Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Trail to Wittenburg

Over at confessingevangelical, I found a pretty good discussion about whether many prots who "swim the Tiber", i.e. join the Roman Catholic Church, are really looking for what we have in Lutheranism. In Lutheranism, we have the historic liturgy, sacramental theology, by which I mean assurance through objective means. This is contrasted with American Evangelicalism which has none of those. I think I have to agree. I have spoken with several converts to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy who seemed "Lutheran" in the way they saw things. Not every one, but a rather significant number.

So, why don't more of these "see the light"? I believe there are several reasons:

  • Historically, we don't try and convert people from other Christian Churches--one reason is that we believe other churches, like the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian etc. are churches because they still have the Gospel, though defectively. This is a barrier to evangelizing other Christians, even if there can be good justification for it.
  • Lutherans are basically Northern European, the "Frozen Chosen", inhabiting Scandinavia, Northern Germany, the Baltic States and little else. As an immigrant Church in the USA Lutherans were ethnic for a pretty long time. (This is not 100% true, I know) The LC-MS only moved to English in the last century!
  • It sounds like a cliche, but we don't tell people who we are and what we believe. We have a tendency to put our lamp under a basket and try to be like our protestant neighbors.
  • We are lumped into generic "protestantism", which implies we have things in common with other prots which we do not, for example a symbolic understanding of the Lord's Supper. This is actually a sore point with some Lutheran pastors I know. If may believe we are just another species of protestant, why even bother?
  • We are divided against ourselves. The ELCA is larger then the LC-MS and the WELS combined--that means if someone checks out a local Lutheran congregation the probability is that he will find an ELCA parish, which will very likely be very trendy and on the path to Anglicanism. This will likely turn away those who seek the historic Christian Church.

I don't really have any solutions to this. I suppose the best thing to do is tell everyone the reason we are joyful: we are baptized members of the Body of Christ, and because of his love we have forgiveness and eternal life. Or, in the words of Phillip in 1 John 46 "Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Substitute "Wittenburg" for "Nazareth" you may begin to see the outlines of a solution.


Eric said...

Great post. I think we need to do more to "get the word out" about the Lutheran faith. We are what so many "Evangelicals" are looking for.

I think the timing is right for a massive return to the "first evangelicals". So many in the current generation are looking back into the past, are more open to liturgical worship, and are tired of the "willow creek" model.

The irony is that many in the Lutheran church have embraced the "church growth" paradigm. When the "searching evangelicals" come knocking on our door, they will be upset to find we look just like the churches they left.

We need to help as many people as possible find the Wittenberg Trail.


Edward Reiss said...

Thanks for the encouragement Eric. And mostly thanks for your blog.

I hope you are right about a massive return. As i wrote, a lot of people who were hunting for a new church seem like they would be pretty good Lutherans to me. I am glad I stopped by Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 14 years ago.

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