Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

Roots of Christianity – Final session June 27


The Roots of Christianity Pt. 6 Lutheran and “lutheran”

  • Saving the best for last! Obviously I think the purest stream of Christianity (or as my pastor friends prefer to say: “the least dirty shirt in the pile”) is Lutheran because it hews most closely to the Scriptures and testifies most clearly of Christ and Him Crucified (which according to St. Paul is the only thing that really matters).
  • To see what the Lutheran Church (or evangelical-catholic church, as Lutherans from the 16th century on have preferred to be called, since Luther (rightly!) despised the church using his name) is all about, one can do no better than to review the Augustana (the Augsburg Confession which was presented before Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. As much hoopla as there was over the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses last year Oct. 31, the real Festival Day of the Lutheran Church is always June 25, 1530).
  • This part is called Lutheran and “lutheran” because there are Lutheran churches that actually confess and practice the faith according to the Augustana (and the rest of the Book of Concord 1580) because this Faith most closely adheres to the Scriptures; and there are “small-l” “lutherans” who use the name but don’t really practice the faith of the Scriptures as set forth in the Augustana. What are the main differences between Lutherans and “lutherans”?
  • Essentially, Reformed theology (originally Calvinist, but more lately Arminian) has infiltrated most “lutheran” churches in North America. Hermann Sasse’s teacher Karl Holl, the famous German church historian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries claimed, with some exaggeration that the distinction teachings of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (distinct from the German State Lutheran Church of the time) were all derived from Calvinism. While that’s a little extreme, there is more than a grain of truth in the observation.
  • “By their liturgy ye shall know them”. The biggest “tell” for Lutheran or “lutheran” congregations is the liturgy (AC XXIV). If you come into a congregation and they are using Lutheran Service Book or even the current ELCA hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship and are doing one of the communion settings of the Divine Service (or Matins or Vespers) straight up out of the book, as printed, with no variations; and singing hymns exclusively from the hymnal and not “other” song books, you have most probably landed in a Lutheran congregation. There may be some quirks in the preaching and teaching, but it is unlikely to be unrecognizable from the faith confessed in the Augustana…
  • On the other hand, if you walk into a “lutheran” church and there is no hymnal in the pews, video screens up, a drum kit and praise band, and printed “order of worship” that does not follow the classic Western Mass with confession/absolution, Introit (from the lectionary) Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, collect of the day, OT, gradual for the day, Epistle, Alleluia, Gospel, Creed (Nicene, Apostles, or Athanasian), Sermon on the Gospel of the day, offertory, Prayers of the Church, preface, proper preface, Sanctus, Lord’s Prayer, Words of Institution, Pax Domini, Agnus Dei, distribution, Nunc Dimittis, Thanksgiving, Salutation and Benedicamus, Benediction—if instead you have some chatty dialog you’ve never seen in any Lutheran hymnal, some “praise songs”, a sermon on stewardship or dynamic Christian living, or “missions”, and then more praise band and a symbolic “sacrament”… well Arminianism has struck. Almost certainly, you will not hear the pure Gospel of sin forgiven for Christ’s sake and life and salvation received fully and freely as the Spirit’s gift through faith alone.
  • It wasn’t always this easy to tell, but since about the late 80’s, the Divine Service has been the great divider between Lutheran and “lutheran”. In our Synod, it was the “church growth” ideology of Fuller Seminary in California that invaded and which viewed traditional liturgy as insufficiently attractive to the “unchurched” and, further, which insisted the “mission” of the church was to fill the place with the “unchurched” (an almost purely Arminian theology!). And that movement has succeeded tremendously in “unchurching” the Church. Though why you would think that progress I cannot for the life of me understand!
  • The idea that “reaching the lost” is the Church’s mission (rather than simply being part of the Church, the Body of Christ ourselves and enjoying His life and free salvation) has swept North America. However popular, that idea is totally foreign to the Lutheran Church (because it is foreign to Holy Scriptures) though it drives “lutheran” congregations who continue to use the name but have evacuated the substance of the Faith. Despite the fact that Ps. 49:7 warns “none can by any means redeem his brother” the more conservative “lutherans” focus on hard sell proselytizing and informal “worship” as the engine of salvation; which the “liberal” “lutherans” put their faith in marxist economics, social justice, and LGBT promotion. Either way, it’s not what the Church does for you but what you do for it that matters…
  • The old Lutherans were more like a Sinners Anonymous meeting. We know the catechism that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him. The Holy Ghost calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith, as Holy Scriptures teach on every page!
  • If you look at the Augustana (AC) article IV, you see the heart of the Faith is that we are justified not by our own strength, merits, or works (for ourselves or others!) but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that we are received into favor and that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. Simply remaining in this most holy Faith, and Church is the be-all and end-all of Christianity.
  • When this article is right, and central, as Luther says, all other articles fall into place, the ministry, the Church, Sacraments, etc. When that article falls, all the others fall. The Divine Service is nothing but Word and Sacrament rightly administered—sins forgiven, life, and salvation freely received by grace through faith in Christ alone. We trust no human being, or even the best people’s most mission-driven works. Our faith is in Christ alone. And when it is, our liturgy, preaching, teaching, and practice falls right in line with the Augustana which is prescriptive as well as descriptive…
  • So, not much has changed from Athanasius in the 4th century (who stood contra mundum—against the whole world) or Luther in the 16th century. You either believe you’re a sinner and Jesus Christ is true God and true Man who saves us by grace alone through faith alone or… you don’t. The real differences between our Lutheran Church and “lutheran” and all other churches is this simple central point (though you can find Lutheran Faith and practice in the other streams too!). It’s not complicated to see where that Faith is publicly proclaimed. It is impossible to discern which individuals hold or reject it. But then that isn’t really our business. It’s enough to know where the Gospel and Sacraments are given out for you…


Wednesday, 21  November 2018

Thanksgiving Service – with Communion

7:00 p.m.

25 November – Last Sunday of the Church Year

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 Sunday School – children ages 3 through high school

Adult Bible Class with Pastor Martin


Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.