Lutherans as Not-Lutherans

By Graham Glover

It looks like a Baptist. It sounds like a Presbyterian. But, it’s really a…Lutheran.

Huh? What? That doesn’t make any sense.

Yeah, I know.

If it looks like a Baptist, it ought to be a Baptist, right? If it sounds like a Presbyterian, it ought to be a Presbyterian, right?

Rational minds would think so.

I think so.

But sometimes this isn’t the case. Sometimes Lutherans look like Baptists. Sometimes they sound like Presbyterians. Sometimes Lutherans are what I like to call, Not-Lutherans.

Why is this? Why do some who confess the Book of Concord to be a right exposition of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith continue to look and sound like someone who knows nothing of or just flat rejects the confessions of Lutheranism?

I’m not looking for perfection here (I’d be the biggest hypocrite of them all if I was!). I’m just asking Lutherans to stop placating others. Stop trying to look like someone you’re not – or at least someone your confessions say you shouldn’t be. Stop trying to sound like others, other Christians with whom we are not in altar in pulpit fellowship, in the vain attempt to please those that say Lutheran worship, doctrine, and practice is outdated and stale.

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If you’re a Lutheran, look like one, sound like one. Just be a Lutheran.

If you are ashamed of what Lutheranism is, then stop being one. If you don’t like how Lutheranism looks in worship, how she sounds in preaching, what she confesses in her doctrine, then simply leave her fellowship.

There’s no template I have in mind here. Lutheranism is not a cookie-cutter mold that looks exactly the same, in every place and every time. But you should never leave a Lutheran service and say, “That resembles my friend’s Baptist church.” Nor should you hear a Lutheran sermon and remark, “My Presbyterian pastor says the same thing about the Lord’s Supper.” I’ve never understood when some of my peers ask what I teach in Confirmation class. “The Small Catechism”, I reply, “Isn’t that the core of what all our confirmands should learn?” Blanks stares and bewilderment speak volumes in their reply.

Sometimes I hear laments that Lutheranism is on foreign soil here in the States, that our way of doing theology is by its very nature, hostile to the American way of doing Christianity. And with these laments come a way of doing Lutheranism that is anything but. Those who are scared of authentic Lutheranism change their worship to something that is alien to Lutheran doctrine and practice. Those who sympathize with the latest fad in Evangelical Protestantism, shy away from even talking about, much less teaching or preaching on the confessions of Lutheranism. Lest we come across as inhospitable to the Christian who is new to Lutheranism (whatever that means), some fail to enforce what Lutheranism confesses to be true. In other words, sometimes Lutherans fail to look like or sound like Lutherans. To do so, they say, is to be close-minded and unloving. And so they go on looking like a Christian that is anything but Lutheran.

I have never understood Lutherans as Not-Lutherans. If you’re a Lutheran, just be one. Look like one. Sound like one. Act like one. Be a Lutheran.