Saturday, March 31, 2007

Who I Am -- The Lutheran Confessions

In recent discussions with some fellow LCMS pastors, I was asked whether I consider the Lutheran Confessions descriptive or prescriptive. This question was asked after I gave my reasons for holding to the historic liturgy and the one-year lectionary and for advocating weekly communion.

t has been my observation that when people call the Lutheran Confessions descriptive, they are implying that the Lutheran Confessions are merely historical documents which describe that point in the history of the Lutheran Church and thus have no true relevance today. This is not much different than some theologians who want to move the study of the Lutheran Confessions from the dogmatics/systematics department to the historical department. I thought this problem was simply isolated to the 1960s and 1970s of the LCMS. But the relegation of the Lutheran Confessions to mere historical documents is alive and well in the LCMS of the 21st century.

On the other hand, when people call the Lutheran Confessions prescriptive, they are implying that these documents are a ball and chain that hold us captive or a leash that leads us around. This is a rather legalistic view of these doctrinal masterpieces of the Lutheran Church.

I used to have trouble answering this question, because either answer -- 'descriptive' or 'prescriptive' -- seems to be the wrong one. But when I was recently asked this question at a winkel, I chose 'descriptive' BUT NOT in the historical sense, but in a me sense.

The Lutheran Confessions describe me. When I subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions, it was as if I was standing beside those 16th century theologians and laity who made their confession before emperor and pope. The Lutheran Confessions are not their words, they are my words.

Each pastor, who subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions, should be able to read any portion of these documents and say, 'This is what I believe, teach, confess, and practice.'

And so when it comes to the Lutheran Confessions --I will quote a country-western song -- that's 'Who I Am!'