Why Lutheran?

From the good folks at Living Faith Church, Cape Coral, FL and Pastor Patrick Thurmer.

This page is a collection of thoughts to answer the question… “Why Lutheran?”
If you have some helpful answers to this question, please email them to us at
livingfaithchurch@gmail.com

 

  • Lutherans know that God comes down the ladder. We are not able to climb up any ladder of righteousness or spirituality or piety or goodness to reach God and attain some status of holiness or purity. We are not able to climb up some ladder to achieve happiness, fulfillment, contentment. Though we constantly struggle to get up the ladder, to get above others, the ladders we climb just lead us further and further from God and true community. Rather, God comes down the ladder to us, blesses us, graces us, loves us. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing. That’s just the nature of God.
  • Lutherans know that God dwells where we least expect God to dwell. We know that God is most clearly seen in odd, out-of-the-way places such as the suffering on the cross, or the shame of the animal stable, or among the outcasts. Or with people who can’t climb a ladder to save themselves. When we humans draw lines dividing us from them, good from bad, righteous from unrighteous, God is on the other side of the line. And the Cross forces us to the other side of the line, the other side of the train tracks, the other side of life, to look at and experience God’s presence amidst suffering and brokenness.
  • Lutherans take sin seriously. In our liturgy many of our churches proclaim, “We confess that we are in bondage to sin, and we cannot free ourselves.” Lutherans admit that on our own we cannot escape the power of sin. We do not have a free will – our will and our whole being is bound to sin. Lutherans are, frankly, quite pessimistic about human nature. (cont.)
  • Read the rest of ‘Why Lutheran’ http://www.livingfaithcapecoral.com/WhyLutheran.html

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 (I’m fully aware that the recent ELCA vote on Human Sexuality throws a monkey wrench into this for many. But let’s try and keep the revisionists within the ELCA and elsewhere in Lutheranism out of this discussion of traditional Lutheran theology. Living Faith Church is affiliated with the Luthren Brethren denomination.)

 

For Lutherans– Is there anything that you think ought be added, or taken out?

For Non-Lutherans– Is there anything that needs further clarification, or that you think is theologically unfounded?

 

 

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7 Responses

  1. Steve,

    Thanks for the post… and I do welcome additions that further express the richness of our Lutheran heritage.

    Pat

  2. That’s really well said. Lutherans understand suffering. They allow for it, expect it, acknowledge it, and put it in the shadow of the cross.

  3. A nice summation, which holds many nuggets from the rich seam of His amazing grace which, hopefully, we learn to mine regularly as we grow. How’s that from an ‘honorary’ Lutheran 🙂

  4. According to this post, I am Lutheran! Do i get a card or something? or do I now owe somebody money?
    In all seriousness, I wish some of the big box churches would learn from the Lutheran heart. It isn’t just a big social club folks.

  5. willo… yes… please send money 🙂

  6. To be “Lutheran”, I think, is a matter of emphasis.

    That emphasis is on…Christ and His work for us.

    “Well, all Christians do that.” We would hope so, but since the law is written upon our hearts it is so easy to place the emphasis upon ourselves, and what ‘we do’.

    This is why we place so much emphasis on the Sacraments. Not that we ‘do’ the Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) but that He does them.

    Are we Lutherans the only ones who know the truth? No. We are most assuredly not. But we do believe that we know it.

    The way things are going in my denomination (ELCA), I’m thinking that becomeing an ‘honorary Lutheran’ may actually preferable to the real thing!

    Thanks, all!

    – Steve

  7. Steve,

    I’ve been reading a book, just started, that really peels this apart, it’s called “Law and Gospel – Foundation of Lutheran Ministry”, by Robert Koester. The book basically compares the spirit of Lutheran ministry with the spirit of the evangelical/reformed. He makes the point that even though many things sound alike a different and other spirit is operating in the later. It’s a nice well thought out and short treatment, but packed.

    The issue is not the language in and of itself per se, but the spirit and center of gravity between Lutheran versus Evangelical/Reformed thought. Because the language can sound the same but the order, gravity, driving principle and center is different forming differing spirits and differing religions.

    The basic principle is that objective justification is the basis and permeating reality of all of Luther’s thought unlike Calvin of whom it was just one doctrine among others, important to be sure but not the pervading and “saturating” reality of all things. He goes through many things to show this. For example objective justification itself is a done for the whole world as an utter fact, already. Where the difference between Luther and Calvin in this is shown for example in Calvin emphasizes, some would say confusion is our union with Christ in consideration with justification. E.g. Calvin would say and did in his Institutes that ‘justification comes as a result of being united with Christ’. However, Luther would say that we become united with Christ by faith in his justifying us’. Entirely different! You hear this in some evangelical/reformed sermons, as I did multiple times, “no good works no justification”. The point Luther is making is that justification has utterly and entirely already occurred, the work is done by Christ already, the gifts need distribution.

    Koester points out that, “For Luther, justification began as an objective fact. In other words, the basis for his hope was not that Christ justified Martin Luther by faith, but that God justified the entire world before anyone actually received the benefit of Christ’s work by faith. We see this in Luther’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer fifth petition (very eye opening – this is just how faith creating and powerful the Lord’s Prayer is though said very infrequently among Christians, “This is why there is great need here again to pray and cry: Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses. Not that He does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; for He HAS GIVEN us the gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, EVEN BEFORE we prayed for it or ever thought about it. What we are concerned about in this petition is that WE MAY RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT THIS FORGIVENESS.”

    Even when Luther uses the term Christ “in us” he does not use it as Calvin and all others use it, he means Christ “for us”, and that is how He is “in use”. This is another example of why some can read Luther or Calvin and think, “Hey they say the same things”, but they don’t. When Luther said “in Christ” he had something entirely different than that of Calvin. To miss this point and many likewise word and expressions is to miss the critical difference between the religion of Luther versus the religion of Calvin.

    Another example of this is how it plays out in the sacraments as a means of grace. The problem most who come from my background (Baptist and Reformed) have with the term “means of grace” is that we often have some old baggage with us (I did) that is a form of understanding grace as Rome did, “infused grace”. Evangelical/Reformed, don’t call it officially “infused grace” less it be identified directly with Rome, but it is in essence in principle that very thing (a rose is a rose by any other name), its that immediate operation of the spirit on the soul, that’s the protestant version of the infused grace of Rome. Actually the history is such that it is nothing less than a carry over from Rome as Bucer and Calvin came from Roman churches. It manifests itself in that “power” that Evangelical/Reformed would apply to some form of conversion and now able to “do the law and good works” per se (post so called “rebirth” in protestant circles). Grace is that “power” to do the moral thing and the law. Yet Rome called the sacraments “means of grace” meaning that they give you the infused grace, that force or power, to believe, do, etc… Other protestants rejected the “sacrament” part as imparting this and placed it in the immediate spiritual operation upon the soul/heart to give this power. They simply removed the sacraments but retained the “infused grace” to a more naked unmediated form. Thus, sans the sacraments, infused grace in evangelical/reformed thought is given in order to even “believe”. The only difference here with Rome is the sacraments, in Rome they infuse this explicitly named infused grace, and in Calvin, et. ali. this not named but still the same “bird” infused grace is given nakedly by the “spirit” without the sacraments.

    For Luther, however, and here is the BIG difference, grace is that utter objective before all things reality and disposition of God toward the sinner, not a force. So when Luther spoke of “means of grace” he was not interested in the reforming of the sinner but rather ‘the assurance that God has forgiven me”. Not a “power” given through the sacraments (Rome) nor nakedly (other protestants), but that the sacraments actually give and deliver the Gospel point blank. To reject the sacraments is to reject the Gospel.

    Koester even goes into some analysis of recorded conversions. Without detail on one side he expresses those like Wesley and others who were of some form in which their main problem, so they thought, was their bondage to sin and they needed this “power to break free from it” to become “holy and righteous”. Calvin has this emphasis too. On the other side he shows Luther’s and Bunyan’s conversion in which they really were not concerning themselves with their “sin” as in needing “power to over come it” or even bondage to it, but wanted to know that God INDEED had forgiven them of their sin period end of story!

    Again, for Luther the purpose and goal of justification was the forgiveness of sin, for Calvin, et. ali. the purpose and goal of justification was an entrance point for perfection in holiness. This really comes out in Wesley and the Puritans, not to mention much of the church growth movement today.

    Again, Koester goes to show how this plays out in the two’s concept of the kingdom of God. For Luther the Kingdom is nothing less than the forgiveness of sin. This is why the Gospels open with the saying, “the Good News of the Kingdom” and why men cannot normally see it being blinded by their concept of “God” and Kingdom being more or less law and morality. Luther makes this clear in many places. For e.g. in his commentaries on Genesis discussing Abraham’s home, “Consequently the Word of God is continually heard there, and Abraham’s home is nothing else than a kingdom of forgiveness of sins and of grace, yes, a very heaven in which dwell the angels of God, whom he receives reverently. In short, in Abraham’s home there is nothing but grace and life.”

    Again it shows up with Calvin, Arminian and Roman thought on one side and Lutheran on the other concerning election in which both Calvin and Arminian thought reject the paradox that is required of faith by fallen sinful human reason. Arminians attempting to resolve the tension by putting ability in man to believe and Calvin attempts to do so in speaking that God only elects some. Koester writes, “In addition to rejecting our own powers in coming to faith, we believe that if a person rejects God’s grace, the fault lies completely with that person and not with God. Lutherans also reject the error of Calvin who limited the scope of God’s salvation. Indeed God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).” Koester continues, “These BELIEFS (emphasis mine) create a paradox. They cannot both be embraced simultaneously by sinful human logic. According to our logic, there has to be a difference either in (1) how people use their power of “free choice” or (2) how God deals with people. But faith accepts both “conflicting” truths of salvation by grace alone, and God’s intent that all be saved (in the face of the fact that all are not)…Lutherans have realized from Scripture that the teaching of “by grace alone” must stand secure or Christianity will fall. If the door is left open to our efforts or works (on one hand – ldh), we are back under the dominion of the law. The paradox, which is part of the teaching of grace, must remain intact also. To doubt God’s will for me (on the other hand – ldh), or to rely on my own strength to contribute to my faith, will ultimately led me away from God.” Koester asks, “Why do Calvinists and particularly Arminians (and for that matter, Roman Catholics) reject the paradox? Is it because they cannot understand that words of Scripture? Is it because they are less astute than Lutherans? The answer to both questions is no. The reason they reject Scripture’s emphasis on “by grace alone” is that their initial focus prior to their “conversion”, their conversion itself, and there subsequent Christian focus lead them away from grace and ultimately from the gospel. How and why does it do this? Simply put, whenever anyone shifts his focus of Christianity (the shift is from singular forgiveness of sins to moral development somewhere down the road – ldh), as the Evangelical/Reformed do, his “faith” is no longer a miracle the Holy Spirit works through the gospel. We must realize that there is in man a natural desire to want to keep the law. While most consider this desire to be an example of the innate goodness of man, or the “prevenient grace” of the Holy Spirit, the Bible tells us that in the true spiritual sense, no one yearns for the law or for the true spiritual sense, no one yearns for the law or for the true spiritual means of fulfilling it in their lives (Rom. 3:10,11; 8:6,7). What, then, is this yearning that so many experience? Lutherans have called this the opinion legis, or the natural (and sinful) desire of a person to gain something for himself by keeping the law, whether that happens to be heaven or God’s temporal blessings on earth. We hold that even the desire to be moral is a sin-unless that morality is fostered by a love for the Lord. But such love can only come when a person first knows that God has loved and forgiven him.”

    –End Quote, Koester

    Larry

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