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What is a “Confessional” Lutheran?

February 11th, 2012
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This quotation explains what a confessional Lutheran is all about. To other Christians, we Lutherans appear to be a bit odd, clinging as we do to this old book called “The Book of Concord,” why is that?

“Why, beloved brothers, do we stand by one another? Why can’t we leave one another? It is because we cannot let go of the one truth that we, in fellowship with all the saints, have acknowledged, believe, and confess as it is in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. These Confessions bear witness to the truth clearly, plainly, and powerfully on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, against all the desires of Satan, to the whole world. And why do we hold so firmly to our Confession such that we happily endure the hatred of the world and also of the rest of Christianity, which is difficult to bear? Why, with God’s help and grace, would we suffer persecution and death before we would give up even a small part of that Confession? We do so because we have come to make the truth set forth in that Confession our own, not in times of good leisure and rest, like we might appropriate other natural or historical truths. The Holy Spirit has revealed this truth to us in the midst of the burdens of troubled consciences as our only salvation. Through the Word, the Spirit has borne witness to the truth in broken and troubled hearts. Our consciences are bound to the Word and therefore to the Confession of the Church. As poor, forlorn, and condemned men, we have learned to believe in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The peace of conscience, the peace of our souls, the hope of eternal blessedness, our very being and life hang on this truth. To surrender it would be to surrender our salvation and ourselves for time and eternity. Therefore, neither can we let go of the most insignificant portion of the Confession because the entire series of the individual teachings of the faith are for us one chain. This chain not only binds our understanding in the truth, it binds our consciences and lives. The loss of an individual part of the same would break this chain, and we would be torn loose from Christ, tumbling again into the abyss of anxiety, doubt, and eternal death. Therefore we hold fast to our Confession, as to our very life’s life.”

Source: “Predigt zur Eroeffnung der Sitzungen der deutchen evang. Luth. Synode v. Missouri westl. Districts am 25. April 1855, in Chicago, Ills., gehalten von F. Wyneken, und auf Beschluss genannter Synode mitgetheilt,” Der Lutheraner 11, no. 22 (June 19, 1855): 169–173. Translation by Matthew C. Harrison.

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Categories: Lutheranism
  1. February 11th, 2012 at 07:01 | #1

    I have a question…is this limited to the ” beloved brothers ” ? I was told that this only applies to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod men, especially Pastors. I was told that while The Book of Concord is available and can be read by woman, most of it really only applies to those who are employed as professionals. I was told that even though I’m an active member of a congregation that is affiliated with the L.C.M.S. I’m not actualy a real member of the L.C.M.S. I’m just a Christian that joined a Lutheran Church that called a Lutheran Pastor who is part of the L.C.M.S , who are infact ” The brothers who stand by one another.” Silly me…I can’t hardly believe how stupid I was to think I was included. Hahaha…I must have been crazy …suffering from delusions of grandeur.

    • February 11th, 2012 at 07:06 | #2

      Let’s see, your comment is kind of a jumble of questions, let me try to sort them out.

      Only those who serve as professional church workers in The LCMS, are those who are formally pledged to the Lutheran Confessions.

      Only congregations and rostered church workers are “members” of The LCMS. You can download a copy of the Synod’s handbook, containing the Constitution and Bylaws, just do a Google search.

      The Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord are important for all Lutherans, laity and clergy/church workers alike.

  2. February 11th, 2012 at 08:13 | #3

    I’m currently using the schedule in the CPH Reader’s Edition to include the Book of Concord in my daily devotions and study. What a great concept! It breaks the Lutheran confessions down into bite-sized pieces that can effectively be chewed.

    • February 11th, 2012 at 08:20 | #4

      Jerry, I’m glad to hear you are finding the Concordia edition helpful.

  3. Rev. Kevin Jennings
    February 11th, 2012 at 08:26 | #5

    The Confessions are important to all Lutherans, be they professional or not. In the Confirmation/reaffirmation of faith/received by transfer rite, all church members are asked: Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true? Later, the same are asked: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? The Small Catechism, as part of the Lutheran Confessions, gives a window on the confession held in the Lutheran Confessions, and, I believe, makes the remainder binding.

    We bind our professional church workers to the standard of the Lutheran Confessions so that, as I believe it was Walther noted, churches are able to know what their teachers are teaching and when, if ever, they vary from it. It’s important, then, for all Lutherans to know what they believe, teach, and confess.

    I also believe there is inherent in the quote the belief that there is an objective truth that remains the standard for all teaching. I’ve had folks ask me how we know which church teaches the right thing, or even which religion teaches the right thing. My answer is simple: If you don’t believe what your church teaches is the truth, you need to leave immediately. The people of Lutheran churches need to be comforted in knowing that their teachers who teach them are teaching according to the standard of truth, so that they, believing, are believing the truth. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for the quote, Paul. This was good to read.

  4. James
    February 11th, 2012 at 09:32 | #6

    “Only those who serve as professional church workers in The LCMS, are those who are formally pledged to the Lutheran Confessions.”

    “In the Confirmation/reaffirmation of faith/received by transfer rite, all church members are asked: Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true? Later, the same are asked: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”

    Pastors, based on the quotes above, I have a serious question or two. I was confirmed in the LCMS over 30 years ago. I was taught with Luther’s Small Catechism. I didn’t even know there was a Book of Concord until 3 years ago. As a read the Book of Concord, I was shocked to learn that confessional Lutheran’s believe the pope has the spirit of antichrist and we have no free will. I don’t ever remember being taught that and it’s not in Luther’s Small Catechism as I read it. Am I, as a layperson, only bound to the teachings in the catechism? What does that make me – a heretical Lutheran, a poorly taught Lutheran, or not a Lutheran at all? I would welcome your pastoral guidance.

    • February 11th, 2012 at 09:34 | #7

      The short answer to your question is: Yes, you were poorly instructed. But the good news is that you have very easy access to the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord, in a reader’s edition that will prove very helpful to you as you study what it is that the Lutheran Church believes, teaches and confeses. Here is a link to it: http://www.cph.org/concordia, on sale now for only $20.

  5. James
    February 11th, 2012 at 11:00 | #8

    Pastor McCain,

    Do you mean “Yes” I am only bound to Luther’s Small Catechism since I am a layman?

    I purchased the reader’s edition of the Book of Concord from CPH ~3 years ago. It’s well done. My concerns are based on the fact that I have been reading it and learned a number of things about confessional Lutheranism which I didn’t know; hence, the questions.

    • February 11th, 2012 at 11:14 | #9

      You are pledged to the faith as you were taught it according to the Small Catechism, but since the SC is part of the Lutheran Confessions you can’t say, “I am not pledged to that.” You are not free, for example, to say, “I was not taught that I have no free will, therefore, I’m free t believe what I want about that. But of course, in the Third Article of the Apostles Creed you were taught that you have no reason or strength to come to Christ your Lord or believe in Him. At this point, I believe it would be best for you to pursue these issues with your pastor, whom the Lord has appointed to be your shepherd.

  6. February 11th, 2012 at 11:03 | #10

    I can not remember ever being explicitly taught in the LCMS, in confirmation or from the pulpit: “You have no free will”. I did not know about The Book of Concord till my freshman year at Concordia Jr. College/Milwaukee. But the preaching and teaching I did receive growing up demonstrated the lack of free will by God’s Word of Law and Gospel again and again and I rejoiced for the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Then when I was explicitly taught, We have no free will in our salvation, well,that just confirmed the fact: No kiddin’! I think the problem in our Church is not primarily liturgy but preaching and teaching the right dividing of the Word.

  7. February 11th, 2012 at 14:43 | #11

    @Pr. Mark Schroeder

    You are right on the money, Pr. Schroeder. Poor catechesis is the bane of the Lutheran Church. From poor catechesis stem all of our problems, whether they be liturgical, homiletical, exegetical, or any of the plethora of other maladies that plague our communion.

  8. February 11th, 2012 at 19:56 | #12

    @ptmccain Thank you for answering my question, I can see now that I should know what’s in the Book of Concord so that I can identify false doctrine if I should happen to hear it, even though I’m not a PCW in the LCMS.
    http://www.bookofconcord.org/audio.php I appreciate you also passing on this link to us on your web page, thank you for your help.

  9. Timothy Drawbaugh
    February 12th, 2012 at 04:42 | #13

    Here I stand!! ;-)

  10. February 13th, 2012 at 12:00 | #14

    The constitution of every congregation in the LCMS, as well as the ELS, WELS, ELDoNA, OLCC, ACLC, say something to the effect that this congregation acknowledges and accepts all of the creeds and confessions contained in the Book of Concord of 1580; and that no doctrine or practice in conflict or inconsistent with this confessional standard shall be taught or tolerated in this congregation.

    Pastors vow that their teaching will conform to this standard. My question has always been: How are the people suppose to know whether the pastor is adhering to this standard, if they don’t know what the confessions say? As far as I’m concerned, the more the people know the better. It’s our job as pastors to teach them.

    Rev. R. Lawson, Sr.

  11. Glenn S
    February 13th, 2012 at 19:17 | #15

    The senior pastor, Rev. Dr., has taught the Catechism, with lots of background and insights, to prospective member and current congregants each year for the last 30 years. What a treasure!

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