much as your anti-American barrages have some valid points, but perhaps go over the top. That’s all I’m saying. I’m done. Feel free to go nuts and put me in my place. I ain’t mad atcha.

  15. Tolstoy was a heretic, I’m pretty sure. I took a class in undergrad philosophy called “Attack on Christendom” and Tolstoy was included. He denied most of the miracles and got into Marxism. He ended up mentoring Gandhi, if I recall.

    Schmemann is more complicated (and let’s remember that it is precisely because of James Jordan that any of us ever read him!), as he was somewhat progressive. He had a big falling out with Solzhenitsyn over the question of Russia’s status as holy empire. There was an article a few years back that reported on a Russian bishop’s rejection of Schmemann and a public burning of his books.

    For Hart (of whom I have a love/hate relationship), I can definitely say that he hates (like really hates) the neo-Palamism of Lossky and the social Trinitarianism of Behr and others. Hart’s defended Augustine and Anselm, much to the disdain of many of his Orthodox colleagues. In his latest book, Atheist Delusions, he confesses his distaste for the institutional church in general.

  16. I’m not sure about the original post here. I don’t really think we need more Buddy Jesus (shudders at the memory of *Dogma*) in the culture.

    One also has to wonder whether Paul- or even Jesus for that matter- ever actually said “Yahweh” (or is it Yaveh; or perhaps Jehovah?).

    But my if these comments don’t demand further meditation! Tons of stuff to address, though it would be better done in some semblance of seriousness.

  17. Remy,

    You divide the world in an old covenant way. Circumcised/uncircumcised v baptized/unbaptized. It’s a good thing to do so.

    And last I checked neither Catholic nor Orthodox refuse baptism to women.

    And it is true that the Body of Christ is divided. Perhaps they recognize the division incorrectly, or place too high a premium on bishops, but I doubt that your church would allow someone who regularly prays to icons to become a member, at least without repentance, so you also divide the Church on some issue other than Baptism. And surely schism is something, and it is perhaps a legitimate distinction to say that Protestants are schismatic. Perhaps we aren’t, but it surely is a legitimate question. If I decided to be Reformed, but decided to leave Trinity and start a rival church here in Moscow, all the while calling Pr. Leithart and Pr. Wilson the antichrist, I’d be excommunicated, and the members of my church wouldn’t be welcome at Trinity without repenting of the schism and leaving my church. Perhaps that isn’t what’s going on between Protestants and Catholics / Orthodox (though it surely is between Orthodox and Catholics, just no one’s sure who left whom) but it did seem like it was from the Catholic perspective, and it seems quite normal, and even healthy, that they don’t let Protestants commune–we are from their perspective, in schism, and that schism needs to be healed before we can pretend it is healed.

    I think what frustrates me about the post is the antagonism to Rome. Perhaps Catholics are wrong, but when you are saying someone is wrong, joking about them being stupid just doesn’t seem called for.

  18. Remy said

    Josh:
    I still profess ignorance as to what you’re complaining about. Perhaps it’s that I speak too generally about a group of people that really have only have a government in common. You don’t even have to be orthodox to be Orthodoxy. But I suspect that you’re trapped in the Cult of Experience argument.

    Is it because I continue to point out that the old covenant distinctions are still carried around by Romanists and Constantinians? You’re only response to that has been ducking and sarcasm.

    Steven:
    As for the original direction of this post, I don’t have any experience in any sort of “buddy Jesus” talk, so I don’t have any cheesy memories to cause me to shudder, but I would like to see a prayer life that takes serious the charge to be God’s counselors and an avoidance of calling on Jesus by name is problematic. I probably shouldn’t mentioned the Yahweh business.

    Matt:
    Paragraph one, I don’t know what you mean.
    Paragraph two, not the point.
    Paragraph three, part A, not true.
    Paragraph three, part B, Rome started it, but, if I may speak for the Reformers, we forgive them. What’s their deal?
    Paragraph four, sorry, the Holy Spirit makes me giggle.

  19. Remy,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Christ

  20. joshgibbs said

    Melton,

    Churches of all stripes are going to be verying degrees of dusty. I am sure you find dusty Orthodox churches across the street from lively Protestant churches. I’ve heard far more scathing criticisms of Orthodox Christians given during the homilies at the Orthodox church where I attend than I have here. Showing up late to church, not showing up, not abiding by what the Church has asked, faith in politics, refusal to give to the poor… the list goes on and on. Further, these criticisms aren’t given about “other Orthodox churches,” they’re given to the congregants. If the Orthodox church you went to was the same way, I won’t argue with you and I won’t insist that you go if you don’t feel led to. I didn’t really mean anything by “turned aside,” honest.

    Remy isn’t really being critical of particular rigid Orthodox churches, though. Can we agree? He’s disputing a doctrinal claim of all Orthodox churches- rigid, dead and lively alike.

  21. Josh said

    Rems,

    Everyone still carries around some old covenant distinctions. It cracks me up that you go after Orthodoxy and Catholicism for doing the same. Can women distribute the Lord’s Supper at AA? Do you have women reading the Scriptures to the congregation? Can some men teach in your congregation whereas others cant? Of course, and we both know this isn’t because you believe there are “grades” of Christian experience. You have your version of “decently and with order,” as do the Anglicans, as do the Catholics, as do the Orthodox.

    Also, “Cult of Experience” is an adorable euphemism for “not-gnostic worship.” Tell me, is Biblical Horizon’s available as a powdered formula or is there a secret nipple on the last page of “The Liturgy Trap” you can suck it from straight?

    As to what I’m complaining about, it’s more or less the same thing you’re complaining about: you think you’re right and I think I’m right. You think I’m wrong and I think you’re wrong. You think you’re really clever and even-handed and I think the same of myself. Wake up, dude, it’s the same crap you and I always complain to each other about. You and I keep writing this book together and it’s called “What We Complain About When We Complain About Religion,” but it’s not profound, it’s just a bunch of stupid pictures we try to take of each other.

    In the end, let me ask you this, what do you want me, Joshua Gibbs, to do that I’m not doing in my life?

  22. Josh:

    You’re confusing me. Always post as joshgibbs so I know you’re not Josh Melton.

    Remy:

    Paragraph 1,2: There was the exact same division in the Old Covenant as in the New. In the Old, they called Jew/Gentile, in the new, Christian/nonChristian. Whereas before there were the circumcised and the uncircumcised, now there are the baptized and unbaptized. And everyone, yourself included, makes the very Old Covenant division between baptized and unbaptized. You wouldn’t allow a Muslim to the table any more than an Orthodox would.

    And no one, Orthodox and Catholics included, makes the OC distinction between male/female, Jew/Greek, slave/free, etc.

    There is the distinction between schismatic not schismatic, but that brings us to the later questions.

    Paragraph 3: Not true? You mean a good Catholic, Rosary in hand would be admitted to membership, or would be admitted to the table? Yes, I know you’d admit him to the table, but I doubt you’d admit him to membership. I asked Pr. Sumpter about this issue, and he said that no, such a person probably wouldn’t be allowed to become members of Trinity, at least not without abandoning his hagiolatry and iconolatry. And anyway, at Christ Church they recite Heidelburg in worship. I feel uncomfortable there because I so often disagree with Heidelburg. A Lutheran couldn’t even be a member of Christ Church–at least not without being commanded liturgically to become Reformed–let alone a Catholic or Orthodox. Let alone: “Question 80. What difference is there between the Lord’s supper and the popish mass?” You think Josh or his priest would feel comfortable when they come to question 98? First remove the plank from your own eye.

    Paragraph 3, B: Unless this is “If they come to my position, I’ll accept them” you evidently cannot even speak for Pr. Wilson and your own denomination, let alone the rest of Protestantism. You think the people who kicked your dad out of the PCA would be happy with Catholics and Orthodox?

    And anyway, you aren’t just starting with Christ. You are starting with the very Protestant, and not at all Orthodox or Catholic position, that Bishops are nothing. Which is to say, you, like some in ancient Corinth, make your sect the sect of Christ.

  23. Remy said

    Stephen:
    I think the humor in that sort of thing indicates that we all know that sort of view of Jesus isn’t right. It’s perfect, I’d love a little statue for my office.

    Josh:
    Let me be clear, when I said “knocking the dust off their liturgy” I was speaking about their liturgy, not saying it is a dead church. My point is they don’t want to change the liturgy. As far as I know they make Rome look like freewheeling Baptists, liturgically speaking. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps you Oriental Separatists change your liturgy all the time.

    As for your claim about the liturgical roles of women, I have a post scheduled that addresses that.

    As for my “adorable euphemism” I’m merely pointing out the advantage of being blown about by every wind of doctrine is that you get to see the world, experience great things, until you get lodged somewhere and sigh “ah rest, ah home”.

    Matt:
    Too simple. There was Israel, there was the Godfearers, and there was the rest of the world.

    Besides my argument is not that if you can find any element of the old covenant in Christianity it isn’t Christianity. Same God, lots of same things. What I’m pointing to is those things from the old covenant that have been thrown out. Believer/Unbeliever hasn’t been thrown out. A division between Jews and Godfearers has been thrown out.

    As for the good Romanist, I don’t believe a good Romanist would want to join our church and if he or she did I couldn’t believe that they would be a good Romanist. But if a bad Romanist, rosary in hand, wanted to join our church they would be welcome. Members of the church don’t have to subscribe to the WCF or Heidelburg, the BCO or Robert’s Rules. To join you have to vow to serve the mission of the church, which would preclude them from sedition, spreading discontent, undermining and a Romanist that holds to Iconophilia and some of the Marion theology would probably not be allowed to teach them in Sunday School, but assuming that a Romanist would want to worship in a Reformed church and uphold their vows they are welcome to join.

    As for the people who drove dad from the PCA, no they would not be happy. They’re as bad as Rome and Constantinians.

  24. Remy,

    Regarding Rome’s liturgy: Your church probably has an old dusty liturgy compared with what the Roman Catholic Churches have. Melton’s experience of the recessional being America the Beautiful sounds about the norm.

    Regarding my point: But it isn’t a distinction between Christian and Godfearer, such a distinction would be between baptized and unbaptized. Were there a collection of unbaptized kinda Christians in the Roman and Orthodox communities, you’d be quite correct. But there isn’t. The distinction they make is among the baptized. This perhaps makes it much worse, but it surely makes it different, and Bishops may be part of the esse of the Church. At least some of the early fathers thought they were. And so “what the hell do we do with Christians who aren’t under the Bishop?” is a legitimate question that Orthodox and Catholics really don’t have the conceptual ability to work with yet. So simply throwing open the gates would be premature–they think that the Bishop is somehow necessary for the Church, and hence for Christ.

    The example of the Rosary carrying Catholic would be more reasonable if, say a Coptic Orthodox family moved to Monroe, and after looking at the options decided the best church for them was AA. So they approached your dad, asking if they could join AA, while remaining Coptic in practice. When I asked Pr. Sumpter about this scenario, he said that they might be offered oversight, but not allowed to become members, and that at the very least it would be a difficult question for the elders.

    I agree that what the PCA did to your father was despicable. My point was simply that Protestants are just as bad. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. You personally may be without sin, but your church, your folk aren’t. Even Christ Church excludes people like me.

  25. Also, we do confess the wrong Creed. Which is a considerable point on the Orthodox side.

  26. Remy said

    I don’t have any problem with the old forms, lots of great stuff there. My knock is they don’t change at all. You know, Semper Reformanda jazz.

    They don’t need “conceptual ability” they have Christ Jesus breathing down their neck, they have St. Peter being rebuked for not eating with the brethren, they have the entire new creation screaming in their face.

    And your point happens to be my point as well. Protestants that do the same thing that the Romanist and Constantians do are wrong. The should repent and discern the body of Christ Jesus.

    I think by “wrong creed” you mean that we add the “filioque”. Which is exactly the sort of blueprint hyperventilating and phylactery histrionics that I despise.

  27. Josh said

    Remy-

    So you claim Orthodox liturgy is one way, despite your inexperience with actual Orthodox churches. You’ve read about it on the internet. Then I argue that the Orthodox church I go to is different than the manner you describe, and then I’m engaged in the “Cult of Experience.” Nice.

    In my frustration with you, I have nothing worse to condemn you to than what you claim you so desperately want. Honestly, you’re welcomed to the Protestant church. I won’t try to keep you back. I won’t argue against your claims against the Orthodox church anymore.

    Later.

  28. Remy said

    I still don’t get your frustration. Are you telling me that the church you go to doesn’t practice the ancient forms? Or that they do practice the ancient forms but are open to changing them as their understanding of Scriptures deepens?

    This isn’t a your church/my church thing. My complaints don’t end up with “and therefore you should all become members of AAPC”. My complaints are, if the church is the body of Christ why isn’t the body of Christ welcome in the church?

  29. I actually wasn’t criticizing your church for being liturgical or saying your were being inconsistent or anything like that. It’s just that the Roman Catholic Churches are not liturgical. There is an order that they follow, usually, but a Novus Ordo Mass probably looks more like the charismatic church down the road from AA than AA.

  30. Matt Yonke said

    Remy,

    Though this thread may have fizzled by now, I’ll try anyway.

    Is it possible for a baptized Christian to be barred from communion for holding to false doctrine?

  31. Remy said

    It depends on the doctrine, but yes, yes you can.

    Of course a sweeping, reckless, anathema is irresponsible, schismatic, and ultimately an affront to Christ the Lord.

    I’m not saying that Luther was sinless during the ordeal, but when even Roman scholars admit that Luther’s initial complaint was right, that his situation was dealt with poorly, and that the Pope at the time was a wicked man it’s hard to have any sort of respect for the position of Rome.

    The idea that excommunication doesn’t have to be personal should be troubling to everyone in the kingdom. Sin happens, we needn’t carry on any grudges, but to forge on with a general fog of excommunication spewing in the face of Christ is just dumb.

    But yes, excommunication is a real charge that the church has, but its use is to remove those who reject Jesus from the body of Jesus, not to remove people still in Jesus from the table of Jesus over petty squabbles. Excommunication is a scalpel, not an A-bomb.

  32. Remy,

    Referring to the Body of Christ as if it can exist outside of the teachings of Christ is quite a claim.

    If Jesus passed down a set of teachings and a group of people choose to summarily reject a handful of them but still claim to be acting as the Body of Christ, I’m just not sure what to tell them.

    You seem to think that some of the beliefs the Church teaches and requires fidelity to can be dropped without harming the Church’s identity as the Body of Christ.

    Put another way, loving Christ and loving His teachings are one and the same. When Jesus talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, a bunch of people bailed because they didn’t like that doctrine, what with it being hard to believe and all.

    If they went around saying “We still love Jesus, so we’re still the Church” how could they be correct? Haven’t they just broken away from Jesus and His teaching? “Yeah, we really love Jesus, we just can’t put up with all that nonsense he says.”

  33. Matt,

    I’m not sure that’s the tack you want to take. As far as I understand it, whether Protestants are heretics is really a red-herring. From a Catholic perspective, the Episcopacy is an essential part of the Church. To leave the Bishop is to leave the Church. Thus a Protestant isn’t part of the Church, or at least has imperfect communion with the Church. The Protestant needs to enter into full communion with his Bishop, not to renounce heresies. (Though he may of course also need to renounce heresies, as for instance a Oneness Pentecostal would.)

    Remy,

    I am a little confused by your dislike of doctrinal anathemas. Would you allow a unity Pentecostal–that is someone who denies the Nicene Creed–into membership at AA, if before becoming a unity Pentecostal he had been baptized in the Triune name?

  34. Remy said

    Whoa there, buddy. You’re sounding awfully Protestant acting as the true theology is what saves. Jesus saves, not theology. Rome backs me up on that one.

    Rome certainly believes that the Oriental Separatists can reject a handful of beliefs the Roman church teaches and still be the church. Rome also believes that the Protestant church is in Christ. If you would like to depart from the teaching of Rome I don’t know what to tell you.

    So since Rome admits that Protestants are in Christ for them to reject the clear teaching of Jesus harms the body.

    Put another way, loving Christ and loving His body is one and the same. When Jesus talked about feeding His sheep and discerning His body, a bunch of people bailed because they liked their own doctrine more.

    So Rome goes around saying “Only we believe in the true blueprints of the theology of Jesus Christ, so we’re the true church and everyone else is a secondclass Christian” breaking away from the teaching of Jesus and our merciful Lord and Savior. They say “Yeah, we really love Jesus, we just can’t put up with all that riffraff.”

  35. Remy said

    You guys are so big on these desert isle scenarios:

    “What if someone was part cyborg and had been programmed to be a monophysite lesbian goat-loving Muslim AND he also wants to join your church (and also you’re in charge of deciding if he can come in) would you let him in?”

    I’m going to say that if such a person wanted to join our church, then the likelihood that he wants to remain whatever awful crazy heretical thing you want to assign this hypothetical person is probably low. But if he wants to join and also wants to hold on to his awful heretical thing then immediately upon accepting his membership we would excommunicate him.

  36. But Remy,

    I really need to know who can’t be saved.

  37. Remy,

    You said “Of course a sweeping, reckless, anathema is irresponsible, schismatic, and ultimately an affront to Christ the Lord…The idea that excommunication doesn’t have to be personal should be troubling to everyone in the kingdom. Sin happens, we needn’t carry on any grudges, but to forge on with a general fog of excommunication spewing in the face of Christ is just dumb.”

    But Nicea, in 325, said: “And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (ἤν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.” That’s a sweeping anathema. Nicea made impersonal excommunications.

    And you and your church accept that anathema, as evidenced by the fact you wouldn’t accept a member who says there was a time when the Son of God was not. You can object to the particular anathemas at the time of the Reformation, but Trent the anathemas of Trent are the same sort of thing as the anathemas of Nicea–general, sweeping, anathemas that your church accepts.

    So, yes, it’s a silly example. But it’s a good example because the very fact that it’s silly proves that you have accepted the anathemas. So fully that you cannot even conceive of not accepting them.

  38. Steven,

    They were both legitimate questions. If Remy wants to maintain that he wishes there weren’t divisions in the body, then he has to say that he would welcome a local Church that is made of sacrament denying, Creed hating Anabaptists and Federal Vision Reformed, and TR’s and Catholic Lutherans and Mary Worshiping Catholics and Icon Worshiping, filioque denying Orthodox. Otherwise he’s just making empty statements.

    And an objection to sweeping anathemas is just silly. Nicea made them, and he accepts those anathemas. He objects (rightly so) to the particular anathemas of Trent, but he really has no ground to stand on if he wishes to reject sweeping doctrinal anathemas. Or at the very least, he has to consistently say that he doesn’t accept them–any of them, including the ones attached to the Nicene Creed.

  39. More to the point (for the first paragraph) he has to maintain that he would welcome all those people into his church. Otherwise he’s making empty boasts: His church declares itself Reformed, and thus non-Reformed (or at least distinctly non-Reformed) self-select away. So yeah, whether they’d accept someone who prays the Rosary is a ridiculous question, but it’s only ridiculous because they have excluded people from membership by making them self-select away.

    And moreover, his attack on the Catholic and Orthodox is thus an empty attack. To the attack “You are upfront about who you exclude.” The answer is: “You exclude too, you just aren’t honest about it.”

  40. Matt Yonke said

    Remy,

    If I believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Our Lord in all its physical and spiritual reality, if I believe that the Sacrifice of Calvary is made physically present in the Sacrifice of the Mass, why would I want to come to your table, with its indefinable spiritual connection to Christ if and only if I actually believe?

    Why, in like manner, would you want to come to my superstitious altar, where we perform a sacrifice that you believe isn’t actually happening?

    Why, with Luther, would you not abhor our superstition, rather than grasping after it?

    This all goes back to the reformation, where the parties leaving the Church set up their own table that they manifestly declared what not the Sacrifice of the Romanists. They are the ones who felt it necessary to abstain from the table set for them by the Church and set up their own supper that meant something different.

    Rome never separated levels of Christians, it merely maintained what has been taught since the Apostles, that the Eucharist is the Sacrifice of Calvary. The reformers were welcome to come to the table at their local parish, but they declined. They felt the Eucharist meant something different entirely and, rightly, sought to separate themselves from Rome’s altogether different supper.

    The reunion we all desire will not be achieved by holding hands and singing Kumbayah over crackers and wine. Reunion can only be achieved by analyzing our respective Eucharistic theologies and figuring out which one Jesus taught. Just ask your buddy Martin.

  41. For the Reformed (and myself) this actually has to do with the definition of the church and the doctrine of justification by faith. Traditionally the Reformation churches do not declare anathemas. They have boundaries for order’s sake (and this always in the realm of the visible church), with doctrinal excommunications being quite rare, perhaps non-existant. The supposed heretic would simply be asked not to teach or disrupt, but he could theoretically remain a member. There’s quite a conversation to be had on this point, but in the end it does boil down to sola fide.

  42. Steven,

    I don’t know that that’s quite accurate. It may be true that Calvinist churches would have allowed anyone to be a member, I don’t know, but it isn’t true about Reformation churches in general. Did the Lutherans not consider the other Protestants not really churches because they denied the Real Presence?

    And anyway, what do you do with the Nicene anathemas?

  43. Remy said

    Petersen:
    I don’t accept the anathemas. Once again for the benefit of your point you assume things about my position and when necessary put words in my mouth. As I have asked you many times, please do not do this. Please save the coda for when I have said all the things that you can trump with your coup de grace.

    Although it is true that I would not accept anyone from 325. So you got me on that one. But I would not accept them because they are dirt.

    I’m not even sure you read my response. Please do better.

    Yonke:
    I have written on Real Presence on this site, but I’ll restate. I believe in Real Presence. I don’t believe in the blueprints of Rome, but I believe that we really truly physically receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

    Why should you come or why would I come? Because it is not your table or my table, but because it is Jesus’s table. Understanding has nothing to do with reception. If that were true we’d all be lost because it is a mystery. Faith in Jesus is what matters.

    What happens if you find out that the priest who has served you communion all your life turns out to be an atheistic fraud? Does that mean you haven’t been receiving Christ? Of course not. The table doesn’t belong to that guy, it belongs to Jesus.

    Your historical understanding is still too thin. Luther was happy to remain Roman Catholic. The problems started when that wicked pope (as even Roman scholars admit) decided to assassinate Luther for disrupting his cash-cow.

    I would happily commune at a Roman church, not because I agree with everything taught there, but because we have unity in Christ (something Rome has acknowledged). The only way to achieve full unity is through Christ. To act like we can resolve this by keeping Jesus out of the loop is absurd. We have unity in Christ, we eat with Him at His table, this binds us together, renews our bonds of fellowship, so that we can pursue these bonds in every other thing.

  44. Remy said

    Petersen:
    What’s wrong with ignoring the anathemas? Sure they are the church fathers, but nobody believes everything the church fathers said or did. Nobody.

    This is the early church, the baby church, we don’t need to act like they knew it all or had everything correct. Once again, nobody believes that. Nobody.

    We respect them, honor them, learn all that we can from them, but in the end we toss out the weak, immature, weirdo things they believed and taught.

    They were a violent people back then. They were rash. They treated anathemas like confetti at a parade. It doesn’t mean we have to honor them, uphold them or treat them as irrevocable.

    The way we think of excommunication is wrong. We think of it as justice when we should think of it as mercy. To personally minister to someone in the form of excommunication is good for the soul of that person. It is, or it should be, a benefit. But blanket excommunication (which is technically not possible) or general anathemas are merely sacred handwashings, irresponsible justice-mongering that only serve as a defense of sectarianism.

  45. Remy,

    My response acted as though your response was “Well that’s a ridiculous question. It really doesn’t make sense.” You did begin your response with a claim that it was a silly question. So I took it that you at least implicitly accept the Nicene Anathemas.

    But I really don’t see how you can claim to not accept blanket anathemas.Say you guys organized a debate between Pr. Wilson, and an atheist, and the atheist said “Though my parents weren’t Christian, they did have me baptized just to be safe, and I would be interested in getting to know the Church better. So could I not merely attend, but likewise participate? Or, if you object to the self-identification as an atheist, would someone who was baptized as an infant, but not raised in Church, who then became a Mormon as an adult, be welcome at your table? He has been baptized. And he thinks he’s a Christian.

    So maybe you set the bar lower than Nicea. But it seems you still set it somewhere.

    The reason Nicea seems to be a problem for you is that you are thus forced to say that an Ecumenical Council was sectarian. I agree anathemas against part of the Church are sectarian. But the problem isn’t with the anathema, but with who is anathematized. Trent wasn’t ecumenical, so its anathemas are sectarian. Nicea was, so its weren’t. They may have been misguided (though it doesn’t make much sense to me to say the Creed defines orthodoxy, but the council was so screwed up it can just be dismissed) but they weren’t sectarian. And if they were misguided, they should be respected.

  46. Let me say this:

    I asked the question I did because I don’t think in “theoretical anathemas.” My mind went to Nicea, “Would you accept the Nicene anathemas. Do you hold that a Christian must hold the Nicene Creed.” But I think more concretely. So I asked “would you accept someone who wasn’t Nicene.” The answer I got wasn’t “Yes, they’ve been baptized.” But “That’s a silly question. We have implicitly rejected them by having a self-selecting clientele. But if, per impossible, someone like that were to apply, we’d reject them by telling them that we would accept them only to reject them.”

    By the way, merely saying “I don’t accept the Nicene anathemas” isn’t enough. You need to do you rejection of the anathemas. If someone asks “so do you respect them, would you fellowship with someone who doesn’t believe the Creed” you should reply “no, I’d love to fellowship with people from a church that baptized in the Triune name, but still said there was a time when the Son was not.” Otherwise you are ex facto accepting the anathemas.

    I suppose you can plead that you said “we’d accept him so we could excommunicate him.” But such a response only makes sense if you are saying “that’s such a far-fetched question it doesn’t get a serious response–can you imagine bringing someone into membership and then at that same time excommunicating him?” Which means you ex facto respect the Nicene anathemas.

    Also, I didn’t mean my comment as a coda, but as a defense from the ridiculous claim that I want to know for sure who can be saved. It seemed there was legitimate confusion over why I was asking, so I tried to clear it up.

  47. Remy said

    I don’t really see how you can claim to accept blanket anathemas. How can you anathematize hypotheticals and abstractions? In the modus ponens of anathemas eternal truth trees of condemnation rain down upon these nefarious “if any ones”?

    If an Incestuous Anabaptistic Racist Docetists shows up one Sunday and wants to partake of the Supper because he once threw a pinecone in a fire and was dunked three times in the pond in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit we wouldn’t accept him (assuming he wants to maintain the incest, racism, and Docetism -we’d probably let the anabaptistic slide). But it wouldn’t be because of the anathemas from Chalcedon.

    Now lets say this guy sits in the congregation and takes the bread and wine secretly. This is bad news for him because his assumption is that man fences the table, but we don’t. God fences His table and it is a dangerous thing to come to His table clinging to sin.

    We live in lax times in which many people who should be excommunicated are not. This is a problem for them, not for us. It is bad for them to be walking blithely in the world united to Christ, and it would be far better for them to be ministered to in excommunication. The world is desperate for this. I heard in England they had debaptisms, places where you could go to get a certificate of unbaptism. Once again, if the church doesn’t do her job, someone will come along a do it for her.

    Perhaps we need to offer this publically to the world. In this setting we could tell them all that Jesus has done for them, tell them what they are required to do, tell them what a rejection of this means and then, once they’ve passed their anti-chism class, excommunicate them.

  48. Remy,

    The issue of whether we should forcefully withhold communion from people who ought not receive is a different question.

    Leaving aside the issue of racism and incest, would you accept a Docetist? Ok, so you wouldn’t reject on the basis of the Church. On what authority do you do it then?

    And since heresies become clear through history, would you have, before Nicea, welcomed an Arian (assuming for the sake of argument that you would now)? If you then would not, you seem to be making the claim that either the only heresies that matter are the ancient ones, modern ones are just intramural squabbles, or ahistorically forgetting that orthodoxy was as cunfused then as it is now.

    But if you would then welcome the Arian, but not now, you are acknowledging that you now have the authority that you then did not. But if you now have that authority, it must have come from somewhere. I don’t see how you could say that that authority is not from the Church. But if it is from the Church, it seems it is likewise from the Council (and perhaps also the later ones which verified Nicea) since the Council was the authority that decided for the Church.

    Perhaps the Council only gave you the authority “you may excommunicate Arians” but even then I’m not sure it’s different from the Catholic position. Were a Catholic Bishop to allow you to come to communion, he would be going against the authority of the Church, but he would be within his rights as a Bishop. The Vatican may send him a Mister Yuck sticker, but probably nothing else would happen.

  49. Remy said

    We’re missing each other again.

    I would certainly point to Nicea as a witness to what the Scriptures teach of Christ. What I’m saying is that we would excommunicate because of beliefs, not because we realize he has the Heretic card in his wallet and has already been anathematized.

    Just that. That’s all. Excommunication is for people not movements.

  50. So then you would say that you have the authority to excommunicate an Arian for his beliefs because Nicea has decided that Arinism is a denial of Scripture? Or perhaps stronger, that because of Nicea you not only have the ability to excommunicate the Arian, but the duty too? (Or something along those lines?)

    But I’m not sure that that’s terribly distinct from the Catholic perspective. The Tridentine anathemas don’t actually do anything till the individual Bishop excommunicates someone. Trent instructs the Bishop so to excommunicate someone, but it is the Bishop who actually does so.

    Or perhaps the difference is in the government. It is true that at Trent the Catholic Bishops excommunicated the Lutherans and the Calvinists etc. But even that doesn’t seem terribly distinct from what Protestants would do. The CREC is organized so this example doesn’t work there, but say a PCA pastor were to become an Arian, but remain a pastor. Wouldn’t the denomination have the authority to excommunicate him, and everyone in his church that remains with him? Or if that is against the PCA BCO, isn’t the excommunication of the pastor (or pastors) and the flock that does not leave him sensible–that way the denomination doesn’t have to go through and try each of the thousands of individuals for the same thing?

  51. Remy said

    I agree, that isn’t distinct from the Roman position. I’m sure glad I never said that.

    I would say that his beliefs go against Scripture in a way the church has recognized is harmful to his soul.

    The revealed word of God is the standard.

    I wouldn’t know what the BCO says on the situation described. I know they could defrock him, I assume they could excommunicate him, but I don’t know what the standing of those who remain in his flock would be.

  52. But then wouldn’t Matt’s point about heresy be a point that you dispute at the level of objecting to whether you are a heretic, not of objecting to the practice of closing communion from heretics? Perhaps there are other options, but it seems reasonable for a pastor and those who remain faithful to him to be excommunicated, and if so, those baptized in that schismatic church would need to come into communion with the Church before they could receive communion. (Assuming because it just complicates things, that there aren’t denominations any more.)

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