Posted by: Johnold Strey | April 27, 2009

One, Two, Three … Lutheran!

Several conversations with a variety of people over the last few weeks have led me to pose the following little summary about theism, Christianity, and Lutheranism.  I didn’t hear or read this from another source, so if it sounds familiar to something else you’ve heard, I can’t say that I copied it from someone else, but the other source still would have beaten me to the punch, so to speak.  I won’t explain everything about these little phrases up front, but if readers’ comments lead the discussion in some particular direction, I can expand these thoughts.  Let me hear what you think about this triad of statements regarding the three articles of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds:

  1. If you confess the First Article correctly, you are a theist.
  2. If you also confess the Second Article correctly, you are a Christian.
  3. If you also confess the Third Article correctly, you are a Lutheran.

Comments?  Thoughts?  Reactions?

Additional comment on 5/2/2009:  I’ve added a little more commentary about this in the fourth comment for this post.  Read on and comment if you’d like.



  1. Of course I disagree with #3; I think if you confess the third article correctly, you MUST NOT be Lutheran!

  2. Start a meaningful discussion. Say more!

  3. While I think I know where you are going, I don’t think that a Lutheran would consider parsing up the Apostles’ Creed — although I think there have been Lutherans who have been guilty of parsing the Trinity as though the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each have their assigned duties (Creator; Redeemer; Sanctifier) and never shall they cross paths. I know I have been guilty of this too.

    How can one confess the First Article correctly apart from the 2nd and 3rd?

    It is the Father who loved the world so that he sent the Son who died for the world. The Son, then, sent to the world his Spirit who comes to us through Word and Sacraments. The Holy Spirit, then, points us to the Son who reveals to us the Father.

    Can one really confess one article correctly while not correctly confessing the others correctly? It seems to me if the confession of one article is flawed, they all must be — for the Trinity is one God.

  4. The initial triad of statements is not intended to encourage a parsing of the Trinity, but is meant in part to be a subtle commentary on some observable phenomena in American Christianity, such as…

    – How many “praise songs” praise God for his providence, protection, and power, but not his salvation? In other words, how often do songs proclaim the First Article but not the Second and/or Third Articles? And isn’t this all too often the steady song diet in many Christian churches?

    – How many sermons from American Protestantism have First Article matters (often skewed with a theology of glory) as their beginning, middle, and end? And isn’t that kind of preaching essentially theism — an acknowledgement that God is “out there” and “lookin’ out for you,” but never getting to the fact that we have rebelled against the holy God who, in his grace, has forgiven our rebellion and sin through the saving work of Jesus Christ (Second Article) now delivered to us by the Holy Spirit (Third Article) in the means of grace?

    – Fundamentalism may acknowledge the virgin birth, vicarious atonement, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, but doesn’t it, by definition, fail to take the full Christian confession of faith (drawn from the Scriptures that it claims to be inspired) seriously? To paraphrase something Prof. Em. D. Deutschlander has said: The term fundamentalism already tells us that it doesn’t take the Word of God seriously because it says that some teachings are “fundamental” while others are not — and therefore “up for discussion.”

    That’s not everything behind my initial three statements, but let’s see if that gets a discussion going. If so, great! If not, that’s okay too.


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