Sunday, January 21, 2007

What is a Confessional Lutheran? (Part 1 of 2)

The simple answer is: Depends on whom you ask!

Most every ‘Confessional Lutheran’ will have his own personal definition of what that term means. Some will say that it means conservative. Others may say it is redundant (i.e., if you are a Lutheran, of course you are confessional). Others will say that it means the ‘pastor is in charge.’ Others will say it means that you expect your pastor to wear a certain uniform (such as, a black shirt with a white tab or collar). Still others will say that it means adhering to the historic liturgy, every Sunday communion, private confession and absolution.

Try using the word “confessional” in other contexts. You cannot say ‘confessional Catholic’ or ‘confessional Methodist’ or ‘confessional Baptist,’ etc. If you place the word “confessional” before the name of any religion or Christian denomination, it will only be appropriate to Lutherans. Why is that? The word confessional implies “holding to a confession.” [Yes, the Roman Catholics use the term confessional in regards to a place or act of confessing one’s sins. But that is not the sense of the word we are considering.]

The phrase “confessional Lutheran” could be also stated as “a Lutheran who holds to a confession.” In this case it would refer to the body of documents known as “The Lutheran Confessions.” Every Evangelical-Lutheran pastor is asked at his ordination, if accepts and will teach in accordance with the three ecumenical creeds, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Large and Small Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles and Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord. These documents are gathered into one volume known as the Book of Concord. Likewise, many Lutheran congregations will include these documents in the confessional statement of their constitutions.

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