Posted by: Johnold Strey | September 14, 2010

Proud of Our Confessions

During the thirteen Sundays between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, my congregation’s Sunday morning Bible Class studied the Augsburg Confession.  This Lutheran statement of faith, presented at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, is considered by many to be the Lutheran Church’s primary confession of faith, and is a part of the collection of Lutheran Confessions called the Book of Concord.  We used a curriculum from Northwestern Publishing House that grouped the Augsburg Confession’s 28 articles into 13 topical lessons.  Because each lesson was essentially its own “topic,” this study worked nicely during the summer months when members are often gone on vacation for a few weeks; the lessons stood on their own for the most part, and so someone would not feel “lost” if they missed a week or two of class while they were out-of-town.

We had a few extra minutes at the end of our final class on August 26, so I asked the participants if they had any thoughts about our now-completed study of the Augsburg Confession.  One participant shared some interesting thoughts that I’d like to share here.  The person I have in mind is not a life-long WELS member or even a life-long Lutheran.  Nor is she a native-born U.S. citizen.  Most of her extended family is in South America.  Her native country is one where Lutheranism is rare and WELS has no formal presence.

She had two simple but important points she shared with our class.  The first was, simply, that it was a pleasure to study what we believe in such an in-depth manner.  Studying what our Lutheran forefathers wrote and then backing up their writings with clear passages from Scripture helped her (and, I hope, the whole class) understand why the Lutheran Confessions take the stand that they do and why we should have certainty about what we believe and confess as confessional Lutherans.  Her second point referred to one of her family members from South America who has visited our church several times while she was vacationing with her relative, our member.  She mentioned that her family member was so impressed when she attended our services and participated in our Bible classes.  This family member is a very devout Christian who reads her Bible and prays daily.  What impressed her was the level of depth, consistency, and accuracy in our teaching.  We could point back to Scripture for everything we taught and our members wanted to dig deeply into whatever book or doctrine we were studying.  She wanted this depth in study and teaching for herself, but the opportunities to find this kind of teaching were few in her home country. 

Words and incidents like this make me wonder if life-long and long-time Lutherans shouldn’t be more proud of what we believe, teach, and confess.  I’m not saying that, collectively, we aren’t appreciative of the confession of faith that the Holy Spirit has given us.  But there is no doubt that we serve in a world where biblical, Christ-centered Christianity is on the way out, even in the church (one might argue that such Christianity has never really been “in”).  That’s doubly the case here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I sometimes feel that my congregation and I are “museum pieces.”  And that reality creates a temptation to try to appeal to the world’s wishes before presenting law and gospel to them.

But then that person finds us.  The person who has been searching for substance.  The person who wants a confession of faith that can’t fit on an index card.  The person who wants more than “Jesus loves me this I know, and this is all I wanna know” (to steal a quote from Daniel Deutschlander).  The person who asks hard questions about the Christian faith, not because they are out to question Christianity, but because they want to place their religious beliefs on something more objective than how they feel at that moment.  The person who knows that religious truth is not determined by the world and who expects that the church won’t be a mirror image of the world.

And we have what that person is looking for!

Lutheranism isn’t defined by our love of potlucks, pipe organs, and the Packers — though I’m obviously not against any of those, especially pipe organs!  (You thought I was going to say, “especially the Packers,” didn’t you?!)  Lutheranism is defined by our confession of faith.  Lutheranism is defined by our Confessions, which are defined by the Scriptures, which point us to Christ.  Lutheranism is defined by a recognition that Scripture is woven together with two great teachings — the law, which condemns our sin, and the gospel, which points to our forgiveness in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

There is no doubt that in our day and age there is a strong temptation to hide our confession of faith.  Objectivity doesn’t play well in today’s subjective world.  But placating our subjective world’s wishes doesn’t give them what they need, and it doesn’t give that person the very thing he is looking for.

I know that much more could be said about upholding our confession of faith in general and about the Lutheran Confessions in particular, but if I’m ever going to write blog posts on a semi-regular basis again, I better start making things short, sweet, and to the point!  So here’s the point.  We have what that person is looking for, and we have what all people need, whether they realize it or not.  Now is not the time to hide our confession.  Now is the time to be proud of your confession — and your Confessions!  So start digging!  You will be edified by what you learn, and what you learn and confess might just provide the depth and certainty someone else has been looking for all along.

For information about editions of the Lutheran Confessions available today, please see this post.

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Responses

  1. Excellent thoughts! Thanks! I linked this on our blog and made sure to draw attention to it on my Facebook!

    Keep up the good work, Johnold! The more you write, the less I have too! 😉

    Grace and peace,
    Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

  2. I agree, thanks. I linked to it on my blog, too.
    Blessings!


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