by Ross Engel –
“You had a hogwash of a Baptism. You need to get yourself saved!”
I clenched my fists in anger and my heart broke as I heard a youth recount how he was told by the “pastor” of his Christian school that his Baptism was “absolute hogwash.” This administrator of his school had recently told him that he was “bound for hell” because he was a member of “that Lutheran cult church.” A tear formed in the eyes of one of my brother pastors as we listened to this horrible experience that this young boy endured at his school, how he had gone home in tears feeling like he wasn’t really a Christian. Sadness and anger filled my heart and mind as I listened to the horrific way this adult authority figure used his power to both bully this young man and attempt to snatch away the hope of the Gospel and the promises that we have been given in Christ.
“Baptism now saves you!” – 1 Peter 3:21
If you’ve been in the Lutheran church for any amount of time, you’ve probably come across some “anti-Lutheran” sentiments from other Christians. Infant Baptism gets attacked, youth and adults are told that they aren’t really saved because they were Baptized as babies, and God’s holy work in Baptism is denied by these attackers. The faithful practice of closed-communion is denigrated as unfriendly. Oktoberfest (with beer) is condemned. Our liturgy and our vestments are “too Catholic.” Our preaching is too much about Jesus and not enough about social issues and making people’s lives more meaningful.
We often hear these anti-Lutheran sentiments from other so-called Christians and sometimes even from people who claim the name Lutheran. The proof is found in the programming and “products” that are hocked by the bureaucracy, much of which comes to us from groups that harbor anti-Lutheran sentiments.
At the center of Scripture, our Confessions, our preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of all our sins. Baptism. Lord’s Supper. Liturgy. Hymnody. Preaching. Every single one of those things is centered on Jesus Christ. Each one of them delivers Jesus and His forgiveness, life, and salvation to His redeemed people.
But some will say that those things are just too simple and irrelevant for the modern age. Alluring logic and compelling covenant contracts promise to raise the church to the former glory days better than the Gospel ever could. St. Paul was all too familiar with the allure of human wisdom and philosophy. And those guys in Greek society could run circles around the intellectual ingrates of today when it came to thinking and Platonic and Socratic reasoning. Paul knew the danger. Any idea of muting the Gospel in exchange for something “better” only gave up the Gospel in exchange for a doctrine of demons.
If you take a step back and really think about the anti-Lutheran sentiments that are out there, you’ll actually find that these anti-Lutheran expressions are actually statements that are anti-Christ and anti-Christian.
If one denies God’s work in Holy Baptism, they are denying Christ. If one denies the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, they are denying Jesus. If one denies Justification by God’s mercy and grace alone, they are denying God at work, redeeming the world to Himself in Jesus. At the heart of Lutheran theology is Jesus Christ. And so, in short, the denial of what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess is to deny Christ, and to deny Christ is to be anti-Christian.
We can’t be afraid to call dangerous false teachings: anti-Christian. We also must be willing to stand guard as watchmen and fight off any and all attempts to foist upon us these anti-Christian sentiments, programs, and doctrines. We must be willing to say, “No!” And bar the doors from the godless things that come only to deceive and destroy.
“Guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing, have wandered from the faith.” – 1 Timothy 6:2-21
So when we find ourselves caught up in the conversations: Missional vs. Confessional, Traditional vs. Contemporary, Faithful vs. Fruitful, or any of the other typical arguments, let’s step back and ask—Christ or Anti-Christ, Christian or Anti-Christian.