[In Case You Missed It...][6]

ACELC
Apologetics
Bible Study
Bo Giertz
Book Reviews
C.F.W. Walther
Current Events
Daniel Preus
Documentaries
Dog Days
Dr. John Kleinig
Eschatology
Evangelizing Evangelicals
Facebook Theology
False Teachers
Friedrich Carl Wyneken
Germans Like Latin
Herman Sasse
Holidays
Holy Sacraments
Luther's Commentaries
Lutheran Doctrine
Lutheran Podcasts
Lutherandom Musings
Lutheranism 101
Martin Chemnitz
Martin Luther
Matthew C. Harrison
Prayer Requests
Rock N Blogroll
Salomon Deyling
Sermons
Twitter Patter Five
What Luther Says
Zitat

We Don't Desire To Point The 'False Teacher Finger' At Anyone! We're Just 'Zealous For Lutheranism' Because 'Doctrine Is Heaven'

For the record, God's kingdom is much, much bigger than any one denomination and/or Synod.

When you get to heaven, God's not going to turn you away because you aren't a Lutheran.

That's because true believers in Jesus Christ can be found in Baptist churches, Catholic churches, ELCA churches, Evangelical churches, Methodist churches, Non-Denominational churches, Pentecostal churches, Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches, etc.

The Holy Scriptures are crystal clear on this fact and our Lutheran Confessions (as well as the many Confessional Lutheran writings of our church fathers) even emphasize and point us back to that truth.

At the same time, Scripture is also quite clear when it tells us that while only God knows a person's heart (a.k.a. whether they are a "true Christian" or not), we will know them by their belief, teaching, and confession (a.k.a. it's ok to judge a person by their confession).

In addition, Scripture is unwavering when it warns us repeatedly about the dangers of false doctrine and how we are to react and respond to false teachers.

If you call yourself a Lutheran, then you should know better than most Christians why doctrinal debates and discussions are always loving and necessary, because the very church that you belong to was born out of a response to false teachers and their false doctrines masquerading as Biblical truth.

We should never take doctrine for granted or think that it's somehow "separate" from Jesus Christ Himself. They are one-and-the-same and so if you profess to love Jesus, and profess to love His children, and yet, you detest any mere mention of the "D" word because you think it's "divisive" and "unloving" or something, then I would strongly encourage you to go back to the New Testament and make note of how many Epistles (if not ENTIRE Epistles!) have something significant to say to us about this topic.

Please don't just gloss over it. It's there for a good reason, my dear friends.

That brings me to a couple of things I saw just this morning. The first was written by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, LCMS Synod President, back in 2011, and it's so appropriate in light of current controversies and debates whether they are taking place in Christ's Church or on Social Media.


 
Doctrine Is Heaven. Life Is Earth. (Published 17th August 2011)   
Here's a passage from Luther's 1535 commentary on Galatians. It's quoted in Walther's "Church and Office," and is thus an official doctrinal statement of the LCMS. The quote is under thesis VIII b. on the church: B. Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers and avoid fellowship [Gemeinschaft] with heterodox congregations [Gemeinden] or sects. M.H.

So also today we regard all as cursed and condemned [verbannet und verdammt] who say that the article concerning the Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is unclear, or who distort the words of Christ in the Holy Supper. For we – in short -- desire to retain all articles of the Christian doctrine absolutely pure and sure, whether they be great or small (though not one is small or insignificant), and we do not want to surrender one tittle of it. And that is as it should be; for the doctrine is our only light that lights and guides us and shows us the way to heaven. If we let it be made weak and dim in one particle, then we may be sure that it will become altogether powerless. If we fail here, love will do us no good. We certainly can be saved without the love and unity [Einigkeit] of the sacramentarians, but we cannot be saved without the pure doctrine and faith. Hence, we gladly keep peace and unity with those who with us treat and believe all articles of the Christian faith in a Christian and right way. Indeed, we are willing as much as possible to keep peace even with our enemies; we will pray for those who in ignorance slander and persecute our doctrine but never for those who knowingly and contrary to their conscience attack one or more articles of the Christian faith. 
“And if we are so rigid and stubborn, we are taught that by the very example of St. Paul, who publicly and vehemently condemns the false apostles in a matter that they and their adherents regarded not only as insignificant and secondary but even as highly unfair (for they believed both, [namely,] that they [the teachers] taught rightly according to God’s Word and that they [the hearers] believed rightly and according to God’s Word); for he says: ‘He who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.’ Therefore, as I often and in many words have admonished to do, we must diligently distinguish between doctrine and life. Doctrine is heaven; life is earth. In life there is sin, error, discord, labor, and sorrow. There love must not listen but overlook; it must suffer and always forgive sins, that is, if sin and error are not defended. But doctrine is a far different matter, for it is holy, pure, undefiled, heavenly, divine. Whoever desires to pervert that, to him must be shown neither love nor mercy. [Pure] doctrine requires no remission of sins. 
“Therefore, it is not at all proper to try to compare doctrine with life; for a single letter, indeed a single tittle of Scripture is of more and greater importance than heaven and earth. Hence, we will not have anyone pervert it in the least. We can well excuse and overlook weaknesses and faults in life, for we too are weak human beings who daily fail and sin; indeed, all dear saints confess most earnestly in the Lord’s Prayer that they are sinners and that they believe in the forgiveness of sins. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure. There is not a single article of our faith that is not well and firmly grounded in Scripture. But these [articles] the devil would like to besmirch and pervert [befudeln und verkehren]. Therefore, he also attacks us so insidiously with the argument, accusing us through the factious [Rotten] spirits that we do not keep the peace but are quarrelsome and destroy the unity and love in the church or Christendom. 
“Here, then, we learn how St. Paul regards a little error in doctrine that might appear as very insignificant, if not even as the truth. He regards it as so great and dangerous that he dares curse the false apostles, though these seemed to be great persons. Therefore, we dare not regard the leaven of false doctrine as insignificant. No matter how small it may appear, its result is that the truth and salvation will be suppressed and crushed and God will be denied unless we guard against it. For if the Word is blasphemed and God is denied and blasphemed (and this must follow of necessity), then there is no longer any hope for salvation. But though we are slandered, cursed, and killed, we shall not be overpowered; for He who is never destroyed can again raise us up and deliver us from the curse, death, and hell. 
(In epistolam S. Pauli ad Galatas commentarius, ex praelectione D.M. Lutheri collectus. 1535 (Nach Luthers Vorlesung 1531); “Detailed Interpretation of the Epistle to the Galatians” [Gal. 5:9–12], 1535, Auslegung des Briefes an die Gal. 5, 9-12, vom J. 1535; Walch1 8, 2652ff.; St. Louis, 9:642-653; WA 40 I, 45ff.; Aland 229)


Of course, that was also shared in "'Doctrine Is Heaven' (Shhh! Don't Say The 'D' Word!)" which was our very first podcast.

Many of you may be thinking that this seemingly incessant obsession with doctrine all the time is "unhealthy" and "wrong" for any Christian, especially when it seems like all those of us who broach the subject do is wait until we can play "gotcha!" and point the "False Teacher Finger" at our brothers and sisters.

No, we believe "doctrine is heaven" and are simply trying to encourage you to honor and view it in the same way. It shouldn't be that hard if you call yourself a Christian, should it? Then again, it's also true, unfortunately, that self-identifying as a Christian (and especially as a Lutheran these days) means jack!

Ok, so why am I so passionate about sharing the Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) with others, you ask? We're Christians first, Lutherans second, right? Why not just share what the Bible says? Why do I always have to share what we Lutherans believe?

All great questions! All questions I was asked in the past 24-48 hours. The short answer?


Because as an ex-Evangelical-Non-Denominational-Type who almost caused shipwreck to my faith due to the things I was taught as Biblical truth that I then believed, taught, and confessed myself, I can say with complete joy and thankfulness that Lutherans do share only what the Bible says, and it has always been a denomination that was primarily concerned with calling the faithful back to the one, true faith as taught by the Apostles.


Please hear me out.

Faith can never rely on feelings, but only on the Word of God. We cling only to the Word as our source of what is true and what is false.

A brief commentary that appeared today from Concordia Academic about Wilhelm Loehe and his thoughts on all of this are quite compelling.


"Zealous For Lutheranism" 
Faith cannot rely on feelings, but on the Word of God, the redemption through Christ which happened "outside of us" and is not conditioned "by our moods and feelings." Decisive is the "total faith without feelings" -- that means faith that is not dependent on feelings -- "which clings only to the Word." 
This faith experience Loehe found affirmed in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, especially the three Old-Church confessions or "symbols," namely the Apostolic, the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds, also the Augsburg Confession, Luther's Small and Large Catechism and the Formula of Concord of 1577, which permanently defined the teaching of the Lutheran Church and distinguished it from the other denominations. 
In comparison to other denominations, the Roman Catholic and the Reformed Church, the Lutheran Church seemed to him to be the "unifying middle of the confessions," a "fountain of truth," because it "keeps Word and Sacrament in its pure confession."


I couldn't agree more and have found Loehe's description to be spot on accurate.

That's why I'm a Lutheran.

I know, I know -- I still sound like I'm putting my denomination over-and-above Christ's Church or that I'm putting Luther over-and-above Jesus. don't I?

Look, I get that, because I had ALWAYS felt the same way for many years and NEVER wanted to talk about denominations either since I thought they were silly and actually a big part of the problem (or what has actually hurt Christianity).

It wasn't until I came face-to-face with the very real possibility of shipwrecking my faith (1 Timothy 1:19) that I began to not only ask myself WHAT it is that I believe, but WHY it is that I believe it.

That was difficult, but necessary, and it led me here.

Again, while I fully admit that there are true Christians to be found in other denominations, I must also admit that I truly believe the Lutheran church is the most accurate and faithful confession of Christianity there is.

I mention that because of something else that was written about Wilhelm Loehe in that Concordia piece. They highlighted his views on being Lutheran, on other denominations, and on the mission of the Church.

I think it's worth prayerfully considering particularly within the context of this discussion (and in light of the many different debates we've seen on Social Media recently).


Thus the task of missions is to gather the one Church out of all nations. 
One Church -- and yet there are many "particular churches," each one having its own "jewel." They are different in their understanding of the Word and in the administering of the Sacraments, and therefore in their Confession. 
Which church possess "the greatest truth?" The criterion has to be whether its "Confession is according to the Scripture." And here Loehe wanted to "present the laurel wreath" without reservation to the Lutheran Church.


As do I! Interestingly enough, Loehe and I even share the same reservations.


The only thing that bothered him was the name "Lutheran," because it is not appropriate to describe the "great work of the Church" with the name of a human being.


Couldn't agree more!

Maybe that's why so many Christians (including other Lutherans) cringe and react so violently to my attempts at proselytizing them with Lutheran doctrine. Even Luther hated this though!


"The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?"


Sadly, even when you try to point these things out to other Christians they still recoil in horror that you would self-identify as a "Lutheran" and not just a "Christian" instead.

The irony is that people still fail to realize what the Lutheran church is.


In reality it is the old Christian Church of the apostles. Luther had restored its pure confession against the "innovations and misuses" of the Roman Church. Therefore the Church would have to be called "Christian, Catholic, or Apostolic," were it not for the fact that other Partikularkirchen (individual churches) have usurped those names for themselves. 
"The true Church calls itself Lutheran for the time being until it is given a better name. But in heaven it has always carried the better names and still carries them."


Yes, I believe that wholeheartedly too.

Does that make me a "Denominational Snob" as some charged me with yesterday? Does that mean I "hate Christians from other denominations" too? Does my willingness attend a church service at another denomination even though I will not pray with heterodox Christians or take Communion with them mean that I think I'm "better" than them, or that "they're all going to hell" even?

You've read what I've written here. What do you think are the answers to those questions?

Do you understand why we Lutherans point out these differences in doctrine? Do you have a better idea of why doctrine matters (or should)? Are you now starting to see why we believe that "doctrine is heaven" and it cannot be divorced from Jesus Christ because they're one-and-the-same?

Maybe the problem is with the word "heterodox" perhaps. Is it "too negative" a label? Why are people so sensitive to it? From a Lutheran perspective, "heterodox" Christians are those who mix false teaching in with true teaching such as Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc.

From a Lutheran perspective, the actions of unionism/syncretism are expressly forbidden in our Synodical Constitution and also forbidden by the Holy Scriptures.

My point?


What do all these insights mean for the work of missions? If the Lutheran Church possesses the "true teaching which flows out of the Confession" it must carry "the torch of truth to all nations" by itself and has to begin mission work among the heathen. But that does not mean that it should exclude others: "We will never interfere with or destroy the good deeds of other confessions among the heathen. But we will do our part, as much as possible, to see to it that the purest doctrine will demonstrate and prove its power to save.


That's why you'll find some of us Confessional Lutherans reacting so strongly (like "babies" I was told) to certain things we see and read online from other supposed Confessional Lutherans.


"But Jeff! If we all believe the Gospel whether we're Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist, Lutheran, LCMS, ELCA, WELS, Presbyterian, or Reformed, then why not celebrate that and ignore our differences?"


My answer? Galatians 5:9 "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."

My dear friends, it's just confusing to me how other Lutheran Pastors can participate in an event like the Liberate 2015 Conference last week with other Presbyterian and Reformed types when they definitely know all the history regarding our major differences in doctrine (most notably Salvation and the Sacraments) with those we view as heterodox Christians and never address the subject.


"But Jeff! How do you know they didn't discuss such things while they were there together like over dinner and drinks or something?"


You're right. I don't know if that happened.

Those Lutheran Pastors who were there should at least let people like me know what transpired along those lines even if it's just a general "we discussed our mutual doctrinal differences with one another as amicably as possible within that venue" since that would silence much of the criticism that came about in response to pictures of everyone each wearing a smile from ear-to-ear as though those who we believe pervert the Gospel were our BFFs or something.


"For we -- in short -- desire to retain all articles of the Christian doctrine absolutely pure and sure, whether they be great or small (though not one is small or insignificant), and we do not want to surrender one tittle of it. And that is as it should be; for the doctrine is our only light that lights and guides us and shows us the way to heaven. If we let it be made weak and dim in one particle, then we may be sure that it will become altogether powerless. If we fail here, love will do us no good. We certainly can be saved without the love and unity [Einigkeit] of the sacramentarians, but we cannot be saved without the pure doctrine and faith. Hence, we gladly keep peace and unity with those who with us treat and believe all articles of the Christian faith in a Christian and right way. Indeed, we are willing as much as possible to keep peace even with our enemies; we will pray for those who in ignorance slander and persecute our doctrine but never for those who knowingly and contrary to their conscience attack one or more articles of the Christian faith." 
*- Martin Luther


Please go back and re-read that piece that Rev. Harrison published back in 2011 from Martin Luther, especially if you're a Lutheran yourself. How can we not agree with any of that?

If you don't agree with it, then why are you even a member of the Lutheran church to begin with? I think that's a legitimate question, but I'm sure I will be branded "cult-like" and "hateful" for asking it.

I'll defer to Martin Luther one last time.


We can well excuse and overlook weaknesses and faults in life, for we too are weak human beings who daily fail and sin; indeed, all dear saints confess most earnestly in the Lord’s Prayer that they are sinners and that they believe in the forgiveness of sins. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure. There is not a single article of our faith that is not well and firmly grounded in Scripture. But these [articles] the devil would like to besmirch and pervert [befudeln und verkehren]. Therefore, he also attacks us so insidiously with the argument, accusing us through the factious [Rotten] spirits that we do not keep the peace but are quarrelsome and destroy the unity and love in the church or Christendom. 
Here, then, we learn how St. Paul regards a little error in doctrine that might appear as very insignificant, if not even as the truth. He regards it as so great and dangerous that he dares curse the false apostles, though these seemed to be great persons. Therefore, we dare not regard the leaven of false doctrine as insignificant. No matter how small it may appear, its result is that the truth and salvation will be suppressed and crushed and God will be denied unless we guard against it. For if the Word is blasphemed and God is denied and blasphemed (and this must follow of necessity), then there is no longer any hope for salvation.


"Therefore, we dare not regard the leaven of false doctrine as insignificant." For me, that's the bottom line here.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we don't desire to point the False Teacher Finger at anyone! We're just "zealous for Lutheranism" because we believe "doctrine is heaven" and are simply trying to encourage others to honor and view it in the same way.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

Share|

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

Start typing and press Enter to search