20 October 2007

An Honor Long Since Past

I was reading some in Sasse today, and came across this passage. I think it is very sad that we can no longer make such a claim:

Despite its decided rejection of false teachings which prevail in other churches, our church has never denied the presence of the church of Christ in the established churches of England and Scotland, in Holland and Switzerland, in Spain and Italy, in Greece and Russia. It has not tried, therefore, to conduct missions for the Lutheran confessional church in these countries, just as it has avoided the "evanglicalization" of Catholic territories in Germany. Let all those who accuse Lutheranism of intolerant confessionalism reflect on the fact that the Lutheran Church is one of the very few churches in Christendom which has never, under any circumstances, engaged in propaganda for itself or conducted missions among Christians of other persuasions. (Here We Stand, pp. 182, 183)

Ah, how unablaze can you get, I ask you? Yes to missions where Christ has not been named, but a refusal to attempt proselytizing Christians of other confessions to embrace Lutheranism.

"Our church knows that it can do no more than bear witness before Christendom, before all communions and denominations, to the understanding of the divine Word which has been vouchsafed it. What happens to this witness, whether it is heeded or not, does not lie in its power. Thus the two statements stand side by side: the Lutheran Church which is faithful to its confession is the true church of Jesus Christ, and the church of Christ is not limited to the church of the Lutheran Confession. The two statements are inseparably connected to the Lutheran doctrine of the church." (p. 183)

The whole of the book is worth attending to, but perhaps particularly Sasse's last chapter titled *The Lutheran Church and the Una Sancta.*


WM Cwirla said...

This would be worth reading at next week's Reformation services.

solarblogger said...

Under Thesis XX of The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Walther says some similar things. But he shades his discussion in the opposite direction from Sasse. In Thesis IX Walther included Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians under the word 'sects'. And under Thesis XX he says that people cannot remain in a sect once they see their error. While I can follow how one should not willingly remain in error, he easily equates remaining in a church that teaches erroneously on a point with remaining in the error itself. And leaving such a body is, in Walther's mind, necessary as a confession of faith (top of page 339).

From my own experience, weighing out leaving my Presbyterian church required looking at the two churches as a whole. I found the Lord's Supper tipped the scales. But it was not as easy as following an abstract principle of leaving once I saw that an error was taught.

It is also a little unclear as to whether Walther approved of those who tried to persuade him to leave the unionistic body he had been in.

I would love to hear more of the older passages behind Sasse's claim. Walther is able to cite the controversies between Luther and Zwingli to establish his position, but he applies his conclusions a bit woodenly.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Pastor Weedon, this is quite interesting. Thank you.

I would hope and agree about the requirement not to evangelize whose who are at least exposed to the Word, but some of the things we hear from people who claim to be Christian are so flawed you wonder if Christ is with them.

Today I was at an ecumenical "Christian" soccer league banquet. While the comedian-presenter actually had some decent Gospel in his presentation, the Nazarene minister who followed pooped all over it with his "if you are sincere" and "I know from experience" and "I want to apologize for all the churches who have caused such division by not focusing on the personal relationship with Jesus Christ..."

If we could win hearts from that kind of crap I would think more people would be written in the Book of Life. Of course, one wouldn't frame it in a "Lutheran is better than Nazarene because..."-style, but we would just proclaim the truth, and if a Nazarene hears it, so be it. :)

Unknown said...

There's much food for thought here...

It appears to me that Lutherans can testify to the truth as found in the Scriptures,the Church catholic and confessed in the Symbols in two ways: one for the people among whom Christ is unknown and the other for those of "other Christian persuasions". In the former the knowledge of Christ is not present and in the latter the knowledge of Christ may be obscured.
When I speak to Christians of other persuasions I attempt to highlight the common ground and speak of Lutheranism after. When I pray for them I also pray that despite erroneous teaching that the Gospel may come in full force to them and leave the rest of the work up to the Holy Spirit in the the Blessed Trinity.
I think Luther might have said something along the lines of salvation being possible outside of the Church but not outside of Christ. So it stands to reason, that testifying to the power of the Gospel will take on different approaches with the two groups; perhaps two distinct but not separated approaches....
I, too, was once a Christian of a different persuasion and don't believe I did not have the knowledge of Christ but,now, greatly rejoice in a fullness in the Church of the Augsburg Confession.

Just my 0.02 cents worth of opinion. :-) Any thoughts?

William Weedon said...


Amen. When I speak with a Baptist, I rejoice in the Sacred Scriptures and their utter reliability and truthfulness. When I speak with a Roman Catholic, I rejoice in our Lord being the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. Both of those have ramifications further out for more discussion, but they produce some common ground from the get-go. To build upon the shared truth and to walk out further on it - that's the way to truly engage each other.

William Weedon said...


There's quite a history behind Sasse's contention in the chapter, and he gives a good bit of Luther on the question too (and also Nicolai). The book is worth its weight in gold in my opinion.


Indeed! When apostasy reaches a level where one just can't be sure that ANY Gospel is left, then we're in Lito's first category again.

Unknown said...

Fr. Weedon,

Thanks for the reaction(s)to my thoughts. However, you keep referring to me as "Lito". I have nothing against the name, but it's not mine :-)

William Weedon said...

Goodness, Omar! I don't know how I got you and Lito mixed up. Lito is an internet friend from the underside of the equator. I'm not sure how I mixed up your responses, but I do ask your pardon.

Unknown said...

Well, you are forgiven :-p

I do live very much to the south of where you are but not quite *that far* to the south...not to the underside of the equator anyway.


Anonymous said...

To build upon the shared truth and to walk out further on it - that's the way to truly engage each other.

Amen to that, Pastor Weedon!

solarblogger said...

Thanks. I do own the Sasse book. But mine is an old hardback copy from 1942 (when it was given to someone's father for Christmas) or earlier. The pagination was different, so the pages you cite don't correspond to pages in my book. Could you direct me to the appropriate chapter? (I have done some looking, and wonder if this is an earlier edition.)

William Weedon said...


In my edition it is the final chapter, chapter V.