When Did I Become a Lutheran:
A Layman's Answer
by Michael Bryant, a 27 year old US Army Sergeant
While some bean-counter will tell me that I became a Lutheran when I joined the Lutheran church body to which I belong, I tend to disagree. You see, I am a rarity among converts. I did not even really know anything about Lutheranism until long after I left charismatic Anabaptism. Why did I leave charismatic Anabaptism? I started to read the Bible. When I read the Bible with discernment, I found Scripture that explicitly contradicted many of their teachings. I left because they were teaching false doctrine and I could no longer stomach it.
A few years later, I worked past my disillusion and decided to find a church that did not teach false doctrine. A few years of sulking was not a transition from one church to another. It was a conscious decision born out of years of objective research that measured many Christian and several pseudo-Christian faiths against Holy Scripture and church tradition on a level playing field. I resolved to find the truth and join the faith that best agreed with truth.
At the conclusion of this journey, I selected Lutheranism. I then searched for Lutheran churches and Lutheran church bodies, to find the one that was the most faithful to what I had been reading and what I had come to believe.
My confession: When I set foot in my current congregation, I had to take several trips back to my car to bring in my stacks of theological books and research notes. I held up my copy of the Book of Concord and told the pastor, “This is what I believe. Do you teach and follow this book?”
So I ask, “When did I become Lutheran?”
If I became Lutheran when I confessed Lutheran doctrine, then Lutheranism is objective truth that can be believed and understood – not just corporately, but individually as well. If Lutheranism is true and objective, then it needs no followers to be the correct confession. That is why I selected it. I knew nothing of controversies, synods, and church politics the day that I joyously declared, “I am Lutheran!,” for the first time. I did not know how many problems there may be in actually practicing Lutheranism. But I knew truth when I saw it. At that point, I could not be anything that disagreed with the truth. I should have realized that the ideal of Lutheranism is always practiced by people who are very much sinful human beings. There is no perfection on this planet, no perfection in any Lutheran church either. I get that now.
For me, the truths that are expressed in Lutheranism are objective and imperative. As much as my heart grieves for those who attend a whacked-out congregation that is only pretending to be Lutheran, this has no bearing on the validity of my confession. I confessed Lutheranism long before I joined a corporate body. I confessed it the day that I discovered that I could no longer commune with my family. I confess each day that I learn about a new horrible problem (both real and perceived) within the church body that I am in.
I confess the Book of Concord. My copy of the Book of Concord has my signature inked just below the list of original signatories. That is a very personal and intimate thing for me. I do not confess Lutheranism because I am Lutheran. I am Lutheran because I confess Lutheran teaching. I am Lutheran because I agree with the teachings contained in this book, and that is what people who agree with this book are called.
If extremists on either side of my Lutheran denomination tear it apart, and cause it to schism, I will still confess the teachings of the Book of Concord. If a day comes when my Lutheran church requires me to go against the confessions, I will rebuke her and confess Lutheranism. If I should be stranded on a desolate island for the rest of my life, I will still confess Lutheran doctrine and practice. Real Presence is objectively true. Justification by faith alone is objectively true. As far as the validity of truth is concerned, what others do or think is irrelevant.
If a group calling itself the “Purple Zamboni Church of Lower New Brunswick” takes up the Book of Concord and begins to follow it confessionally as the founders did, then I will encourage my church body to follow their example. If my Lutheran church does not listen, I will leave and join the PZCLNB... and start to lobby for the Zamboni-ists to pick a better name.
Do I confess Lutheranism because I was born Lutheran? No.
...because I like everything I see happening in Lutheran church bodies? No. I don’t.
...because Lutheranism is the rebound faith that I fled to? No rebound here.
...because my pastor is a good guy? No. (He is, but that is beside the point.)
...because I like Lutheran music and liturgy? I hated it at first.
...because I like Germany and Scandinavia? Never been to either locale.
...because I was witnessed to by Lutherans? No, modern Lutherans are horrible at this.
...because I think that Lutherans are better Christians than other Christians? They’re not.
...because Lutherans have all the answers? No. Lutheranism thrives on paradox. Lutheranism can only tell you what it has been told by Scripture. Lutherans have the fewest answers of any Christian confession. They don’t know squat because they don’t make stuff up when things do not make sense.
I confess this confession because no one has been able to show me where it is objectively false. I confess it because I firmly believe that it is the true explanation of God’s Word and stands apart as superior against all other human opinions. I confess it because of the human speculation and opinion that it lacks. I confess it because it is the clearest path to my Crucified and now Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nothing will come between me and this true expression of Christianity... including Lutherans.
Originally posted on Cyberbrethren July 4,2008