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Friday, January 13, 2006 

A Complement And A Challenge

A friend gave me quite the compliment yesterday albeit an unintended one. He has been asking me for a couple of days now for one source to get a better understanding of what it means to call oneself Lutheran. Now, I know how to answer that question. No, really I do. Really.

But my problem is one of language. I have found that sometimes people talk past one another when it comes to talking theology. We can talk about the real presence to be sure. But an enthusiast and a confessional Lutheran while saying the same spelled words will just not be talking the same language. What about words like justification or sanctification? Does anybody think a Calvinist will understand what the Lutheran is saying? Just ask Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren how that conversation is going. And how often can Lutherans talk past one another? Pretty often is my guess. Yep, it’s a language problem.

I could have started with Scripture. That’s a no-brainer. Isn’t it? I mean, as long as we believe the bible is true, that should be the starting point. Sure. The problem with that is that as sinful human beings we can’t always agree on what the Bible says. The local phone book is true but it says absolutely nothing about God’s plan for salvation. I need something that clearly states what a Lutheran is.

I could’ve easily pointed my friend to the Book of Concord. That’s an easy out! But then I’ll need to explain the history of the confessions as well as the reason we cling to them. I’ll need to explain the confessions are a defense of what scripture teaches us. Not a quick answer there. And sooner or later I’ll have to explain the word apology in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. I can see it now, “so what you’re saying is that an apology is not and an apology. And does the word is mean is with you people?” Yeah, that should be easy.

I could have started on one of my rants about the marks of the Church, Word and Sacrament. Or I could have explained the three solas; Sola Gratia, Sola Fida, and Sola Scriptura. Yeah, that should be easy as well.

But, I took the easy way out and said “just go to my blog and look at some of my links”. After spending a little time perusing the links to other bloggers, he hit me with it. “Frank, these people that you link to, on your site…they sound like you! This one here cusses and is writing beer reviews”. Oh my, I do believe he’s still at the Terrible Swede. Yep, good earthy Lutherans. That was as good as being called a Quia Lutheran by Orycteropus Afer at Aardvark Alley. He said I sounded like the very people that I look up to. Cool.

But that won’t help him understand what a Lutheran is. And it certainly can’t explain why we get so excited talking doctrine. Being recognized that I’m in a group of like minded people will not explain much because there are more who are quatenus than quia. If it only were as easy as saying that if you are in large group of like minded people, that everything must be peachy. But it’s not. I wish that I didn’t feel like being confessional was an up the big hill battle. But sadly, it is an uphill battle because there will always be a struggle on this side of eternity for a doctrine that looks to the cross and preaches Christ crucified. It’s a struggle that the Church has fought throughout the ages and will continue to fight until the last day.

But it is comforting to click on a link to confessional Lutheran blogs and read and discuss the things that matter most. And it’s humbling when someone who knows nothing about Lutherans says you sound like the people you link to and admire most.

I did tell my friend that in the future if he would start to post questions and challenge me on the things I write I would be more than happy answer questions. I’ll just have to be careful about that whole language thing.

How about Luther's Small Catechism?

In as small amount of words as possible tell us what makes you different from say a freewill holiness believer.

First, nice blog, Frank! I just came across it recently, and it's now on my blogroll. I like it whenever I come across solid Lutheran bloggers, esp. those in North Carolina (my wife & I lived in NC for 12 yrs ('89-'01) - 6 yrs in Chapel Hill & 6 in Winston-Salem...). It ain't easy being a confessional Lutheran down there. (well, it's not easy anywhere, but at least in the Midwest it fits more in the traditional cultural context...)

You hit on something important -- "talking past" each other. Theological definitional issues are always problematic, and are even more so when the contemporary cultural relativism is added into the mix. I don't really know what the ultimate solution is, but being aware of a/the problem is at least a good start.

As for what you could/should have started with, I think I'm in agreement with the anonymous comment, in that Luther's Small Catechism is a good starting point, especially if you want to have an "official" type of reference material.

Another, though potentially less authoritative, option is that of the "What About...?" series published by the LCMS (and which was written by the late Rev. Dr. Al Berry when he was LCMS President). It's a very nice series of 29 short pamphlet-type articles about what Lutherans believe. They can be found here.

Getting your friend hooked on the Confessional Lutheran Blogosphere (CLB) would be a good thing too, if for no other reason than to see that "doing" doctrinally correct theology can be quite fun & enjoyable! ;^)


I recommend Here We Stand by Sasse. It's a fairly short book and sets out the differences between Lutherans and others on various issues.

Balaam's Ass

Thank you very much, GHP the link of the 29 articles were indeed very EYE opening

First, thank you for the link.

Second, you're the one I stole the logo from. I've given credit and sorry for not acknowledging you sooner. I like you blog.

Third, I think we do arrive at an agreement to disagree and we must not play down those disagreements with word games.

Fourth, the "WHAT ABOUT...?" series and reading Confessional Lutheran Blogs are fine but never substitute the fifth.

Fifth, the small catechism is your best tool to help you & your friend. I would encourage you both to do this under the guidance of your pastor. After that fifth, enjoy a fifth.

Terrible Swede,
First, you're welcome!

Second, not a problem. I've had quite a few good comments on the logo.

Third, my greatest difficulty has been getting folks to understand what it is exactly I'm talking about. I try my very best to use precise theological language when I speak. It's because of this I sometimes run into a wall. I also have a problem when folks don't even know what they believe but are taught to use "buzz" words.

Forth, I agree! My coworker was just trying what it is that drives my passion for the Gospel in as few words as possible. The bloggers I read are more times than not, just as passionate. I was hoping that he would read some and have specific questions.

Fifth, once again I agree. I would love it if my coworker would sit down with a called servent of the Word! Absolutly nothing would make me happier!!

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  • From The Haut South
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