Friday, December 19, 2014

Fundamentalists with a liturgy. . .

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I read where one convert to Rome complained that longtime RC folk look suspiciously upon converts, especially Protestants who desire to become RC priests, as arch conservatives bent on taking back all the progress of Vatican II.  Another term was much more poignant and descriptive:  fundamentalists with incense!  I am not sure about the accuracy of the terminology but I do know that few converts left for Rome because they were looking for a Vatican II church and most were attracted by something distinctly different.

It all served to jog my memory about a conversation with someone in the South who did not have a clue who Lutherans were.  After describing briefly what Lutherans believed, confessed, and taught, the Southerner replaced his knurled brow with half a smile.  Oh, he said, you are fundamentalists with a liturgy.  So that is who we are.  I am glad somebody finally clued me in.  But seriously, that was the response.  Either I did not do a credible job of describing who Lutherans were (are) or else it is so odd as to defy understanding and to require a simple caricature to define us to the Southern world of religion and faith.  I am not sure which is more accurate.

I fear that this is exactly how many within Lutheranism see themselves -- at least those on the conservative side of things.  They see us as Bible Baptists when it comes to Scripture, Reformed when it comes to identity, Methodists when it comes to piety, and semi-Roman Catholics when it comes to worship.  In other words, they do not see consistency between the faith confessed and the faith lived out on Sunday morning.  That is troubling.

Lutherans were, at least when I grew up, an odd lot of people who were duller than dull on Sunday morning (slavishly following the page numbers), led by a preacher in a black robe, subjected to 40 minute sermons on texts other than the lessons read for that morning, and a people with a high view of the sacraments yet somewhat distant since baptisms often took place other than Sunday morning and the Sacrament of the Altar was more absent than present in the life of most parishes.  If you liked this kind of church, well, each to his own, I guess.  What got me going was not the experience of being Lutheran on Sunday morning but the theology that defined us (often fairly distant from Lutheran Sunday mornings of the 1950s and 1960s).

Lutherans are not the same -- at least the confessional kind!  We are more and more insistent that if we believe it, confess it in our Concordia, we ought to live it on Sunday morning.  That is unsettling to the folks who were comfortable with the Lutheran split personality of the past but I think it is a good thing for Lutherans facing the world around us.  We will not succeed being a country club or social group or Lutheran lite version of ourselves in a world expecting and even demanding authenticity.  So we must be who we are.

This means reaching back beyond pleasant memory, reaching back even beyond institutional identity (LCMS), and reinvigorating ourselves and our life together around the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.  When this happens, we will outgrow the misnomer of fundamentalists with a liturgy and just maybe grow into the identity we claim for ourselves in the Confessions:  evangelical catholics!

7 comments:

Janis Williams said...

Former fundagelicals who are coming into Lutheranism aren't looking for Lutheranism Lite. They want their pastors in vestments, chanted liturgy, and incense, if they can get it. It isn't a desire just for something different. It is the realization of the empty life of today's Evangelical churches. The vapidity (is that a word?) of so much so-called worship. Lutheranism is the terminus of a search for Christ centered, Biblical Christianity. What is there in the Catechism, the theology, and the historic Confessions is the heart of true Christianity.

David Gray said...

Former evangelicals don't want Lutheranism Lite but that first and foremost means Sola Fide and a Biblical understanding of the sacraments. They don't want worship that apes 1st Baptist down the street but I don't think they are spending a lot of focus on incense.

BrotherBoris said...

Lutherans are not fundamentalists, no matter how conservative, traditional and confessional they are. There is a finger-pointing nature and meanness to fundamentalism that Lutheranism lacks. Lutheranism is more merciful than fundamentalism,lacks the theocratic impulse of fundamentalism (because of its doctrine of the Two Kingdoms), and distinguishes between the Law and Gospel. Fundamentalism is mostly about Law, although I do give them credit for affirming the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.

Anonymous said...

Lutherans are Catholics with Bibles. Does it matter if American sectarians ever understand this? It does matter whether Lutherans do. Lutherans are the Catholic church normed against the Holy Scriptures, returning the teachings and rules of the Church to a Gospel (efangelish) focus. It's what the Lutheran reformation did and intended to do.

Janis Williams said...

Mr. Gray,

I agree. Those are the issues (truths) that sent us on a journey ending in Lutheranism. I did not intend to give the impression that style was the main issue. However, adiaphora are not totally unimportant. Thank you for pointing out the main issue.

Joyce Zachman said...

"Lutherans are not the same -- at least the confessional kind! We are more and more insistent that if we believe it, confess it in our Concordia, we ought to live it on Sunday morning.

I suggest that we want to 'live it' seven days a week.

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