Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Who is worse? Rome or Geneva?
I understand it. Most of our protestant friends have departed very far from the historical practice of the Christian faith. They also deny the very means by which God delivers his grace. It is easy to feel distant from them at times. I understand that Catholic Mass often is much closer in style and even substance in many ways to what Lutherans have historically practiced.
I understand that Rome has also been a very consistent voice in life issues and the like. I understand that they have stood with us and we with them lately on the issue of religious freedom. But what I do not understand is the affinity with Rome that I see among some Lutherans. Read more here...
I must confess that I do not see the point here. Outside of a few Lutheran clergy who have swum the Tiber and become Roman, I do not see many who feel this "affinity with Rome." In fact, I find such anti-Roman fear among Lutherans that we will often abandon our own theological identity, liturgical practice, and faithful piety in order to avoid being labelled as Roman (see below the posts about crossing oneself and the WELS as but one example). Maybe I am in my own little world here in Tennessee, but I do not see many pining away for Rome or attempting to incarnate Roman theology or practice in Lutheran congregations. There may be some, but I do not know them or see them.
Lets put this whole thing into scale. Everyday there are good, loving, Lutherans who abandon their faith and, in many cases the full Gospel, to embrace Evangelicalism or a generic Christianity which is rich in everything except the means of grace and the efficacious Word. They trade in a baptism which does something for a water empty of power and reduced to a symbolic gesture of obedience to the command of the Lord. They trade in a living Word powerful enough to speak forgiveness and cleanse the guilty conscience for another set of rules to follow to get what you want from God. They trade in the bread that is body and the wine that is blood for a picture of an absent Christ who is confined to our remembrances and speaks to us in mere metaphors. They trade in the Word that God sends forth and does not return empty for a textbook used to glean popular wisdom on child rearing, a better marriage, a happier disposition, or a better life now.
I do respect those who warn us against pining away for Rome and I suppose there are some... but I do not see them. What I do see is a Lutheranism that is often uncomfortable in its own skin and so looks vainly and longingly for values and programs foreign to our very identity so that our church will grow fast enough for us (but perhaps too fast for God if it means sacrificing our very identity). The thing that hits me most when people warn against a Lutheranism that secretly wants to be Roman is that we have a ton of Lutherans who are not so secretly in love with things very truly not Lutheran. What do we do about them?
For every parish or Pastor who might be accused of mimicking Rome on Sunday morning, there are fifty who openly borrow from Willow Creek or Saddleback or which ever place or program is in vogue this week. The damage that this does is not limited only to the particular parish that trades in the sturdy Lutheranism for a flashy modern incarnation of a not so Christian Christianity. It ripples throughout our church body stealing our unity, raising conflict between brothers in the ministry and parishes that claim the same confession. It presents a muddled and muddied view of Lutheranism to the world -- one that wears so many masks it does not even know who it is anymore.
It is surely easier to point the finger at those few parishes and Pastors who are flirting with Rome than it is to acknowledge the parishes and Pastors who have parked their Lutheran vehicles in the garage and who drive around the District and Synod showcasing what is new, what "works," and what people want... No, I think the real danger lies not in those leaning toward Rome... but those who lean away from Wittenberg toward Geneva or Lake Forest, California, or South Barrington, Illinois...