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What Luther Says

Lutheran, Confessional, Angry? Perspective. Patience. Perseverance.

Perspective. Patience. Perseverance.

That's what I've been praying for these past several weeks after taking some advice and listening to the series of lectures from the BJS "When Heterodoxy Hits Home" Conference. Actually, I listened to those presentations more than once...because I desperately needed to.

So, in addition to perspective, patience, and perseverance, can I add "humility" to that list too? I want to be humble, but it's hard for me to pray for anything these days. Truth is, I've been feeling burned out and stressed more often than not.

There are far too many faithful Confessional Lutheran men and women -- and Pastors too -- who are being run out of congregations all because they speak up and speak out about the importance of maintaining our Lutheran identity in a day-and-age when Christianity is screaming "Be Relevant Or Die!" instead.

Thankfully, they are willing to be faithful servants of God rather than sellouts to men (Galatians 1:6-10) regardless of the personal cost.

Proverbs 18:14 (ESV) A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

People can stand up under physical suffering; but once their spirit is broken, they collapse (Lutheran Study Bible commentary on that verse above).

It's hard not to feel that way most days. After listening to Rev. Todd Wilken's lecture from the "When Heterodoxy Hits Home" BJS Conference, I immediately thought of that Bible verse.

I asked myself: "Why am I a Lutheran again? Why do I even have a passion for saying that I'm a 'Confessional Lutheran' too? Why not just identify myself as a 'Christian' and leave it at that to avoid all the conflict and debates and drama with other Christians? Maybe my friend was right when he said that our confession really didn't matter since God's not going to ask us if we're a Lutheran before He lets us into heaven with Him."

I remembered the answer to all those questions, which I once referenced several months ago.

If you are unfamiliar with historical Christianity as expressed in Confessional Lutheran doctrine, here are a few things that may help you that have helped me tremendously: 
"We believe the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired and authoritative in all matters of life and godliness. The Bible is the source and norm for all doctrine (2 Peter 1:3). We are passionate about confessing Christ clearly and purely. Because of this we have come to accept and subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions of the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are the purest and clearest confession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God. We accept the Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all teaching, preaching, and confessing of the one true faith. We do not make our stand on Lutheran doctrine out of some misguided sense of having discovered something 'new' or finally getting the Bible 'right' after 2000 years. Instead, we have discovered something old, something that the historical Christian church has always held to. We did not figure out our doctrine ourselves, but hold to the wisdom and insight of those who have come before us, our fathers in the one true Faith. Thus we base our conclusions not in our own arrogance at finding something no one else has found, but in the utmost humility that we have been gifted with a rich doctrinal heritage to which we submit ourselves and our reason. With this humility comes a tremendous Gospel freedom that we hope to share with all who visit our site and choose to make use of our resources. We're dedicated to encouraging Lutheran pastors and laypeople to search out and learn more about their confessional roots." 

That's a brief glimpse into my heart that will, hopefully, better explain why I'm so passionate about sharing what I've found the Lutheran church to be.

As one who almost caused "shipwreck" to his faith (1 Timothy 1:19) even though I thought I had put Jesus at the center of it all, it was the pure truth of God's Word as preached and proclaimed through the distinctly Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) that finally and for the first time gave me the anchor of "CHRIST For Me/You/Us!" and stopped that ship from sinking in a watered-down Gospel.

I have to say that as frustrated and joyless as I've been at times in recent weeks, I finally feel like I have some semblance of peace in my life today or at least at this very moment anyway (Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus").

Being in the middle of the soteriological storm, it was hard for me feel like I was ever going to get through it and find any kind of a reprieve.

I guess you could say I learned something valuable about my own faith (or lack thereof) whenever I've attempted to question the confession of others (which is perfectly acceptable and expected, by the way). Thank you, Lord. 

Of course, His Word is so comforting!

Psalm 55:22 (ESV) Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV) 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Matthew 11:29-30 (ESV) 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The biggest takeaway for me was that things aren't even close to being as bad as I think they are. My perception has been my reality. This is really nothing new and recent history even proves it.

In the "Blue Book" (so named for its blue cover, it was the 1971 report of then Synod President J. A. O. Preus on the doctrinal situation that existed at Concordia Seminary at the time), President Preus stated in his summary...

...The majority hold a view of the Scriptures which in practice erodes the authority of Holy Writ. Verbal inspiration, as it is commonly understood in the Synod, is not taught by all. The inerrancy of the Scriptures is severely limited. The Gospel (the primary teaching of the Scripture) is regarded as virtually exclusively normative in such a way as to detract from the normative authority of the whole Scripture. This is sometimes called "Gospel Reductionism." (22)

If we contrast that time period with what's going on in the Synod today, then we come to discover that things are indeed far better than they were only a few decades ago.

Perspective. Patience. Perseverance.

I know my feelings are only amplified right now because I find myself in a unique situation. There are literally only three other Confessional Lutherans that I know of within a 100 mile radius of where I live despite my praying and searching to find some like-minded Lutherans for over a year now (and all three are LCMS Pastors!).

Again, I just have to constantly remind myself that things aren't nearly as bad as they could be (or as they once were not so long ago). In fact, I like how Rev. Frederic W. Baue pointed out many years ago that...

Today, the second part, the Conflict over the Confessions, is being fought largely by clergy, especially the younger generation of parish pastors, many of whom have advanced degrees in theology but are happy in the pulpit. They have a negative component "to stop the tide of Baptist-style Evangelicalism in the LCMS" but more importantly a positive component, the restoration of the Lutheran Confessions as the norma normata, the defining articles of faith that make us distinctly and authentically Lutheran. Moreover, they are figuring out how to be authentic Lutherans in an English-speaking, American cultural context. This confessional renewal is a real movement. It began at the grass roots and is spreading outward and upward. Sooner or later it will make its mark politically, perhaps even as soon as the 2010 convention of Synod. Even if it does not, eventually it will, just as surely as the rising tide sweeps away all the castles built on sand "including Mission Reductionism” that were there and looked so promising only the day before.

Boy, was that ever prophetic or what?

Sure enough, the 2010 LCMS Convention saw the election of a Confessional Lutheran as its Synod President (I believe Pastor Wilken even referenced that moment too when he brought it up early on in his speech at the BJS Conference).

The point of all of this is to share with you, dear reader, that this Lutheran layman is feeling more at ease today. Yes, I'll still do what I can to warn you about some of the spiritual dangers I'm seeing out there, but I'm praying it won't be tinged with the same ferocity and snark that has become all too common from me.

That doesn't mean I'm getting "soft" when engaged in doctrinal debates with others, it just means that I'd like to spend some more time in this space to write about some other things instead of always looking like a guy who just has an ax to grind with a "grumbling" spirit that won't go away (Philippians 2:14), you know?

Now, all that being said, I want to share something else I found from Rev. Paul T. McCain that has helped me to keep perspective, to remain patient, but to persevere as well.

Lutheran, Confessional, Angry? 
In case you haven’t had your dose of humility for the day, here’s a note from Paul T. McCain... 
Do you ever get the impression that confessing Lutheran Christians are an angry, negative, obnoxious bunch of nitpicking fault-finders? I do. I know others do as well. Many times it is a wholly unjustified opinion. Anyone who asserts that something is right and something is wrong these days is going to be accused of being “judgmental.” Offer a criticism, of any kind, no matter how kindly, and somebody is going to “be offended.” Daring to be Lutheran and asserting the doctrinal content of the Book of Concord as being true for all times and places is going to earn you derision. No doubt about that. This is not what I’m talking about in this post. 
Instead, let’s consider how we Lutherans tend to handle ourselves when addressing problems and concerns. Do we come off negative, sarcastic, mean-spirited and angry? When we express concerns about problems facing the church, do we do so in a way that builds up, or tears down? Do we allow our frustrations to get the better of us and end up attacking persons, rather than sticking with issues? As I told a colleague the other day, I think somewhere along the line some of us were given the impression that you can only be a truly orthodox, confessional Lutheran if you are a jerk. But, the same holds true for everyone, no matter where they happen to fall on the “spectrum” of opinions: moderates, liberals, progressives, missionals, emergents: makes no difference. There is plenty of obnoxious behavior there to go around as well. Why is this? It’s a common condition we are all afflicted with. Perhaps you have heard of it before: SIN. And the old evil foe, and our old human flesh, get the best of us, daily. 
I can only but say a loud “Mea culpa!” as I examine myself in light of these concerns. We must all, with the Apostle St. Paul, say, without hesitation: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25). 
Perhaps the challenge is that we forget that what we are for must always take priority before we launch into what we are against. We tend to forget that the Reformation was not just about being against something, but it was even more about being for something. That “something” is the Gospel, purely taught, confessed and delivered through the precious means of grace. We do well to take note of the way our Lutheran fathers addressed themselves to concerns and issues. Pay attention particularly to the way the Epitome of the Formula of Concord does this. Note that they set forth what they are for, then turn to what they must therefore stand against. It’s a lesson we do well to learn and apply today, to whatever concerns face us as Lutherans. 
Here is what the great American Lutheran theologian, Charles Porterfield Krauth once said: 
It is vastly more important, then, to know what the Reformation retained than what it overthrew; for the overthrow of error, though often an indispensable prerequisite to the establishment of the truth, is not truth itself; it may clear the foundation, simply to substitute one error for another, perhaps a greater for a less. [The Conservative Reformation and its Theology (reprinted St. Louis: CPH, 2007), 202.] 
What did we retain? Oh, the good, sweet, old Gospel, that good news that Christ is the friend of jerks, like you and me, jerks who sin daily and are in need of much forgiveness. Jerks, like us, who let their friends and family and their Lord down. People like you and me who need a strong pair of hands that were nailed to a rough piece of wood to make it possible for us to be with our Father in heaven forever. Now there’s something to be for!

Man, that was convicting, wasn't it?

There's a way of being steadfast in the faith without letting it tear down other sinners let alone affect me emotionally.

No, it's not about finding a place where you become "emotionless" since how could anyone truly love their neighbor without at least some emotions fueling the fire?

My point is that I need to take things in perspective, pray for patience, and always ask the Lord to help me persevere in the midst of trials and temptations (including doctrinal disputes) in this life.

Finally, it's worth reminding ourselves why our confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) matters so much.

What can a picture say? What does the above picture show? First, the book is not sitting on a shelf. Second, it is open, and being held open for reading. Third, it has a bookmark showing that it is being studied. Fourth, it is a copy of The Lutheran Confessions. Fifth, light shines on the book from above. The Lutheran Confessions reflect the light. God’s word alone is the light of the world and the judge of all confessions. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …” (James 1:17, ESV). To confess means to breathe out words of belief. It is to say, “This is what I believe because this is true.” It is a restatement of truth. Unfortunately, most “Lutherans” in America do not even know what our Confessions say. Our “unity” is not based on a common confession of truth, but rather our “unity” is based on politics or history. 
However, a confession means nothing if it is not confessed, if it is not lived, or if it is not even known. We should know our Confessions, and if we believe, then we should confess them in our practice. Can a simple picture say that much? Recently, someone used my photo to create an internet meme. True theological unity is based on a common confession of truth. It is not based on setting aside theological differences, and promising to be united. 

So true and it echoes Rev. McCain's sentiments too.

I'm a Lutheran, I'm Confessional, and yes, at times, I can be very angry. There's a time and place for self-righteous anger, but sometimes I fear that my anger has spilled over the edge and filled in the cesspool of sin.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I need to learn how to first state what it is I am for (what it is that I believe, teach, and confess that is consistent with the Christian faith) before I even launch into "attack mode" about what I am against (what it is that you believe, teach, and confess that is inconsistent with the Christian faith).

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!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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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!

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