Saturday, April 19, 2008

How Many Rosary Beads Must I Smash to Inherit Eternal Life?

The Roman Catholic bashing done by some American Lutherans is unfortunate and annoying. It shows an ignorance of both what the errors of the church of Rome are and of what the Lutheran Church confesses. It also fails to recognize how closely related the errors of Rome and Geneva are. American Lutherans tend to side with other protestants in church d├ęcor, ceremony, and language to avoid “looking Catholic”, which gives the impression that Lutherans and Reformed are much closer in doctrine than they officially are, which, ironically, places these Lutherans much closer, at least in appearance, to the doctrine of Rome.

The following conversation has not actually taken place but is a combination of several real conversations that have occurred over the years.

American Lutheran: “So, I just returned from my vacation in _____(Mexico, South America, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Israel, etc.).”

Angry Lutheran: “Oh, yeah! How was it?”

American Lutheran: “It was great! The buildings are so beautiful, especially the churches. After touring ________ Cathedral, which was only open for tours in the afternoon because they still say Mass (look of disgust comes over face) every morning, we were so happy to find a gift shop a few blocks away run by Christians. It was so refreshing to finally find some people over there who believe that Jesus isn’t still dead.”

Angry Lutheran: “Um, what?”

American Lutheran: “Yeah, we got these nice nickel-plated empty tomb and empty cross keychains.”

Angry Lutheran: “Are you saying that Roman Catholics aren’t Christians?”

American Lutheran: “Well, they don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead!”

Angry Lutheran: “I’m pretty sure they do believe that Jesus rose. They do accept the three Ecumenical Creeds and I haven’t watched EWTN in a while, but I think I would have remembered hearing something about the entire Church of Rome denying the resurrection of our Lord.”

American Lutheran: “All their statues and pictures of Jesus showed him dead on the cross, so it sure seems like they don’t believe that he rose.”

Angry Lutheran: “Church art depicting Christ’s death on the cross is a most comforting sight for Christians. After he suffered for our sins and declared, ‘It is finished’, the punishment for our sins was paid. Because of his death we are washed clean in his blood.
“Aren’t you a member of Backlit Empty Cross Lutheran Church (BECLC)? What does your art tell people? It appears that you worship an ancient form of execution. Your God isn’t even pictured in your church.”

American Lutheran: “Well, everyone knows that Jesus isn’t still on the cross. The empty cross shows that he rose.”

Angry Lutheran: “No, it doesn’t. The empty cross doesn’t show that he was ever on the cross or that he paid the price for our sins. Didn’t your congregation stop praying the historic liturgy because you felt that visitors wouldn’t understand it? Isn’t that why you switched to a praise service? How is it that you don’t expect the visitors to understand what is happening when the liturgy traces the whole story of salvation drawn from Scripture during worship, but you expect them to look at an empty cross and know that Jesus suffered and died on that cross and three days later rose again?”

American Lutheran: “You’re just holding onto tradition.”

Angry Lutheran: “Yup. And so are you. The difference is that the tradition you prefer leads back as far as the Radical Reformation and doesn’t clearly teach what Christ did on the cross. The tradition of picturing Christ on the cross leads back much farther and is truly catholic and Scriptural. St. Paul wrote, ‘We preach Christ crucified’, not hey, look at our empty cross! By the way, did you bother to talk to any Roman Catholics to ask about their beliefs?”

American Lutheran: “You can’t listen to those unbelievers! We have to evangelize them!”

Angry Lutheran: “Is there a bar near here? Suddenly, I need a drink.”


Anonymous Lutheran said...

You make many *excellent* points. However, I would be interested in hearing your reasoning for saying that an empty cross places a Lutheran church closer to the doctrine of Rome. I honestly don't get that part.

Angry Lutherans said...

Hi, Anonymous Lutheran! Like the shades! You look a little like a friend of ours: likes beer, answers to Marty...

Anyway, both Rome and the Reformed believe that you do something to contribute toward your own salvation. In terms of work-righteousness, broadly speaking, they aren't that far apart. Hence, any move toward Reformed doctrine and practice is a move toward doing something toward your own salvation, which is a move toward Rome.

Granted, the empty cross is not the best example of this, but it's something that pisses us off to no end for the reasons included in the original post.

SW said...

Side note: What do you mean by "Reformed?"

I'm friends with a lot of Presbies (PCA, not PCUSA) and they are Reformed....not the Southern Baptist or the non-denom or the Methodist or the, well, you get the idea.

A 5-point Calvinist DOES NOT believe they must choose God, they believe in Irresistable Grace.

Maybe instead of saying Reformed, which brings to mind Calvinists, we could use the term "Arminianist?"

I mean, using the term "Reformed" so broadly is like the Orthodox lumping all the "Protestants"'s not an accurate picture really.

elephantschild said...

You'll love the story of the little country church that was given a beautiful processional cross and refused to ever use it because it was "too Catholic." Sigh.

Don't know if it had a corpus or if it was an empty cross.

Angry Lutherans said...


Who says we're going for accuracy?! A good point, though. We did not have our Calvinist friends in mind; they have other issues.

Angry Lutherans said...


We have also heard tell of congregations where the pastor has been allowed to purchase and use a processional cross, but not a processional crucifix for the same reason: too "Catholic".