In part one of this two part series, I shared my theological history as well as the events leading up to my epistemological crisis. In part two, I would like to focus more specifically on some of the profound shifts that happened to me on my journey from Folk Lutheranism to Confessional Lutheranism. Unfortunately this blog post cannot contain the seismic shifts that have occurred in my journey. Therefore, I will summarize four major changes that occurred to my theology.
Shift #1: My View Of Sin?
My Folk Lutheranism understood sin primarily as a series of actions that I did or did not do. Sure, I confessed that I was a sinner, but in all reality my belief of sin was narrowly focused on external actions alone. I failed to realize that sin was primarily a condition of my heart. This led me to only scratch the surface of my depravity.
Things changed when I began to see a fuller view of sin. I slowly began to realize that I wasn’t a sinner because of my sinful actions, but rather I was a sinner who sinned. This idea of sin was a much more serious problem than I had originally realized.
Shift #2: My View Of The Law?
We have all heard the phrase, “Don’t smoke, drink or chew, nor date girls that do.” I not only embraced this but believed that if people would only pull themselves up by their bootstraps and follow the Law, that the world would not only get better, but could actually stay fixed. I viewed God’s Law as a provision for mankind to live victoriously. The problem with people was that they were simply were lazy and lacked the proper will power to enact God’s Law. Things changed though as I encountered the Epistle of Romans. I slowly began to understand the implications of a bound will and see that the main use of the Law was not to reform my sinful nature, but to reveal and expose the depths of my depraved nature. The sinful nature needed to be crucified.
Shift #3: My Location Of The Gospel?
Probably one of the most difficult things for me to process in my shift was the fact that the Gospel was outside of me. I was taught that the, “Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy was down in my heart.” In other words, I was saved because I not only decided to follow Jesus but because I actually validated my salvation through my lifestyle. Thus I reduced the Gospel to my pious actions and located Salvation within the sphere of Matt Richard. I failed to realize that the Gospel was outside of me in the person and work of Christ.
Shift #4: My Understanding Of Biblical Verbs?
Finally, I also failed to see that many of the verbs in the scriptures were done by God to me, not by me towards God. I viewed God like a deaf old man that was passive. I didn’t understand that God came to me through the precious means of grace; therefore, I created my own ways to try and get another jewel in my crown. In other words, I constantly felt the pressure to actively ascend to God in order to bring Him my spiritual report card for affirmation. I viewed my faith as needing to be something that required action on my behalf, lest I be labeled a lazy Christian.
Painfully, my Folk Lutheranism (i.e. My Finneyistic Fundamentalistic Lutheran Theology that was coated by Evangelicalism, saturated with Pietism, driven by Purpose and sprinkled with Emergent hipness) began to collapse. My house of “isms” was finding its end.
Essentially what was happening was that the old Sinful Nature was being confronted and the unadulterated Gospel was being revealed. I was beginning to see the Law in its full force which left no room for the Old Nature to wiggle. The Old Adam had freedom to move in my Folk Lutheranism, but in Confessional Lutheranism he was not merely threatened but was finding death. Furthermore, my understanding of the Gospel was no longer conditioned by the theology of my Folk Lutheranism. It was declared boldly without “ifs, ands” or “buts.” For the sake of Christ, Christ alone my sins were forgiven.
My friends, the one thing that I have learned in this journey thus far is that if you want to have an easy ministry and Christian walk, do just this: weaken the Law by mingling Gospel with it and condition the Gospel by mingling the Law and man’s efforts with it. The old Sinful Nature loves this. Weakened Law and Conditioned Gospel means that the Sinful Nature has room to play! Relief to the Old Nature, not killed by the Law! A giddy Old Nature, free to participate with the Gospel! Yes, the Old Adam Lives. However, when the exact opposite happens, when the Law kills and the Gospel unconditionally grants life, all theologies of glory are brought to rubble and in the midst of the debris appears a Cross. Brothers and Sister, we are left with Jesus, Jesus alone, and He is all that we ever need.
May God richly bless you as you continue your journey into the depths of the cross of Christ.