What Is a Lutheran Church?

American Lutheranism became an enigma to its environment.  For with the exception of a few remnants of old Reformed Churches, American Protestantism is not familiar with a doctrinal type of Christianity.  Only by means of this “rigid” (as the world calls it), firm, and clear position was Lutheranism able to maintain itself.  There was no Lutheranism that was receptive to the influences of the world, that was broad-minded, liberal, and modern.  There were indeed Lutherans who became liberal.  But then they ceased to be Lutherans. …

What is Lutheranism without the actual incarnation, without the miracles that belong to the enfleshed God-man, without the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, without the washing of regeneration?  There is no Lutheranism save that which is “orthodox.”  Anything else may be a beautiful, congenial humanitarianism and Christianity, but it is not Lutheranism.  That must be kept in mind, even when one is, with an all-embracing love, gathering those who adhere to the Church of the Augsburg Confession.  Our Church does not burn heretics or judge consciences.  But it does concern itself about true doctrine and must concern itself about it.  A Lutheran Church that would not do that, a Church that would not train and guide its pastors to this end, a Church that no longer shields its members against false doctrine is no longer a Lutheran Church. [Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, vol. 1, 167-168]

Defending Syncretism: You’re Doing It Wrong

I’m going to try, as Pres. Matt Harrison asked, not to mention the main actors or the events which have been boiling among members of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod this past week, as well as, unfortunately, in the national press.  Perhaps the whole saga, taken up as a “for/against,” “conservative/liberal” rallying cry by the usual suspects, can become an opportunity for discernment and a fuller searching of the Scriptures on what it means to bear witness in an age that is, by nature, syncretistic.

I’m not holding my breath.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed that those who want to defend events where many people are praying and/or worshiping, each from his or her “faith tradition” (gah, that phrase makes me want to break something), often do use Scriptural accounts to bolster their cases.  (That is in contradistinction to those unbelievers or crypto-unbelievers who use half-formed, quasi-scriptural, emotivistic opinions to advance their case one way or the other.)

The problem with the Scriptural accounts that are chosen to encourage a given situation of praying/worshiping is that they often seem to move in the opposite direction from how the person seems to want it to be used.  Take Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets of Asherah.  I suppose Elijah prays in their presence (not quite sure he’s praying “with” them), but while they are praying, he mocks them, even suggesting that Baal might be taking a bathroom break.  And then he proceeds to make sure not a single one of them escapes with his life.  Do the people who use this passage want to appear biblically illiterate, or were they all, like, “Elijah prayed and there were people from other religions there…what happened after that?  TLDR“?  I don’t really know.  I admit, mocking false prophets, calling down fire from heaven, telling the people to worship only the true God–all pretty cool.  Just not sure that’s what the people who use this verse mean when they use it.

I want to know if there is an actual, real place where Jesus, His Prophets or His Apostles, or any Christian until the Enlightenment, actually worshiped (or even prayed, for that matter) with unbelievers or believers in another god?  Not where they preached to unbelievers, not where they ate with unbelievers, not where they served or helped unbelievers.  Is that too much to ask?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?