‘LUTHERAN’? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Occasionally one is asked, “What religion are you?” Your immediate response might be, “Lutheran.” Sadly, in our day that is less and less a meaningful confession or witness because Lutheranism has been loaded with so much baggage.
Theologically, as well as in application of the moral imperatives of Scripture, what passes for Lutheranism in some Lutheran churches is no longer the clear voice of Truth! Today to say simply “I am a Lutheran” may identify one with things with which one does not want to be identified.
The heart and core of the Gospel message itself with Christ Jesus as the focal point, though given lip service, is distorted by Lutheranism’s flirtations with Rome and others for whom Scripture is not the absolute Truth, much less the foundational Word unto salvation!
Yet we are not going to give up the name Lutheran because the name is being abused. Rather we should clearly state what kind of Lutheran we are and to what Lutheran Church or church body we belong. We are members of the CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION (CLC). Most people will not be acquainted with the CLC. By naming the church to which you belong, you have opportunity to explain your church and to acquaint people with it.
The CLC is a church body in which all its member churches confess that the Bible is the inspired and unerring Word of God. It confesses the creeds of the Lutheran Church, without qualification, as they are found in the Book of Concord of 1580.
Scripture itself is the source and foundation of Christian teaching and faith. The Lutheran confessions are a faithful setting forth of what Scripture teaches. The name of our church body is a witness to what we believe. It is a continual reminder of our responsibility to be truly Lutheran, and therefore Scriptural, in our teaching and in our practice. This principle holds true: “if it is not Scripture, it is not Lutheran!”
Charles Porterfield Krauth wrote over a century ago: “We do not say that any man shall believe that the confession of our Church is Scriptural. We only contend that he should neither say nor seem to say so, if he does not believe it. . . . To sign a confession as to imply that we are what we are not, or to leave it an open question what we are, is not the just result of the right of private judgment, or of any right whatever, but is utterly wrong” (The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, 1871, p. 171).
What a powerful indictment of the pseudo-Lutherans of our day!
At the same time we dare not think for one moment that we are above or beyond the reach of Satan, the destructive peer pressure of society, the temptations of our own flesh, or the accursed tendency to compromise. We too will lose the right to the name and the reason for our being if we should ever bow to anything that is contrary to Scripture.
The name ‘Lutheran’ was not coined by Luther, but by his enemies. Luther did not want the church named after him. But they who stood on the Reformation principles SCRIPTURE ALONE, FAITH ALONE, GRACE ALONE adopted the name for themselves in spite of Luther’s plea: “I ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves, not Lutherans, but Christians.”
But as the use of the name persisted Luther said: “If you believe that Luther’s doctrine is evangelical, . . . you must not flatly disown Luther; otherwise you disown his doctrine which you admittedly recognize as the doctrine of Christ.”
And in spite of some recent public press, and even apologies that pseudo Lutherans are making for some of Luther’s counsel and advice, we appreciate the counsel of the Reformer who said: “Whether Luther is a scoundrel or a saint means nothing to me. His doctrine, however, is not his but Christ’s own. . . . Let the person go. But the doctrine you must confess” (What Luther Says, Vol. II, p. 857, #2677).
Luther further said, “Luther himself has no desire to be Lutheran except insofar as he teaches the Holy Scripture in purity” (Ibid, p. 856, #2679). And so we confess with Luther: “The perfectly pure, the only, and certain Word of God must be the foundation of our faith” (ibid, p. 862, #2693).
The Lord keep us in the confession of His Word, and in the Truth so miraculously and wonderfully rediscovered at the time of the Reformation. May we follow the Truth in a contrite and humble spirit, “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
At the same time God help us lest we disown the doctrine we have confessed as children of the Reformation.
“Lutheran”? What do you mean? Krauth again: “The only churches, therefore, of any land which are properly in the unity of that communion, and by consequence entitled to its name, Evangelical Lutheran, are those which sincerely and truthfully confess the doctrines of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.”
–Pastor Daniel Fleischer