The Three Things We Must Do to Support a Revival of Confessional Lutheranism
If God should once more grant us a revival, and with it a renewal of our church, that rests with God’s omnipotence alone.
That which we are able to do is threefold.
First of all, we can make ourselves see the status of our church and of Christendom. We must understand, of course, that the question is not how the legendary eighty million Lutherans of the world, who really do not exist but [who] have been invented by exceedingly superficial and thoughtless statistics, can be merged into a powerful organism. We must know, however, how those can be congregated from the midst of that poor, stricken, and feeble Lutheranism for whom the Lutheran Confession is not a mere pretense, but, as it was for Luther and the signatories of the Confessions, a matter of life and death, of eternal life and eternal death, because it is a matter pertaining to the everlasting truth of the Holy Scriptures, which concerns all peoples and all churches of Christendom. Indeed, we are not called to think and act in an ecumenical fashion, looking upon the Confessions as something relative, reducing them to the lowest level and practically doing away with them. We are, like Luther, to search for the one truth of the one Gospel for the one Church. Let us again become confessional Lutherans for the sake of the unity of the Church.
The second thing that we must do to attain this end, and something we can do without difficulty, is that we again study the Confessions, that we again and again compare them with Holy Scripture, and that we constantly learn to value their interpretation of the Scriptures and their scriptural proofs more profoundly. As the Roman Catholic has the daily duty to read his breviary, a tedious and difficult task, our duty must be, next to the thorough study of the Scriptures, the unflagging study of the Confessions. In this manner let us begin prayerfully to read Luther’s Large Catechism. For Luther, though an old doctor, still was not ashamed to pray the catechism daily. The deepest cause for the failure of the German church struggle is none other than that everyone always spoke about the Confessions, appealed to them, but did not really know them. We need this insight not only for ourselves, our teaching, and our preaching but also very much so for our congregations. At the last large convention of the United Lutheran Church in America, an engineer made the statement (by the way, in agreement with the president of the church, Dr. Fry17) that the church is in need of theologians, that it calls for theologians. The Christian congregation of the present day in all lands and of all creeds is tired of the undogmatic, devotional character of the ethical sermon, which changes its theme every year. It demands in a way which we pastors frequently do not understand at all a substantial dogmatic sermon, a doctrinal sermon in the best sense of the word. If our contemporaries do not find it in the Lutheran Church, then the hunger for doctrine will drive them into other denominations. Therefore lay hold of the Confessions, dear brethren in the ministry, by yourselves and together with others.*
The third thing, however, that we must learn anew is Luther’s invincible faith in the power of the means of grace. Whatever the Church still has and still does should not be minimized. But she does not live from mercy, or from political and social activity. She does not subsist on large numbers. When will the terrible superstition of the Christendom of our day cease that Jesus Christ is powerful only there where two or three million are gathered together in His name? When will we again comprehend that the Church lives by the means of grace of the pure preaching of the Gospel and by the divinely instituted administration of the Sacraments and by nothing else? And for no other reason than because Jesus Christ the Lord is present in His means of grace and builds His Church on earth, being even as powerful as ever before in the history of the Church— even if His power and glory, to speak as our Confessions do, are cruce tectum, hidden under the cross [Ap VII– VIII 18]. Oh, what secret unbelief and what little faith we find in the Church that calls herself the Church of the sola fide! May God in His grace eradicate this unbelief and strengthen this weak faith in our souls and renew us through the great faith of the New Testament and the Reformation. That, and that alone, is the manner of overcoming the urgent need of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the greatest and weightiest crisis of her history.
— From: Sasse, Herman (2013-01-09). Letters to Lutheran Pastors – Volume 1; Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Number One: “Concerning the Status of the Lutheran Churches in the World Today,” December 1948. Concordia Pub House. Kindle Edition.
* [Do not use the ELCA's edition of the Book of Concord, which undermines the authority of the Book of Concord by substituting texts never used in either the German or Latin editions of the Book of Concord. Further, it contains intentional mistranslations of the original language to accommodate the feminist and gay/lesbian agenda in the ELCA, and that incorrectly identifies the crypto-Calvinists as "crypto-Philippists," not to mention the insidious and pervasive use of a gender neutered translation style which weakens the clear Christological confession in the BOC].