The Re-Forming of Lutheranism

               Every time I think I’m taking a swipe at Reformed theology, I find I’m hitting the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Since I come from the land of LCMS-dom, I may be hitting other conservative synods and not knowing it. This started with my Reformation 2020 sermon.

               I noted how Luther wrote and The Lutheran Hymnal  sings of Jesus “And there’s none other God” (262:2), while the Reformed translation has “From age to age the same” (Book of Worship for United States Forces, 114:2). Hymns for the Family of God, a popular contemporary, Evangelical, and Reformed hymnbook of the late 70’s and 80’s has the same translation (118:2). In my Reformation sermon, I referenced the fact that Luther liked such statements as, “We know of no God apart from Jesus Christ” and how such statements bother Reformed, Protestant, Nondenom’s, etc.. They do their theology from the First Article. God in His power and might. Lutheranism emphasizes the Second Article of the Creed. God revealed in the Person and Work of Christ.

               I thought this was a good, fair point. Then on the Monday following Reformation Sunday I recalled that following the 1982 Lutheran Worship the 2006 Lutheran Service Book has two versions of A Mighty Fortress. Say it isn’t so! Afraid so. LW 297, given pride of place, is the same as LSB 657 at least there in second place, both have: “God’s only Son, adored.” Try to find that thought in the German and ponder, why “And there’s none other God” is so bothersome today? Because it grates against the Reformed, Protestant, Evangelical theology that is natural to our flesh.

               I’ll give you another example of the LW and LSB Protestantizing confessional Lutheran Theology. August 15 is marked as “Mary, Mother of our Lord.” This is an improvement over TLH which had no such feast day. However, historically this day is “Mary, Mother of God.” And this confession, central to orthodox theology on the Person and Work of Christ, even bothers some of you. But it is Confessional Lutheranism. Formula of Concord, Epitome, VIII, 12 says, “Hence we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not a mere man and no more, but the true Son of God; therefore she also is rightly called and truly is the mother of God.”

               Why the hesitancy to have the feast day if our confession is that plain? The committees who created LW and LSB were concerned with getting conservative Lutheranism back to her liturgical roots, neither TLH or the 1958 Service Book and Hymnal had a Feast Day for Mary at all. So, they swung for the fences putting a feast for Mary on their calendars. However, they ended up hitting a ground ball. Mary, Mother of God confesses the radical truth of Scripture that Jesus, True God was born of the Virgin Mary. Mary, Mother of our Lord, does not.

               I’ll give you another example where TLH  Protestantized. Hymn 167 is O Darkest Woe. Verse two is, “O sorrow dread! God’s Son is dead!” All Protestants, Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Heinz 57 Nondenom’s can and do confess this. But remember as Luther said, If God’s Blood is not shed on the cross it can’t redeem one person let alone the whole world, but because it s the Blood of God one drop is sufficient to redeem the world. The precursor to TLH is the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book. There the line is, “O sorrow dread, Our God is dead!” If Google translator is right (Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that’s all I have.), it’s “God’s self is dead.” The difference between God’s Son and our God being dead on the cross is the difference between beef soup and beefsteak.

               What is published in hymnals and catechisms de facto is the actual confession of a church. What’s in yours?

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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