Reformed baptist Kevin DeYoung raise a question on his blog asking where are the Lutherans in the contemporary evangelical scene. It provoked quite a conversation, both on his blog and here. As a follow-up, Kevin interviewed Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House. Paul did a superb job of communication. You’ve got to read his the entire interview: Those Dern Lutherans: An Interview with Paul T. McCain – Kevin DeYoung. I especially liked his concluding remarks:
9. Anything else you think the world needs to know about Lutherans?
I would say this: I think Evangelicals often find themselves searching for something they feel might be a bit “missing” in their Christian walk, and think that Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy may fit the bill, while all the while Lutheranism is there, right around the corner. Often when they find a traditional Lutheran Church they are surprised to find a robust, rich worship life, rooted in the Scripture (which is what the liturgy is, in its entirety). They find a rich focus on Christ and the Gospel–Lutherans are adamant that Christ is the heart and center of everything, and they also find a tangible experience with God, not based simply on feelings or emotions, but on a concrete and objective experience with God’s grace through the sacraments. And all this is wrapped up in such a vibrant passionate love for Jesus. We Lutherans combine the best of what is Evangelical, with the best of what is truly catholic about the Church, with the rich heritage of the Lutheran Reformation. I think it is a winning combination, but of course, I’m kind of biased.
Which raises another issue: Many evangelicals yearn for sacraments and liturgy and historic Christianity. They seem to first become Anglicans and then migrate to Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. To be sure, some find Lutheranism, where sacramentalism and liturgical worship go hand in hand with a theologically rigorous commitment to the Bible and to the Gospel. And yet many ex-evangelicals do not even consider Lutheranism but go right to other traditions even at the expense of giving up the Gospel of justification by Christ alone (in favor of Rome’s justification by faith plus works, or Constantinople’s theosis). I mean, I can understand someone ceasing to believe in the evangelical view of justification–and many “evangelicals” are now disbelieving in it, which is a major reason to leave their churches–but I don’t see the Lutheran alternative even being considered by many of these folks.
Why is that? Is it that they don’t know about it, or that if they go to a Lutheran church they find one trying to be like the one they want to leave? In which case, this is the fault of Lutherans, and our lack of contact with other Christians, which is what DeYoung first complained about, has to be a factor. Or are these ex-evangelicals running towards elements of Catholicism or Orthodoxy that are already inherent in their own theologies, namely, a preference for moralism (as opposed to the Lutheran freedom in the Gospel) and absolute authority (the pope or tradition as a more certain authority than how they formerly used the Bible, as opposed to the Lutheran view that sees the Bible as an authority that gives us mysteries, not rationalistic clarity, and that functions primarily as a means of grace in which God’s Word addresses us personally)?