Q: Who are you Lutherans, and why haven't I heard much about you before?
A: I don't know why you haven't heard much about us before, because we have been around for a very long time.
Q: Are you another Protestant denomination?
A: It's true that we Lutherans trace our heritage through the 16th Century Reformation in Germany, but we aren't Protesting against anything. We are a reforming movement within the catholic Faith and Practice and are fully in step with all that Christ has given to His Church for all time.
Q: Didn't Martin Luther reject the pope's authority and start your church?
A: Martin Luther wanted to bring the western Church back to a pure and un-adulterated confession of the Gospel; the very Gospel Christ gave to His Church through the Holy Apostles, and which the Church preserved and confessed through the ages. The truth is, what we Lutherans believe, teach and confess has been around since the beginning of Christ's Church!
Q: Can you give me an example?
A: Certainly! One of the fundamental teachings of the Church has been that God saves us in Christ, through faith alone. The Holy Apostle, Paul, makes this clear, and so do the Fathers of the Church. So do we Lutherans.
The early Church taught that we are saved by God's grace through faith alone.
"Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ." - St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; TFoTC vol. 9, p. 479)
"For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law." - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)
We Lutherans make no new claims, but confess the Gospel as the Church has always rightly confessed it and practiced in accordance to it.
Q: Why are you talking about Church Fathers, when I thought Christians just relied on the Bible?
A: Christians certainly DO rely on Holy Scripture - both the Old and the New Testament books. Lutherans are even happy to acknowledge the books of the Apocrypha as salutary and of great benefit to the Church. Our hymnody includes the Song of the Three Men in the fiery furnace, which occurs only in the Greek version of the book of Daniel. Further, we have never said anything which the orthodox Church has not properly said in times past. For instance . . .
The early Church taught that Scripture is the sole norm of all authority!
"We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)
“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).
“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)
Q: Are there other areas where you can show me that your Lutheran faith is simply the faith of the Church through the ages?
A: Sure! In addition to saying that we establish our faith, finally, on the sole authority of Holy Scripture (Sola Scriptura) - which the Church always has said . . . and that God saves us freely, not because of or in view of any works we do, but through faith alone in Christ (Sola Fide) - which the Church has always confessed . . . we Lutherans also say that God's salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia), simply on account of Christ Jesus. This too the Church has always confessed.
The early Church taught that God's salvation is by Grace Alone, for Jesus' sake!
“After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, the wages of your good deeds, but the gift of God: to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for the better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them more than before, and that through His Son.” - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to the Romans, Homily 12, Rom 6:23)
Q: Somewhere I heard that Augustine introduced ideas like original sin and a juridical or court-room view of justification. Did the Church confess these things before Augustine?
A: Yes, it did. First, the Psalmist speaks of being both conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5). Then, the Holy Apostle, Paul, says that Adam's sin made us sinners (Romans 5:19). In that same section of Romans, St. Paul says that - even as one man's act of disobedience made us sinners, so one Man's act of obedience made us righteous. Not only did the Church before Augustine speak both of original sin, but it also spoke of God declaring us righteous - in a courtroom sense - on the basis of Christ's act of obedience.
The early Church taught Original Sin!
"For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ." -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke
The early Church taught that God declares us righteous for Jesus' sake!
The early Church taught much that expresses the way we Lutherans speak about Divine Justice, Substitution and Propitiation!
Q: What do you recommend for me, then, since I am looking for a church that holds to the historic, Christian and apostolic Faith?
A: Honestly? You have found what you are looking for right here in the evangelical Lutheran confession! We believe, teach and confess what was given the Church by Christ, and which has been preserved by faithful witnesses through the centuries. I know of nowhere that the Historic Faith is held more purely than amongst us Lutherans. Not only do you have the comfort and assurance of knowing that what has always been believed and taught by the Church is here, but it is confessed so clearly that no one need remain in doubt about his or her salvation. Some Christians may claim to be more truly "the Church" than we Lutherans, but are they holding to the Church's Historic Faith with the certainty of God's forgiveness as witnessed by the testimonies on these pages? Do they introduce man's works as a condition for salvation, when the Father laid Christ ALONE as the foundation for our confidence before God? It is most true that faith WILL and DOES produce good works, but our only grounds for life, forgiveness and salvation is the work of Christ, our Savior - not only accomplished for us on the cross, but delivered to us in His Church through the Word and Sacraments.
Q: Are you saying only you Lutherans have the truth?
A: No. The Lord has Christians wherever His Gospel is preached purely and the Sacraments or Mysteries of Christ are administered rightly. Where the Ministry of Christ is going on through the preached Gospel, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Supper of Our Lord's Body and Blood in bread and wine, we can expect the Church to truly be. If you consider further what we Lutherans believe, teach and confess, you will see that here - in our confession of salvation by God's GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, on the basis of SCRIPTURE ALONE - is simply what the Church has always said when it was resting its hope on CHRIST ALONE. If you are looking for that, look no further. What the Church once received from Christ and faithfully preserved through the ages is right here.
Call Pastor Sawyer at (601) 992-4752, or email him. He'd be glad to speak with you about the Historic Christian Faith.