Saturday 28 August 2010

Caffeinated Confessionalism

No more pedantic species of clergyperson is known in the Christian multiverse than confessional Lutheran pastors. They seem to exist on another level of being to the rest of us, grappling manfully with the complexities of a sixteenth century mindset in a twenty-first century world. Safely shielded behind their off-white dog collars the Enlightenment has yet to shine its warm and healing rays on them. The holy book of these defenders of non-Reformed Protestantism is the Book of Concord, the lens through which everything scriptural and doctrinal must be viewed. "Way back when" Luther, Melanchthon and others put the then emerging evangelical faith (to be distinguished from what Anglo-Reformed types mean by 'evangelical' - that's another blog post) through the sausage machine in order to make it coherent for the intellectually challenged (i.e. small children and members of the German nobility.) What emerged was a compendium of documents known collectively as the Book of Concord.

You can tell a confessional Lutheran from a sane Lutheran by their unquenchable desire to praise the unspeakable excellencies of the BoC. It's much more than the equivalent of an Anglican regard for those forgettable Thirty-nine Articles, or the nonsense Presbyterians of a certain persuasion prate about the Westminster Confession. Confessional Lutherans are people of the book, and the book is the BoC.

It doesn't help of course that the BoC is as riveting as a 1953 telephone directory. Nor does it help that most church members neither read it nor own it. Most can lay their hands on the most popular bit, Luther's Small Catechism - a cutting edge document for the instruction of illiterate peasant kids by the time-honoured rote memorisation method, and a few might be able to dust off a copy of the Augsburg Confession, but whoever found devotional inspiration in the Smalcald Articles?

Enter hip, young and thoroughly caffeinated Missouri Synod pastor Jonathan Fisk. You have to wonder just how many Red Bulls it takes for this bloke to warm up for the camera. And how can he speak so about the saintly Zwingli? (Jim, forgive him!) No shades of grey here, the BoC is "the doctrinal symbol of the true church on earth," "perfect teaching; yes, true doctrine is possible"? Perhaps it's no surprise that Fisk is a convert from a marginal heretical sect (possibly Methodism).

But hey, the guy is kinda entertaining, which isn't something you can say about many LCMS clergy. And the gratuitous sideswipes at Catholic tradition and the Heidelberg Catechism will just make you yearn for the good old days when piety and true doctrine mattered - the Thirty Years' War.


  1. the good old days when piety and true doctrine mattered - the Thirty Years' War.

    Great post! Loved it!

  2. I try to avoid preachers armed with Samurai swords.

  3. "Melanchthon"

    Sounds like some kind of skin disease.

    "an Anglican regard for those forgettable Thirty-nine Articles,"

    Actually, the Anglicans have their own Bible (thus I was reliably informed by an actual Anglican, just recently), called the "Book of Common Prayer" --- so they're pretty much People of the Book, too -- and the book even tells them when to talk back during services! (It's all very bizarre.)

    "Perhaps it's no surprise that Fisk is a convert from a marginal heretical sect (possibly Methodism)."

    I thought the Methodists (known as United Church north of the 49th parallel) were the church of last resort for those who didn't want to be Catholics OR Anglicans? That was the understanding I had, at least; also, I've never run across anything, in re: Methodists saying they're "the one true church" or somesuch bunk like that. (Adventists, on the other hand....)