Four Quotes on Being Lutheran

[Adolf von Harless, from Moving Frontiers (CPH, 1964)]

Only after I had experienced and personally learned what saving truth is did I turn to the Confessions of my church. I cannot describe the surprise and the emotion which I felt when I found that the contents of the Confessions corresponded to that of which I had become convinced through the experience of faith.

[Wilhelm Löhe, from the same]

An objective and impartial comparison of the Lutheran doctrine with those of the other churches, specifically with those of the Roman and Reformed denominations, shows that in all distinctive doctrines she holds to the true mean between them both, that she is the middle one of the confessions. In no single doctrine does she defend an extreme position, but rather her doctrine offers the only possible basis for unification and union of the extreme opposites expressed in the doctrine of the various denominations. This has particularly reached perfection in the last symbolical book, the Formula of Concord.

[Löhe on unity]

Far from first establishing an outward union by the unhappy method of overlooking and neglecting undeniable differences and then childishly hoping that somehow the inner unity will be added to this; far from attempting by human means to force a union which can be established only through the spiritual unity which the Spirit of truth must accomplish–the true church prays without ceasing for the unification of all souls in the one true doctrine and hopes that all sheep of the Good Shepherd will hear His voice in the proclamation of the true doctrine and gather themselves into one flock. …
Let the true church keep what she has. Furthermore let her be scrupulous about every error. Let her say no, a simple, calm, earnest, firm, dispassionate no, to everything that is not true. … Let her also say yes, a simple, calm, joyful yes, to everything that is true, no matter where or on which side it is found.

[And, of course, how can we have 19th/20th century Lutheran quotes without Sasse? from Here We Stand (Lutheran Publishing House, 1979), 184]

This explains the apparent contradiction–that the Lutheran Church claims to preserve in its teaching the correct understanding of the Gospel which was offered, in the Reformation, to all Christendom, but rejected by a great part of it; and that, on the other hand, it sends no missionaries to other churches as the Adventists and Russelites, for example, do, when they send their missionaries to the Christians all over the earth in order to win them for their teachings. Our church knows that it can do no more than bear witness before all Christendom, before all communions and denominations, to the understanding of the divine Word which has been vouchsafed to it. What happens to this witness, whether it is heeded or not, does not lie in its power.

Thus the two statements stand side by side: the Lutheran Church which is faithful to its Confession is the true church of Jesus Christ, and the church of Christ is not limited to the Lutheran Confession. The two statements are inseparably connected in the Lutheran doctrine of the church.