Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Conversation

Recently my wife shared a conversation she had with a Roman Catholic.  It was the typical kind of conversation in which people describe their church body in terms that might make it somewhat unrecognizable to the hierarchy of that body.  I have had these conversations as well.  "You know that Roman Catholics don't really believe...." or "Presbyterians really do believe..." or "Well, I always thought that Lutherans believed...."  In the process of the conversation, the person said something to the effect, "Well, it sounds like Lutherans are the Catholics Roman Catholics are supposed to be..."  Ahhhhhh, clarity!!

That is the point of the Lutheran Confession.  We do not claim to be Protestants.  We do not claim to begin a new church.  We do not claim to innovate or create novelty.  We do not claim to anti-tradition.  We do not claim to be the true visible sect in which salvation alone is found.  What we claim is that the faith we affirm is not uniquely ours.  We claim that we stand with the faithful of the Church of every age and place.  We claim a Scripture that is truthful and bounds what is believed.  We claim a Scripture which is a living Word which is efficacious and accomplishes its purpose according to God's Spirit and power.  We claim the rich and living tradition handed down to us in faithful creed, confession, liturgy, church usage, ceremony, rubric, and prayer -- the one which does not norm the Scripture but which is normed by it.  We claim that we are not new but the confessors in our own time of the timeless truth and the faithful confession found from the early church through the present day.  We claim that we have not innovated or created novelty within the catholic faith and we disdain those whose novelty and innovation have detracted from or conflicted with the Gospel.  We claim that the faith we believe, teach, and confess is the one, holy catholic and apostolic faith but we allow that we are not the only ones who believe, teach, and confess it (others do and do not know that they are already Lutheran!).  We claim to be the Church Rome should be, Geneva should be, Constantinople should be, Canterbury should be, and Wheaton should be.  This is not the arrogance of man but the timeless, truthful, faithful confession which is our heritage and had better be our legacy or we have no right to the name Lutheran.

It is for this reason we hold up being Lutheran as a good thing.  If being Lutheran meant anything less, it would be a scandal and a shameful claim.  The Confessions we hold so dear are not our own per se but the ecumenical treasure of all Christendom, truly ecumenical documents and not sectarian in any way. 

I know that Amy smiled when she heard that response... "Well, it sounds like Lutherans are the Catholics Roman Catholics are supposed to be..."  I did, too.  If only I could bottle it and share it when people ask me "What is a Lutheran?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fr. Peters,

More of us Lutherans need to be aware of this truth.