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Orthodoxy (Not Eastern)

Most Lutheran pastors and parishes (LCMS) still place a high value on orthodoxy. But what is orthodoxy, and how is it determined?

For Lutherans orthodoxy is determined by doctrine. If Scriptural doctrine is rightly formulated, confessed, and taught then a church is orthodox. These of course are all good things, but there is a problem.

Orthodoxy means "right worship", but the Reformation changed the meaning to ortho-didascalia, right-teaching; and the sons of the Reformation have been handicapped ever since.

Lutheranism has always been understood by its pastors to be a strictly dogmatic enterprise; a move that forced right worship to the back of the bus. It is doubtful that the Reformation Fathers had such an end in mind, but that is the turn that the Reformation they started, took.

This being the case Lutherans have always found themselves defenseless when attacked at their weakest point. Worship.

For Lutherans worship is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. It is the vehicle for teaching dogma and strengthening faith. Those are legitimate benefits of worship but not its essence. The essence of the worship of God is (at the risk of stating the obvious) the worship of God! It is Holy Communion with God through Christ, always mediated by Scripture and Sacrament.

The question remains, then, what is orthodoxy? It is right worship. But what is right worship? It is the celebration of the Eucharist. Correct Eucharistic doctrine is vital lest any given celebration of the Eucharist fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) But true doctrine is not the end of the matter.

A Eucharistic rite that fully declares said doctrine at each celebration is also essential. That is one of the indispensible blessings of the canon, or Eucharistic Prayer of the mass. In it the truth of Jesus is confessed, preached, prayed and proclaimed to all creation in so many words.

Thus a Eucharist without said prayer, without such explicit declaration is wanting.
This is a problem for Lutherans. A problem because Luther denounced the canon of the mass so vociferously that his renunciation still echoes 500 years later in the theological voice of his progeny; and in the practice of Lutheran Eucharistic rites.

To be orthodox it is not enough to say that the true teaching of the Eucharist is rightly stated in our written confessions. Those are too distant from the ears of those who kneel at the rail each week. Without an express canon all things are an shaky ground. As orthodoxy is determined by the true Eucharist, so the true Eucharist is determined by a true canon.

But the missing canon is not the only issue. There are two great liturgies in the Christian religion: the eastern and western rites whose roots go back 2,000 years. They are right worship and cannot be safely ignored. The 5 orders of Divine Service in the Lutheran Service Book are “repaired” versions of the western rite. Of these 5, Divine Services I & II have opened the door to a return of the canon, and this is to be highly commended.

May Lutherans learn to take these matters seriously. May they study them, become conversant in them and take action to the end that Lutherans may be truly orthodox.

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