Lutheran Theological Distinctives

Post by Michael Stoops, Yale Divinity Grad and Pastor at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas

Also, to note, I’m (John Alexander) such a conundrum/watershed/mixture of denominations I can’t even begin to say I’m “this denomination” over another. Eagle Brook, the church I work at, is baptist-based sort-of, but prides itself on appealing to a large variety of denominational backgrounds.

Honestly, I believe I’m simply representative of much of today’s Christianity’s post-denominationalism.

With that being said, Stoops wanted to provide a series on the nuances and variances of Lutheranism. He works for a Lutheran Church, graduated from Yale, and definitely leans more Calvinist/Reformed than Lutheran. And he’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met.

I can tell you that both of us pray, hope, and dream of the renewal of the Lutheran Church at large. In many ways, she has lost her way. For the sake of the Kingdom (not Lutheranism), we both hope for this renewal to occur sooner than later.

Here is his post:

Lutheran Theological Distinctives

What makes us different?

This is a question of identity: Who are we as Lutherans?  What makes us different from the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.?

It can be a tough question, especially in a politically correct culture that points us towards finding the lowest common denominators with other groups.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of working together with others to accomplish the work of the Kingdom.  It becomes problematic, however, when we fail to honor and understand the differences between us.  The differences need not divide us, but they do need to be acknowledged and discussed.  Perhaps, this post-denominational era can be a time when we constructively re-articulate those beliefs that have been central to our faith experience.

What makes us different?

Honestly, I am afraid of the answers that Lutherans sometimes give.  “We are all about grace.”  As though, somehow Lutherans achieved a monopoly on grace and thankfully have not shared it with anyone.  “We are German/Norwegian/Swedish.”  As though, God chose these Nordic and Germanic people from all the nations to especially bless.  “We are liturgical.”  As though, every Lutheran church worships in exactly the same way.  Furthermore, from the jokes from the pulpit to conversation during fellowship time at Lutheran churches, you would think that Lutherans were the only group that eats food (usually in casserole form), drinks beer, drinks coffee, makes lefse or lutefisk, and can make fruit float in green jell-o.

In the 1970s, James A. Scherer commented: “It is an unpleasant but undeniable fact that Lutheran identity today consists mostly of the cultivation of Lutheran adiaphora [hymnal, liturgical practice, model constitutions, education materials, centralized boards, etc.].  So pervasive is our sense of Lutheran…identity at this level that we are apt to think that it is the main thing about churchmanship.  We are, in short, most identifiably Lutheran precisely at the point where the reformers said there should be the greatest liberty.”

Thus, it is our theology that should make us different not what color hymnal we use or where our ancestors came from.

In the coming weeks, we will be examining eight core areas where Lutheran theology is distinctive and, I believe, can offer some constructive conversation to the wider Christian community.