Thursday, June 3, 2010

3 Parts of My Blog

This blog has evolved into 3 main parts: It contains portions of a historical novel called Luther’s Baggage, a how-to book called Unpacking Luther’s Baggage, and a running commentary on various pertinent topics. I will place some of these things in the Purpose and other pages.
1. historical novel: Luther’s Baggage) I had been writing a few drafts of a novel called Luther’s Baggage. When I was encouraged to start this blog, I copied my drafts into the first few posts (you can read these in the archives) but then ran out of paragraphs and switched my focus to part 2. Eventually, I intend to get back to the novel and flesh out the characters along with the story. I recently read a historical fiction about John Calvin (called The Betrayal) and it got me thinking about the flow of ideas that were swirling around the continent during this very turbulent time. I would like to take Heinrich through Europe to meet the key figures of the Reformation. But that will take research, time, and to some degree, money. Perhaps God will allow me the privilege of doing that.
2. Unpacking Luther’s Baggage (ULB)) Luther’s Reformation left a doctrinal heritage that much of Protestantism has endorsed. Evangelicalism differed with some of these beliefs on several key points. But, deep in the background are hidden items that were either not removed or not included. Finding out what these are and how to address them is the subject of ULB. Part 3 covers some of this research.
3. Running Commentary), such as the following:
In my very small hometown, which is about 3 miles away from the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church that I was affiliated with, there were two women, who were sisters, who ran a Sunday school in a community building. I went every Sunday with a few others kids. We had a small book that we used to help us recite the ten commandments and the Apostles creed. I remember that we usually went through a paper that had a Bible story (with comic book type drawings) and I’m sure some application questions. When I got a little older I attended confirmation classes where we went through Luther’s small catechism. We studied this because we knew we’d be asked to provide the sanctioned answers before the church later on. Once you were confirmed, then you knew you passed a milestone and your obligation was done. While I did participate in vacation Bible school and Walther League activities (The Walther League was the LCMS youth organization, named in honor of C.F.W. Walther, the first President of the LCMS.), later on, I generally did not go to church, since my parents, who had gone through these same steps, did not go to church and generally had a cynical view of such things.

The point is that the Bible was not a daily guide for me and I thought of it in terms of scattered stories, like David and Goliath. I was a Lutheran by process and the concept of being “born again” was not taught or understood. The idea that one needed a personal relationship with Jesus was not taught either; this was part of the confirmation process; you were Lutheran by confession of the creed. There were a few other points that I would later realize were missed. The Biblical past did not fit into a coherent framework and the Biblical future was even murkier. You died and then there was heaven or hell, and you hoped you went to heaven. How current events and the future fit into Biblical prophecy was totally ignored. Martin Luther had a pretty dim view of these things. Israel was the nation that blew it by not recognizing Jesus and the Christians were now the good guys who took over. Martin Luther had a pretty dim view of Jewish things as well. Their law was part of their downfall and the people of Grace were their replacements.
I’ll counter each of these points in good time (and put them into part 2), but here is an overview of what the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod believes, according to Wikipedia:

Lutheranism from

Doctrinal Sources and Standards (Formal Principle)
One of the signature teachings of the Lutheran Reformation is the teaching named Sola scriptura—"Scripture alone." The Missouri Synod believes that the Bible is the only standard by which church teachings can be judged. It also holds that the Holy Scripture is explained and interpreted by the Book of Concord—a series of Confessions of faith composed by Lutherans in the 16th century. Missouri Synod pastors and congregations agree to teach in harmony with the Book of Concord because it teaches and faithfully explains the Word of God. The Missouri Synod also teaches Biblical inerrancy, the teaching that Bible is inspired by God and is without error. For this reason, they reject much—if not all—of modern liberal scholarship.

The Missouri Synod believes that justification comes from God "by divine grace alone, through faith alone, for Christ's sake alone." It teaches that Jesus is the focus of the entire Bible and that faith in him alone is the way to eternal salvation. The synod rejects any attempt to attribute salvation to anything other than Christ's death and resurrection.

The means of grace
The Synod teaches that the Word of God, both written and preached, and the Sacraments are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit gives the gift of God's grace, creates faith in hearts of individuals, forgives sins for the sake of Christ's death on the cross, and grants eternal life and salvation. For Missouri Synod Lutherans, sacraments are actions instituted by Jesus and combine a promise in God's Word with a physical element. All agree that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are sacraments. Confession and absolution is called a Sacrament in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and so is also considered by many Lutherans to be a sacrament, because it was instituted by Christ and has His promise of grace, even though it is not tied to a physical element.

Unlike Calvinists, Lutherans agree that the means of grace are resistible; this belief is based on numerous biblical references as discussed in the Book of Concord.

Sacramental Union and the Lord's Supper
Regarding Holy Communion, the LCMS rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the Reformed teaching that the true body and blood of Christ are not consumed with the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Rather, it believes in the doctrine of the Sacramental Union, Real Presence, that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine.

The Missouri Synod flatly rejects millennialism and considers themselves amillennialists. This means that they believe the teaching that there will be no (“a”) literal 1000 (mille) year visible earthly kingdom of Jesus. This view is better termed “realized millennialism” because it embraces the idea that Christ is reigning now (cf. Mt 28:18), as are Christians (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1–3). The “thousand years” of Rev 20:1–10 is taken figuratively as a reference to the time of Christ’s reign as King from the day of His ascension until the Last Day. Hence, the millennium is a present reality (Christ’s heavenly reign), not a future hope (a rule of Christ on earth after His return). In addition, the Missouri Synod believes that this "reign of Christ" will be fully realized at the return of Christ (the parousia) at which time Christ will raise all peoples from the dead and divide those who belong to him from those who do not. Those who belong to Christ will live in the restored creation with God forever. Those who do not will be cast out into the darkness where there will be "weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (cf. Matthew 13:41-42).

Law and Gospel
The LCMS, along with certain other Lutheran church bodies, also teaches the doctrine of the distinction between God's "Law" and God's "Gospel." The Missouri Synod believes that the Holy Scriptures contain only two teachings—the Law and the Gospel. The Law is all those parts of the Bible that provide commands and instructions, which the LCMS believes are impossible to completely obey. Therefore, the Law through this stated relationship with God, implies an inevitable consequence of God's wrath, judgment, and damnation. The Gospel, on the other hand, is the portions of Scripture that promise free salvation from God, even to sinners. The law condemns, the Gospel saves. Both the Law and the Gospel are gifts from God; both are necessary. The function of the law is to show a person their sinful nature and drive (draw) them to the Gospel, where the forgiveness of sin is promised for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The LCMS insists that both the Old and the New Testament teach both Law and Gospel. The Old Testament, therefore, is valuable to Christians. Its teachings point forward in time to the Cross of Christ in the same way that the New Testament points backward in time to the Cross. This vital Lutheran doctrine was most famously summarized by C. F. W. Walther in his book, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

The Missouri Synod's original Constitution indicates that one of its purposes is to strive toward uniformity in practice, while also encouraging responsible and doctrinally-sound diversity. The synod requires that hymns, songs, liturgies, and practices be in harmony with the Bible and Book of Concord. Historically, worship in Missouri Synod congregations is orthodox and liturgical, utilizing a printed order of service and hymnal, accompanied by a pipe organ or other classical instrumentation. In recent years, some congregations have adopted a variety of less-formal worship styles, employing contemporary Christian music, pianos, guitars, drums, and other instruments in a folk mass or rock band setting. This has caused a great deal of contention in the church body since it has a decidedly liturgical heritage. The recent publication of Lutheran Service Book and its widespread reception shows the strength of liturgical life in the parishes of the Synod. More traditional LCMS Lutherans point to the Lutheran Confessions in their defense of liturgical worship.

Lord's Supper
The LCMS endorses the doctrine of close or closed communion —the policy of sharing the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion ordinarily only with those who are baptized and confirmed members of one of the congregations of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod or of a congregation of one of her sister churches with whom she has formally declared altar and pulpit fellowship. (Pulpit and altar fellowship indicates there is agreement in all articles of doctrine and this same standard is sought at the communion rail.) Missouri Synod congregations implement close or closed communion in various ways, requiring conformity to official doctrine in various degrees.

Relationship with other Lutheran bodies
Although its strongly conservative views on theology and ethics might seem to make the LCMS politically compatible with Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists in the U.S., the LCMS largely eschews political activity, partly out of concerns to keep the denomination untainted with potential heresies and also because of its strict understanding of the Lutheran distinction between the Two Kingdoms (see above), which repudiates the primarily Calvinist presuppositions about the totalizing rule of God that informs much, if not most, of U.S. evangelical understanding of politics and Christianity.

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