Friday, July 25, 2008

More targets than just Rome

I think one of the ways in which being in America has skewed Lutheranism is that we view everything in terms of "Lutheran versus Roman Catholic". In fact, that's the way we view the whole Lutheran Reformation - it was Luther telling Rome where to stuff it. And so, when we look at the Confessions, we think of them as being primarily Anti-Roman Catholic.

That's not the way in which they should be read. And no, I'm not going to go on some "we only ought to read the Confessions for what they say positively about the truth and ignore what they condemn" rant. Nope. Confessing the truth means shooting down errors. And here's the thing.

In the Confessions, there are more targets than just Rome.

Now, perhaps this has been made more clear to me by 4 years in the Bible Belt where the nearest town to the west is "Meno" - as in Menno Simons - or the fact that I am tired of when people freak out over "Romantist" tendencies in worship but have nothing to say about "Evangelical style" or hip-Baptist style worship.

Sit. Read the Augsburg Confession. Read who it condemns. The AC is fundamentally an Anti-Anabaptist document - presented before a Roman Catholic Emperor to convince him that we weren't crazy Anabaptists.

Now, are there parts of Roman Catholic theology that are challenged there - sure - mainly in terms of practice, and that is done in a manner of defending places where Lutherans had broken with recent traditional practice.. But the full broadsides are aimed at the Anabaptists - they are getting condemned all over the place.

This has shaped my reading of AC XIV, for example. The idea being condemned is the idea of a person suddenly taking up the responsibility of preaching without having been called in one of the usual ways by a separate authority. It's condemning enthusiast preachers. That's why Missouri's "Lay ministry" doesn't violate it - because these "lay ministers" are called according to the custom - and while we might debate whether that custom is wise or foolish or "Good Lord, this is horrible, preserve us" foolish -- it still is a matter of men being placed and instructed to serve. It's not what we were confessing against at Augsburg.

Remember this when reading the Confessions. Remember this when reading the Small Catechism - they don't deal just with the errors of Rome - but also with the errors that are still present in your Baptist and Methodist neighbors.

Lutherans shouldn't just be opposed to Roman Catholic false doctrine - we are opposed to all false doctrine - and Lord knows that there's a lot of it in the Bible Belt!


The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Growing up in Lutheran schools, October was usually devoted to Reformation history (something that many people who don't go to Lutheran schools don't get anything of in the congregations...not from a Lutheran perspective anyway). But I always joke that the two things I got out of it were NEVER to stand under a tree in a thunderstorm, and why I should never be a Catholic.

Good things. But you are right. We heard about the the 95 Theses and never a word mentioned about the Book of Concord or any history around that. It really stopped after Luther translated the Bible, so it ended with "those big bad Catholics."

We sat in churches with mission-style architecture, but balked at anything else besides the style of the building as "Catholic" and stuck to our bare-bones liturgy with no ornamentation to it. It wasn't until I was in Fort Wayne that I realized how close we were in some of the practices, and how beautiful they could be.

Thursday's Child said...

Excellent post. I did notice while reading the AC recently that a lot of comments were directed toward condeming the Anabaptists.