Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Checklist Mentality

Sometimes I think we Confessional Lutherans today can fall into a checklist sort of mentality - we have our mental checklist we use if we are looking at what another person does - and if they don't check all the boxes that we do, oops, they are terrible. Ut-oh, they don't use the 1-year lectionary like I do. . . . Ut-oh, they don't use LSB, or they don't use only DS3, or only DS1 and 3 but not 4, or everything but DS 5, or only 1 and 2 but not DS3 like me. . . ut-oh, they bought something from Northwestern instead of CPH. . . ut-oh this and that. We see that people don't DO the same things as we do, and then they are short and wrong and horrid.

I want to hearken back to one of the famous "checklist" moments - the Marburg Colloquy - where Luther and Zwingli were discussing theology - and there were 15 topics, and they agreed on 14, but when they got to the Lord's Supper and Zwingli denied the real presence, Luther famously replied, "You and I are not of the same Spirit."

So, what do we learn from this? That the checklist mentality is appropriate? That if someone doesn't follow our checklist, they are obviously in opposition to the Holy Spirit?

Um - how about Luther's list was only 15 points long? Or that the Augsburg Confession only had 28 articles? Or the Formula 12? Smalcald had 22 total? And even then, while clear, they weren't matters of micromanaging?

Here is what I fear. We've slid in our approach. Luther could look at Zwingli and say that he was of a different spirit because Zwingli denied the Word of God. If one does not rightly hear the Word, one isn't listening to the right Spirit. Simple as that. It wasn't a purity checklist - it was a confession of faith that was violated.

Rather than focusing on a confession of faith, we seem to have fallen into a legalistic, purity test mentality. And what's worse is we each set our own standards of purity, and then lambaste those who fall short. It doesn't focus on whether or not Christ Crucified is proclaimed, but "that person uses that, which doesn't proclaim as well as I do, so he's wrong". And the other guy is probably saying that about you!

We have forgotten what Luther ends the Smalcald Article with - we have all become little legalistic checklist popes. Lord have mercy!

"The declaration of the Papists that human traditions serve for the remission of sins, or merit salvation, is [altogether] unchristian and condemned, as Christ says Matt. 15:9: In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 2] Again, Titus 1:14: That turn from the truth. Again, when they declare that it is a mortal sin if one breaks these ordinances [does not keep these statutes], this, too, is not right." - SA 3, 15


Christopher D. Hall said...

I have plenty of stories of the Confessional Brute Squad checking my "credentials" before allowing me "in." One of my favorite: "Who were your favorite seminary professors?"

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I don't know, maybe this is you rubbing off on me. . . .

I still like asking what profs and classes you liked - but I also want to know why you liked them (I mean, come on, if there was a litmus test, you SHOULD have gone to the Fort **smirk**) -- as opposed to jumping to some drastic conclusion about a person because they like _______.