The Glory Has Departed


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Thrivent Ho! - WELS Documented Blog Asks - What Does It Mean To Be Lutheran?

The Synodical ConMen will celebrate the 500th anniversary
by repudiating Luther's doctrine and merging.
The Lutheran name is used up, so
they will call themselves Thrivent-Ho! -
for a small annual fee.



Monday, March 16, 2015


What does it mean to be Lutheran?

While there are a variety of ways one could answer this question, one very important answer is simply this, "A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God's Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord." The Book of Concord contains the Lutheran confessions of faith.

Why are you Lutheran?
There is something remarkably different from the way Lutheranism understands Jesus Christ than the Roman Catholic church, the Baptist church, or the Reformed church does. There is something which distinguishes Lutheranism from these other churches in how Scripture is interpreted, and this difference is found in what it means to be Lutheran.


There are many other answers to the question, what does it mean to be Lutheran? One of the favorite's is that "we're right, and everyone else is wrong". It's not arrogant for Lutherans to believe we're right. It's absolutely true that Jesus alone saves. He alone is right. We aren't the only people who are right. The Gospel has a way of slipping through in places you wouldn't expect! And we should never say we are right simply because we are Lutherans or that we are right in and of ourselves. We are right by Jesus alone, by grace alone, according to Scripture alone. We confess this Gospel only by the working of the Holy Spirit in us. We don't make ourselves right. We certainly don't deserve to be right. We are Lutherans by grace alone.

We are Christocentric, meaning that Christ is at the
center of all of our theology.

Lutherans, do not look at creation outside of Christ. Lutherans do not look at their daily lives outside of Christ. Lutherans, do not look at the inerancy of Scripture outside of Christ. Furthermore when Lutherans look to Christ they look to Him knowing that His sacrificial death on the cross has forgiven all the sins of the world. The Roman Catholic church does not do this, they point to their works which through Christ merit them forgiveness. The Reformed and Baptists do not do this either, rather they point to their decisions and claim that Christ merits them forgiveness because of their decisions. These latter two teachings are false because they do not center around Christ, rather they center around man made intervention.

To be Lutheran is to see everything through Christ who died for forgiveness. To be Lutheran means that you realize your sinful nature, you see yourself as purely dead in sin, incapable of doing anything. This lack of capability is also significant to what it means to be Lutheran. Dead people can't do anything, and thus we fully rely on Christ who makes alive that which was dead.

When the Reformed and Baptists look at a cross they rarely depict it with Christ nailed to it. Lutherans on the other hand are notorious for big crucifixes, crosses with Christ nailed to them. Lutherans do this because it was when Christ was nailed to that cross where the sins of the world were forgiven. The blood shed at the cross washed, and made what was once crimson, white as snow. Lutherans realize that the events at the cross are the center of their theology. Furthermore, the events at the cross are the center of life. [note: Lutherans aren't the only ones who look at the cross like this.]

To be Lutheran is to be Christocentric. To be Lutheran is to deny man's ability to play a role within our faith. Thus, Lutherans lay it all at the foot of the cross where true man and true God was pierced for the forgiveness of sins.

Not every Lutheran is the same, either. There is an alphabet soup of Lutheranism out there-some of which you need NOT to be. If it looks like generic Christianity, worships like generic Christianity, is centered on you and not on Jesus crucified for you...it's not Lutheran.

To be Lutheran is to always be pointing to Christ.

Core Lutheran themes 

What are the most distinctive themes of Lutheran theology?

• Justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake

This, for Lutherans, is the heart of the gospel. Stated concisely in the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession, it’s so central that it has been called “the article by which the church stands or falls.”

Both Lutherans and Roman Catholics believed God’s grace was essential for salvation, but they had different understandings of the way grace works.

Relying on Paul’s letters to the Romans and to the Galatians, Luther insisted that faith is key. His understanding of faith isn’t primarily intellectual (having the right knowledge about God) or emotional (how hard or how sincerely one believes). Instead, faith is relational: It’s a form of trust. We are justified through faith because faith alone trusts God’s promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake.

• Law and gospel

Lutherans have a distinctive way of reading the Scriptures, based on Luther’s insight that God’s word comes to us in two forms—law and gospel. The law as command tells people what they should do. The gospel as promise tells us what God in Christ has already done for us.

God’s law functions in several ways: It structures human life by protecting and promoting good and limiting and punishing wrong. The law also functions theologically, as a mirror, or as a doctor’s diagnosis, to show us our sinfulness and our need for God’s grace in Christ.

Because we are sinners, God’s law always accuses us; only the gospel frees us. As Luther puts it: “The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.”

• Means of grace

The Augsburg Confession describes word and sacrament as the “means of grace.” The word “means” refers to how things actually happen. We refer to different means of communication, means of transportation, etc. By calling word and sacrament means of grace, we are saying: “This is how and where grace happens.” When the good news is preached, when someone is baptized, when we receive the Lord’s Supper, grace happens.

This means that worship is vitally important for Lutherans. It forms our identity as Christians. The Augsburg Confession even defines the Christian church as the assembly of believers around gospel and sacrament.

• Theology of the cross 

The theology of the cross refers not just to the events of Good Friday.It also refers to a cross-centered approach to theology that stands in opposition to a “theology of glory” focused on the power and majesty of God abstracted from God’s action in history.

A theology of glory looks up and says, “God’s in heaven and all’s well with the world.” A theology of the cross, in contrast, keeps its feet firmly planted on our broken Earth and says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to God.” The incarnation witnesses to a God who puts aside divine characteristics to become human, to suffer and to die.

The God who chooses to come down from heaven chooses not to come down from the cross. The theology of the cross is a constant critique of human expectations. While the cross is a scandal to nonbelievers, Christians confess that God’s saving power works precisely through such weakness (1 Corinthians 1:23-25, 2 Corinthians 12:9).

• Saint and sinner

Luther described Christians as “simultaneously saint and sinner.” Some religious traditions distinguish between “saints,” who obey God’s will, and “sinners,” who disobey. Lutherans cling to a both/and understanding of Christian identity that redefines the word “saint”: a saint is a forgiven sinner.

Our dual identity as saints and sinners reminds us that our righteousness always depends on God’s grace, never on our own religious behavior. At the same time, our recognition that sin, while forgiven, remains a powerful force in the world and in ourselves gives us a realistic ability to confront cruelty and evil, confident that God will have the last word.

As Luther once wrote to Melanchthon, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.”

• Vocation

The term “vocation” literally means “calling.” Until Luther’s time it was used primarily to refer to those with a special religious calling to be a priest, monk or nun. Luther expanded the idea to include all Christians.

First, Luther affirmed that all Christians are priests. This “priesthood of all believers” doesn’t mean that we each have an individual pipeline to God but that we all have a responsibility to teach and to pray for others.

Second, Luther affirmed that all human work is a calling from God if done in faith and for the service of neighbor. According to Luther, God doesn’t need our good works, but people do. Christian faith, then, should express itself in how we live in our professions, in our family relationships and as citizens, since these are all arenas for the service of neighbor.

So in summary what is it to be a Lutheran?
Being a Lutheran is being a person who believes the truths of God's Word, the Holy Bible, as they are correctly explained and taught in the Book of Concord. To do so is to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Genuine Lutherans, confessional Lutherans, dare to insist that "All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith" (FC Ep. RN, 6).

Such a statement may strike some as boastful. But it is not; rather, it is an expression of the Spirit-led confidence that moves us to speak of our faith before the world.

To be a confessional Lutheran is to be one who honors the Word of God. That word makes it clear that it is God's desire for His church to be in agreement about doctrine, and to be of one mind, living at peace with one another (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11). It is for that reason that we so treasure the precious confession of Christian truth that we have in the Book of Concord. For Confessional Lutherans, there is no other collection of documents, or statements or books that so clearly, accurately and comfortingly presents the teachings of God's Word and reveals the Biblical Gospel as does our Book of Concord.

"The Spirit never without the Word,
the Word never without the Spirit,
that is sound doctrine."
Hoenecke, Dogmatics


Hand-in-hand with our commitment to pure teaching and confession of the faith, is, and always must be, our equally strong commitment to reaching out boldly with the Gospel and speaking God's truth to the world. That is what "confession" of the faith is all about, in the final analysis. Indeed, "It is written: I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13). This is what it means to be a Lutheran.


References:
http://lutherancorner.tripod.com/whatdoesitmean.htm
http://bookofconcord.org/whatisalutheran.php
http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=5895&key=34751023
http://www.qlc.org.sg/about-us/what-does-lutheran-mean/
http://higherthings.org/myht/articles/catechesis/dtbl-what-does-this-mean
[note: Because our series is about the past, present, & future of both the WELS and Lutheranism in general, you may occasionally see references to other Lutheran synods. This is done so we can see how we agree or disagree with other branches of the Lutheran faith.]

***

Hear that, UOJ Stormtroopers? -
you speak from your Father the Devil.
No wonder WELS hates the Book of Concord -
it is such a good, compact, Biblical commentary.




GJ - I would add "the efficacy of the Word," because the concept is basic to the Bible - directly related to the way the Spirit always works through the Word and never apart from the Word (Hoenecke, Dogmatics; Book of Concord; Luther, Old and New Testaments). 

In addition, the efficacy of the Word is explicitly denied by Calvinists, Church Growthists, and UOJists.