Saturday, May 28, 2016
Who said that?
I am so often impressed with the prescient wisdom of people who look across the landscape and are not overwhelmed by the trees to see the forest. I wish I were more like that. The quote in question dates from 1846 and it was written by a Lutheran fairly new to the US who came here to flee a Lutheranism under siege by those who insisted that doctrinal differences did not preclude unity. You know him. CFW Walther. As he stepped off a boat and surveyed the landscape of Lutheranism in America, he found a different challenge than he left in Germany. Here it was not enforced unity but a willing surrender of the ancient and confessional heritage that had been Lutheranisms identity and reason for being.
It was done in the name of enlightened thought but it was the rudest and barest form of ignorance. Lutheranism in America was a liturgical and confessional mess of people who did not know what it meant to be Lutheran in witness or in worship. Walther's appeal to Old Lutheranism was not an appeal to a date in history or a pristine era but to a Lutheranism undeterred by fear of what people thought (papish) and unshaken in witness to the faith once and always believed, taught, and confessed.
Today we live in an equal crossroads. We are told that confidence in the Biblical text is no longer possible because the Scriptures are simply wrong about too many things. We are told that science is a more reliable teacher than the Spirit and reason must judge the Word of God. We are told that whole sections of Scripture are just plain wrong or they have been misunderstood the whole of their history and now the faith is friendly toward GLBT etc... We are told that feelings and preferences matter more than truth that endures forever and you choose a church home like you choose a comfortable pair of shoes (no matter that they may be bad for your feet or destructive to your faith). We do so not because we think ourselves shallow or self-serving but because we think ourselves enlightened, intelligent, sophisticated, erudite, and creative.
Around us is an astonishing mountain of ignorance about the real issues of consequence that face us as churches and as a culture. Abortion is not just a choice. Sex is not just sex. Marriage is not open to regular redefinition. Children are not toys. Science is not unanimous in its conclusions nor more reliable that Scripture and the faithful who have heard and believed its voice. The environment is not a god or the primary cause of the God. Liturgy is not to make us feel good. Confessions are not open to regular re-interpretation or to updating as truth changes and the social conscience of culture shifts. Truth is not a mile wide and an inch deep but pretty much the opposite. Faith is not for a better life now and Jesus is not a life coach.
Even we as Lutherans are divided and confused before the world because we cannot agree among ourselves. So we have an Amish option which pretty much disengages from the world and turns church into a refuge or we have the adapt or die option which embraces every social change or cause (eventually). And then we have Missouri which harbors nearly every opinion depending upon which congregation you attend and to which pastor you speak. Walther looked and saw pretty clearly the landscape then. God help us to see it now as clearly. And then to confess more boldly, worship more faithfully, and live more holy.