Posts tagged ‘Council of Trent’

Weekend Extra – Seminary Training

My graduate alma mater is Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  In 2004, I walked away with a Master of Divinity.  The classes I took there and the lessons I learned there have proved invaluable to me over the course of my ministry.  They prepared me to make a solemn pledge of fidelity to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ.  And, by God’s Spirit, I intend to keep that pledge through my ministry and through my life.

Seminaries have a long and storied history in the annals of Christianity.  Tradition has it that Basil of Ancyra, who gathered around him a group of students to professionally train them in Holy Scripture, started the earliest known seminary.  The term “seminary” fell out of favor in the Middle Ages, but resurfaced at the Council of Trent, which mandated that a seminary be opened in every diocese:

The holy council decrees that all cathedral and metropolitan churches and churches greater than these shall be bound, each according to its means and the extent of its diocese, to provide for, to educate in religion, and to train in ecclesiastical discipline, a certain number of boys in their city and diocese, or, if they are not found there, of their province, in a college located near the said church or in some other suitable place chosen by the bishop. (Council of Trent, Twenty-Third Session, Ch. XVIII)

The council continues with stern rebukes of those dioceses which refuse to open or adequately maintain their seminaries.

Even though the advent of the modern seminary is generally attributed to the above declaration of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the notion of a seminary is as old as Christ Himself.

In Mark 6, Jesus encounters a mob of hungry people.  Although very few of us are confronted face to face with the tragedy of hunger because of our stations in life, hunger was widespread and commonplace in the ancient world and, indeed, is still widespread and commonplace in our world today.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 1.02 billion people suffer from hunger.  In Mark 6, 5,000 of these 1.2 billion are together in one place.

So what does Jesus do?  How does Jesus respond to such a pressing need?  He starts a seminary!  “Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties” (verses 39-40).  The Greek word for “groups” in verse 40 is prasia, meaning, “seed plot.”  Interestingly, this is also what our word “seminary” means.  It is from the Latin word seminarius, meaning a seed plot in which men are planted to grow in knowledge of God’s Word and to be trained to share that Word with others.  Thus, before Jesus feeds the masses with loaves and fish, He plants and prepares them in seminaries so that they may properly receive the blessings that He will soon give them.

By means of His Word, Jesus desires to give you a seminary education.  His desire is that you are planted in groups of Christians, being planted and prepared to receive the good gifts which He has prepared for you.  Time in worship, small groups, Bible study, and prayer are all seminary training!  And it is in these times that Jesus comes and feeds you – not just with loaves and fish, but with the sustenance of His Scripture.  And make no mistake about it, we sorely need this feeding from God’s Word.  For God’s Word gives us life.   As Moses reminds us, we do “not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3)!  May you join with other Christians this week to be trained in Christ’s seminary!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
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message or Pastor Goodwill’s ABC!

July 12, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

What’s Worship?

Worship is fundamental to the church’s life.  The other day, I came across a paragraph from Ben Witherington III in his book The Indellible Image, where he comments on 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Witherington’s comments on this passage iare helpful in illuminating what is of first importance in worship:

There is no basis in the New Testament for the idea that Christian[s] offer vicarious sacrifices for others or for the world, nor is there any reoffering of Christ to God…One has to import all sorts of Old Testament ideas into the New Testament practice to come up with what some have in “high church” practice.  This is a questionable hermeneutical leap at best.  Nor is the Lord’s Supper seen as a sacrifice; rather, it is like Passover.  It is a celebration of redemption, once for all accomplished by God in the past, whose benefit is appropriated in the present.  The main sacrifice that believers offer to God in worship or in particular in the Lord’s Supper is what Paul suggests in Romans 12:1:  themselves.  However, we must remember that even this offering in itself is not acceptable; as 1 Peter 2:5b suggests, it is acceptable only through Christ, who offered the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice. (356)

There are several aspects of Witherington’s statement worth noting.  First and foremost, biblical worship is primarily about God meeting His people with His gifts rather than people meeting God with their gifts.  The primary direction of worship is from God to man, not from man to God.  This important point is lost in many theologies of worship.  Indeed, Witherington’s opening statement about “reoffering Christ to God” is a reference to Roman Catholic theology, where the worship service, and especially the Eucharist, is conceived of as an event during which the priest reoffers Christ to God in an “unbloody sacrifice.”  The Council of Trent explains:

Forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. (Council of Trent, Twenty-Second Session, Ch. 2)

The Council of Trent could not be clearer.  Worship in Catholicism is believed to be a re-sacrifice of Christ by a priest, albeit in an “unbloody” manner, for the forgiveness of the worshipers’ sins.  This is a patently false view of worship.

Second, it is important to take to heart Withernington’s statement concerning the Lord’s Supper:  “It is a celebration of redemption, once for all accomplished by God in the past, whose benefit is appropriated in the present.”  In more traditional parlance, we would say that the Lord’s Supper is a “means of grace.”  The great Lutheran dogmatician Francis Pieper explains thusly: “[The means of grace are] the divine transmission of the grace which Christ has gained for all men [when] it joins immediately to the objective reconciliation or justification of sinful mankind” (Lutheran Dogmatics, vol. 3, 105).  In other words, the means of grace are the ways in which God’s grace gets “delivered” to His people.  The Lord’s Supper is certainly one of these ways as Christ comes to us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  Thus, rather than re-sacrificing Christ to God as Roman Catholic theology teaches, the Lutheran Church confesses that Christ is giving His already sacrificed and risen body to us!  Thus, once again, we see that worship is primarily about God meeting us and not about us meeting God.

Finally, it is important to note, along with Witherington, that worship does indeed involve our gifts to God.  But these gifts in no way merit our salvation or gain God’s favor.  Instead, they are only in grateful response to what God has already given us in worship:  His forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  Indeed, our gift of ourselves to God would be despicably sinful in His sight were it not for “Christ, who offered the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice.”  Christ’s sacrifice of salvation sanctifies our sacrifices to God in worship.

So, the next time you join us for worship, remember, you may have hopped in the car and driven a few miles to come to church, but God has crossed heaven to earth to meet you.  In worship, God is the One coming to you.  God is the One who desires to meet with you.  And God is the one who has His good gifts of grace for you.  And who wouldn’t want to receive those?

July 8, 2010 at 4:45 am 2 comments

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