What is a "Confessional" Lutheran? Why the emphasis and insistence on using the word "Confessional" at all? Why not just call yourself a "Lutheran" and leave it at that?
Those are all fantastic questions and they are all questions we've answered repeatedly here in this forum since the very beginning.
However, I think it's always good to revisit the basics as much as possible since catechesis shouldn't end once a person is confirmed.
What Is A "Confessional" Lutheran?
The word "confession" is used in a variety of ways, but when we speak of a "confessional" Lutheran we mean a Lutheran who declares to the world his faith and most deeply held belief and conviction, in harmony with the documents contained in the Book of Concord. You will catch the spirit of Confessional Lutheranism in these, the last words written in the Book of Concord:
"Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained and no other explanation -- is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God's grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God’s grace, we intend to abide by this confession" (FC SD, XII, 40).
Man, I absolutely love that!
For starters, the very first Lutherans weren't just thinking about themselves and about mitigating their own controversies in their particular day-and-age to make their lives easier.
No, they had a "big picture" mentality instead. They had you and me in mind. You can see from these final words that they had all future generations of Christians in mind.
Confessional Lutherans differ from Lutherans in that we actually see merit and value in all the Confessional writings contained in the Book of Concord (rightfully called the "Christian Book of Concord" as opposed to the "Lutheran Book of Concord") and we subscribe to everything it confesses since we believe that it is an accurate re-telling of what the Bible already says (and that it constantly points us back to God's Word).
More importantly, our Confessions were born in the crucible of doctrinal debates, and so they provide us with an extremely valuable faithful defense to wield against the "enthusiasts" and false teachers (Ephesians 6:17) that are still raging today.
Better yet, they can even help us to achieve true peace and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we so desire. If we so desire...
That's the key question, isn't it? Bad doctrine from false teachers will always be present we're told, but we're also told we should never tolerate them. Within the Lutheran church, the Confessions are a powerful weapon to easily and quickly destroy any and all arguments that might pop up in the form of doctrinal debates.
Sadly, it tends to be the Confessional Lutherans who are encouraging others to remain faithful and steadfast in our doctrine and practice while it's the "Lutherans-In-Name-Only" who prefer to change doctrine and practice (even if ever so slightly) with the changing times.
That reminds me! This sinful desire we all have to want to change everything to be more "relevant" to the times we're living in is one of the more cleverly conceived deceptions that Satan has ever devised.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, Christianity transcends all cultures, places, and times and is as relevant today as it was in the beginning because it speaks the truth to human beings who have always been (and will always be) sinners, and confessing such a reality and all that comes with it is what it means to be a Confessional Lutheran.
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 almost 2 years ago now. 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!