Conversations with a Lutheran

Over the course of a few weeks, a good friend of mine and I had several interesting, if not awkward, religious discussions. He’s Lutheran, and I’m Catholic. Here’s a few excerpts:

Me: “I always thought Lutherans were pretty close theologically to Catholics.”

Him: “Not really…that tells me what kind of Catholic you are.”


Him: “Catholics aren’t…well you guys do your own thing.”

Me (thinking): He was about to tell me I wasn’t a Christian–ouch!


Him: “We don’t go to church every Sunday. We only go when we visit our parents (~1/month). Our church does’t want us to hear an inferior message.”

Me: “Wow, I thought Lutherans would just go find a local Lutheran church.”

Needless to say, our conversations confused the heck out of me. On a trip to the library, I perused a children’s book on Lutheranism and it showed some Catholic-looking activities–nothing like the stuff this guy was talking about.

Can someone clear me up on Lutheranism?

Can someone clear me up on Lutheranism?

Lets get one thing straigt. While outwardly we do seem to have many similarities, the truth is that Luitheranism is founded from a very anti-catholic group, Luther and the reformers. They are the ones who have made up dome nasty names for catholics. they also pretty much have doctrines which is against almost every one of ours. Like consubstantiation. This is a ridiculous doctrine formulated by taking bible passages out of context and taking them waay to literally. Why did the Lutherans decide to make these doctrines? They saw it as a catholic thing and wanted to have nothing to do with catholicism.

Read the works of Martin Luther, and without going very far youll realize why this anti-catholicism is fostered within Lutheranism.

Which Lutheran denomination does he belong to? Yes, there are several. Lutherans are nowhere near as divided as other Protestant traditions, but there are still a number of varieties. From the reference to an “inferior message” I wonder if he belongs to the Wisconsin Synod or the Missouri Synod, both of which regard other Lutheran groups as seriously deficient (I’ve never quite figured out how they regard each other, and why). Most Lutherans belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is an amalgamation of a lot of different “synods” from different parts of Germany and Scandinavia. Missouri and Wisconsin are the two most conservative synods, and they stayed out of the merger. (It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the general picture.) Both of them preserve the traditionally harsh Lutheran attitude toward Catholics, although many Missouri Synod congregations are very “high church” in their liturgy and are hard to tell from Catholics in that respect (a Catholic friend of mine knew Missouri Synod Lutherans growing up who thought the Reformation was a mistake–which is not, however, the official stance of the denomination, obviously!). I wonder if your friend is Wisconsin Synod. They are the strictest and there are not very many of them, so that a WS family might quite easily wind up not going to church every week so as not to be “contaminated” by some “inferior message.” But that’s just a guess.

We could talk more about Lutheran beliefs, but I don’t want to launch into a long lecture right now. Basically Lutherans are relatively close to Catholics in their sacramental theology (baptism confers grace, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ), while rejecting the Catholic doctrine of good works (the more moderate/liberal Lutheran denominations, however, have recognized that the differences on faith/works do not have to be church-dividing). Their ecclesiology is also very different from Catholicism–they believe that the true Church is defined by faithfulness to the teaching of the Apostles and not by a succession of bishops (of course, Catholics don’t think it’s an either/or). One great Lutheran theologian (Martin Chemnitz) summed it up this way in his analysis of the Council of Trent: Lutherans (and Protestants generally) believe that you identify the true Church by the fact that it teaches true doctrine, while Catholics believe that you identify true doctrine by the fact that the true Church teaches it.

In Christ,

Edwin

Yep, the Lutherans who have sent their children to the very Catholic (non-archdiocesan) school we send our son are almost vitriolic in their critism of our Church.

Most of it is mis-information, but boy, do they pack an attitude. I kept wondering why they sent their kids to “Queen of Angels” --can’t get much more Catholic than that. If they find us so repugnant then our school must be corrupt as well, right?

It confuses me, but we also a have a family of Mennonites who send their sons to our school. They aren’t exactly tolerant of Catholics either.

Oh well, the catechism is excellent and the kids learn much about our faith, perhaps they will come to see the misinformation of the other churches and respect our Church. I act on that premise with all the children and the other parents. Frankly, had they not told me their faith differences, I would not have gone looking for it.

I don’t want to be the Parish Police – those who nitpick what others are doing.:tsktsk: you know, like Church Lady.

AMDG,
Mamamull

Well, you could annoy them by saying we follow Jesus not Luther. I would not let children be under the influence of anti-Catholics of any stripe. If you really want to fight back learn some of Luther’s rather odd quotes. Shock them with some of what their founder actually said. For example he didn’t mind the idea of polygamy. Bet they don’t know that one.

[quote=cestusdei]Well, you could annoy them by saying we follow Jesus not Luther. I would not let children be under the influence of anti-Catholics of any stripe. If you really want to fight back learn some of Luther’s rather odd quotes. Shock them with some of what their founder actually said. For example he didn’t mind the idea of polygamy. Bet they don’t know that one.
[/quote]

Luther was a heretic, period.

MrS

Luther was a great Civil Rights leader.

[quote=SedesDomi]Luther was a great Civil Rights leader.
[/quote]

compared to ???

In the Peasants Rebellion Luther supported the princes and told them it was fine to butcher them all men, women, and children.

[quote=cestusdei]Well, you could annoy them by saying we follow Jesus not Luther…
[/quote]

I’ve spoken to a few Lutherans. They generally respond that Lutherans do not look at Luther the way Catholics look at the Pope. They actually wear his faults as a badge of honor because it shows he’s a fallible man “like all of us”. My response: You can have Luther as an example, I’ll stick with St. Peter. :smiley:


I’ve had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine who I went to grade school with and converted to Lutheranism from Catholicism. Looking back, he started the conversation by saying “Catholics sort-of earn heaven because of its doctrine of Purgatory”. I came to realize two things: (1) He “took a shot” at my faith with that comment and (2) he didn’t learn enough in Catholic grade school about what the church actually teaches on the subject. I’m praying he comes back to the faith.

[quote=cestusdei]In the Peasants Rebellion Luther supported the princes and told them it was fine to butcher them all men, women, and children.
[/quote]

so much for civil rights

Same reason some of us - Catholics - do… Mouth is working, brain is not.

[quote=MrS]Same reason some of us - Catholics - do… Mouth is working, brain is not.
[/quote]

Fair enough statement. :slight_smile:

Luther was a great Civil Rights leader.

Are you kidding? Luther thought he knew the bible better than anyone in the past 1500 years and decided to split christianity, causing an unimaginable amount of bloodshed. Hes not exactly a saint. Neither are the rest of the reformers, generally. Calvin ruled Geneva like a tyrant, therefore it was entirely hypocritical to call the Pope one.

I don’t know if it’s worth arguing with people who delight in wallowing in silly, bigoted pot-shots against other Christians (am I imagining it, or is this sort of thing increasing on this board?). But here goes:

Luther’s support of the repression of the peasants’ revolt was no more than just about any Catholic theologian of his time would have expressed. Find me one Catholic theologian who expressed support for the peasants, and I’ll grant that your criticism of Luther has some validity. The reason he gets singled out is that he allegedly helped inspire the revolt in the first place. But Luther could legitimately claim that he never called for popular revolt against legitimate secular rulers, and he never taught that the Gospel translated into a social and political program. That was an inference that the peasants drew from Luther’s teaching, not something Luther ever taught. I’d argue that the fact that Luther did initially express some sympathy for the peasants’ point of view is in his favor–and is, as I said, far more than any Catholic theologian of his time can be credited with (as far as I know). But when it got to the point (at least according to the one-sided information available to him) of widespread murder, rape, and pillaging, of course he sanctioned the repression of the revolt. Again, anyone would have.

Regarding the broader point–singling out Luther’s “odder quotes” is a remarkably silly way of engaging in dialogue with Lutherans. It’s exactly equivalent to the sort of distorted pot shots fundamentalists like Jack Chick take at Catholicism, taking odd papal statements out of context to prove that Catholics think the Pope is God or whatever. Just lay off these methods if you want to get any respect from non-Catholics whatever. Of course, if you just want to make each other feel good about how stupid Protestants are, who am I to interfere with your little club.

In Christ,

Edwin

Regarding the broader point–singling out Luther’s “odder quotes” is a remarkably silly way of engaging in dialogue with Lutherans. It’s exactly equivalent to the sort of distorted pot shots fundamentalists like Jack Chick take at Catholicism, taking odd papal statements out of context to prove that Catholics think the Pope is God or whatever. Just lay off these methods if you want to get any respect from non-Catholics whatever.

Whoa, there, hold on! The point of taking some of Luther’s odd quotes and using them today are hardly as bad as Jack Chick-the Lutherans have Luther as their founder, so its good to show them what Luther really thought about some issues. For example, Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception.

Of course, if you just want to make each other feel good about how stupid Protestants are, who am I to interfere with your little club.

No one is trying to do that.

The whole point of catholic answers is catholic apologetics.

Contarini: That’s exactly the kind of info I was looking for, thanks. I remembered one other exchange we had.

Me: (during a situation when someone said something nasty about another person at work, and people laughed and nodded heads) “Man…we’re all goin’ to hell.”

Him: “No, your part of the only organization that still believes that”

Me: “Oh yeah, once saved always saved, right?”

I had no idea that Lutherans made a “personal statement of faith” ala fundies.

DELETE

Faith_is_First:

Exactly. Apologetics is supposed to be about actually communicating with people who disagree with you. Rattling off all the offensive things Luther said is just not going to do the job. And if it does it will do it dishonestly–i.e., it might flummox some poorly catechized Lutherans, just as Jack Chick (incredible as it seems) actually succeeds in convincing some Catholics.

I wasn’t talking about citing Luther on issues such as the Immaculate Conception, although Lutherans will probably just shrug and say “well, he kept a lot of Catholic notions that we now reject.” I was talking about things like listing all the times Luther used potty language in his polemic, or the times he called for the massacre of priests and bishops; or taking out of context pastoral remarks he made to scrupulous friends (“sin boldly”) without putting them in their context or addressing the many other places where Luther emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior. Not all of this is on the level of Jack Chick, but some of it is, and all of it is deeply dubious as a form of Catholic apologetics.

opticks,

Lutherans do not historically believe in “once saved always saved.” I’m not sure of the details of the traditional Lutheran stance on this, but Luther himself seems to have believed that you could lose true faith and thus fall away and be lost. In other words, for Luther saving faith was a moment-by-moment thing. While looking to Christ in faith, you were fully united to Christ, his righteousness was imputed to you, and your sins were not counted against you (although of course anyone united to Christ by faith would be zealously doing good works and struggling against sin). But presumably you could start relying on good works and so lose your faith and be damned. In practice, I know that Lutherans in the 16th century wound up functioning much like Catholics, in the sense that people were expected to repent of their sins and be in charity with their neighbors in order to receive the Eucharist; and if they didn’t their salvation was seriously in question. Luther himself endorsed a form of the mortal/venial sin distinction in his sermons on the Sermon on the Mount, agreeing with the Catholic tradition that some sins are incompatible with saving faith and others are not.

As for a “personal decision for Christ,” this is not the way confessional Lutheranism has most often spoken of saving faith. But in fact the modern evangelical notion of conversion and “giving your heart to Jesus” stems (at least in part) from the Lutheran Pietist movement of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Pietists were never more than one wing of Lutheranism, and some of their more extreme views were regarded as heretical by much of the Lutheran establishment. But they were originally a Lutheran movement and they have always had an influence within Lutheranism.

In Christ,

Edwin

Lutherans say that they don’t believe in OSAS. But just ask a Lutheran what sin a Lutheran would have to commit to be damned, and they will start hemming and hawing. It is a question that Lutheran’s don’t know how to answer, because Lutherans have lost all concept of the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and what constitutes Christan perfection. The issue of mortal vs. venial sin is a key that opens the door for Catholic apologetics. Hit the Lutheran with scriptures, and then ask him to interpret the scriptures in light of the historical beliefs of Christianity.

Be forewarned that the typical Lutheran will not give you a direct answers to your questions, but will constantly try and shift the discussion back to faith vs. works. Lutherans, in general, fear the idea that God might actually expect Christian perfection from Christians - this fear is the motivation that drove Luther to found his new religion in the first place. Lutheranism, by and large, has become a form of feel-good Christianity, as was inevitable given the false theolgy that Lutheranism is founded upon.

There is such a thing as deadly sin … there is sin that is not deadly
1John 5:16-17

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death."
Rev 21:8

…nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their immorality or their thefts.
Rev. 9:21

Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1Cor. 6:9-10

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal. 5:19-21

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