27 January 2014

Sasse on What Constitutes the Church

A fabulous quote from Hermann Sasse on what constitutes the Church:
The essence of the church is defined in purely theological terms by our confessions, and never anthropologically or sociologically. The church proceeds from God and not from men. Distinct from all other confessions, Lutheranism knows of only two notae ecclesiae ["marks of the church"]: the Word of God and the Sacrament. Where the Gospel is clearly and purely preached and the Sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ, there is the church, there the church will be. The church is not constituted by any human qualities (not our faith or the holiness of our lives) nor by any sociological state of affairs (a particluar form of structuring the relationship of congregation and office of the ministry). The church is constituted only by the real presence of Jesus Christ the Lord, who in his Gospel and in the Sacraments is really and personally present. And through these he builds his congregation on earth. Everything else--our faith, our love, the external appearance of the congregation, its worship, its caring associations [Bruderschaft], its configuration as a legal organization--is a consequence of this church-constituting presence of Christ. (Hermann Sasse, "The Lutheran Confessions and the Volk," in The Lonely Way: Selected Essays and Letters, Volume I (1927-1939), 128-129.)

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