9.5 Things That Hold Lutheranism Together (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

Yours truly was the guest on the “Studio A” radio program on KFUO, AM 850, on Monday, October 25, to discuss “What Holds Lutheranism Together.” You can listen to the interview below. The 25-minute segment runs from about the 29:00 mark to 54:00. Here are the list and notes for that interview:




9.5 Things That Hold Lutheranism Together

1. Justification
Justification by grace through faith in Christ. Romans 3:21-28: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (v. 28). The article on which the church stands or falls. Central article of all doctrine and the center of each article. AC IV/Ap. IV. Penance, the Mass, vs. Rome.

2. The Sacraments
Esp. the Sacrament of the Altar. God’s work or man’s work? Vs. Rome: Sacrifice of the Mass. Vs. the Reformed, Zwingli/Calvin: Denial of Real Presence (Nature), Means of Grace (Benefit).

3. The Power of the Word
How can it (water, eating and drinking) do such great things? Living, active Word. Viva vox evangelii (living voice of the Gospel). Authority of the Word: Sole rule and norm of doctrine and life. Vs. Rome: Pope. Vs. Enthusiasts/Schwaermerei: Spirit apart from external Word.

4. The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel
Walther (born Oct. 25, 1811). Both needed. Do not confuse the two. Knowing when to apply each. Gospel must predominate.

5. Catholicity
Connection with historic faith. We are teaching nothing new: “Our churches do not dissent from any article of the faith held by the Church catholic” (AC). Ecumenical creeds (Apostles’ Nicene, Athanasian).

6. The Doctrine of Vocation
Vs. monasticism. Ordinary Christian is doing holy, God-pleasing work. Works done from faith, according to Ten Commandments, for the good of the neighbor. Table of Duties.

7. Catechism and Hymnal
Getting doctrine into the life and minds of the people, grounding them in the faith, for daily living. Luther’s Small Catechism, “the layman’s Bible.” Liturgy (Divine Service), hymnody (e.g., Dear Christians One and All Rejoice) inculcate and express the faith.

8. A Doxological Concern
Twofold refrain in the Confessions: A) This doctrine gives all glory to God and honor to Christ.

9. A Pastoral Concern
B) This doctrine gives true comfort to terrified, troubled consciences. “Christ’s glory becomes more brilliant when we teach that we make the most of him as our mediator and atoning sacrifice. Godly consciences see that the most abundant consolation is offered to them in this doctrine. . . . Their teaching is confused and shadowy. It not only transfers Christ’s glory to human works, but also leads consciences either to arrogance or despair. But our teaching, we hope, is readily understood by pious minds and brings godly and wholesome consolation to terrified consciences” (Apology V: 178, 182).

9.5. Potlucks
Half-serious. Personal relationships, family ties have natural cohesive force. Congregational life.


9.5 Things That Hold Lutheranism Together (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 315 Comments

  1. Todd Wilken :
    @John #298 No. I am talking about your doctrinal relativism.

    And I am talking about your doctrinal absolutism.

    The inspired Word of God is without error – our ability to understand and apply it is not. Likewise, the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is faithful and true – our ability to understand and apply it is not. Yet, you and the confessional Lutheran movement behave as though somehow your understanding of “pure doctrine” somehow transcends our sinful condition. You act as though Christ’s sword is intended to distinguish among repentant sinners – setting confessional Lutherans on the seats closest to the throne – rather than distinguishing believers from those who reject Christ as Savior. You also behave as though SBJ has been given the authority to wield that sword. That authority is Christ’s and His, alone. And, as I have suggested a few times now, your behavior contradicts any claim you might otherwise have to a better understanding than anyone else as to what constitutes “pure doctrine”.

    I do know what Scriptures say – I am justified by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ. And, my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

  2. John,

    Interesting. You continue to completely avoid the real issue here: your communing with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, and your participation in their error.


  3. Todd, Interesting. You continue to completely avoid the real issue here: as articulated in post #4.

    Regarding the Sacrament, I respect your personal decision to follow different practices than I do. I respect the fact that I am not welcome to worship in your congregation and I’ve already told you that I won’t show up an make an issue of our disagreement on a Sunday morning. But, fundamentally, we are talking about a difference in practice – not a difference in doctrine. That is, of course, unless you are suggesting that Christ does not offer His body and blood and the promises of forgiveness and salvation when the Sacrament is celebrated in either the Episcopalian or Catholic church. And, if that is the case, I’d suggest that you can’t get there from the small and large catechisms.

  4. @John #303


    Pr. Wilken isn’t telling you that Christ does not offer His body and blood at the Episcopalian and Catholic church, but our Lutheran Confession does as Lanx pointed out to you above.

    After this protestation, Doctor Luther, of blessed memory, presents, among other articles, this also: In the same manner I also speak and confess (he says) concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, that there the body and blood of Christ are in truth orally eaten and drunk in the bread and wine, even though the priests [ministers] who administer it [the Lord’s Supper], or those who receive it, should not believe or otherwise misuse it. For it does not depend upon the faith or unbelief of men, but upon God’s Word and ordinance, unless they first change God’s Word and ordinance and interpret it otherwise, as the enemies of the Sacrament do at the present day, who, of course, have nothing but bread and wine; for they also do not have the words and appointed ordinance of God, but have perverted and changed them according to their own [false] notion. Fol. 245. (FC SD VII, 32

  5. Jim – if you do a little more research, I think you just might discover that Luther’s beef was with the papists and not with the Catholics in the pews. I don’t think he questioned whether Catholics benefited from the Sacrament. In fact, in his arguments with the Calvinists, I think he suggested that they did.

  6. @John #305


    You are deflecting. Our Confession of faith, which Lanx quoted to you and which I am now quoting to you, tells us that the “enemies of the Sacrament” only have bread and wine “for they also do not have the words and appointed ordinance of God, but have perverted and changed them according to their own [false] notion.”

    The other issues you are deflecting is your skepticism of pure doctrine and your participation in the errors of Catholics and Episcopalians. If you really are a Lutheran who believes our Confessions are true expositions of the Scriptures, then you would be able to say as Luther did,

    “Dr. Luther, who, above others, certainly understood the true and proper meaning of the Augsburg Confession, and who constantly remained steadfast thereto till his end, and defended it, shortly before his death repeated his faith concerning this article with great zeal in his last Confession, where he writes thus: I rate as one concoction, namely, as Sacramentarians and fanatics, which they also are, all who will not believe that the Lord’s bread in the Supper is His true natural body, which the godless or Judas received with the mouth, as well as did St. Peter and all [other] saints; he who will not believe this (I say) should let me alone, and hope for no fellowship with me; this is not going to be altered [thus my opinion stands, which I am not going to change]. Tom. 2, Wittenb., German, fol. 252″ (FC SD VII, 33).

  7. John,

    You wrote, “we are talking about a difference in practice – not a difference in doctrine.”

    No, we are talking about a difference in doctrine AND practice.

    You believe that your own conscience and desire for unity are a higher authority than both the Confessions and Scripture. You have said, in effect, “I know what the Scriptures and Confessions say, and I know that the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians reject what them, but I don’t care. I want to commune with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.”


  8. John,

    If the Lutheran Confessions permit you to commune with Christians that reject what those Confessions teach, why didn’t the Lutheran reformers commune with the Catholics and Calvinists? Why did they resist political and ecclesiastical pressure to do so? Why did they practice closed communion?

    Do you know better than the Lutheran reformers?


  9. John, you are ridiculous.

    How would you possibly know what pure doctrine is, since you have claim to not know at times, and you have stated you don’t “care” what the Confessions say? Worse, you are cherry picking Scripture. God tells us what is true and right. We do not go looking for “proof texts” to justify our impure reasoning. That wrongly puts us in judgment over Scripture, choosing what is right or wrong with the Bible. Scripture interprets Scripture, as it is the only norm that can possbily do the job. Not any of our psycho-babble.

    Luther had beef with clergy in other donominations because they misapplied the texts JUST AS YOU ARE DOING. And as for the laity, some remain willfully ignorant, others belief the falsehoods they are taught. Only some are able to discern enough to have a right understanding. And by the way, that goes for Lutherans, too. Not every last one of our members gets it, either. So there are problems with the sending AND receiving of the message, which through our discernment and stewardship make us uncomfortable. So yes, in some places, Luther is right: it is just babbling going on at the altar.

    Your talk keeps centering around a nuiversal “cheap” grace, one that has little substance. You would be willing to accept all sorts of falsehoods. What kind of witness or love is that? That you cannot speak the truth in love, or the truth at all? Yo ucouldn’t possibly be a martyr for Christ, because to would softpedal your beliefs enough to get by secular authroities, likely barely taking any stand.

    And if this sounds harsh, it is intended to be so. It is called speaking the Law to those who are proud and obstinant. The Gospel is to comfort those who are broken, humble and contrite. That’s another Lutheran concept I’m sure you have failed to understand.

  10. And if this sounds harsh, it is intended to be so. It is called speaking the Law to those who are proud and obstinant.

    I understand that very well. Ergo, my first post in this exchange.

    The Gospel is to comfort those who are broken, humble and contrite.

    I do not understand that “Lutheran concept” because is not a Lutheran concept! Contrition is our response to the Gospel, not a pre-requisite to hear and receive the Gospel. And, if the Gospel is to comfort those who are broken, we have a duty to proclaim the Gospel such that those who need it most can, in fact, hear it.

  11. John,

    If you don’t know better than the Lutheran reformers, why do you do something they never would have done? Why do you commune with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians and thereby accept their errors?


  12. @John #310


    Read what Luther had to say to Erasmus’ skepticism which is much similar to yours.

    “The Holy Spirit is no Sceptic, and the things He has written in our hearts are not doubts or opinions but assertions—surer and more certain than sense and life itself”The Bondage of the Will, Translated by J.I. Packer, p. 70

    You are simply wrong in this matter John. We can know pure doctrine with full certainty because our Lord has opened our understanding to the Scriptures. When we err, we do so because of sin, and once we find we are in error—because the Holy Spirit convicts us through the surety of His Word—then we repent and embrace the truth given to us by God. Really, if you can’t trust that Christ Himself opens our understanding and has given us His sure word, then what are you trusting in? Maybe your own faith (i.e. putting faith in faith)? If you say you put faith in Christ, good, so do I and all here posting, but we only know Jesus through the Word and Sacraments He has given to us. As you know faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). So John, where is your faith derived from? Is it derived from the Word of Christ which is sure, or from faith in your own reasoning about your sinful nature?

    Sadly John, when I read your comments I am finding more and more that you are going the way of the mystics and Gnostics and have drifted from our Lutheran confession of faith; hence, drifted from Scriptural teaching regarding the doctrine handed to us from Christ.

  13. @Todd Wilken #312
    Todd – when might I expect a cogent response to post #4?

    Communing with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians is no more accepting “their errors” than I would be accepting your “errors” were I welcome to worship in your congregation. I have faith in the words given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. I have faith that the Sacrament is the product of God’s gracious promise – not the product of LCMS’ commitment to “pure doctrine”. When God makes me an offer, how can I refuse?

  14. John,

    I have answered #4 multiple times from the Confessions, you just don’t like the answer.

    Subscription to the Confessions require that we not participate in, or promote, or assent to the errors they reject. That is exactly what you are doing by communing with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.

    With that settled, where do you go to church?


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