Resisting the Influence of Evangelicalism, Conclusion ““ How are Lutherans to Respond to All of This? by Pr. Klemet Preus

(These posts are adapted from a presentation Pastor Preus made in Sweden for the North European Luther Academy in 2006 and which was republished in the recent edition of Logia, A Journal of Lutheran Theology. We recommend both groups to the Brothers of John the Steadfast. The other posts in this series are archived in the Brothers’ Cafe under Klemet’s name.)

 

How are Lutherans to respond to all of this?

 

We should learn the lessons of the past. The Roman system of Luther’s day promoted practices – the sale of indulgences, the sacrifice of the mass and the collection and viewing of relics. These practices were attacked and exposed by the Lutherans. In their place laudable customs were established. Liturgical changes were made. We have historically enjoyed uniformity in worship. Catechetical instruction was enjoined. And the Lutherans realized that the Roman practices were false just as theirs were both true and necessary. The Lutherans, in fact, never distinguished between their doctrine and the practices which promoted it.  

 

Today Lutherans should respond to the Evangelicals in much the same way. First we should recognize and believe that salvation was earned once for all by Christ through his vicarious life and death. This salvation is offered and bestowed through the ministry of the gospel and sacraments which forgive sins and create faith in Christ’s salvation. “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.” [1] This is our soteriology. God creates faith through the same means that He employs to forgive sins. Faith and forgiveness through the gospel and sacraments – this is the key to understanding Lutheran soteriology.

 

Second, our practice should reflect this soteriology. We rejoice in the Divine Service of the preaching of the gospel and administration the sacraments. We rid the Divine Service of anything which smacks of human works, preparedness, efforts, openness, striving, seeking, cooperation, emotionalism, enthusiasm or any other human contribution. The divine service is God’s gift of forgiveness to us. The uniform and historic Divine Service should be employed. Didactic hymns will be sung. Frequent communion will be extolled. Since saving faith does not just happens but is taught, we will employ the catechism. Other salutary practices, not analyzed in this paper, will be followed such as requiring ordination for all preachers, the vesting of pastors, following the pericopal system, closed communion and limiting pastoral leadership and office holding to men.

 

Third, we need to expose the false practices of the Evangelical community. Luther was not content to preach the pure doctrine in some type of theoretical and platonic manner without applying it. He showed how the true doctrine precluded the false practices of the Roman church of his day. So must we. It is wrong to advocate religious experience as possessing some value in itself. Worship practices intended to produce an emotional experience are simply wrong. It is wrong to evaluate the service by how it affects people. It is wrong to use driving, Christless, popular music in order to cause an experience. Tongues, the way they are defined and practiced in our day, are simply not of God. They are wrong. They should be discouraged. We need to warn our people of these things with as much ardor as we caution them against the practices of Rome.

 

Fourth, we should be profoundly cynical of any practice that is promoted among us which does not have historical roots in our church. Most of them are uncritically and unknowingly taken from Evangelical circles. Simply don’t do anything new unless you are completely certain where the practice comes from and why it is used. And then introduce it only upon teaching its use to the people of the church.

 

Fifth, we should continue to study both the Scriptures and the Confessions of the church. These will teach about our Lord and his infinite mercy in Christ. They will teach us of the way of salvation that God offers through the gospel. The Scriptures and the Confessions will also clearly show the symbiotic relationship between our theology and our practice as well as the soteriological function of most church practices.

 


[1] AC IV, Kolb 41

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