It's an excellent commentary I found published recently by From Geneva To Wittenberg written by Josh Brisby that describes a fundamental distinction between becoming a Lutheran and becoming a Reformed Christian let's say (which Mr. Brisby was as recently as 2012 as far as I could tell).
Lutheranism has to be *needed*, and not just intellectually desired.
What I mean by the above is the following. When I was a Calvinist, I was a Calvinist mainly because I was on a philosophical quest to "find ultimate truth." Calvinism was, and still is, a system that seems to answer questions, and one that is logically coherent.
I was also very successful in convincing many of my friends to embrace Calvinism.
But this same system that is logically rigorous, is also very law-oriented. It has to be. We want something that makes sense, and law makes sense to us. It is a theology of glory, and this is the kind of theology that we love as fallen sinners.
But after a while, the law does its killing work. We come to despair of ourselves. Something may happen in life that does not make sense, and even the system of Calvinism that tries to explain it cannot take away the pain.
Then we learn that neat syllogisms and logical formulae are not what life is really about.
We come to find out that "finding truth" is not what life is really about.
We become convinced that we know we are guilty, and we want to know that we have a gracious God.
It becomes less about finding truth, and more about comfort, and assurance, and pastoral care.
We all have this basic need of forgiveness of sins.
PEOPLE DO NOT BECOME "INTELLECTUALLY CONVINCED" OF LUTHERANISM
When I was a Calvinist, I "intellectually convinced" several friends for the theology of glory which is Calvinism. But since I have been a Lutheran, you know how many I have convinced?
My wife has recently become Lutheran, but it was not because of me. It was through being immersed in the Divine Service. Then she saw it was what she *needed*. Only now does she realize that Calvinism could not offer her assurance. She realized that Lutheranism is the only place where Christ comes down to her.
Likewise, Lutheranism is misunderstood. It is foreign to most. By being immersed in the Divine Service, my wife became familiarized with the beauty of God in Christ bringing us beggars His Good Gifts.
I also used to argue from church history and the catholicity of Lutheranism. While this is all true, most people do not think this way. After all, if we only look to catholicity, what's to become of someone who is flirting with Eastern Orthodoxy? Eastern Orthodoxy has catholicity on its side as well. So while catholicity is important, it should not be the deciding factor.
People do not, should not, even cannot, become "intellectually convinced" of Lutheranism.
Lutheranism is not the good ol' time Murican religion.
Lutheranism has to be *needed*.
ONLY LUTHERANISM OFFERS ASSURANCE THAT WE HAVE A GRACIOUS GOD
I realize that the above bold title may seem simplistic to some, and even unfair to others. But I would not be a Lutheran unless I really believed that. I don't get enough of the Gospel in Rome, which focuses on my efforts and merits. I don't get enough of the Gospel in Eastern Orthodoxy, which focuses on our path to theosis. I don't get enough of the Gospel in evangelicalism, which is always asking if we are serving God enough. I don't get enough of the Gospel in Calvinism, which cannot get away from being law-driven and sovereignty-centered.
I need the faith that *just gives me Jesus* in Word and Sacrament *clearly*.
I *need* Lutheranism.
JUSTIFICATION MUST STAY CENTRAL, AND LUTHERANISM GIVES US THIS
At the end of the day, all other branches of the faith either focus on sanctification, or end up getting away from the foundation which is justification. Only Lutheranism keeps justification central, at all times, because Lutheranism sees justification as a *continual* declaration from our gracious God that our sins are forgiven. He stoops to our level, knowing that we do not always *feel* forgiven. So God gives us His gracious promises in Word and Sacrament. God's gracious is objective and universal. It does not depend upon our faith.
LUTHERANISM TRULY IS "THE LONELY WAY"
Lutheranism has been called "the lonely way" by Herman Sasse. Truly this is so. It is the lonely way because it is the theology of the Cross. The theology of glory is everywhere. The theology of glory makes sense to us, and satisfies our intellect.
Lutheranism, on the other hand, makes no sense. It is paradoxical. It goes completely against our feelings.
We don't always "feel" forgiven.
Lutheranism says "you are forgiven, and here is Christ's Body and Blood to prove it."
Lutheranism says "you are forgiven, and here is a minister that declares God's Word to you and lays his hands on you to prove it."
Lutheranism says "you are forgiven, and this water and God's Word wash away your sins to prove it."
Lutheranism says "you are forgiven, and we will process in the middle of the aisle with the Book of the Gospels to prove it."
Lutheranism says, "FOR *YOU*."
Not just general categories.
So why Lutheranism?
Because I *need* it.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son+, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I couldn't have said it any better than that myself.
As mentioned, the author of that piece was a staunch member of the Reformed crowd of which I can relate to quite a bit. In fact, even though I would classify myself as more of an "American Evangelical" back in the day, I was heavily influenced by the Reformed beliefs, teachings, and confessions of Christianity and was on my way to identifying myself as such.
However, the experience he described was very similar to my own although the circumstances were obviously different and "it becomes less about finding truth, and more about comfort, and assurance, and pastoral care."
The key was being brought to a place where I finally recognized what it was I truly "needed" as opposed to what it was I was expected to accept and believe by faith conceptually and intellectually (John 6:44; Hebrews 12:1-2).
The irony is that I was one who would constantly walk around telling people that "Christianity's about having heart knowledge, not mere head knowledge!" (whatever that really means!).
On second thought, I guess that was still much closer to this key truth that once the Lord brings you to a place in life where you come to the end of yourself -- and I mean truly come to the end of yourself despite the fact that you probably think you already have long before -- He reveals what it is you really need after all, and it's not that you need to be "convinced" about some additional Biblical truths and doctrines, but that you simply need anything and everything that "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) has to offer you through the Lord's Word and Sacraments that are always Christ-centered and cross-focused.
It's an incredibly freeing place, but it's an extremely lonely place as well.
Mark my words, Mr. Brisby is spot on accurate when he says that "When I was a Calvinist, I 'intellectually convinced' several friends for the theology of glory which is Calvinism. But since I have been a Lutheran, you know how many I have convinced? Zero." Friends, that could be me writing those very same words about my own journey from Geneva to Wittenberg!
Truth is, if anything, I've lost many friends and inadvertently made many enemies in the short time since I've become a Confessional Lutheran, and for what exactly? For simply pointing out that we Lutherans should be distinctly Lutheran (imagine that!) when it comes to the things we believe, teach, and confess.
Yes, I'll admit, it's a heartbreaking and lonely road that I'm on right now, but I know that "the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:14), and I constantly pray for His grace to help me remain faithful, steadfast, and true in the midst of such trials and tribulation, because I also know that "a servant is not greater than his master" (John 13:16) and "if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20), which is precisely why I should rejoice "when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11-12).
Even so, I know that His grace is sufficient for me in all of this (2 Corinthians 12:9), and I will pray for Him to help me to learn how to rest upon His Word and Sacraments to sustain me until my final hour.
John 6:39-40 (ESV) 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Yes, yes it most certainly is. This is most certainly true.
I will continue to pray for others as well. This is how I hope to demonstrate that I want to do God's will and love my neighbor when part of me wants to write them off for hurting me.
Let's face it, God has written me off for all the times I've hurt Him by sinning against Him in thought, word, and deed even after becoming one of His own children.
That's why I will forever praise Him for leading me here and will continue to rely on His glorious promises of a future with Him for all eternity.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, I became a Lutheran because I need it.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular 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 disclaimer/note, please understand that 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 repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" 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!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, 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 both past and present 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 (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). 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 "Christian 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 experiencing and/or 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. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!