Many evangelicals are trying to come to grips with the catholicity of the Church and are looking for ways to fit themselves into the historical universal Church. Some are searching for ways to integrate the Protestant with the Catholic traditions. Some are saying we should downplay denominational differences as a way to be more “catholic,” as the ecumenical movement did.
But the estimable Mathew Block, communications director for the Lutheran Church Canada, has written a thoughtful essay on this subject, focusing on the catholicity of Lutherans and how Lutherans already embody the kind of Evangelical Catholicism that many people are looking for. The essay, which you should read completely, is linked after the jump, but I give his conclusion.
From Mathew Block, Are Lutherans Catholic? | Mathew Block | First Things:
“The churches among us do not dissent from the catholic church in any article of faith,” Melanchthon declares in the Augsburg Confession. “There is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church, or from the Roman Church, insofar as we can tell from its writers.”
Centuries later, Herman Sasse could assert the same: “It was no mere ecclesiastico-political diplomacy which dictated the emphatic assertion in the Augsburg Confession that the teachings of the Evangelicals were identical with those of the orthodox Catholic Church of all ages,” he writes. “The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Athanasius and Ireneaus once belonged.”
So are confessional Lutherans catholic? Yes. And we always will be, so long as we hold fast to the traditions of the Apostles, written in the Scriptures and faithfully passed down to us by the Church. Consequently, I cannot help thinking that those seeking out a “Protestant Future” should in fact be looking to the Protestant Past. Looking for a church which faithfully receives the catholic tradition while clearly proclaiming the authority of Scripture? Looking for a church which is both sacramental and devoted to salvation by grace through faith alone? Looking, in other words, for an Evangelical Catholic Church? It already exists. It’s called Lutheranism.