January 21, 2021

Levi Nunnink: A Lutheran layman’s perspective on the Tullian Tchividjian scandal & Liberate

LutherSunglassesNote from CM: One of the interesting characteristics of evangelicalism is its Disney-like ability to take classic traditions and turn them into palatable fast-food for contemporary audiences. A smart evangelical pastor might be just one good J.I. Packer book away from planting a new “reformed” megachurch.

Tullian Tchividjian, of whom we wrote yesterday, who just resigned the pastorate of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, was becoming known as the “Lutheran” evangelical.

What do real Lutherans think about that?

Well, I found out by reading a wonderfully written, down-to-earth, funny and self-deprecating take on how the Tullian phenomenon and fall looks through Lutheran eyes that we’re happy to share with you today.

Levi Nunnink has penned “A Lutheran layman’s perspective on the Tullian Tchividjian scandal & Liberate.” [Note: “Liberate” is Tullian’s web resource and conference ministry, now shut down in light of recent events.] Levi graciously gave permission for us to re-post it here at Internet Monk, and I hope you’ll enjoy and learn from it as much as I did.

The news broke yesterday that Tullian Tchividjian was resigning as pastor of Coral Ridge because of adultery. I’m very sad to hear this. The repercussions will be far-reaching and long lasting for him, his family, and his flock. Now is not the time to gloat or point fingers. We are all equally condemned in sin and but for the grace of God, we would all be lost. The small silver lining to this sad story is that everyone appears to be doing the proper thing at the moment: the elders notifying the congregation, Tullian resigning from ministry, etc. It’s not my place to comment much further on that. However, I do have a few tangental thoughts on this.

Here’s the deal: I’m a Lutheran, currently a member of a church in the Missouri Synod (sexy name, eh? Branding, baby.). Let me give you a bit of a thumbnail sketch of “ecclesiastical life” in the Missouri Synod:

It’s German. Very German.

Now don’t get me wrong, Germans are awesome in a great many ways. But they are not the most dynamic bunch to spend a Sunday morning with. The sermons are short; twenty minutes is pushing it; get to the point, Pastor! The church buildings (at least on the west coast) are plain and have none of the grandeur of the neighboring Roman Catholic or Episcopalian parishes. The vestments are plain too and sometimes look like they haven’t been updated since 1970.

Worshipping in a typical Missouri Synod church, you get the feeling that Rome is doing stuff on a Hollywood-level production budget and we’ve got a Lifetime special.

And please don’t ask about our contemporary services. Just don’t. Leave us in our shame. Our deep, deep shame.

Now what about Lutheran celebrities? Matt Harrison? You’ve heard of him, right?


The closest thing we have to a celebrity pastor

The closest thing we have to a celebrity pastor

I guess it’s not surprising since Pr. Harrison looks like a retired lumberjack, doesn’t go on speaking tours, hasn’t written any popular books, doesn’t have an Instagram account where he posts selfies with his tats prominently displayed. But as far as well-known pastors in my synod, he’s probably at the top. But I suspect the office of presiding bishop keeps him busy enough that he doesn’t have time to work on his personal brand. In fact the only time you’ll probably hear people talk about Matt Harrison is when they’re complaining about him. Here’s hoping the glory doesn’t go to his head.

That being said…

I’m sure some Lutherans would love to change this.

I’m sure some Lutherans would love to have a club like The Gospel Coalition, where they host annual conferences, promote each other’s books, and film themselves pontificating on any and every subject; a theological rat pack if you will. I’m sure some Lutherans would love to share the ridiculous level of attention that John Piper gets. (Although a video series named “Ask Pastor Siegmund” doesn’t have the same same ring as “Ask Pastor John”.) I’m sure some Lutherans would love to go on speaking tours where they go around the country, preaching to packed churches.

Where does that leave ambitious Lutherans?

What are Lutherans to do when we catch a glimpse of the potent marketing engine that reformed Christianity in America has built for itself? Rod Rosenbladt’s supporting role on the White Horse Inn just ain’t cutting it. So many huge conferences… So many hip books… So many gorgeous blogs… And not a crumb for us.

Enter Tullian Tchividjian: Grandson of Billy Graham; dynamic personality; bestselling author; huge church; gangster-hip; GQ-good-looks; and what’s this? He kinda sounds Lutheran!

Here’s a funny thing about Lutherans that you probably wouldn’t guess from the outside: you know who we really can’t stand? No, it’s not Rome, although you would think so. It’s The Reformed! Maybe that seems weird but historically we’ve had a way harder time distancing ourselves from the Calvinists than the Papists. To the point that Martin Luther at the end of his life said that he’d rather “drink blood with a Papist than mere wine with a Zwinglian”. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, than you’re probably a Zwinglian.)

But Tullian was different. He quoted Luther and Lutheran theologians ad nauseam. He wrote blog posts on The Gospel Coalition website, that hotbed of Neo-Calvinism, on why Lutheran theology was awesome. Then when puritanical loose screws like Mark Jones and John MaCarthur would attack him as overemphasizing grace, that just confirmed everything that we always suspected about reformed theology. I personally got a kick when Mark Jones wrote his “Brothers, we are not Lutherans” post, where he insisted that our personal good works were actually efficacious for our salvation. When Grace To You made the ludicrous attempt to coin the term “hypergrace” (which sounds like something out of Star Wars) and basically said that grace was better in limited doses, well, that only fed the feeling of Lutheran vindication.

And the only reason these crytpo-Papists were coming out of the woodwork to expose themselves was because of Tullian Tchividjian.

Things came to a head when The Gospel Coalition kicked Tullian out. Tullian immediately announced the creation of a new coalition called “Liberate” and this time Lutherans and our unqualified message of grace were going to be first-class citizens. And this thing was every bit as sexy as The Gospel Coalition: it had a slick design; big conference; marketing power. It seemed that maybe our day in the spotlight had come.


Question: Could Lutherans pull something like this off? Answer: No.

But here’s the problem: no matter how much Tullian emphasized that blessed Lutheran distinctive of Law and Gospel, he was not Lutheran. Not even close. I’m not really sure if Tullian realized this himself but there is far more to our theology than simply Law and Gospel. In fact our understanding of Law and Gospel can only exist in the larger universe of our orders of worship, doctrines of the sacraments, ecclesiology, soteriology, and ultimately and most importantly our Christology. Tullian shared none of this with us. His understanding of Law and Gospel, while correct in some areas was highly insufficient. Ultimately he was not a good representation of either the Reformed or Lutheran tradition. Rather than the exciting new champion of Lutheran theology in a reformed world, he was either a confused Presbyterian or a heterodox Lutheran. He should’ve picked one tradition and stuck with it.

Even worse, many of the “Lutherans” who signed up for his Liberate gig were those who had a highly warped theology that had much more to do with 20th century liberal ideas than anything by Martin Luther. And as things progressed, it appeared that Tullian’s notions of Law and Gospel seemed to be in conflict with St. Paul’s. Especially when it came to things like the effects that Law and Gospel should have in the life of the believer, the qualifications for ministry, and the Christian’s relation to sin. I honestly don’t know enough to say if it was or wasn’t technically antinomian but it certainly wasn’t good or Lutheran. Many of the people that Tullian chose to get involved in his ministry were not just theologically “off” but dangerous. It seems like a lot of standards got thrown out the window on this one.

Let’s make this clear: Contrary to popular rumor, Lutherans believe in things like church discipline, preaching good works, growth in holiness, resisting sin, etc. If you think you can escape these things in Confessional Lutheranism, we’ll, sorry ya can’t. Just read Luther’s Small Catechism for a dose of reality. Moreover, those things are all over the New Testament, we can’t ignore them. The good news (no pun intended) is that they don’t qualify or confuse The Gospel. But they are necessary for a healthy understanding of The Gospel and how we should live under grace.

Don’t read this as me saying “I told ya so” or gloating over a minister’s tragic fall. It seems like the sanity that comes from things like denominations, synods, and presbyteries has kicked in and everything is proceeding correctly now. Also, don’t read this as somehow saying that being an orthodox Lutheran or Presbyterian means that you won’t fall into horrendous sin. That is absolutely not true. By definition, the church is full of sinners from top to bottom. St. Paul himself said, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” The danger is always there. The only man who had true victory over sin was the Lord Jesus Christ.

That being said, here are a few final thoughts:

Lutheran Pastors: your sheep do not need you to have a bigger platform; they need faithful shepherds. We don’t need our own Gospel Coalition, bigger and better conferences, or speaking tours; we need the word and sacrament given to us in purity. We need the discipline, authority, and communion of our synod to be respected, not set aside so we can have a wider audience. Please don’t be tempted by these things; don’t be suckered into playing this silly game. It goes nowhere and gives nothing in return. But I’m pretty sure you already know this. So thank you!


No Twitter followers. No tattoos. Still awesome.

Bummed Layperson: Maybe you are truly broken by what happened with Tullian. Maybe you heard his clear proclamation of the free grace of Jesus Christ and it did liberate your soul from the crushing burden of works righteousness. You read Jesus + Nothing = Everything and it gave you a new lease on life. But now you’re wondering where to go and what to do. Don’t give up! The Gospel really is as wonderful as you hoped.

Here’s my best advice for you: turn off the podcasts, close the browser, and go to a confessional Lutheran church (haha! pretty lame, huh).

Here’s what to expect:

  • The minister will probably not be very dynamic. He won’t have a Twitter feed full of pithy quotes about radical grace. He won’t be the best preacher since George Whitfield. He won’t have a personal trainer and look like his last gig was touring with the Jonas Brothers. He won’t have a book deal and vanish for months to go on speaking tours. But he will have been called and ordered to teach the word faithfully and he will have taken solemn vows to keep these orders and respect this call. He will have years of theological and pastoral training. He will have oversight so if he begins to break his vows, you will not be alone. He will know your name. He will baptize and instruct your children in the essentials of the Christian faith. He will visit you when you are too sick to come to the altar. He will hear your confession of sin and give you absolution. He will know how to apply the Law and Gospel to your life and not to some abstract audience on the web.
  • The worship will feel weird, foreign, catholic, and maybe even a bit boring once the novelty wears off. This is a good thing. These rituals are all here to protect and preserve the purity of the church and your soul, not to entertain you. Like good medicine, it may not taste great but it’s what you need. Over time you’ll discover the deep beauty that they contain. (And here’s a neat little secret, Lutherans have the best music out of all the Christian churches. Hands down. Martin Luther loved music and if a Lutheran liturgy is done right, it should be mostly chanting, and singing. And it’s good stuff, composed by musicians who know what they’re doing. Y’know Bach was Lutheran, right?)
  • Here’s the thing that you absolutely must show up for. You won’t get the gospel in a Tweet, blog post, podcast, or sermon; you will receive the gospel in the true body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. Come for that, if nothing else. That is The Gospel that Tullian and Liberate could never give you even if this whole awful business never transpired in the first place.

If you’re having trouble finding a church that gives you these things, please get in touch. Seriously. Reach out to me on Twitter or email and I’ll do my best to help. I’ve been through this before and I know that it can be hard.


  1. Danielle says

    The breaking scandal leaves me thinking, “Oh, here we go again,” while I puzzle over the possible interpretations of a public statement that is … to me at least … vague in its intent. I’d parse it, but ultimately I’m not convinced it matters. Lightshows and lawyers.

    What does matter is what Tchividjian seems to mean to a lot of people, and where uncomfortable news leaves those people.

    Levi, I appreciate that you tackle that topic head on, and you made me laugh several times. Thank you!

    Sigh … I love Germans. Possibly I laughed several times because I attend a Lutheran church that is comprised mainly of German.

    “Ask Pastor Siegmund.” Oh my. Do it. Do it now. Sniff … hmmm…. Maybe we just found a name for kid 2. I can lean out the back door yelling: “August! Siegmund!”

    Although, you are in the Missouri Synod, so isn’t the go-to name here Walter?

    On a serious note: I hope that Lutheran churches figure out how to connect to communities around them while emphasizing traditional pastoral care. That portions of Lutheranism seem relatively unacquainted with the tricks of the trade in glitzier side of American Christianity is promising; now, if we can only figure out how to cross borders better.

    • Danielle says


      Thanks, too, for your reminders of the gospel. It’s amazing how quickly all trace of it evaporates in discussions of public scandals.

    • Psst!!! Some of us Lutherans even (gasp!) ordain *women.* Contrary to some popular views of us and our synod no tattoos or hipster street cred required. 😉

      But then, I’m PA German, from one of the parts of the US where Lutherans arrived a long time ago, and we are not only “Dutch”; we don’t have anyone named Siegmund, Dieter or Manfred. Not even Trudi or Kati, come to that. 😉

      • Danielle says

        Siegmund is funnier attached to a Q&A column, but I’m down with “Ask Pastor Trudi.” 🙂

        Baltimore, being a major point of entry, has had a steady stream of German immigrants until fairly recently. Our congregation tended to attract people in this group, especially as it was independent during a lot of denomination’s decisions to move away from the German language, and so was free ignore mandates and recommendations to drop the mother tongue. We still have an entirely German service, as well as an English service.

        So my reference point may be a little unusual, even for congregations with a lot of German heritage. We do have a Trudy. Also: Helga, Anja, Erika, Ingrid, etc. The last two pastors were, respectively, Holger and Otto. (Our interim pastors are Eric and Anke.)

        Interestingly – maybe just by happenstance, or maybe not – the Maryland-Delaware Synod’s bishop is a Wolfgang, a first generation arrival, which perhaps distinguishes him somewhat among the other ELCA bishops. [I’m not sure, I just scanned the name list in order to guess.]

        So it wouldn’t surprise me to meet a Dieter or Siegmund.

        That said, I haven’t – A lot of the names English speakers find stodgy are also off-trend in Germany.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          “We still have an entirely German service, as well as an English service.”

          The English service was added more or less under duress, during World War I. The church had responded ecstatically to the arrival of the submarine Deutschland in 1916. This proved embarrassing the following year, with federal agents attending services and taking notes. The church took to florid displays of American patriotism, including adding English-language services. The whole episode is reminiscent of what it must be like to be a mosque in today’s America.

          • Brianthedad says

            Included adding the American flag to the front of many sanctuaries, as well. Or was that WW2? And now, mention moving the flag out to the narthex or something, and you’re Zwingli himself.

    • Danielle, I literally Googled “Really German names” and Siegmund just tickled the right spot. Scientifically rigorous I was not.

  2. Great article, really summarizes many of the things that drew me into the synod.

    many of the “Lutherans” who signed up for his Liberate gig were those who had a highly warped theology that had much more to do with 20th century liberal ideas than anything by Martin Luther.

    Notable exceptions include Rod Rosenbladt and Donavon Riley.

    Since Pr. Harrison looks like a retired lumberjack, doesn’t go on speaking tours, hasn’t written any popular books, doesn’t have an Instagram account where he posts selfies with his tats prominently displayed.

    He does a lot of traveling to speak, and has published several excellent books. He may or may not be on Instagram, but pictures of him keep popping up in my feed. Sure, he doesn’t act like a celebrity, but he works just as hard and has good support staff.

    no matter how much Tullian emphasized that blessed Lutheran distinctive of Law and Gospel, he was not Lutheran. Not even close.

    Yeah, Todd Wilken tried pointing this out. You should have seen the backlash. Apparently it’s politically incorrect to call somebody a Presbyterian. Unless, I suppose, you are a Presbyterian.

    Let me give you a bit of a thumbnail sketch of “ecclesiastical life” in the Missouri Synod:
    It’s German. Very German.

    Not in my neck of the woods. We’re all Italians out here. And Asians, Africans, Hispanics, Norwegians, Indians, Native Americans, and Canadians all worship with us weekly. This stereotype of Lutherans being German is likely because Lutheranism is more popular in areas more populated by Germans. We do tend to be very white, but we have 50 shades of it.

    Worshipping in a typical Missouri Synod church, you get the feeling that Rome is doing stuff on a Hollywood-level production budget and we’ve got a Lifetime special.

    Lutherans invest proportionally much higher in music and worship than Roman Catholics. At least, that’s what all my Catholic friends tell me when they complain about their services. And my organ subs who are frustrated with getting underpaid by them. Small Lutheran congregations will scrape together to call a cantor. Quite often a Catholic parish
    will grow very large before bringing on full time staff. You can’t compare what happens at the Cathedrals to the rural congregation.

    Ultimately he was not a good representation of either the Reformed or Lutheran tradition.

    I don’t know about that. Capon and Horton are also “Law and Gospel” guys in the Reformed tradition. I hear there is much historic precedent, but those roots just got downplayed in Calvinism when it got coopted by the enthusiasm of the Anabaptists, and the revivalist patterns of Evangelicalism. There is still a place for “high church puritans” to wrestle with the proper distinction between law and gospel.

    • I dunno about “popular” – it’s certainly more prevalent in areas settled by Getmans and Scandinavians, but by no means are most of us, back here in the East, of German or Swedish descent, eventhough I’m sure I’ve met people who can trace their bona fides all the way back to Muhlenberg and/or New Swecen (in what is now Delaware). As with where you live, it’s everyone and anyone, and lots of good musicians who migrated from other churches.

    • I have yet to hear anyone back here in PA preach on law v. gospel. I wonder if this is an anomaly – ?

      • Danielle says

        I don’t know Lutheranism well enough to make useful comment, but in my very limited experience in one ELCA congregation for three years only, I’ve heard it in at least one homily (possibly more … haven’t counted), and heard laypeople in the congregation reference it casually. It arose neither as a magical solution to all problems, nor as a strange idea. As I recall, it came up almost casually: a concept available for use when needed, that people would be expected to know.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          This. How it arises in a sermon will depend on the pastor. It may well not explicitly arise at all, for much the same reason fish don’t need to explicitly discuss water. Well, that and the fact that fish can’t talk…

      • Robert F says

        Here in Lancaster PA, I’ve spent almost every Sunday for the last seven years in a Lutheran-ELCA parish, and not heard a Law/Gospel sermon once. At this parish, most sermons start briefly with “Gospel”, as we are reminded that in our baptism we have been forgiven, given faith and all things necessary to live the Christian life, and then for the remainder of the sermon we are told how this can and should empower a life of service and creating a better world. I don’t think this is an anomaly; I think this is Lutheran theology as filtered through the ELCA’s “preferential option” for social justice and peace.

        • Robert F says

          An anecdote about international variations in Lutheran piety.

          Couple Sundays ago a pastor and a church worker from the parish’s sister congregation in Tanzania visited.

          When the pastor took the pulpit to offer his reflections in lieu of a regular sermon, the first thing he said was,
          “Praise the Lord!!”

          To which the congregation dutifully responded, “And also with you.”

        • Robert F. – I’m in the general area, too. I have found that the ELCA’s I have visited take a laissez faire attitude with theology as evidenced by being greeted as a newcomer with this statement: “I love it here – you can believe anything you want.”

          The local LCMS is much more traditional Lutheran, but there are not many around. And even fewer are the LCMC congregations, which seem to be more orthodox.

        • Robert, I just moved to Lancaster County, 20 mins east of the city. It’s quite an adjustment from metro NY.

          Do with this information what you please 🙂

        • And I’m in Akron/Ephrata… I’d suggest an actual meet-up through the private imonk facebook group… If you don’t know what that is, ask Chaplain Mike.
          Sean, if you have any questions about surviving here, I’m game 🙂

    • I’d like to know how Norwegian bachelor farmers fit into all this.

    • I don’t know about that. Capon and Horton are also “Law and Gospel” guys in the Reformed tradition. I hear there is much historic precedent, but those roots just got downplayed in Calvinism when it got coopted by the enthusiasm of the Anabaptists, and the revivalist patterns of Evangelicalism.
      This goes back to an ongoing conversation I’ve had with some of my Presbyterian friends. They do NOT consider the neo-puritans, YRR, or any “reformed” Baptists to be Reformed. I don’t expect many of these groups to teach (or even be aware) of the richer teachings in the Reformed tradition. However, I kind of felt like some of the author’s comments were unfair – Grace to You? Really? Not only are these guys not Reformed, I am pretty darn sure they are not Christians at all. Holding up rabid fundamentalists with a bitter streak a mile wide as an example of theological vindication isn’t fair, in my book.

      • Hi Dr. Fundystan,

        I see a tension within the Reformed tradition on what the Material Principle of Reformed Theology actually *is*. Is it the Glory of God or The Gospel? This seems to be especially pronounced when you look at the differences between the puritan reformers and the continental reformers. Reformed Theologians like Horton stand firmly in the continental tradition, which from what I can tell, is heavily influenced by Luther and his understanding of the Gospel. The puritan tradition on the other hand seems far more preoccupied with purity of worship and the Glory of God than “The Gospel” in a Lutheran sense. They affirm Sola Fide but it isn’t at the heart of their theology or pastoral practice.

        The question arises then, which is the authentic Reformed Tradition? Calvin himself is a perfect example of this confusion. In some of his writings he can sound like a grace-filled Lutheran theologian and then in others he sounds like a puritan, consumed with the Glory of God even if that means damning the whole world (A la Jonathan Edwards). Both these ideas are in historic Reformed Theology.

        However, I do think that the puritan preoccupation with the Glory of God wins at the end of the day.

        • Hey, thanks for the expansion. I definitely see some confusion in Calvin. Before I joined LCMS I was Baptist, and in seminary had the opportunity to read every work of Calvin in English. That’s right – not just the institutes, but his entire commentary set. Interesting stuff, but his preoccupation with forcing disparate works into some kind of logically coherent system often caused him to ignore, marginalize, and/or reinterpret rather large portions of Scripture. Maybe that’s why I’m Lutheran now, lol. But I think larger point of my comment is that I don’t think it is fair to take cranks and kooks and use them as examples – technically, Westboro Baptist Church is orthodox Reformed.

          • Grace To You theologically is quite kooky. Within calvinistic baptist circles they have a lot of clout though. They certainly aren’t viewed as “beyond the pale” like Westboro. To me John MacArthur and Master’s seminary have a big enough footprint that I think they represent a voice worth addressing. I’m from California though so maybe their influence is exaggerated out here? I don’t know if it diminishes once you start moving east.

            That being said, I agree that they certainly don’t speak for the reformed in the traditional sense.

  3. Richard Hershberger says

    FWIW, this post pretty much nails Lutheranism (West coast LCMS version). Move to the Midwest and the Northeast and the church architecture gets better. This is mostly a matter of timing. The post-WWII years were not good ones for church architecture.

    I don’t know enough about Tchividjian to comment, but I agree that Law & Gospel is not an independent theological module that can be plugged into someone’s theology and voila: Lutheran! At the least, I would want to know how, or if, his church did communion.

  4. Thanks for the alternative perspective. I do think TT was to an extent a victim of his own “success”.

  5. Clay Crouch says

    The Episcopalians over at the Mockingbird blog have for several years been exploring how Law/Gospel manifests in American culture and how it relates to our individual everyday life. Gerhard Forde is practically their patron saint. They have also been closely linked to TT for several years. He and Nadia Bolz-Weber were speakers at their last conference.

  6. Guys, this outsider looks at the picture of the totally awesome Lutheran hierarchy and thinks – maybe the biggest appeal to the Lutheran congregants is the chance to be together with people like them – all white.

    Why oh why must the protestant churches remain the last bastion of segregation in America?

    • Anon, all are welcome but.none forced

    • I have only ever attended one Lutheran church (my current church). It is not all white at all – not even close. The majority of the congregation (about 60% I’d say) consists of African heritage (most born in Africa, but also their children, most of whom were born here), while the rest is a mix of white, black, and hispanic. Admittedly the church consists mostly of lower socio-economic strata (which these days is a more prescient social indicator than race), but it is fairly diverse.

    • Patrick Kyle says

      Oh No! Some random picture of our clergy doesn’t include any people of color, so surely we are a ‘bastion of segregation in America.’


      This kind of ignorance and slander is why I hate political correctness. anon sees one photo, and knowing nothing about our denomination, slams us all as racists.

      According to this logic, inner city AME churches are segregationists because whites and Hispanics are ‘under represented’ in their clergy. Oh, sorry, I forgot, only white people can be racist/bigoted/oppressors.

      • Touched a sore spot I see…

        No, I said protestant, not lutheran, and most of the black churches are just as guilty as the white. And good on you, Dr. Fundystan.

        • Patrick Kyle says

          Ah, I see, your brush is even broader than I thought. The only sore spot here is you claiming large numbers of people you do not know are racists based on some random picture. Lay off the agitprop.

          • Please don’t put words in my mouth, I am not accusing you or anyone else of being racist. I’m just noting that the modern protestant denominations, and particularly the individual churches within the denominations, are still largely segregated, at a time when the general population is becoming more integrated. I understand that most people are not racist, if anything it is just wanting to stay in their own little comfort bubble and not move out into a broader world.

          • To anon: That goes for all of us, and I don’t think it has anything to do with segregation. I don’t see black churches ‘reaching out’ and trying to make their churches more comfortable for white folks any more than I see white/Hispanic/Asian/you-name-it churches do it (though in fact some do, and most any church accepts and welcomes people different than the majority). People attend where they are comfortable, according to their culture, ethnicity, and preferences, and I don’t believe it is wrong for any of us to do that. If white churches are to blame because they have few blacks, then black churches are equally to blame for not having enough whites (i.e. they refuse to change things to make white folks more comfortable). We certainly should strive to welcome all to our churches (regardless of the ethnic makeup of the majority) but maybe we should just let people go where they want to go, and quit seeing this as another ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed.

          • 1) I didn’t hear Anon mention racism once, but rather how a given picture appeared – and I find input like this helpful.
            2) But it isn’t just Protestant churches that are segregated, unless you include the technical out that all Catholics are one Church, but two can play at that game. There are several VERY white parishes in my area.
            3) Church is almost always a reflection of the socio-economic dynamic required in attending the church. I had to word that kind of carefully, but hear me out. The simplest version of this is neighborhood – one of the reasons for diversity in my church is that it is a poor neighborhood. As you may have noticed, poor tends to be diverse. And people tend to go to the most convenient church. But there are things a church can do to affect this dynamic. A large mega in the suburbs requires a vehicle capable of transporting the individual and/or family to the site, as well as the ability and willingness to consume resources like gasoline, etc. As well, a church where the pastor wears expensive clothing, and sells Starbucks in the lobby is intentionally creating a socio-economic dynamic. So even if it is surrounded by the poor, it is unlikely to attract them.
            4) So, I actually don’t think most churches (outside some mostly Bible-belt fundamentalist churches) are racist. Black churches have more than enough blacks to minister to, usually in the immediate vicinity, to spend the resources to “reach out” to the white community (usually actually a socio-economic barrier). On the other hand, the painfully white Saint Anne’s down the road is in the middle of a very rich bedroom community. They, too, have got their hands full ministering without seeking out folks from a different neighborhood. So I save my judgment to those who are not ministering, feeding the poor, visiting the widow and orphan, etc., rather than judging the diversity of those who actually are.
            5) On the other hand, racism is real and systemic, and I think it behooves all churches to think through how their power structures might be excluding on the basis of race – or socio-economic status, since this is a wickedness that James specifically addresses.

    • Is that you, Faulty?

    • Hi Anon,

      Like I said in the article, the LCMS is very German. It was a church formed by Germans fleeing persecution. Up until WWII most LCMS churches still did their services in German not English. So it’s not surprising to me that most of their congregations and ministers look, well, German.

      That being said, I do know some black Lutheran ministers in my synod and I think they would have a much more interesting perspective than I could give for bad or good. If you’re interested, I could put you in touch.

    • Patrick Kyle says

      ” maybe the biggest appeal to the Lutheran congregants is the chance to be together with people like them – all white.”

      ” I am not accusing you or anyone else of being racist.”

      Yes, you did.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Okay, just out of curiosity I did a google image search on “African American Baptist Pastors” and “African American Lutheran Pastors.”

      The results and differences are actually eye-opening. There might be some evidence to support Anon’s jab.

  7. David Cornwell says

    First, thanks for what you are saying. It opens up the mind, and brings in some light.

    Our church is neighbors to a very large downtown ECLA church. When our pastor was away last year, the pastor emeritus of the ECLA church helped conduct services and preached for us. He had to laugh when our congregation applauded part of his sermon. We aren’t beyond expressing some feeling during a service and he made some comment about the difference in our church and the stoicism of his.

    About your comment:

    “(And here’s a neat little secret, Lutherans have the best music out of all the Christian churches. Hands down. Martin Luther loved music and if a Lutheran liturgy is done right, it should be mostly chanting, and singing. And it’s good stuff, composed by musicians who know what they’re doing. Y’know Bach was Lutheran, right?)”

    Of course this, like many other things, depends on point of view. From critics and trained classical musicians, I suppose this statement is correct. I love much of the music you are speaking of. But the range is narrow, and probably will not appeal to a congregation in Appalachia or urban Gary, Indiana. I suppose from an objective critical standpoint, you are correct. But we are not all German with that refined musical sensibility and understanding. Of course this is a generalization with exceptions and crossovers.

    • Of course, you’re right. Lutherans do not have the universal “best music”. But I have really come to appreciate how integral music is and always has been to their liturgy. For many churches it is an afterthought and in the Reformed tradition it may even be forbidden. There’s something about singing the Gloria in Excelsis together on the Lord’s Day that is a little bit of heaven.

      • David Cornwell says

        “Lutherans do not have the universal “best music”. But I have really come to appreciate how integral music is and always has been to their liturgy.”

        Lutherans definitely know what they are doing, and do it well. That cannot be said of all Protestants.

    • To which I would add that German hymns are notoriously hard to sing, and often have an odd meter or key change apparently just for kicks.

      • No. SOME German hymns are hard to sing. And mostly the Renaissance era ones. And if you can’t handle the rhythmic tunes, there’s always the “streamlined” isorhythmic versions from Bach.

        They don’t have “odd meter,” they have no meter. Some of the tunes are older than the bar lines in sheet music. They pre-date our modern concept of rhythmic structures, hearkening back to a time when rhythm was modal.

        Even the worst of these are not impossible. In fact, they have been retained so well because, though they require significant effort, when the effort is made, the sound is powerful. They were designed for and effective in congregational song back then, and remain useful today. It just takes skilled leadership and strategic planning to leverage them effectively in the worshiping assembly. We don’t use many of them, but every congregation can use some. It’s part of a balanced musical diet; they sound so foreign to the ear because they are several cultures removed from us today, and it is meet, right, and salutary to be confronted with that in worship because it forces us to reckon with a faith that is ancient.

        But most importantly, the texts often paired with these angular, syncopated tunes are unparalleled anywhere, anytime. Never before or since has such a powerful re-discovery of the Gospel led to 15 stanza anthems that can double as a comprehensive doctrinal treatise.

        *descends from soapbox

        • Miguel – yes. Reformatiin-era chorales are, imo, easy to sing by comparison. Though the synod i grew up in (LCA) had some of the most unsingable setyings of the liturgy i have ever heard/participated in, so maybe the hhmns seemed eady by comparison. 😉

          • TBH, I’m still getting used to some of the chorales, and our church has unfortunately hardly preserved a bare minimum of them. I’m sort of rebuilding/overhauling our repertoire ATM, which has been a long, slow, and complicated process.

            What settings did the LCA use when you were growing up? Was that from the Service Book & Hymnal? I find it very interesting how often two people of very similar background can approach the same two settings and each be convinced that the opposite is far more accessible. I fear that sometimes the most accessible settings are also far too colloquial, and as a result, transient. I suppose that every setting has a shelf life, but I think there is also some value in long-term continuity. It’s just something I’ve been musing about much recently. I think our settings are good, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

          • All i can tell you is that it was all in the old LCA “red book” with a gold cross above an orb on the front cover. I have not been able to find a copy for myself; most were shipped to misson churches overseas when they became obsolete here. Iirc, they were in use from the early 60s until sometime in the 70s.

            The church i grew up in used the 3d setting, which required a 2 & 1/2 – 3-octave range to do it properly. The Offertory was espevially difficult, as was the old Hymn of Praise, which was long, and had complex, octave-leaping segments. The meter changed several times, too. It got to the,point where i had to stop trying to hit the top soprano notes altogether and just drop down an octave, but some of the low notes were a challenge when i did that.

            And you know what? I miss it! The twistiness of that melody was part of the fun. It was a bit show-offy, tbh.

            The only other setting i came across (used by other congregations) was, iirc, the 2nd. It had simple melofies but was imposdibly high, with very long held notes that made it thst much more difficult.

          • P.S.: i am talking about the old “We praise thee, we bless ther, we worship thee” text, not some of those newfangled replacements. 😉 (yeah, this congregation is *still* pretty traditional, though not as much as when i was growing up.)

            I always have loved the music, though those big 19th c. pipe organs – not so much. (I do tend to like a smaller sound, with less blast and more subtlety – baroque organs fit the bill nicely.)

          • Ok, i stand correvted – wenused ghe 3nd setting, while a lot of other churches used the 1st.

            There was no 3d setting! (My age is showing…)

          • Offertoy was “-the sacrifices of God…,” not “Create in me a clean heart.”

        • SOMEThe vast majority of German hymns are hard to sing for anyone who is not a professional musician.

          There, fixed it for you, Miguel.

  8. I did hear the clear proclamation of the free grace of Jesus Christ and it did liberate my soul from the crushing burden of works righteousness.
    I did read Jesus + Nothing = Everything and it gave me a new lease on life.
    Now I’m wondering where to go and what to do? LOL! That’s hilarious! No. No I am not.
    Tullian was key in helping me understand the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. I never heard the gospel of Tullian.
    Nor did I hear the gospel of the Lutheran church. …thankfully.

    • Thank you for this. You say what I’m thinking.

    • Clay Crouch says

      While we are deeply indebted to Luther and slew of Lutheran theologians, it would seem that the writer of this post considers his tribe as having cornered the market on the gospel, church music, and pastors who shepherd the flock. Yikes! What are the rest of us poor Protestants to do?

      • Rick Ro. says

        Lots of tribalism in denominations, yep. They’re all guilty. I like reading about Lutheranism in posts like this; it helps me learn more about a denomination in which I’m not involved. I might visit a Lutheran church some Sunday, but I doubt I’d make it a permanent worship home.

      • David Cornwell says

        One always has this feeling when hearing certain Lutherans speak of Luther and his church. But God is honored by other forms of worship as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply affected by the black church when he was in America. He was amazed and learned lessons he never forgot.

        So I just take the boasting with a grain of salt.

        • Lutherans never speak of “Luther’s church.” It ain’t his, and we don’t follow him. You know the name was given as a slur, and the insult was born as a mark of pride because it distinguished those who held to justification by faith alone.

          Yes, take the boasting with a grain of salt. Our stuff is better than yours, but that doesn’t make yours worthless. God is definitely honored by many other means and methods. Ours aren’t better because they’re more pleasing to God. They’re better because they’re more salutary for the user. Lutheran worship is all about blessing the worshiper, because in it we receive SO much more than we could ever possibly give to God. All we got is “Thanks, you’re awesome,” and then to tell each other why.

          Spencer once used the analogy of BBQ. Just because the folks in Kentucky and Texas are convinced their respective traditions and culinary methods are objectively superior to the other, it doesn’t follow that they won’t recognize each other’s food as legitimate BBQ. We might even say “You call that BBQ?” but it isn’t meant in the literal sense. Jesus is like BBQ. He comes in different flavors and versions. Some of these are legitimately terrible. Some of the better ones have varying degrees of un-terrible-ness, if you catch my drift. We believe the recipe perfected in 1580 is the same one given by God in the first century. And some of our dissenters are honestly not terribly concerned with God’s recipe, they believe they can do one better.

          • David Cornwell says

            Thanks Miguel for telling me our church services are not “worthless.” I suppose I should take that as a compliment coming from a Lutheran. But from you it definitely sounds like something far different, because your boasting never ends.

            Your “objectivity” is definitely superior by whatever measurement you happen to be using. Refusing bread and wine to the rest of us most certainly puts you on a higher plane. I won’t be seeking it anytime soon.

            I’m glad you re-discovered the correct recipe in 1580. Too bad for all those from the first century on.

          • *sigh
            Talk about an exercise in missing the point.

            Thanks Miguel for telling me our church services are not “worthless.”

            I’m just agreeing with you that “God is honored by other forms of worship as well.” I was putting the word “worthless” in YOUR mouth, as you seemed to think that we do NOT believe forms of worship that are not ours can be honoring to God.

            it definitely sounds like something far different, because your boasting never ends.
            Yes. There is nothing so arrogant today as actually believing your convictions are correct. You must pass sufficient “I could be wrong about this, but…” muster in order to be considered humble enough. But I wager you are just as convinced that we are wrong as we are that we are right.

            Your “objectivity” is definitely superior by whatever measurement you happen to be using.

            Did you just jump to absolutes from an analogy of BBQ preference? Seriously?

            Refusing bread and wine to the rest of us most certainly puts you on a higher plane.

            Open communion is a relatively recent phenomenon proceeding from radical new eucharistic theology. You are totally judging us for not getting with that progressive agenda. But no, that makes us arrogant. We don’t complain about you believing in open communion. We recognize that it is conversant with the rest of your beliefs. But heaven forbid you extend us that generosity. You demanding our open tables would be like us going to your church and demanding you use our liturgy. “To each his own” don’t work for you?

            I’m glad you re-discovered the correct recipe in 1580. Too bad for all those from the first century on.

            You’re still not listening. It’s cooking, not engineering. There’s no such thing as a “correct” recipe. There are good recipes, recipes that work, and terrible recipes. We are not restorationists. We do not believe the church went off the rails by 101 A.D. We believe in continuity with the catholic church, and that the doctrines we teach have been always present, even if hidden at times. Unless you’re a Roman Catholic, a Campbellite, or a Mormon, you probably believe this too.

      • What are the rest of us poor Protestants to do?

        Enjoy your cheap, wannabe imitations of our 200 proof Gospel.* 8)
        It’s ok, a little water in your whiskey makes it go down easier. You’ll still get drunk off your ass soon enough. Hopefully.

        *just a pinch of snark going on there.

    • I appreciate the post if only because the more I am around YRR types, TT fans or otherwise, the more I get the feeling that the current generation of evangelicals really thinks that Reformed, or some modern variety of it, is the only tradition that really gets grace, or really has a strong intellectual commitment to the faith, or heaven help us is the only tradition to come out of the Reformation.

      I hear people I know routinely refer to Calvin, Spurgeon, Edwards, Piper, and sometimes even Luther, but mostly as if he were a basically another shade of reformed.

      The times I’ve tried explaining the rigor with which I had to study the sacraments in order to be confirmed (in the LCMS), or the difference between the reformed view of communion and the Lutheran view and why it’s important enough to give it a close look if you’re really trying understand the Reformation, I get blank stares and slack jaws.

      My reformed friends are lovely, bright people, but many of them need to broaden their horizons quite a bit. It seems that Lutheranism would be a good place to start, such that it’s a Reformation tradition, but it’s different enough that it would build some alternate pathways in the brain.

      Or not. People will probably just read what they want to read.

      • Good thoughts. Unfortunately, I get those same blank stares from members of my own LCMS congregation.

        • Robert F says

          You both (Miguel and Nate) might be getting blank stares from Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike because the thinking involved in your theology is so subtle and complicated that the average person simply is unable grasp it, or to follow that thinking where you would like it to lead them. If so, one might also justifiably wonder if Galilean fishermen would have the foggiest idea of what you’re talking about if you were able to discuss these matters with them, or if they would be able to study the sacraments rigorously enough to be confirmed.

          • That’s a nice potshot with your Occam’s razor there, but I disagree.

            First of all, all Lutheran doctrine is contained in the Small Catechism and simple enough for children to understand. Where children are well instructed in this, they tend to understand it very well. Our “theological positions” are simply a believing of what the Scriptural texts say, and there’s nothing we’ve dogmatized that wasn’t first taught by Galilean fishermen (except for post-Biblical developments, such as the Pope being the anti-Christ).

            Second, just because it is good for something to be simple enough for children to understand, it doesn’t follow that anything further is useless and irrelevant. There is plenty of depth to the beauty of our teaching that enables a lifetime of discovery and delight, for those so inclined. The proper distinction between law and gospel, for example, is taught by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience. There is never an end to being a student of theology. Many other theologies are either hopelessly complex or boringly simple. We have a strong balance of both, and our faith can be fully understood and practiced by the simpleton or the Einstein (or Kant, or Kierkegaard). It is not based on an appeal to either extreme.

            The “average person” who is unable to grasp it is usually because they have been well catechized by the all pervasive Evangelical publishing industry, whose reach is infinite. When you see Beth Moore studies being used in Lutheran churches, you shouldn’t be surprised when the members don’t understand how the Bible is not simply a guide book to life.

            I’ve NEVER gotten the “blank stare” from somebody who could quote me the catechism. Just sayin! As for non-Lutherans, they have been catechized from an early age to think so differently, such that “This is my body” just can’t possibly mean what it says, for various reasons. It is contrary to their orientation of reality to consider that the truth could really be that simple. It takes more than 15 minutes and coffee to travel through a massive paradigm shift, believe me.

          • I concede your points, except that I think that body itself is a mysterious phenomenon, and even to talk about the presence or non-presence of a body and how that connects with the presence or non-presence of persons is to talk in the language of poetry. Science itself is feeding into this language of poetry by showing how matter itself is a manifestation of energy, and how the physical is not so solid as we perceive it to be, but is really the result of the interplay of forces across wide chasms of “empty” (matter-less) space. “This is my body” is a very mysterious statement, because the nature of the body is mysterious, and the nature of God more so.

          • “…because the thinking involved in your theology is so subtle and complicated that the average person simply is unable grasp it,”

            This is possible, but I don’t bring it up with just anyone, or just for the fun of it. I mostly wait for an opportune time when some sharp cookie starts verbally organizing reformed theology for me, or explaining why we need church services with hour-and-a-half sermons. Or when someone is reducing knowing Christ crucified to some kind of logical graph. My goal is simply to get across that “Take and eat, this is my body…” is the proper balance to “intellectually” known theology.

            And I usually don’t get to anything too complex before the blank stare hits either. Once I tried to put a sacramental spin on things in order to nuance a friend’s perspective so he wouldn’t continue running in circles with the predestination/free will thing. I said something like “you know some Christians strongly value the liturgy, and that can actually have a bearing on the way we dwell on mysteries like this…” That’s as far as I got– at the word “liturgy” he gave it a terse “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And that was pretty much the end of that.

            As to my confirmation– I’m not advocating that churches make their catechumens go through such a rigorous process, it’s just what happened to me (and I’m actually no longer a member of the LCMS). I resented it for awhile, but I’ve actually come around to appreciate that I was made to got through it.

          • Lol, Robert, now you’ve gone far above my pay grade with that one. Your sentiments there remind me of the last four books of Augustine’s “Confessions.” This is where Eucharistic theology as a discipline begins to really break down into more of an art form.

            But since you posed it, I’ll take a stab. Presence of body connects to presence of person incarnationally. In Christ we see not simply what man could never become, but also what man was always meant to be. The second Adam gets it right, and is the one model of true humanity, where the divine person is fully and eternally united to the human body. In this incarnation we see a hypostatic union with the interpenetration of attributes. Just as the divinity and humanity of Christ are simultaneously distinct and indivisible, so the presence of body and presence of person are separately recognizable but inseperable. What do you call it when your person is separated from your body? Death. When Christ promises us life despite this, it necessitates a resurrection of the body.

            But indeed, “This is my body” is a highly mysterious statement, also because the nature of being itself is so mysterious! Ultimately, it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is. We would say that “is” is “is.”

            Now you have to stop deep-pocketing my brain. It’s not fair.

  9. Klasie Kraalogies says

    I was seriously doubting whether I should post this… but here goes:

    We attended the LCC (Effectively the Canadian LCMS) for a number of years here in Canada. All 3 my kids were confirmed in the LCC. I joined Church leadership, and was eventually even elected congregational president. But here’s the deal: We don’t go there anymore. AT ALL.


    Because, the longer I stayed, the more I realized it was evangelicalism with a prayer book and vestments. And minus the horrible sermons, substituted with other mediocre ones. Did you know that you technically cannot belong to the LCMS and not be YEC? Because everything else is evil. Go google the documents. (Funny fact: As late as the 1920’s, key LCMS theologians were still rejecting the Copernican model of the solar system, because Luther rejected it. The Bible said it was geocentric, so SO IT MUST BE, JA!)

    At youth camps, some pastors went on and on about homosexuality – never mind that none of the kids were gay. But did they say anything about gluttony? Of course not, because some of there colleagues struggled to make the walk from the bench to the pulpit, yet piled their plates like mountains at church potlucks, But ok, those were normal strangeness, normal little hypocrisies.

    What then got me is when key familes in the church began to work together to make my life as president unbearable – you see, I did not belong to one of the ruling German families (I have some German ancestry,but they didn’t know – my surname is French). What is even worse is that I was a horrible immigrant. So I had to go. It wasn’t racist per se – there was an Eritrean family that faithfully attended. But to the church was run by the “in” crowd, the German families – although funnily enough I can probably understand more German than any of them seeing as my mother tongue is closer to German than to English.

    So eventually, we just couldn’t attend anymore. You know what? It took them 18 months to send the first little note to ask “We were thinking of you” or something like that. 18 months. Not even a phone call.

    In the mean time a lot has changed. I’m not a church goer at all. Not interested. My one daughter is an outspoken atheist, the other might become a liberal Anglican if given a choice, my son is an agnostic of sorts. We’ve been hurt by the church before – another long story – grown up in evangelical-like sects etc etc. also a bit of Reformed in my background (Baptized Dutch Reformed). This was just the final kick.

    But there it is. Don’t ever tell me about the wonders of the Lutheran church. I have tasted it, and it is a thin veneer of tradition around a large vat of emptiness. Endless repetition, sullied by right-wing politics.

    To be sure, my own “faith” journey is much more complicated, with a lot of study and reading and thinking. But one cannot deny that these experiences are not without an effect on the psyche.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Klasie.

    • I know many Lutheran churches like this, especially in the LCMS.
      Come to think of it, I know many churches like this period.
      Anymore, I have come to divide churches based on their ministry and attitude first, and their doctrinal jargon second.

      • Rick Ro. says

        “Anymore, I have come to divide churches based on their ministry and attitude first, and their doctrinal jargon second.”


      • I don’t know. Many organizations minister to different needs in their communities and are welcoming and loving toward others; we have several groups at my company that do so–that doesn’t make them a church. The church exists for many reasons, including ministering to the physical and material needs of others. What the church must do that others cannot is proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament and that neccesarily involves a certain level of doctrinal jargon. Unfortunately, many churches, because of lack of doctrine, fail in the most basic function of the church.

        I may want to hang around a nice group of people but want I need is to hear the gospel and know my sins are forgiven.

    • Klasie – i am so sorry for what you went through. I hope we are not *all* like that, but God knows, there are dome in evety crowd.

      I wish i knew what to say. Honestly, this is horrifying to me (East Coast, PA Dutch Lutheran that i am). I think that, unfortunately, this is whst still goes on in many immigrant communities, no matter the religion jn question. The newer the immigrants, the more hold their previous social structures have, and i can think of fewnplaces yhzt uphold and dhelter those things in the way that religious institutions do.

    • Don’t ever tell me about the wonders of the Lutheran church. I have tasted it, and it is a thin veneer of tradition around a large vat of emptiness.

      I’m sad to hear you had such a rough experience with the LCC. But I’m sorry, what you’re describing there is not Lutheranism, even if it was done by a church who thought that they were. It’s like saying “those Christians over there are such jerks, so I’m going to reject Christianity because all Christians must be jerks like them.”

      My experience in the LCMS has been the exact opposite, and my family comes in as two non-white minorities (Mexican and Japanese). They have welcomed us with open arms, loved us, and supported us. We have never, ever felt so much like family in any church we have ever been a part of, period.

      We’ve seen the toxic congregations. For us, it happened in the Southern Baptist convention. In the LCMS there is no denying our fundamentalist fringe and tendencies, in current American culture this is the struggle of any theologically conservative tradition that reaches a certain size. There is a ton of Lutheranism out there that is nothing like what you describe. I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to look twice, and odds are they aren’t in your remote vicinity anyways, but rest assured most Lutheran congregations are not what you just experienced, even if many are.

      FWIW there’s a ton of people, members in good standing of the LCMS, who are not YEC. We’ve yet to discipline a minister for non-compliance on this issue either. Many outstanding theologians and leaders among us are accepting of evolutionary models, including one pastor I know who is a former scientist.

  10. Robert F says

    “You won’t get the gospel in a Tweet, blog post, podcast, or sermon; you will receive the gospel in the true body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. Come for that, if nothing else. That is The Gospel that Tullian and Liberate could never give you even if this whole awful business never transpired in the first place.”

    Well, my home Episcopal church shares that Gospel every Saturday, and twice on Sundays, and then at various times during the week at some times of year. Is there something that makes it more real in a Lutheran Church with the correct Lutheran theology?

    • It’s the difference between hearing about something, and seeing it with your own eyes. I refer you back to the Nunc Dimittis: “My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” Just as Simeon held the Savior in his arms, so we too see our very salvation come to us though the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.

      • Robert F says

        Miguel, I don’t follow you. Are there magic words that are said in preparation for the Lutheran sacrament that are not said at the Episcopal Eucharist?

        If you have a copy of the BCP available, which I bet you do, look at the Holy Eucharist Rite II, page 361 forward, starting at the Great Thanksgiving. Is there anything inadequate in this as a Eucharistic liturgy that would prevent Jesus Christ from making his body and blood real in the midst of it? Do you know that we Anglicans also profess that we receive forgiveness for our sins in the Eucharist?

        And if it’s not the Episcopal liturgy that’s defective from a Lutheran perspective, is it that Episcopalians may be having the wrong idea, from a Lutheran point of view, of what’s happening in the sacrament as they celebrate it? Is notional assent to adequately correct Eucharistic doctrine necessary to make the sacrament efficacious? If so, doesn’t that sound gnostic? Do you really mean to say that people must have the right mental furniture for Jesus Christ to make himself present in the sacrament of Holy Communion?

        • Robert, you are looking at it from a view that it is our work, our words, actions, and ceremonies, which make the sacrament efficacious. It is the pure Word of God and very presence of Christ Himself through it that causes the Sacrament to be a blessing to those who receive it with faith.

          Episcopalians, who believe the words of their own prayer books, receive it without faith in this very presence. They have the promise without the presence, the means without the person. Jesus Christ himself is our health and salvation. His body and blood are to our souls the highest good. Not just the story of Jesus or the idea of His salvation. We worship Christ as if he were actually, physically present in the room, because we believe he truly is. Not just in our hearts, but outside of us, through objective, external means which call us out of our dead selves into the new life He descends to serve us with in the supper.

          I’m glad that Anglicans profess to receive forgiveness through the Sacrament. Confessional Anglicanism may be our nearest theological neighbor.

          And yes, my leather bound ’79 BCP is always on hand (one at home, one in the office), you Rite II liberal. 😛 I love it more than the Book of Concord.

          Arguing with Episcopalian eucharistic theology is like trying to nail jello to the wall (it’s at least as diverse and inconsistent as LCMS practice of closed communion). The rite itself is quite beautiful, except for:

          …O Father in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

          This frames communion primarily in terms of what we offer to God, what we are doing for Him in the supper. This detracts from the sacramental nature of the act, where God is the active one delivering to us forgiveness, life, and salvation, and focuses us more on the performance of the ceremony as a sacrifice to God. The “sacrifice of the mass” is a big problem for us, and while this isn’t completely that, it is close enough for us to use different wording.

          Nonetheless, it isn’t the rite itself. It is the Word that is spoken and believed that makes the sacrament effective. Luther said that all that is necessary for legit communion is bread, wine, and the words of institution (and unfortunately, many of our pastors take this to the bank). Specifically, “this is my body,” and “this is my blood” are enough, if they are believed. Because by this performative speech, Christ causes the thing to become what he calls it.

          Is notional assent to adequately correct Eucharistic doctrine necessary

          No. All that is necessary it to believe that it is actually Jesus. Like the vast majority of both historic and contemporary Christianity does. The Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox church do have, we believe, the sacrament in truth. As Luther said, “I’d rather drink blood with the papists than wine with Zwingli.”

          This is most certainly not gnostic, because it doesn’t drive a wedge between the physical and spiritual, but rather, unifies them in an incarnation-reflecting reality, an incomprehensible mystery through which grace is given.

          • And if I tell you that I believe the body and blood of Christ are present in the Eucharist that I participate in at my Episcopal parish, and that I receive his body and blood when I partake of it, how is what (or whom) I’m receiving in the Holy Communion at my Episcopal parish different from what (or whom) you’re receiving at the Holy Communion in your Lutheran parish?

          • Robert, i don’t see any barriers or real differences. There are no magic words.

          • I’m not entirely certain it is, Robert.

            Eucharistic theology can be difficult to understand. There are some aspects of it which are very simple, but this isn’t one of those. You’re pushing me to the limits of my understanding with this line of questioning. I’ve heard plenty of LCMS ministers advise that if you can’t attend an LCMS congregation, just worship Anglican and listen to a podcast during the sermon. 😛

            There is the question, though, of why, if you truly believe Christ is present, you would worship with a church that teaches otherwise. It almost seems to imply, “yeah, He’s there, but it’s not like it’s a big deal or anything.” The very presence of Christ is everything. It is all we have. I want, and need, a church that clings to this above all else.

          • While Luther stressed the importance of the Words of Institution, I think some Lutherans (non-LCMS, I assume) along with Anglicans see the Epiclesis as the pivotal moment wherein the gifts of bread and wine become “charged” with the body and blood of Christ. Does the LCMS rite include the Epiclesis?

          • No, it does not have an Epiclesis. No authentically Lutheran rite does. The idea behind the Epiclesis is that by OUR action, the Holy Spirit is conjured upon the elements to effect whatever change is necessary to become a sacrament. The whole point of Lutheran theology is that it is all about the action of Christ in the sacrament, which we merely receive as a free gift, along with giving thanks as a response. Our thanks does not initiate the gift, it comes after.

            It is the word of Christ, spoken 2000 years ago, which is the powerful, performative speech that makes every sacrament what it is. But at the same time, we do not necessarily believe the reliquae to be something to be paraded around and revered on the same level as that which is consumed with faith.

            The longstanding intramural debate between Lutherans is whether the bread and wine become body and blood precisely with the ringing of the bell (“consecrationism”), or only if and when consumed (“receptionism”). And our consistent answer has always been with Luther: It isn’t given us to know.

            Therefore it is not the bread that is holy, as if the Spirit had somehow transformed it to no longer be bread, but rather, the Christ who comes to us in the bread, by the power of his Word, received by faith.

            Robert, just get yourself a copy of the Lutheran Service Book. Do I have to send you one? It is the most beautiful resource currently in production. Also, the LCMS church in your town has a new pastor. He looks like a solid guy. You might enjoy a chat with him about these things. He can most certainly answer these lines of inquiry far better than I.

            I leave you with this thought: Instead of the Epiclesis invoking the Spirit upon the elements to transform them into a Sacrament, recent Lutheran rites have introduced a “Eucharistic prayer” which instead invokes the presence of the Spirit upon our hearts, that we may receive the supper worthily, with faith believing the word and promise of our Lord. So even our liturgy hinges on Sola Fide, the article upon which the church stands or falls.

          • Some in the Anglican Communion believe in the Real Presence; others don’t.

            I do not see what difference it makes, honestly. If one believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist, it *is,* for them, a reality. Not because wishing makes it so, but because it simply *is,* and is a mystery beyond human explanation and understanding. Parsing phrases from this or that liturgy does not – i would say, cannot – change that. Ever.

            And you don’t even have to be Anglo-Catholic to get it! 😉

          • Miguel, you say that the idea behind the Epiclesis is that by OUR action the Holy Spirit is conjured upon the elements to effect the necessary change etc., and so it is not authentically Lutheran, because authentic Lutheranism does not depend on OUR action to make the sacrament real and effective.

            But if OUR recitation of Christ’s Words of Institution is a necessary part of Holy Communion, as you say Luther insisted, how is this different? We still must do something to effect the necessary change to make the sacrament present; that is, we need to remember and imitate Christ’s actions and words at the Last Supper with out own actions and words. It’s called anamnesis.

            If no action on our part were necessary to confect the sacrament, then not only wouldn’t we need a Eucharistic liturgy of any kind to effect the changes to the elements, we wouldn’t need to have or distribute bread and wine, and all of a sudden we’d be back in the territory of the Quakers and Salvation Army, who claim that no special ritual actions on our part are necessary for us to be in Holy Communion with Christ. In any traditional Eucharistic liturgy, Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, et al., there are certain actions performed by the celebrant that are absolutely necessary for the sacrament to become real and present. Do you deny this?

          • Numo,
            I think there are significant differences in the way Real Presence is understood by various denomination’s theology, and even within the denomations. As Miguel has pointed out, Anglican theology, while friendly to the idea of Real Presence, allows but does not require this to mean that when communicants participate in Holy Communion they receive the actual physical body and blood of Jesus Christ.

          • Excellent question Robert.

            The answer hinges on this question: Who is the active agent in the sacramental life of the church? How is that God makes us Holy by grace alone, apart from any contribution of our works to the equation?

            Look for a moment at Baptism. In the same line of reasoning as your question, one might say that Baptismal regeneration makes the ritual into a good work we perform in order to be saved.

            Our response is simply to state that Baptism is not our work, but God’s. Aside from the fact that we don’t baptize ourselves, but rather, it is done to us by someone else, we recognize that apart from the active power of the Word of God, used in combination with the water, and the command of Christ himself to do this, Baptism would be nothing more than getting wet. So when Christ commanded Baptism 2000 years ago, his Words then are the active agent in making it effective today.

            All we do is allow ourselves to get wet. The power of the Word makes it a Baptism and makes us children of God. We are merely passive recipients of this through means. Grace apart from means is ultimately a form of works-righteousness, because when we detach grace form the simple, ordinary means given us, we always replace them with means of our own invention (decision to accept Jesus, the sinner’s prayer, etc…).

            Look at absolution: The Pastor says “I forgive you,” but it is not on his own authority that he does this. He was sent by Christ to forgive sins as a human representative on earth, and so even though it is the pastor’s voice we hear, it is nonetheless Christ’s own voice speaking to us, through the Pastor, to give us forgiveness by His own words.

            The Verba in communion works exactly the same way. It is not that our words, recitations, or patterns have, in and of themselves, any power whatsoever apart from the Word. But rather, when we hear the human voice declaring to us the Gospel, “this is my body, given for you,” these very words of Christ are Christ himself speaking to us, not our human leaders enacting a correct ritual.

            Technically, the verba itself isn’t absolutely necessary. It’s liturgical use doesn’t come until late in the second century, at the earliest, even though the text we have today actually predates the Gospels. The Words of Institution were originally used primarily in catechesis. They became part of the liturgy because it was a simple, efficient way of contextualizing the celebration and giving the proper significance to the elements. When Luther said that the Words of Institution were all that was needed, he further specified that indeed, only the “red letter” portions thereof were actually necessary.

            Some pastors paraphrase the words. This does not nullify the gift, but it can obscure it to the receivers. It’s not about the proper ritual. It is not our speaking or acting that effects change. It is Christ being truly present and active, through Word and Sign, speaking and comforting us in this supper, that makes it a Sacrament.

            We do not have to precisely imitate Christ’s actions and words. It is most certainly good, right, and salutary to do so. But the Sacrament isn’t about the formula. It’s about the gift. This coming from a tradition which makes very strict use of the formula. The formula is for our edification, not to please God and earn his Sacramental blessing. Hope this makes sense!

          • ” It is not that our words, recitations, or patterns have, in and of themselves, any power whatsoever apart from the Word.”

            This is the crux of the matter. My question is this: can the sacrament take place even when any words or actions on our part are completely absent? If not, then it requires us to perform words and/or actions of some kind, however minimal, for the sacrament to truly the body and blood of Christ; if it can occur without any actions and/or words on our part, then the sacrament becomes completely “spiritualized”. The question isn’t regarding whether any action on our part has power apart from the Word; it’s whether any action, including recitation of some words or paraphrase of words, is necessary at all?

          • Robert F says

            Miguel, Are you saying that that the recitation of a pattern (not necessarily exact) of words and actions in conjunction with the elements is a signal that the elements have become charged with (rather than the cause of the elements becoming charged with) the presence of body and blood of Christ? And that this is also an announcement to those who have faith in this presence that this is so, as well as in invitation? If this is what you mean, it makes sense to me.

          • Yes, Robert. You can’t have a Sacrament without actually celebrating a Sacrament. But the manner of celebration is not in offering a sacrifice, but in receiving a gift. The gift is given whether or not we receive it (sorry Calvin). But even as we do these words and actions as a method of receiving, we recognize that even in the doing of them, they are not our words and actions, but Christ’s. He is the true liturgist and presider of every Supper, and we are truly His guests at every meal. Sorry if that’s a bit too Zen for you. 😉 But we must get our heads out of the “by doing this we receive this from God.” Christ is the beginning and end of the Sacrament. He initiates it, he empowers it, he scripts it, and though it seems like we are active, causal agents, we are merely along for the ride. We are not ascending to heaven by our efforts, but rather, Christ descends to us in every communion to feed us himself, with himself.

          • Robert, we do not rightly speak of the elements becoming “charged.” That would be Consecrationism (though many in the LCMS have strong tendencies in this direction).

            Rather, the Words and patterns used reveal to us the Christ who is present in the meal feeding us. Invisible, yet hidden under the things that are seen and heard.

            However, we would not say that for those who lack faith it is not the body and blood of Christ. We agree with Paul in Corinthians that it is possible to receive improperly, and that this faith-less reception does serious harm. The Supper, we say, is objectively the body and blood of Christ, and faith in this receives it rightly to our good, and disbelief sends us on the trail of despair seeking to find Christ elsewhere he is not promised.

            This is the primary reason our churches practice closed communion.

          • Robert F says

            But God’s making present of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in any particular occasion of Holy Communion occurs because of the Word he uttered two thousand years ago, and utters now, and is not dependent on the minister who is presiding getting everything “right”, right? The presence of the body and blood occurs prior (not chronologically but in terms of causation) to what the celebrant says and does, and is not caused by what he says and does, but it the cause of what he says and does? Is that right? That is, as you said, the words and patterns enacted by the celebrant reveal the Christ who has made himself present in the sacrament, not at the command of the words (exact or not–after all, Jesus did not speak English) and patterns followed by the celebrant, by His own Word and lived pattern which commands the celebrant and the sacrament?

          • Robert F says

            This I like about Lutheran Eucharistic theology: where Calvin has us lifted up spiritually to heaven by what happens at Holy Communion, Luther has Christ coming down to us in and through the material world by the giving of himself in the Eucharist. There is a big difference, one transcending the material, the other making the material the vehicle for Presence. I think the Incarnation itself testifies as to which way is God’s way in Jesus Christ.

          • Robert – of course there are diverse varieties of belief. However, see my response to Miguel below, about Lutheran/Anglican interchange in the early days of what is now PA, DE and southern NJ (near the PA line).

            It isn’t simply “Some Anglicans say this, and we say that.”

          • I think that you’re on the right track there Robert. You do well to try to avoid a chronological sequence, such as a ringing bell might signify. However, as much as I like the preceding Word of Christ as the cause behind our Eucharist, I am leery of speaking of chronology even thus. Consider communion as a break in the time/space continuum. We are uniting with Christ through this ritual in the eternal “now” where he is always immediately present in heavenly bliss. But at the same time, I am still compelled to believe that Christ’s institution is the cause of Christian worship throughout the centuries, as He builds His church by the strength of His Word.

            The Word uttered 2000 years ago echoes through the centuries and has permanently altered humanity in its relationship to God. But in our worship, we are not necessarily witnessing an ancient echo so much as this powerful speaking is brought from then into the immediate present. Or perhaps we are transported back. But most importantly, the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice, the forgiveness, life and salvation won for us on the cross, is delivered to us here and how, uniting us with Him in an intimate communion.

            Nothing summarizes this better than the Small Catechism.

            What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.”

            Spend some time with the SC. It is simple, yet profound. You can understand it immediately, yet spend the rest of your life as its student, growing deeper in an appreciation for what it teaches.

          • Robert F says

            Btw, Miguel, I’ve long felt that there is a distinctly Zen-like flavor to Lutheran theology, especially its embrace of paradox, and its refusal to let reason rule in every situation that reason claims for itself.

      • Robert F says

        And if I take the Author’s advice, and go to a confessional Lutheran church, I’m not going to get The Gospel in the form of Holy Communion that he says I will, to eat and drink, because I’m not a confessional Lutheran, and closed communion is the practice in confessional Lutheran churches (unless the pastor decides to break the rules, as has been the case when we [my wife and I] were invited more than once by LCMS pastors to participate in the Holy Communion, even though we were not Lutherans, as long as we believed that Christ’s body and blood were truly present in the sacrament, and we believed that we received forgiveness for our sins by participating in the sacrament).

        • Well you’ve just hit on one of the contradictions of the article, unless the way he meant it was “come and join a Lutheran church” rather than “visit as an outsider.”

          And you’ve also highlighted one of the inconsistencies of our synod. “Closed communion” usually just means whatever the pastor wants it to.

          • Miguel, like i said, the original immigrants who formed what is now the LCMS came here at a different time, and from a different sovial, cultural and political situation than did manymof us in the Eadt Coadt part of what is now the ELCA. there was no crisis that caused us to cling onto any of the early documents the way you guys, understandably, hung on so hard to the Book of Concord.

            There was and still is a great deal of commonality betwern Anglicanism (in general) and Lutheranism (in general), but where a lot of us fiffer is: closed communion, the ordination of women and similar isdues. I think it would help, not hinder, the LCMS to let go of the strictures on these 2 isdues in particular.

            And no, even though some people in the ELCA act like it’s beliefs smorgasbord time, i think it is unfair to say that we just go ahead and believe “all manner of things” on the whole. You often mention the tendenvies of a lot of LCMS to go for US evangelicalism, which is problematic from my view as well as yours, and could fairly be described as “all manner of things.”

            I disagree with dome of yhe things that some of yhempeople in the ELCA do and believe, but that in andnof itself is not enough to make me feel like ditching the synod altogether. (For Lutherans in my geographical area, it’s pretty much the only game in town, unless you want to change to another kind of church. Fwiw, TEC has about 6-7 churches in a huge swath of PA – the moutains whete i live – and it’s not because others have left. It’s because, historically, very few English setyled here, while lots of Germans, Scots and Scots-Irish did, and the English who did come here were more inclined toward Methodism than the CofE.)

          • I guess, too, that having bern raised Lutheran, i am more inclined to put up with certain people who go for things i don’t agree with, in the same way that i could put up with obnoxioud uncle so-and-so for a meal, or a few days. Family: unless they’re abusive (at which point i say, get out!), you learn to at leadt tolerate the awkwarnesses and try to get along.

            I also think there were inevitable diffivulties involved in throwing people from many small synods – with disparate backgrounds – together in one big synod. Some of the “all manner of things” aspects that you mention come from just that. If we had all spoken a common language and shared a common culture, it might have turned out differently. But we didn’t and still don’t, though i do think that part of my cultural background (PA Dutch) is one of the things that keeps me around. Plus, I’m a revett, which is a whole different bsllgame to converting from an entirely different kind of drnom, as you did.

          • Apologies for typos – Android device w/small keyboard…

          • Numo, we don’t “hang on to the Book of Concord” because were theologically clingy as a result of crisis. We believe what it says because we are convinced that it is true, because it simply says what the Scriptures say. We have no reason to believe otherwise, and a “quatenus” subscription seems to us nothing more than hedging your bets for whatever other view appeals might appeal to you more.

            The LCMS is not ever going to change on the ordination of women. Neither would it help us do anything, aside from making progressives happy. Our primary concern is faithfulness to the scriptures. Closed communion we may change, because many of our ministers already practice it and we lack the cajones to discipline anyone for anything. But the only thing that would be accomplished by changing these two things would be to make the LCMS just like the ELCA. At which point its reason to exist as a separate entity would cease. There is no reason why, when we agree to disagree on these issues, we can’t just have our own synod to do by our own conviction. This is a good thing because then people of either conviction can be able to find a church body whose teaching they agree with.

            Women’s ordination is simply not the future of Christianity. Cathodoxy, fundamentalism, and confessionalism will simply never embrace it. That is the lion’s share right there. That leaves only the mainlines, pentecostalism, and the Evangelical left. Groups for whom doctrinal orthodoxy and traditional dogma are generally a lesser concern by comparison.

            I’m sorry, it is completely fair to say that in the ELCA you are free to believe all manner of things. There is absolutely no consequence to saying “the confessions are wrong about this.” Yes, the LCMS has major consistency issues. But we also have the ability to appeal to the confessions in order to work through our differences. Some of the LCMS mimicking the Evangelical circus do it out of ignorance. They really believe it is conversant with Lutheran orthodoxy. Others do it because they’re dishonest. They only remain with the synod for certain benefits, but they know that they do not embrace its teaching. The former group can be, ideally, held accountable, and the latter should be encouraged to join a synod whose confession they can embrace with integrity.

            But while the LCMS lacks the mechanisms to successfully apply ecclesial discipline (for now: changes are absolutely in the works, this is official), in the ELCA pretty much nobody cares that much about it anyways. All manner of over-the-line progressivism is tolerated by all the mainlines, many of whose teachers to not see the Bible as even authoritative. And this is an acceptable view in these synods. And this is why many post-Evangelicals have a hard time making a home there. And this is why their toleration of extreme theological diversity is making the mainlines increasingly look more like each other than their roots.

            I don’t blame you for finding a home in the ELCA. You probably don’t feel conservative enough to be comfortable in our synod. But I would be curious, if you feel like confessional subscription is so constricting, as to what teachings of the BoC you reject (especially seeing as how you embrace many other aspects of Lutheranism). I always wonder about these things for mainliners who are theologically informed and concerned with doctrinal integrity.

            Yes, Lutheranism does tend to breed more family tolerance. When you get away from “wretched urgency,” it really seems the saints are more patient with one another. We have so many divergent viewpoints in our congregation, and occasional heated arguments, but we also have extreme longevity in the membership (a sizable percentage of members have been so for 20-30 years +). My experience in the culture of wretched urgency was nothing but conflict, schizm, and split over some of the most trivial of issues.

          • Miguel, i think we will just have to agree to disagree. I did not intend to sound slighting or hyper-critical, but i do not know what else i can say to try to continue a dialogue. I am sorry for any offense i have given.

            I think you will find that the Book of Concord is viewed in differing ways by Lutheran bodies around the world. It is one of many things that makes it hard for non-Lutherans to understand exactly what is meant by “Lutheran.” Which is a pity, but again, since the label is used by diverse groups of people who speak many different languages, i do not see how it could be otherwise.

            One thing, though: it is obvious that many in the LCMS consider those who do not hold the Book of Concord in the exact same regard as they do as… pretty much beyond the pale. I am not saying that you said that, only that it does happen and is wearying. I know that not all in the LCMS are that way, because I’ve known and gone to church with a fair few of them.

            It does not mean that people out here despise the catechisms, the original Aigsburg Confession etc. nor do not believe in them nor think they can just be set aside frivlously.

        • You have just highlighted my reasons for remaining in the ELCA.

          Miguel, i would hope that you can become a little more open to those of us throughout the world who have the name “Lutheran” but who do not want to be the kind of “confesdional” Lutherans exemplified by the LCMS and WELS.

          • Numo, that’s not entirely fair. I am very open to you guys around here, and enjoy the conversations and exchanges we have very much. I value my friends from other traditions, even if I disagree with them strongly and sometimes enjoy doing it a bit too much.

            As far as non-Confessional Lutheranism is concerned (plenty of which goes on in the LCMS, btw), I just don’t have much tolerance for the relativistic “Lutheranism is whatever I say it is” cafeteria approach to the confessions. You are free to pick and choose what you believe, but you must admit that the resulting collage is not the same thing as the original. It’s not the worst thing in the world, as far as I’m concerned you’re still drinking from the right well. But in the case of a group like the ELCA, for instance, these days they have nearly as much in common with the Episcopal church as the church of the Lutheran confession. Classic Lutheran teaching is often used but also considered optional to a large extent. I recognize there is tons of excellent stuff going on in the ELCA, but it is an evolutionary development of the original, one that is somehow coming more and more into line with American civil religion, or at least generic mainline consensus.

            On the other hand, it grieves my soul to no end to see those in my own synod who are bending over backwards to ape the circus acts of Evangelicalism from 15 years ago. They’re trading diamonds for coal, and insisting it is nothing more than preference. I came here to escape that stuff because it was becoming toxic to my soul. I cannot accept that it is “equally Lutheran” with the beautiful things that drew me to this expression.

            I understand and believe the confessions of 1580 fairly well. I am utterly convinced they are not only true, but beautiful and infinitely precious. But just because I’m convinced that one is better doesn’t mean that I don’t value the rest. My journey in search of a confessional identity was very ecumenical, and to this day I still value and treasure opportunities to learn from other traditions, even other religions. I’m just not going to join them anytime soon, and I’m perhaps a little too eager to explain why. :\

          • Miguel, actually… if you look up th history of the earliest Lutherans on these shores – in what was New Sweden (in DE and what is now PA), you will see that both German and Swedish Lutherans in the late 1600s and throughout the 1700s shared pulpits and church buildings with Episcopalians. In fact, that is how Gloria Dei (aka Old Swedes church) in Philly ended up becoming Episcopalian, all those many years ago.

            Info. on Henry Muhlenberg will show more about this.

            So… this is not something the ELCA cooked up. It’s part of our DNA since colonial times. The LCMS immigrants (original ones) came from a very, very different time and culture. And they brought that with them to this hemisphere. I think that Lutherans in the Western hemisphere might look much more like the “big tent” Anglican communion if we had all had a language in common. But that isn’t the case, or at least, it wasn’t until the late 19th-mid 20th c. (Accounting for immigration from Norway, Sweden, Finland and some of the Slavic countries that have – or had – German minorities.)

          • Miguel, the thing is, I value the original Augsburg Confession (etc.) very highly, too, but I do not think life stopped there, y’know?

            A fair few of us in what is now the ELCA are, on the whole, very theologically conservative. So are many congregations.

          • Robert F says

            numo, Not a few early Lutherans also shared church buildings with Reformed congregations. For instance, the church my wife works for originally was Lutheran and Reformed; they shared the building and sanctuary.

          • Robert F says

            Miguel, I appreciate your willingness to answer tough questions, and to hang in there with your convictions in an intelligent and irenic way. I ask question because I really want to know, not to be critical (although I sometimes fall into that).

          • Good thoughts, Numo.

            I am familiar with the history of early American Lutheranism. It is one beautifully chaotic hell of a theologically inconsistent mess, just like the LCMS today. In looking back we can clearly see God at work through the various tribes to build his church through the Gospel and Sacraments. This is a very encouraging thing. However, it does not follow that these early examples are necessarily normative or exemplary of faithfulness. Confessional Lutheranism is very much an ideal, easily expressed in words, but seldom realized in practice. My congregation is nowhere close, my pastor does not identify as “confessional,” and I can count on one hand the number of members who even remotely understand what that means. But I still love and commune with these people, even the silly confused pietists. Divergent viewpoints are always present in the church of the Lutheran confession. The clergy are still responsible to not teach accordingly.

            Lutherans and Anglicans have a history of brotherhood. Our early hymnals relied very heavily on the Book of Common Prayer for its superb English translations. The spirit of our worship is very similar, possibly more similar than any other two groups. If I were not able to serve a Lutheran congregation, I would most certainly prefer conservative Anglicanism over the other options.

            However, when it comes to LCMS roots, we were immigrants who came to this country seeking freedom of religion from the Prussian union, which would combine Lutheran and Reformed into one ecclesial body. We wanted the freedom to stick to our own teachings, and to hold them in purity. Lutheranism all over America was very open to mixing and matching various confessions (the “Evangelical and Reformed Church” is a prime example), and often it served their people reasonably well. But not doing that was our reason for coming here in the first place.

            There is no denying that many a conservative ELCA parish is infinitely more sound in doctrine and practice than unnumbered LCMS parishes chasing after fundagelical revivalist spectacle or the zeitgeist of American civil religion progressivism. Denominations can be good for drawing lines, but theology is still ultimately local.

            It is one thing to “value” the Augsburg confession. The Anglicans do that, they modeled their creed after it. It is another thing to actually believe what it says. In our synod, we believe it. In yours, it is strongly considered, but ultimately, you are free to believe all manner of things contrary to it. Such as non-Lutheran ideas. And that’s fine, to each his own. Life surely doesn’t stop there, and neither does truth, but it cannot be true and untrue at the same time. You have to pick a side on that. Some Lutheran church bodies expressly accept only part of it. I believe it is not only true, but that the truth expressed therein is both beautiful and life giving. But this doesn’t prevent me from reading and benefiting from many an ELCA pastor, author, and musician.

          • Huh. I have some replies to this, of yours, but they ended up *above* this part of the dubthread, for whatever reason. Scroll up a bit and you’ll see them.

  11. Christiane says

    “Here’s a funny thing about Lutherans that you probably wouldn’t guess from the outside: you know who we really can’t stand? No, it’s not Rome, although you would think so. It’s The Reformed! Maybe that seems weird but historically we’ve had a way harder time distancing ourselves from the Calvinists than the Papists. ”

    goodness, I was just thinking that, as a Catholic, I do feel closer to the Lutherans than to the 5 point Calvinist folk who cooked up ‘total depravity’ and ‘predestination’. . . those Calvinist extremes are alien to what I can recognize as Christian

    (‘course the fact that I married a Lutheran of German descent might have something to do with this) 🙂

    Then I also recall that there has been some ‘reconcilation’, if you want to call it that, if not, maybe you can call it ‘realization of a point of mis-understanding’ between Catholics and Lutherans . . .
    Here’s a link concerning it:


    “Benedict affirmed that Luther had correctly translated Paul’s words as ‘justified by faith alone’ — the well known sola fide.
    It was disagreement over the doctrine of salvation by faith that sparked the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, splitting Christianity in Western Europe. “Yet, said the Pope, it was indeed biblical to say, as did Luther, that it was the faith of a Christian, not his works that saved him.”
    By defining “faith” as “identification with Christ expressed in love for God and neighbor,” ”

    Yes, Luther I can at least understand. . . .

    Calvin . . . not so much, hardly at all.

  12. Confused says

    I have to ask, where does the You Tube Lutheran Ninja clan fit in all this? Pastor Jonathan Fisk, “askdapastor2.0′, and Worldview Everlasting?
    I enjoyed Fisk’s book.

  13. Whatever else might be said about Luther, those Big Apple hats were boss!

  14. A young woman I know was raised LCMS & began college regularly attending the LCMS campus church. The Dalai Lama visited campus & gave a talk, but the LCMS pastor told his congregation that they should not attend, as the Dalai Lama had nothing to tell them as he was not Christian. She never went back to that church. And yes, I have been told by LCMS clergy & laymen that one cannot be Christian & vote anything but Republican.

  15. I went to a Lutheran church in Middletown Pa to visit with a young man I met in the gym as he invited me to come and see. I heard the word of God there. It was formal to me but I heard it. I shared their table with them. The 1500’s hymns were almost impossible for me as I am not trained in music but I really tried and at the end went boy that was hard. I haven’t been back but would be open to being in another and the young man quit coming to the gym. He was hurt real bad in a car accident.

    After reading all the comments I wonder why Christ was left out so much in all the politics of what people do when they settle in to what they prefer. My first thought was Lutherans seem stuck up. After some time of reflection it seems it was a inner circle discussion mostly. I have no argument with them as much as I would with Calvin. I don’t think of following someone who was caught up in his world 4 t0 5 hundred years ago is helpful to me. I really just don’t have that kind of time to figure it all out. Not even sure I would want to.

    My poem of yesterday
    The root to life

    Pure, clean and cool a refreshing drink
    Once I have had my fill to help the way I think
    Walking on the razor’s edge on both sides the brink
    This saving blood has written my name just the same as ink

    Never mind the judging tone that comes from my voice
    Somewhere in the sands of time I was given choice
    So I lift my song of hope and in it I rejoice
    Inside the breath of life I find more than moist

    Now the bread of faith becomes a solemn treat
    With which I partake and broken now I eat
    For this gift of preciousness which upside downs defeat
    Also becomes the path that sheds light upon my feet

    This gift of holiness that comes in sips of wine
    In an answered prayer now becoming mine
    Where the empty souls are forever in You entwined
    I wonder what the day will bring in a hope to find

    How gracious is our creator and king above all words
    My Christ that You walked here the best news that I heard
    Inside the warmest feeling and my heart is stirred
    What is this water dripping that has my eyes so blurred

    Now I know a love so mighty that all shall find a knee
    No more is to do but within it is the place to be
    What to do that I now have truly been set free
    No more thorns and thistles but the fruit upon the tree

    • w, was this yor 1st time at a liturgicsl churvh? It sounds like it, and i csn understand why the hymns were diffivult (though by no means are they sll that way) as well as the sense of formality. Still, it gets easier with timr… can be like that old coat or psir of jesns yhat fit *just so* after a while.

  16. David Cornwell says

    My main argument with the LCMS is that one must be a lawyer to understand anything about their church. They will spend hours of time arguing their doctrine, positions, worship, order, discipline, certain phrases, communion (who’s in; who’s out) etc., but when the argument is over, one knows even less then when it started!

    Can I worship with them? Probably not, because, they say, worship includes communion. Not being one of “them” I’m not allowed to join in, so I sit in my seat observing worship, not being part of it.

    It all becomes so legalistic, grace disappears, if it were ever present.

    • Everything you just described seems very German to me. I use German tools and they are some of the best in this world. I wonder if they sit around and spend such time arguing over them……… Of course I could just go to harbor freight and get the same not so good tool and do the job with less money and throw the tool out and buy five more to the German counterpart.

    • I think much depends on the grographic region ad well as the congregation. I used to go to an LCMS church in Bethesda, MD, where i was welcome at the tsble. Here in the east, LCMS congregations are thin on the ground, and a lot of things yhat are intense isdues in the Midwest don’t have much, if any, relevance to the majority of congregations.

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