Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Chicken and the Egg

It's long been a 'pet peeve' with me, so let me vent a moment, after I show you what got me going. In the "letters" section of the recent Lutheran Witness, a man from Oklahoma wrote in response to an article in a previous issue celebrating our Lutheran faith and heritage: "As I read, I got the distinct impression it was much more important to be Lutheran first and then Christian. How sad that the emphasis wasn't on being Christian first."

This really doesn't have to involve a long response. In fact, it begs a simple question which all Lutherans should be able to answer: Is being Lutheran different than being Christian? What part of being Lutheran is different than being Christian? And why does one have to come first? (thus, the "chicken and egg" title to this post)? No one seems to want to answer this.

My theory is that people seem to believe that each church possesses a basic Christian identity that is common to all, and that Lutherans add to that a body of teachings that are adiophora. I hope I'm wrong, but what other explanation is there? To say you are a "Christian first" implies at the outset that being Lutheran is secondary, and therefore not entirely essential to being Christian. And if that is true, which part of our Lutheran faith do we want to declare 'sub Christian'?

O.k., that's all the rant I'm going to make for now....


Sam said...

As long as there has been an orthodox church on earth there has also been a Lutheran church. She is (as strange as it may seem) as old as the world for she has no other doctrine than the patriarchs, the prophets, and apostles received from God and preached... When we are asked so often: 'Where was the Lutheran church before Luther?', it is very easy to answer: 'Everywhere there were still Christians who believed with their hearts in Jesus Christ and in his word who would not allow themselves to be diverted by any human regulations from the one faith that alone saves.
~C. F. W. Walther from "Concerning the Name 'Lutheran"

William Weedon said...

Dear Seelsorger,

Thanks so much for your postings. I always look forward to them.

On this topic, are you familiar with Hemann's fabulous treatment in *On Being a Christian*? I heartily recommend it.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you for the quote, Sam. It says it all.

Pr. Weedon - Thank you for your gracious words! --Regarding the recommended reading, are you referring to Dr. Hamann's book ON BEING A CHRISTIAN: A PERSONAL CONFESSION published by NPH in 1996 (I ask especially because you typed Hemann)? If so, I have not yet read it, but having had Dr. Hamann in seminary back in the 80's I believe I would enjoy it.