Anti-Christian

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.

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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.

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2 comments

  1. One of the greatest ironies is that most protestants who are avowedly anti-Lutheran really have no grasp of church history. They think Lutherans are crazy to believe in things like sacramental efficacy, but they don’t realize how a-historical and uniquely American their theology really is. I heard Bryan Wolfmueller use the term “nose blind,” and think that’s a pretty accurate way of describing it.

    Then there are the “New Calvinists” who really just tack-on Calvin’s 5 points to their existing American Evangelicalism. Being “5 points” suddenly means you’ve accepted the historic Reformed faith. Never mind the sacraments, Covenantal Theology, or ecclessiology. It seems like the New Calvinists don’t read much Calvin.

    It’s quite sad how many love to honor Luther as the hero of the Reformation, but most have no idea what he believed and taught. Lutherans are seen as crypto-Catholics and treated with suspicion. In their minds, they can’t reconcile the sacramental theology of Luther with their experienced-based & revivalistic American Christianity.

    On the positive, it seems like at least some evangelicals may be starting to get this:

    http://faculty.wts.edu/posts/didlutherunderstandthesacramentsbetterthanwedo/

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  2. Proper teachings on baptism do not exist outside the Church Catholic, so to speak. This is an issue which arises when we are doing outreach among formerly and poorly churched people. There is a language and theology barrier we need to cross in speaking of faith. For many Christians, faith is something which, whether God-given or chosen, reaches out to claim. The truth is that faith is only God-given and imparted to receive – justifying faith is passive. Faith receives grace. When He imparts faith, God is choosing us, adopting us.

    This runs counter to much American thinking and runs strong in the American religions – those New World sects that arose from the Awakenings. Personal choosing (accepting) is as important to them as God’s choosing in the Old World sects connected to double predestination, which also renders baptism moot. For many more, faith is something the individual works to sustain. Methodism, which straddles several of these worlds is a prime example preaching works of piety and works of mercy as means of grace.

    The greatest irony, for all the “Protestant” talk against works contributing to salvation among those denying the efficacy of baptism, they don’t consider the actions of “choosing”, “coming to”, “finding”, “proclaiming” faith, so required in their teachings for salvation, to be works. Faith which must be chosen to claim something insinuates the individual into his own salvation – it proclaims that Christ is not enough, even though they claim that we are saying he is not enough in embracing baptism. It is their logic which is flawed. First, because of the false proclamation, they embrace works as essential alongside Christ. Second, because it does not disprove the efficacy of baptism. To say that something not being required renders it ineffective is not an argument. That requires a denial of presence in the elements and the Word. They do not have scripture on their side.

    I understand that some even accuse Lutherans of believing that the sacraments are essential in all cases because the language of our confessions speaks to living, breathing people not having a deathbed confession, making a last ditch profession of faith to be saved. The idea that we say sacraments are an essential part of an ongoing Christian life is anathema to them because they do not see the sacraments as having any presence, tied to Word, or involving Christ’s work. Personally, this has not crossed my path.

    It is vital, in all of our dealings, to keep people focused on what God has done and is doing and make certain we are clear that even our faith is a free gift, imparted and sustained by Word (oral/aural) and sacrament (tangible Word/ Gospel). God does all the work. This is the truth of scripture. Above all, we don’t need to badger or argue, just calmly speak in proper terms when we speak. They do pick up on it.

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