26 October 2007

School of Thought?


Here's an irritation: when folks outside Lutheranism reduce our faith to a "school of thought." It is NOT a school of thought. It is made up of real pastors, teachers, and parishes that are infinitely more than "a way of thinking." It is true that she is recognized by her Confession of the Christian faith, preeminently the Augsburg Confession and the Small Catechism. That means:
  • You can't tell a Lutheran by polity - Lutheran's can live with just about any kind of polity. 
  • You can't tell a Lutheran by liturgy - there's precious little distinctive about that, and Lutherans use their treasure of liturgy in varying degrees, and sadly some leave it mostly shelved.
  • You CAN tell a Lutheran by confession of the faith - and therefore by the altar he or she is joined to. 
But if anyone thinks that the Confession of the Christian faith is "a school of thought" - well, they've not understood the first thing about the nature of Christian confession. It's not a "well, you know I think like this and you think like that." It's a solemn confession made in view of the day of judgment, a resounding "we believe, teach, and confess" about the life that has been given us in Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and lived from the Gospel preached and the Sacraments of Jesus used according to His divine institution.  It's not an opinion to us; its our life!


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Fr. Weedon, many within Lutheranism are directly responsible for the detioration of the faith to become merely a "school of thought." The rigid insistence on categorical distinctions, the applications of reason towards the Scriptures, the implementation of "new" exegesis methods such as the historical-critical or social-critical, etc. have all contributed to Lutheranism being promoted, from within its own ranks, as merely a school of thought. The creedal statements of "I believe..." can be replaced with "I intellecutally assent to..."

When the mystery or the ineffability of God has largely gone out the window, it is very easy for any faith (and I'm including Orthodoxy in this) to become merely a set of ideals to subscribe to or not.

This is lamentable. Only rigid catechesis and a stable liturgical prayer life can bring the faithfulness back to the faithful (and again I also speak of the Orthodox).

Randy Asburry said...

I wouldn't worry about it. Without conceding the point that Lutheranism is merely a "school of thought" (though I also appreciate Christopher's point), it may help to remember that various "schools of thought" have existed in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church long before Lutheranism. Remember the "school of thought of Antioch" and the "school of thought of Alexandria"? I believe each was still considered within the pale of Christendom.

WM Cwirla said...

I'm inclined to agree with Randy on this one. "School of thought" is not so troubling to me if we mean by it a perspective carrying certain key distinctives. In the case of Lutherans, that would be the centrality of justification (both objective and subjective), the sacramental-incarnational understanding of the Word, and the proper distinction of the Law and the Gospel. Of course, these are not exclusively Lutheran concepts, but they are among the Lutheran emphases or distinctions which might comprise a Lutheran "school of thought," without which Christianity as a whole would be greatly impoverished.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Please accept my apology for having used the term of Lutheranism. I have now changed it in my blog to "tradition."

I certainly didn't mean to reduce Lutheranism to a "school of thought" but to address specifically its theology; hence the inadvertently offensive word.


William Weedon said...


Apology accepted; I'm sure it was not an intentional slam - I know you better than that.

Christopher, Randy, and William,

Thanks for your thoughts as well.

WM Cwirla said...

The juxtaposition of the two terms "school of thought" and "tradition" is interesting. What keeps the Lutheran confession from being simply a "school of thought" is its received "tradition." Because so many "Lutherans" have forsaken the Lutheran tradition, it has become nothing more than an intellectual acceptance of some dogmatic principles, namely, a "school of thought." Kind of the difference between the Lutheran confession of the faith and generic Lutheranism.

123 said...

"School of thought" is perfectly acceptable when viewed from the outside by those that share none or little of the assumptions inherent in one's position. in the religious sphere, this is esepcially true when viewing religious thought as a kind of intellectual thought, not as some wholly separate thing. For instance, one could refer to a Confucian school of thought, a Swedenborgian school of thought, a New Age school of thought, even Islamic, Thomist, Non-Possessor, Non-Jurist, Palamite, Athonite, Lutheran and Confessional Lutheran schools of thought. Those within a given religious tradition do not see their position as a 'school of thought' - they simply see it as 'the Truth' - but such is to the case when discussing or comparing the thought/belief patterns of those with whom we disagree. I don't think any offense need be taken.