Even though it’s clear in retrospect that this moment was key, I still wandered, looking for something that my evangelical faith could not supply. So I dabbled in Christian mysticism for a while, then Eastern Orthodoxy, and then a theology of radical grace as expressed in certain Lutheran writers and the theologian Karl Barth.
It’s interesting now to see how Catholicism in many ways was the fulfillment of each of these paths. Certainly the tradition of Catholic mysticism is most impressive, especially as seen in St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, among many others. And the importance of the Church tradition and being organically tied to the early Apostles—that’s not just in Eastern Orthodoxy but also Roman Catholicism. And despite the feelings of many Protestants that Roman Catholicism is a version of works righteousness, I discovered that Roman Catholics believe in a grace that is even more radical than the radical Lutherans profess. So these so-called detours were actually preparing me to enter into the fullness that is the Roman Catholic Church.
I am not at all sure who the radical Lutherans or certain Lutheran writers are, but it is a troubling thought to me that Lutheranism did not fare better in this man's search for a church home. On the one hand, I can understand why Lutheran churches are not attractive. They are a mess. You have a choice of size (ELCA) at the cost of orthodoxy and at the risk of heresy. You have the choice of a very small body (WELS) which is inconsistent. You have the choice of micro Lutheran groups that are so small as to be almost invisible. And then you have Missouri which has so much promise and yet struggles in the execution of faithful, vibrant, and effective confessional Lutheranism in faith and practice. Never mind the Lutherans of Europe. But Lutheranism ought to fare better for someone like Galli. Could it be that Lutheran groups have so colored the image of Lutheranism that people shopping for a more orthodox, sacramental, and historic faith cannot see the promise of the Confessions for the broken promises of the Lutheran bodies before them?
Being confessional and orthodox in faith and practice is not only for the faithful, it is our witness to the world. It is not only those already in this church who suffer when pastors and parishes go off the reservation. We compromise our confession before the world. And people who are searching for roots, serious theology, Biblical integrity, vibrant sacramentality, traditional liturgy, wonderful music, and an alternative to the emptiness of Protestantism, dismiss the choice of Lutheranism because of the Lutherans. We cannot be more than we are but we should not be less than we are. And the first step to regaining Lutheran witness before the world is to be Lutheran in doctrine and practice. Something worth considering on our way to Reformation Day this year. . .