Lutheranism is not rational or reasonable or systematic. It is filled with paradoxes left unresolved and it surrenders the hope of understanding or getting God for the trust that believes His Word and is captive to that Word -- captive minds and hearts. The problem is not so much with Lutheranism as much as it is with the Word of God itself. People seem to be drawn like magnets to those who can cut and paste the Scriptures together to offer something that is logical and orderly and answers questions and can be understood. But if God can be understood, does He continue to be God? Is not a God who is captive to the mind not worth believing?
In a recent conversation a parent in tears lamented a child who had abandoned the faith the child was confirmed in and embraced something more appealing to the mind and more satisfying to the heart. In the end it was less about doctrine than it was about the need to understand, to have God explain Himself or be explained. While that is quite often our desire, it mitigates against the very nature of faith (Hebrews says it best -- the substance of things hoped for and confidence in things not seen). Lutheranism is not all that appealing to those who want a systematic God who can be explained, predicted, and understood. But Calvinism is attractive for exactly that reason. Calvin approaches God from the vantage point of reason. If Calvin is not explaining God, at least he is certain God has explained Himself and transformed faith from trust to consent of the mind and will.
In the end I have tired of trying to argue it out. If I can argue someone into the faith, then somebody else can argue them out. I do not believe it is fruitful to approach these people with an appeal to the mind. Their argument is really not against Luther or catholic theological tradition with respect to the Word and Sacraments. Their argument is with faith itself. They refuse to believe if believing does not offer something rational to the mind and something warm to the heart. They will not believe if believing means trusting what their eyes cannot see or their minds cannot understand or their hearts not experience or feel. If we think we can argue them back into classical and orthodox Christianity,, then we have already conceded the most important theological point -- God is not the end result of the mind's fruitful search for reason and order to life and the future. God has made Himself accessible in the means of grace -- not to supplement understanding and feelings but to replace them with something eminently more durable.
I was reminded of a small quote from Hermann Sasse:
Not every question can be settled by means of a friendly discussion. It is necessary to remember this in an age which has a superstitious belief in dialog as the infallible means of settling everything. There are questions raised by the devil to destroy the Church of Christ. To achieve this he may use as his mouth piece not only ambitious professors of theology, his favorite tools, but also simple, pious souls.Consensus is a wonderful thing and compromise sounds positively wonderful but in the end these may just lead us from truth to error in our search for a credible faith and a reasonable God. I get it. I feel it as well. I want a God who will explain Himself to me, clue me into His ways, and fit into the understanding of my limited mind. Who doesn't? But as nice as it is, the true faith will always challenge and shock and scandalize us. After all, Jesus the innocent Son of God willingly suffered for the sake of those who were sinners and enemies of God. Nobody can find much comfort in a God who willingly dies for the unworthy and undeserving. Jesus did not suffer for scoundrels. Or did He??? God can be explained and predicted. Or can He??? Ultimately all we know is what God has told us and what He has told us points us not to minds that get Him but to the trust of things we cannot see and have only by promise and the witness of the Spirit. In the end, we must ask ourselves if this is enough? I pray that the Spirit will enable us to say "Yes, that is more than enough" for me to believe in Him and rejoice in His grace and mercy.