I’ve noticed on a few boards recently, discussions on the different terms, confessional, conservative, liturgical, etc. I found this definition from Pastor Dick Bolland, and through it might help clarify what we mean when we use the term “confessional”. It’s on the LutheranWiktionary, but I wanted to copy it here both to give it more visibility and in case the Brothers wanted to discuss it. Is it complete? Is it overly long? It it missing something that you think of when you use the term? Also, be sure to check out the introduction to our new LutheranWiktionary and volunteer a definition or two or become one of our editors – Norm Fisher, BJS Technical Director
Confessional Lutheranism is the fervent holding of the Holy Scriptures as the written, inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God in all things they address by the holding of a quia Subscription to the Lutheran Symbols or Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580. This faith is marked by pastors and laymen who:
- Understand that the marks of the Church are:
- The Word of God taught in all its truth and purity.
- The Sacraments administered in accord with
Where these marks are seen, there Christians will find the True Visible Church on Earth. These marks are visible precisely so that Christians will know what Church to join.
- In accord with the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans retain, honor, and will not dispense with the liturgical worship of the Church and will resist any attempt to conform the worship of the Church to the expectations of the unbelieving world. This is done so as to reflect the unity of the Godhead we worship, the heavenly worship described in Scripture, and the unity of the faith we confess with the Church of all ages.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans insist on the retention of closed communion in the Divine Service or Mass. This is done to express proper Christian love and pastoral care for those coming to the altar and to preserve the purity of the confession of the Christian/Lutheran faith which is confessed at our altar by those whose present at the altar for the receiving of the Lord’s Supper.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans understand that any and all heterodox teaching can only divide Christ’s Church, cast doubt on the assurance of our salvation in Christ, and point us to something or someone other than Christ for that assurance. Therefore, it is a unionistic mixing of orthodoxy and heterodoxy to have those who do not hold to the Christian/Lutheran faith as speakers and presenters at gatherings of Lutheran pastors, teachers, and laymen. Confessional Lutherans understand that there is absolutely no benefit to the Body of Christ in the consideration of falsehood (other than that it may be recognized for what it is as is done in the antitheses of the Confessions.)
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans understand that the mission of the Church is the right teaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the Sacraments, thus proclaiming in word and deed the One True Faith. This right teaching and administration of the Sacraments equips God’s people to proclaim the Gospel in their divine vocations, thus becoming God’s instruments by which God makes His disciples. Confessional Lutherans understand that the numerical growth Christ brings to His Church is the result of the mission and not the mission itself.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans joyously proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all people, but they do not believe that by this proclamation that either the population of hell nor that of heaven will be changed since those who are God’s elect will be called, justified, and sanctified in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace and not one of God’s elect shall be lost. Therefore, the “success” of the Church or the “efficiency” of her pastors are not to be judged by the numbers of people who attend their congregations, but by the faithfulness of their teaching, preaching, and Sacramental administration.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, as Confessional Lutherans we understand that God may or may not grant numerical growth to His Church in every time and at every place. Indeed, we understand that in these latter days the Church of Christ will look, to the world, as despised, beaten down and defeated. Earthly models of “success” and “efficiency” are not a biblical standard by which to judge the congregation nor the pastor.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans hold that there is one divinely instituted pastoral office in the Church and that this office is not occupied by every member of the congregation but by those properly called to it and well prepared for it. Therefore, any public proclamation of God’s Word in worship should and ought to be done by such ordained pastors called to the task. The Priesthood of all believers is to be practiced in the home and in the church but not in the office of pastor.
- In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, Confessional Lutherans believe that the public proclamation of the Gospel in worship is always improper and an offense to God when, in any public context, the truth of the orthodox Christian/Lutheran faith is proclaimed along side that of heterodoxy or heresy. Therefore, Confessional Lutherans will not join with clergy of other Christian sects or with other false religions in any form of public worship (unionism and syncreticism) regardless of who sponsors such worship or whether or not the event is termed a “civic event”. Neither will Confessional Lutherans join in such worship settings in response to any alleged “once in a lifetime” event. If such participation is wrong for any other reason, then it is also wrong if it is in response to a “once in a lifetime” event.