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Warning Signs that a Lutheran Pastor or Layperson is Headed Toward Rome

November 21st, 2009
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600px-Warning.svgSeveral warning signs generally precede a Lutheran pastor or layperson’s move over to Rome.

When a Lutheran pastor or layperson starts singing the praises of the Tridentine Latin Mass, quoting the Pope or Roman Catholic “saints” frequently, and downplaying the deep differences between Lutheranism and Rome on Justification, or trying to mitigate them, these are “warning signs” of a possible impending swim across the Tiber River. If a Lutheran pastor is heard to be talking more about the saints and putting forward the view that quite possibly one can, and maybe even should, be offering prayers to them, or to St. Mary, this is a warning sign. One chap who abandoned his call and his ordination, spent quite some time overly-fascinated with Roman Catholic doctrines, and finally ended up rejecting the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ, alone.

As I once said to those Lutheran pastors and layman dabbling with Eastern Orthodoxy: if you are not going to stay and remain among us, taking your post on Zion’s wall, then what you must do, do quickly. Stop confusing yourself and your hearers. It is tempting for Lutherans whose church bodies are experiencing serious difficulties to look fondly toward Rome, but it is simply not an option for anyone who wishes to be, and remain, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are there devout Christians who are Roman Catholics? Of that I have no doubt, at all. That is not the point.

There is a reason why there was a Reformation in the Western Church. And that reason remains today, both within and without, the Lutheran Church. “Going Rome” is not a good alternative.

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  1. jack Kilcrease
    November 22nd, 2009 at 06:44 | #1

    I know in my own district (Michigan) that movement towards Eastern orthodoxy has been something of a problem. I think you’ve written some posts about that. I wasn’t aware that flirtations with Rome were becoming a problem in our synod. I thought that that was merely an ELCA phenomenon. In light of my experiences in my doctoral program at a Jesuit university, I’m not entirely certain why Rome would be attractive to an LCMS Lutheran (I certainly never found it attractive). Is it the liturgy thing or what? What’s your diagnosis?

  2. Mark
    November 22nd, 2009 at 13:07 | #2

    Do you really mean to say that we, who are seeking to enter into full communion with the church Jesus Christ founded, are Judas Iscariots?

    McCain: That’s odd, I did not say that, but of course Jesus Christ did not “found” the claim by the Bishop of Rome to be the Vicar of Christ and universal Pontiff. But apparently you did mean to say that.

  3. November 22nd, 2009 at 15:12 | #3

    I’ve read the testimonies of a few who have turned to Rome. I have seen Rome’s converts from the ELCA on “Journey Home.”

    I read and listen to them carefully.

    I still cannot comprehend the “why.”

  4. November 22nd, 2009 at 15:41 | #4

    I agree with you about prayer to saints, or downplaying our differences with Rome. But I would also say that a Lutheran who is deathly allergic to the writings of anyone the Catholics call a saint, or to anything connected with a Pope, is likely headed toward American Evangelicalism.

    Kaleb: I suppose it depends on which Catholic “saint” is quoted. Quoting, for instance, “The Little Flower,” spouting fluffy speculative nonsense, is not a good example of quoting a person whom the Catholic Church has declared to be a saint. Some have over-reacted to threats of American Evangelicalism by embracing uniquely Roman practices and thoughts, thinking this is a good anti-dote. Lutheranism is an anti-dote, not Popery.

  5. rk
    November 22nd, 2009 at 16:23 | #5

    “if you are not going to stay and remain among us, taking your post on Zion’s wall, then what you must do, do quickly.”


    Many of these types, who are pastors or church workers, like to continue receiving their pay and benefits while deceiving/damaging the congregation.

  6. November 22nd, 2009 at 17:03 | #6

    In my synod – the Lutheran Church of Australia – we have had a handful of conversions to Rome by younger pastors over the last nine years, and a handful of others who evidently sympathise but haven’t taken the decision to convert as yet. I’m sure they’d all put a different slant on their reasons, but a common thread seems to be not so much the ‘liturgy thing’ but ‘the authority thing’, and they have been propelled to this crisis over authority by the debate on the ordination of women, which is somewhat analagous in our synod to the debate over homosexuality in the ELCA (let me add – it has been discussed for 25 years now and taken to several general synods but has not been approved). In light of this debate, it seems that LCA Rome-ophiles find compelling Cardinal Newman’s argument that one must either submit to an infallible ecclesiastical authority, viz. the Pope, or permit the church to suffer to the death from one of two incurable diseases: latitudinarianism: unity of form over unity of doctrine (Anglicanism!), or sectarianism: unity of doctrine over unity of form (Lutheranism!).

    Mark, thanks for your comment. Yes, that is also my opinion. A desire for a “teaching authority” telling them what to believe and what to do is very attractive, particularly when Lutheranism in various places appears to be in a state of collapse.

  7. mh
    November 23rd, 2009 at 09:03 | #7

    I agree that pastors and leaders especially need to be honest and step out of leadership positions until they find theological clarity and certainty, or “do what they must do.” However, a layman struggling with this temptation, who is not in a teaching position and who does not communicate his doubts/concerns/thoughts with anyone but his pastor and close family, I would NOT advise to do anything “quickly,” but encourage them to continue in prayer, receiving the Word and Sacrament, and study.

    McCain reply: Good points, thanks.

  8. Jen
    December 5th, 2009 at 05:55 | #8

    Hey, I like Luther’s Mass and I think using pertinent quotes from St. Augustine is beneficial. I also like chasubles, chant and arcane rubrics. Am I in danger? ;) No, I am not. As much as I’d like there to be a visible church that is “one”, I can’t get over their gospel and all the pope stuff. Bleh. I’m a very convinced Lutheran.

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