Thursday, September 3, 2015

Strange Bedfellows

The 60s and the 70s were a rough time for the LCMS.  We were embroiled in the "Battle for the Bible" - basically dealing with whether or not the Scriptures are, in fact, the Word of God.  A lot of LCMS profs were saying, basically, no, it's not - at least not fully (yes, this is a gross simplification, but this is a blog post, not a doctoral thesis).  And at that time the LCMS developed a new ally, someone with whom they had never allied before - the American Evangelical.

American Evangelicalism had long been one of the bigger foes of Lutheranism.  They aren't sacramental - they think we are "too Catholic" - they lean to a lot of works righteousness - yaddy, yaddy ya.  When the first "fundamentalists" came out in the late 19th Century - we didn't really want to be associated with them - not our circus, not our monkeys.

However, when we hit the battle for the Bible, our fundamentalistic Evangelical friends had lots of stuff on that topic - so we formed sort of a enemy of my enemy is my friend sort of thing.  It was an issue of strange bedfellows - but for the time, it seemed to work.

I like that term "strange bedfellows" - because you know what happens when a couple shares a bed?  Often, something new gets born.  And the LCMS got infected with something new - the idea of trying to ape "Evangelical" styles of worship.  By the 1980s you have a strong push to downplay the idea of liturigical worship -- let's just do it the Evangelical way.  And all the worship wars since then sort of spill out of this.

The point is this:  We saw a problem, and it was a serious problem... but in fighting that problem we picked our allies poorly, and we ended up picking up a lot of their baggage.  It simply happens.  If you read a bunch of folks because they are good on topic X, it's just going to happen that often their thoughts on topics Y and Z are going to creep in unless you stay incredibly vigilant. 

So then - consider.  We've got battles for today in the US.  A lot of them seem to be social/moral issues.  And we are getting a lot of partners for the fight for a more moral America.

... just remember what picking out strange bedfellows does.

I mean, sure, the guy's a Calvinist... and while his moral stance on topic X might be really good... remember the whole Crypto-Calvinist controversy and how much other junk is bad.  (To say nothing of "Ask him about the Sacraments" - but I think that only applies to some Calvinsts)

I mean, sure, the guy's reformed... and while his moral stance on topic Y might be really good... how's his understanding of Christian obedience square with the Confessions?  Or the two kingdoms?

I mean, sure, the guy's Roman Catholic... and while they've always been our allies on Z... what about their suppositions and approach to ethics is based not upon the Word but upon traditions and philosophy?  Remember that Luther and the Reformation saw great danger in scholasticism, even though you find the scholastic useful on this point.

Fight the battles you need to now -- but remain Lutheran.  Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees... lest it corrupt you and you forget your first love.

2 comments:

John Flanagan said...

I am with the LCMS, however, the fact remains that Luther should not be considered the final authority on all things biblical. He may have been wrong in some of his interpretations of scripture. Within the Christian body, we have apostasy and heresy, a mix of truth and error, and an imperfect and dysfunctional family tree in some respects. My father said to me one time, " When we pass away, we will not hear God say, 'Lutherans, line up here, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics....get in your lines." It is the root of pride to think only Lutherans have it right. I am no secular humanist, but I know many Christians can read the same scriptural verses and interpret them from another perspective. You must be more humble.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

While it is true that there are different branches of Christianity - they are different for a reason. The fundamental approaches, the ways in which we view the Scriptures and salvation are *different*. And if you have staked your claim as a Lutheran, that means you think that, to a certain extent, the other approaches are... let's say flawed.

This is not a matter of a lack of humility, but the simple conviction that every teacher takes - as those of other confessions have taken there. My baptist cousin who is a preacher has taken his, I have taken mine. So be it.

But for those who have taken their stand where I have -- just, be wary, lest in time you find that your approaches and suppositions have been replaced by ones that aren't Lutheran, and that you act more and more like something else.

If that's what you want to do, where you think you need to go - if you think Lutheranism no longer stands up to the test - so be it. But be on guard lest the next generation view you the way you viewed the "bad" Lutherans in your youth.