Saturday, October 30, 2010

Theological Dictum #17

Time for Theological Dictum #17

"Converts to Lutheranism appreciate the uniquely Lutheran approach to the Freedom of the Gospel, while those born Lutherans tend to want to be like someone else."

This really is two ideas, but they are interrelated. If you want to understand the fullness of the Lutheran focus that we are saved by Grace through Faith, apart from Works - ask one who wasn't born being taught this - who had spent years in bondage in other denominations. Mike Baker's post on Sanctification is a fantastic example of this. He understands the burden of works, because he was under the burden of works for so long. As one dear lady of the congregation reminds me, one of the members who has since passed (although his widow is a dear, dear, member still) would always say, "You Lutherans don't know what you have."

I think most of us are aware of the idea of the converts really knowing their stuff -- shoot, that's part of the whole idea of reformation. Part of the reason why Luther was such a Lutheran was the fact that he had been burdened by the Law. However, while we might... notice that Lutherans can fade, we don't ponder the other side of the great convert coin.

Oh, we will lament children not coming to church after they are confirmed (and good Lutheran kids from good Lutheran families!) - or look confused when a Lutheran jumps ship to the local _______ Church (here it typically ends up being Baptist). Or even just stop coming, period. And we wonder what has gone wrong.

Lutherans end up tossing away what they have so they can be like someone else. Here in Oklahoma, there is that desire to be at that big church. I'm sure in places where Lutheran Churches are big, there is a desire to be a larger fish at a small pond. If your friends go fishing on Sunday morning, that's a nice thing too.

So, why does this happen? Is it just that we don't discipline our children well enough? Partially - again, if you treat Church as unimportant, they are going to treat it as even less important than you do. But the real point isn't our discipline or lack there of - it is why don't they appreciate the Gospel?

The Gospel works in contrast to the Law - in conquering the Law. It is great that for us fights the valiant one - but if you aren't aware of any battle - who cares. It is great that you've been tossed a life preserver, but if you don't think you are drowning... that's nice. And then, along comes some neat quirk - oh, look how popular they are. Oh, look, they get to sing rock songs. Oh, look, they get to speak in tongues. Oh, look, they are so confident about how good they are. And we can slide off that way.

I like to make a distinction between preaching something and preaching about something. I don't preach about Christ, or about forgiveness. I preach Christ. I preach forgiveness. Preaching gives these things to people. We need solid preaching that isn't just lectures about something abstract - preaching is to be "sacramental" - it is to give Christ, it is to be proclamation not just of what Christ has done but what He does and gives now, this moment, by His Word. You are forgiven, Christ builds your faith, binds your wounds from this life, strengthens you to turn from sin.

However, there is something we need to preach *about* more. We need to preach *about* these false and abominable doctrines. We need to warn folks by warning them *about* the traps and snares that come along with the other sparkly things other Churches offer.

I am always amazed when a Lutheran would move to a Baptist Church. So, you no longer believe in the real presence? So, you think your children aren't really baptized anymore? (While an individual could get caught up in an enthusiastic Im-gonna-get-myself-baptized excitement, pointing to a child and saying, "So she's not really baptized anymore is what you are saying" puts a slightly different perspective on it.) But we don't think of the consequences, the implications of false doctrine. We don't see how they bind us - we don't see how these other theologies rob us of the Gospel... and so we forget what we have.

Sometimes I think we should just think of 3rd use of the Law as "teaching" teaching about what is good... and what is bad. It doesn't give life, but it warns the Christian of potential dangers (and if those are dangers that are hitting them, it becomes 2nd use, preparing for the Gospel again). Warn about false doctrine. Specifically and bluntly. False doctrine takes your eyes off of Christ, tell them how.


Mike Baker said...

Yup! All very good points.

People who live at the oasis don't understand the rarity and value of the water that they were born right next to. Desert folk who finally are brought to the oasis get it and become pretty upset when the life-long oasis folk treat the abundant water with contempt. Why anyone would voluntarily leave the oasis of Lutheranism where grace flows like abundant springs is beyond me.

George said...

This is true enough as a proverb. The explanation is also valid. However, never underestimate the power of heresy to infect.

Some converts to Lutheran theology find themselves restless. For example, some evangelicals turned Lutheran will continue on to Mother Rome or the glorious East, seeing Lutheranism as a step along the way.