04 April 2009

Preserving Lutheranism is not the point

I'm as weary as anyone else of colleagues renouncing the Augsburg Confession in favor of various alternatives. But perhaps one of the reasons that such things seem to be happening with increasing frequency is that we Lutherans have focused too much on preserving "Lutheranism," protecting it, defending it, redefining it, attempting to save it, and whatever else, as though "Lutheranism" were the point and purpose and center of the Christian faith and life. It's not.

If the self-preservation of "Lutheranism" is what the Church of the Augsburg Confession has come to be about, then it is simply engaged in idolatry on a grand scale, beholden to another version of the same works righteousness it is ostensibly so opposed to. Ditto concerning the self-preservation of the LCMS, Inc., though that is surely of less consequence.

The point and purpose of "Lutheranism" is rather to confess, in and with the Augsburg Confession, the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith of Christ Jesus, His Word of the Gospel, His free and full forgiveness of sins, His flesh and blood given and poured out for us, and His gracious gift of life for both body and soul. Where that is confessed in preaching and practice, there won't be any need for either self-preservation or quests for the Church. There, instead, will simply be the Church, the Body of Christ, living in His flesh and breathing His Spirit.

Kyrie Eleison.

14 comments:

Petersen said...

Amen and thanks.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Pastor, thank you.

I wonder how much of this is reaction to our reaction to the Church Growth movement. CGM attacks our forms (which later attacks doctrine), and so we hang on to our forms all the more tightly. Our reaction to iconoclasm is to be ostentatious with things beautiful, as if they were the marks of the church.

I think we have to defend Lutheranism/Christianity by standing on our principles. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, using the Scriptures as the norm of doctrine, without the need for worship "experience" to tell us whether God is working in our lives.

William Weedon said...

Amen, beloved brother! Amen!

Paul McCain said...

the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith of Christ Jesus, His Word of the Gospel, His free and full forgiveness of sins, His flesh and blood given and poured out for us, and His gracious gift of life for both body and soul. Where that is confessed in preaching and practice, there won't be any need for either self-preservation or quests for the Church. There, instead, will simply be the Church, the Body of Christ, living in His flesh and breathing His Spirit.


Yes, in other words, Lutheranism!

I'm not sure who these people are who are defending some kind of "Lutheranism" as you posit it here on your blog in contrast to, or in distinction from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith, but they would be terribly confused to distinguish the two, wouldn't they?

-C said...

"Yes, in other words, Lutheranism."

Try again - Christianity.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Well, that was positive and constructive. Not.

Lutherans as I've seen have this NASTY little habit of letting non-Lutherans define them.

Pr. Stuckwisch, what aspects of "Lutheranism" do not align with the "point and purpose and center of the Christian faith and life?" I understand that synodical politics are not in line, but I'm asking about "Lutheranism" itself.

Paul McCain said...

If Lutheranism is not all that Pastor Stuckwisch describes as being Christianity, mere Christianity, call it what you will, then why are we Lutherans? And if Lutheranism is not this, then where is it? And who are?

We are not a bunch of Platonists. We confess a true, visible Church, around the rightly preached Gospel and purely administered Sacraments.

And that, my dear brothers in Christ and office, is what I mean when I speak of Lutheranism.

I'm trying to understand what you mean by the term "Lutheranism" for it appears to have picked up a lot of negative baggage when you come to use the term.

Help me understand your point better.

Benjamin Harju said...

I think -C's comment was directed at the notion that Lutheranism is the Church, when in reality it claims in its own teachings that it alone is not the Church, but only best expresses the Church in a given place and time.

After all, the Lutheran doctrine of the Church depends upon the existence of "the Greek Church" as the Book of Concord puts it. (The Lutheran argument that Rome is not the Church draws on the fact that there is a Christian "Greek Church.") Surely when the claim is made that the Church is comprised of believers scattered all over the world, the Lutheran confessors didn't mean only those who signed on to their documents. Their sentiment was more in line with what Rev. Dr. Stuckwisch stated.

So -C's comment is not without merit.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

According to the Augsburg Confession, does "the Church" define where the Word and sacraments are or do "the Word and sacraments" define where the Church is?

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I deliberately put "Lutheranism" in quotation marks, because there is an ambiguity to what is meant by that term, and to the way in which it is used.

My point is that when "Lutheranism" is chiefly concerned with preserving, protecting and promoting itself, then it is no longer a Lutheran confession of the one true faith, but idolatry and self-righteousness.

Luther was certainly not contending for "Lutheranism" when he made his good confession, but for the Gospel of Christ; and that not only in theory, nor in some "platonic ideal," but in actual preaching and practice. I harbor no romantic notions of an ideal church to be found "somewhere over the rainbow." That, too, was precisely part of my point.

The Church is where the Word of Christ is preached, His Baptism administered, His Body and Blood given and poured out. It is for those things that we contend and confess, and those things that we are given to practice, whether as preachers or hearers (or both), as ministers and as ministered unto.

Genuine "Lutheranism," by which I mean the confession of the Christian faith in preaching and practice, is focused not on itself, nor on its own perpetuity, but solely upon Christ, His Word and His good gifts. I don't believe there are any aspects of that genuine Lutheranism which do not align with Christianity. Nor do I believe that one needs to or should go looking for the Church elsewhere; that would be to make the same error in another fashion.

Maybe I should say it this way, for those who seem to be concerned that I am now attacking my own Lutheran confession (I'm not): Instead of striving to define and protect "Lutheranism" as an entity unto itself, Lutherans should best BE Lutheran by giving attention to the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

If that then seems redundant or self-evident, I would that it were so in practice; and that not only others but I, myself, would be less easily caught up in in defensive self-preservation.

Paul McCain said...

Thanks for the clarification, Rick. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Blessed Palm Sunday to you and your congregation!

Paul

-C said...

"I think -C's comment was directed at the notion that Lutheranism is the Church, when in reality it claims in its own teachings that it alone is not the Church..."

It is precisely what I meant.
Thanks.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Indeed, thank you, Pastor.

orthodoxy hunter said...

How do we preserve the confession? It seems to be slipping out of practice.