Recently I began regularly attending a local Lutheran Missouri Synod church. For the first time in a long while I've started enjoying church again.

They emphasize the gospel of Christ, orthodox doctrine, and a living relationship with Jesus. In addition they practice what I believe to be a valid Eucharist and have graciously allowed me to partake.

They seem to have noticed my interest and quickly began approaching me about becoming a member. This article explains to them and to the whole world why I can never join a Lutheran church.


Background

Many years ago, I was worship leader for years at several Cavalry Chapel churches. At one of these churches I also worked with the youth group and started a youth worship team.

I was activated, motivated, and energized by the not-too-subtle message that Christians who wanted to really mature in their Christian faith should perform extraordinary good works of service. Responding to this, I launched-out and started a church.

During these ministry years I spent at least seven hours a week on various ministry activities and finally burned-out from too much church work.

After a while, for reasons I've narrated elsewhere, I became Catholic. This lasted for many years, but after much study of the church fathers, of Catholic teaching and doctrine, and of church history, I modified my views and rejected certain Catholic teachings including these:

But I still believe the following:

Another unrelated point: Calvary Chapel does not have church membership so being asked to join a church seems very weird to me.

I don't enjoy driving anymore so I prefer to go to church within several miles of home. I won't attend the closest Catholic Church because one of the priests is liberal and may not even be a Christian at all. (I reject all forms of Christian liberalism no matter how slight.) I am not too happy with any of the Catholic Churches nearby because the priests have such a strange idea about what Christianity is.


Why I can't become a member

There are two reasons I can't join a Lutheran church:

  1. The Bible doesn't teach it nor did the early church practice it. Baptism in faith was all that was needed to become a member of the church.
  2. I reject certain tenets of the Book of Concord. The remainder of this article highlights these.

I should note that I am again feeling that familiar not-too-subtle pressure to get very involved in church ministry but due to my high-stress job and energy limitations I will resist this.


Book of Concord

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod declares on its website that it "subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church." These "Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580" are accepted as having "doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations . . . ."

In the sections below I quote various passages from some of these and comment on them.


Nicene Creed

Quotes are from The Nicene Creed.

I believe . . .

The original versions of this creed have "we believe." This is a small matter since the intent of this creed was for bishops to declare their faith; reciting it in the first person is appropriate for this.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son . . .

The clause "and the Son" (the filioque clause) was not in the original versions of the Nicene Creed but was added centuries later by Pope Benedict VIII. I find it ironic that the Lutheran church which claims the pope to be the Antichrist accepts this addition from the pope into the original Nicene creed.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church

Lutheran churches often translate the word "catholic" as "Christian." Perhaps this is not such a bad translation after all since the early uses of the word "Catholic" by the Early Church Fathers seem to mean "Christian" rather than "Catholic."

I believe the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.


The Augsburg Confession

Quotes are from the Augsburg Confession.

We may come together, as far as this may be honorably done, and, the matter between us on both sides being peacefully discussed without offensive strife, the dissension, by God's help, may be done away and brought back to one true accordant [harmonious] religion . . . .

Unfortunately, Catholics and Lutherans can never be united unless both sides change their definition of the true Christian faith as consisting of (1) a true apostolic confession (such as the Nicene Creed), and (2) a lively faith in Christ. (This is how I define the true Christian Church.) Unity can never exist if Christianity is defined as (1) an institutional structure (as Catholics do), (2) a set of doctrines (as Lutherans do), or (3) adherence to the scriptures (as Lutherans do) since so many interpretations are possible.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.

I believe that a Christian who habitually commits mortal sin may lose their salvation.

Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason.

I believe humans were created good and can perform good deeds even if not saved. However, good deeds do not merit salvation.

Preachers heretofore taught but little, and urged only childish and needless works, as particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like.

Acts of devotion such as these have value when performed in faith. There is no reason to reject these just because the Catholic Church had an incorrect emphasis.

They teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith and works, and say that we are justified by faith and works.

I believe we are not saved by faith only as James clearly and unambiguously states:

(James 2:24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Of the Worship [veneration] of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works. . . . . But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints

Actually, the scripture does teach this.

(Luke 1:48) For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

(Hebrews 12:22,23) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

(Hosea 12:4) Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.

(1 Corinthians 11:10) For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

(Jeremiah 15:1) Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

(1 Corinthians 6:2) Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

(Matthew 19:28) And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(Luke 9:30) And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias.

(Hebrews 1:14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

(Revelation 8:4) And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. . . . Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons.

This is a wild claim and easy to refute. Augustine, for example, was not a Lutheran in spite of Luther's attempt to portray him as such. Luther quotes church fathers such as Cyprian who clearly taught doctrines contrary to Lutheranism (such as the papacy).

The Augsburg Confession highlights a significant point. The various secular Lutheran rulers agreed to declare that Lutheranism was to be the official form of Christian religion in their kingdoms, this, while at the same time declaring that the bishops were only in charge of church matters. They should have allowed Catholics to remain in their lands; they should not have destroyed Catholic churches, monasteries, and other properties; nor should they have stolen Catholic goods and properties.


The Smalcald Articles

Quotes are from the Smalcald Articles.

I am surprised anyone would consider the Smalcald Articles as a confession of their faith. It contains the unfocused ramblings and rantings of an undisciplined and seemingly angry man.

Luther addresses the topics of mass, purgatory, relics, indulgences, pilgrimages, invocation of Saints, and cloisters in a very biased manner. He emphasizes the bad in everything and ignores the good. Also, he selectively quotes scripture and the church fathers to make his points (it is easy to find counter-examples contradicting his points).

Luther's tone in the Smalcald Articles is very objectionable and abrasive. It is hard to object to anything in particular because his examples and arguments are so one-sided. I could never in good conscience proclaim to the world that this writing truthfully and accurately expresses the teachings of scripture (as is claimed by the Lutherans).

The Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power.

I disagree. While I do think that Catholic teaching about the papacy is in error this does not mean that the pope is the Antichrist. This is like saying requiring membership in your local church is the Antichrist because that tradition is a tradition of men and is not commanded in scripture.

it is nothing but error and blindness in regard to this article what the scholastic doctors have taught, namely: . . .

After this, Luther lists many things the Catholic Church does not teach, yet he declares the Catholic Church does teach such things.

The chief office or force of the Law is that it reveal original sin with all its fruits.

For the Israelites, the Law brought redemption and provided the basis of a holy society. The incorrect view of Luther regarding the Law is what caused him to misinterpret the book of Romans.

I think Luther's extreme scrupulosity blinded him to the positive side of the Catholic Church — all he could see was an exaggerated caricature of the negative aspects.