Lutheran Fundamentalism & Civility

In a previous post, I commented on the secularization of the 10 Commandments.  Recently, that stirred up some comments that turned “sharp”.  Combine that with my current reading of Eric Gritch’s “Toxic Spiritualities” and I’ve got some observations I’d like to make, and I fully expect to be blasted more for these.

The commenter wrote,

Lutherans base our beliefs on the teaching of truth and are firmly committed to guarding against false teachings. It is a church that exists for one reason and one reason only, the sake of pure doctrine of the Gospel – a confessional church above all others. We are faithful to this church because it is the church of Jesus Christ and the plain Word of God not because of our history or because it is the church of Luther. The Lutheran Church is, to quote Dr. Theodore Schmauk, “the church who stakes all on bearing witness. Her office is one of public proclamation and confession of the Truth, as it is in Christ Jesus. The preaching of God’s Word, pure and as given in Scripture, is her central activity… She is here to proclaim and apply God’s Word in Scripture, sermon, and sacrament. She is the church of faithful, regular, and continuous witness to the Truth. Hence the source of her witness, the Word; the standard of her witness, the Confessions; are central; and she is willing to abide by and uphold her confessional principle.”  … Lutheranism does not change, it cannot change because the gospel which is the substance of our confession does not and cannot change.

I don’t think I could find a better example of Lutheran Fundamentalism if I tried.  I differ significantly from the author of this post, and for that reason, other parts of the comment resort to some uncivil discourse.

One fundamentalist aspect of the comment is the focus on preserving pure doctrine.  The author will no doubt agree with me that the primary purpose of the Lutheran church is proclamation of the Gospel (although that’s not what the author says).  Yet the author retains an intense focus on the “purity” of the Gospel.  It is a mistake, I believe, to resolve the Grace AND Obedience polarity of the New Testament witness on one side or the other, and it seems that the author insists on doing that.  I find it interesting that when I read the Schmauk quote, I find that I can agree with it without elevating the confessions to near-scripture authority.  Therefore it doesn’t work very well as a “proof text”.

And yes, Lutheranism can and does need to change while the Gospel remains the same.  Relevance to 21st century demands that there be change from 16th century arguments.

Another section of the comment is probably more illustrative of Triumphalism than Fundamentalism, but the two “toxic spiritualities” are close cousins.

You state, “Let’s let our culture borrow from many religious traditions to order society for the common good … and let our culture borrow from secular traditions to order society for the common good.”  Lutheranism does not “borrow from many religious traditions.”

My original post had to do with the secular culture, not Lutheran culture.  Maybe that was lost on the author of the comment.  I never suggested that Lutheranism borrows from other religious traditions.  I suggested that was a proper role of the secular culture.  Too often, those deeply entrenched in a religious world don’t recognize the secular world and its structure as having value … maybe even to the point of wanting the secular world to mirror the religious world.  That’s Triumphalism.  That also dismisses Luther’s Two Kingdoms Principle as invalid.

It is because of the Two Kingdoms Principle that I can make the claim that secularizing the 10 Commandments is inappropriate and be firmly rooted in Lutheran principles.  For the commenter, the use of the Two Kingdoms Principle makes me a “socialist”.

Which gets me to the topic of civility.

In a series of comments from this person, I’ve been called

  • bitter
  • condescending
  • elitist
  • all-knowing
  • small of heart
  • socialist

Sharing one’s perspective is a terrible thing, I guess.

Can’t we just disagree without resorting to demonizing the other?

3 responses to “Lutheran Fundamentalism & Civility

  1. Pr. Janssen,
    I have to agree with your assessment on civility (or in this case a lack there of). What gets me is the commenter who called you those things can’t own up to them, but instead hides behind a pseudonym. It’s only from that shadow does he make ad hominem attacks, going after you instead of the argument.

  2. Please direct your reader to my blog, since his comments were obviously intended for me. I am indeed a bitter, condescending and elitist. Although not technically a know-it-all, in the sense that I don’t actually know everything, I do my best to pass s one. And while I may not be a socialist per se, I do link to the Anglo-Catholic Socialism website on my sidebar, just because.

    There is one possible problem. The cardiologist says my heart is average-sized, though. But perhaps, as I go on living in a world where people treat each other so poorly, it will shrink.

  3. Perhaps in the spirit of disagreeing without demonizing, you would like to revisit your subsequent post on Lutheran CORE and the NALC. As for the mix up about Lutherans borrowing from culture and many religious traditions, I understand the commentator’s confusion, since I just left a Lutheran denomination that’s been doing that (to its own demise) for 30 years. Honest mistake on his part, I think.

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