October 30, 2016 2 Comments
Today, 499 years ago, a priest (and a monk) by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the Slosskirche in Wittenberg, All Saints Church. Some say this started the Reformation, and in a way it did. But these were things he thought the church should discuss, and this was the normal method of bringing them to the authorities attention.
And see that’s the thing, the Reformation didn’t really get going until the Roman Church excommunicated Luther, that’s when he decided he had no more choice. And I note that the Roman Church also reformed along the same line quite soon as well. Even in churches, competition is a good thing, it seems. But there were some bad consequences as well of this schism 500 years ago, such as the 30 Years War which devastated Germany.
Some people have told me that every 400 years the laity have to reform the church, and you know it does sort of seem like it. At Chalcedon in 451 we lost the Copts, In the Great Schism in 1054 the Orthodox split off from Rome, and in 1517 the Reformation got started. Well, it’s 2016 now, and all our churches seem riven by strife, What’s next? I doubt anyone knows, but I think we’d be well advised to stick pretty close together, or Islam or cultural relativism might inherit the earth. Perilous times, indeed.
So maybe it’s a good time to reiterate what it really means to be a Lutheran since Rev. Dr. Luther started this whole Reformation thing going. Mostly, we think Rome just got too involved with what we call “The Kingdom of the Left” as opposed to the “Kingdom of the Right”. To us, you were the schismatics. This article is by exegete77 writing in ”believe, teach, and confess”. it is one of the best summaries of what it really means to be a Lutheran that I have every read. Enjoy.
Over the past three decades I am often asked what it means to be Lutheran. What do Lutherans believe? What is most important? How does that work out in practice? This is just a brief introduction to those questions. Despite “popular” views, Lutherans do not follow Martin Luther. Rather, we confess the same Christian faith he did; hence we do not support everything he wrote. Martin Luther appeared at critical time in church history and had a significant influence on the entire Christian Church, but we do not “follow him,” rather Jesus Christ and him crucified. The name “Lutheran” was originally a derogatory term used by Luther’s enemies. Later, it became a term to distinguish itself from Reformed (Zwingli, Calvin, and later Arminius) as well as from the radical reformation.
Historic Continuity: “The Church has always taught…”
The Lutheran Church sees itself in continuity with the historic Christian Church throughout the ages, not something invented in the 16th century. That is, in most of our official writings (called the Lutheran Confessions), we often use the phrase “As the Church has always taught” to show that what Luther and others publicly were teaching was consistent with the historic church. We frequently use the term “catholic” (meaning “universal”) to denote the true Church throughout the ages, not in reference to the specific church body known as the Roman Catholic Church headed by the pope. This phrase is critical in understanding Lutherans, because while sometimes we look like Roman Catholics, we see the papal church deviating in the Middle Ages and onward from that historic faith. At the time of the Reformation, Luther and others continued what was done that was consistent with the Bible and the Church through the ages, but ridded itself of false teachings (especially in worship). In that sense Lutherans were “conservative” keeping that which was solid and discarding other elements. They could and did keep paintings, statures, icons, as aids to help people learn the stories of the Bible. On the other hand, Zwingli, Calvin and other Reformed leaders wanted to distance their churches from anything that looked Roman Catholic. For them, in regard to worship, they made significant alterations to the order of service and even destroyed what appeared in churches. The Reformed tended to get rid of paintings, statues, and icons. Lutherans use the phrase “believe, teach, and confess” to denote those statement which reflect accurately what the Bible teachings. In line with that, Lutherans accept the three Ecumenical Creeds as accurate statements of the Christian faith from the Bible (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed). You can find them here.
Continue reading What does this mean… to be Lutheran? « ”believe, teach, and confess”.
One thing we should note in these times when so many try to restrict the availability of the internet and social media. One of the main factors in the success of the Reformation was the availability of a new social medium: The printing press, that spread the word of what was happening all over Europe within a few months, instead of years (if ever) as formerly.
Of course, we must have this, as well
We would also be wise to keep in mind some of the words of Pusey:
Many things will combine to wrest it from you, my younger brethren. Through one thing only can you hold it, the grace of God. New, though false, lights dazzle at the outset of life; novelty attracts ; the old faith may be pictured to you as antiquated ; a strict oneness of faith as illiberal ; the very Love of God is set in array against the Revelation of God, as though God could not mean what yet He has said ; belief in God, as He has revealed Himself, may be pictured to you as derogatory to God. “Go not after them, nor follow them,” is your Saviour’s warning as to those who shall come in His Name, and whom He hath not sent. Old must the faith be, since as soon as man needed redemption, the Redeemer was promised, and the truths of the Gospel lay implicitly involved in the revelation to Adam; and He Who eighteen hundred years ago, more fully declared it as the power of God unto salvation, changeth not. “One” must it be, for contradictories cannot both be true, and He has said, there is “One Faith,” as there is “One God ” and “One Lord.”
And since tomorrow is Halloween, maybe we should talk about that a bit as well