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After The Death of Luther —

How the Formula Of Concord Was Forged

(Ten Parts)

Part Ten (conclusion)

Lessons From The Formula Of Concord Era

The years after Luther’s death in 1546 are worth studying as a backdrop for the Formula of Concord. We can see many parallels to our present crisis in Lutheranism in America.

The disaster in Germany was long in developing and took many decades to resolve. Some errors began among Lutherans in 1525 and were resolved 50 years later. The liberal trends in the older Lutheran bodies in America began in the 1930’s.

Most of the errors in Luther’s time arose because of unionism, a desire to unite antagonistic confessions by hiding doctrinal differences. Today we find the LCMA and WELS declaring ELCA to be a non-Christian denomination, yet working with ELCA in the areas of worship (“Joy” radio show, Christian Worship, Carthage Conference), evangelism (Church Membership Initiative), leadership (Snowbird conference for WELS-LCMS-ELCA executives and theologians), and ministry (cross-cultural ministry), all funded to a large extent by fraternal benefit societies.

Unionism comes from doctrinal indifference and also causes doctrinal indifference. Melanchthon’s fervent desire for peace and unity caused him to overlook and obscure major Biblical doctrines, then abandon the orthodox position in favor of Romanism and Calvinism. At Wittenberg, indifference toward sound Lutheran doctrine turned into a demonic hatred of Biblical truths. Today we find the same gradual erosion among Lutheran seminary faculties where the anti-Lutheran Church Growth Movement is promoted and defended.

Every false doctrine is either an attack upon the nature of Christ or upon justification by faith. False doctrine always glorifies the Old Adam and seems reasonable, while orthodoxy glorifies God and annoys the Old Adam in us. The modern trends in Lutheranism all come from two bastions of reasonable false doctrine: Fuller Theological Seminary and the Church of Rome.

Doctrinal dishonesty causes immediate peace but long-term strife. Doctrinal clarity, in contrast, causes immediate pain and trouble, but a long-term, godly peace. Today we should not shy away from solving doctrinal problems in the open, with honesty and candor.

Luther, the greatest theologian of the Church, could not prevent weak followers from falling into error. Therefore, we should not consider it a personal failing when someone departs from the faith in spite of our best efforts to restore unity.

Two of the Formula of Concord authors (Selnecker, Musculus) had doctrinal problems but were corrected. We should never tire of using the most powerful weapon against Satan, the Word of God.

The Gospel is never taught in the absence of the cross. Selnecker was deposed as a pastor and not allowed to live in Leipzig, after the Formula of Concord was published. (Study The Lutheran Hymnal, #292, Selnecker’s hymn, “Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide.”) CLC leaders and laity remember the price of taking a stand against unionism and liberalism.

Finally, God can and does work to use the greatest evil to accomplish His will. The debacle of Lutheran doctrine collapsing in the midst of political defeat of Roman Catholics, aided by Lutheran treachery, is a great lesson for anyone who despairs. Out of the political and doctrinal misfortunes, during intense persecution of the faithful, God developed the right leaders to create the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord.

Lutheran doctrinal clarity, improved and strengthened because of hardships, yielded such great confessional statements as this one from the article on election:

” . . . For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matthew 22:3ff. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s foreknowledge {or predestination}, but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says, ‘How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!’ Matt. 23:37.” (Formula Of Concord, Triglotta, p. 1077)

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. Amen.

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson