Questions On Lutheran Theology

To make a long story short, an artist I listen to who goes by the name FLAME recently released an album highlighting many of his new doctrinal stances stemming from Lutheranism as he has recently ‘converted’ during/after seminary at Concordia. (Prior to this he was reformed, though I’m not sure which denomination -if any- he ascribed to).

He began posting videos alongside Doctor/Pastor Jordan Cooper whom he learned much of his newfound theology from. I had previously had absolutely zero exposure to Lutheranism, the Lutheran Church, or anything with Luther in it aside from basic knowledge about Martin Luther himself and his role in the reformation. That being said, I became curious as to their beliefs and figured I may as well educate myself to see what they’re about.

After watching several videos of Dr. Cooper and doing a small bit of reading I think I’m beginning to grasp some of the major differences between the Lutheran Church and mainstream (non liturgical) Protestantism but still have some questions/fuzzy areas I was hoping some of you can address.

1.) Baptism
I know Lutherans do not believe Baptism is merely a sign/symbol but that it is a means of grace and has actual efficacy to cleanse sins (so I guess they believe it is salvific?) but do they also believe that if a man or woman professes Christ, repents & believes upon Him to forgive their sins but is not baptized for w/e reason before they die (even if its several years later unlike the thief on the cross) that they are not saved?

2.) Eucharist
I also know that they believe that the real presence of Christ is in the bread and wine. And that like baptism, it is not merely a symbol as most protestants believe. Although I still don’t know how exactly this differs that much from the Catholic view of transubstantiation which says the bread is the literal body and the wine the literal blood.

Every explanation I’ve listened to as to why they do not believe it is symbolic as most of Protestantism does is because they are simply taking scripture at face value. So when Jesus says, “This is my body broken for you…” They take it literally rather than metaphorically and that other protestants are sort of ignoring what the scripture really says. My question here is, Jesus often spoke parabolically, he even makes statements such as, “I am the door” but nobody actually believes Jesus means to say he is a literal door so why do Lutherans not allow for metaphoric usage of language in dealing with the Eucharist?

3.) Assurance
I learned that Lutherans do not believe in ‘once saved, always saved’ or as some refer to it, the doctrine of ‘perseverance of the saints.’ They believe that you can legitimately ‘fall away’ and they cite several texts to support this view. My questions on this are as follows (because I haven’t heard counter verses dealt with yet):

—How do they handle texts such as Jesus saying he will not lose any of his sheep, or the concept of salvation linked to being ‘born again’ (can you then go back to being un-born-again? If you’re made a ‘new creation’ how do you then un-make this new creation? Does the holy spirit vacate the believer all of a sudden… is there any precedent for this in scripture?), or eternal life beginning at conversion… how is it able to be called ‘eternal’ if you can then forfeit it later on?

—I always thought that the idea of never losing your salvation was the more historical position held by the church but it turns out I was wrong? Dr. Cooper states that most of the church fathers’ writings make it clear that they believed one could walk away from the faith after having been genuine believers (as opposed to the reformed view that if someone walks away they were never really saved to begin with). How did the majority view then switch to the belief that one cannot lose their salvation today (at least it seems that way to me) ?

4.) View of other Protestants
Given the above 3 points and the fact that it seems to me at least that Lutherans believe their belief about the sacraments to be essential to the Christian faith. Do they believe other protestants such as non-liturgical Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Non-Denominational, etc are genuine Christians who are saved but just ‘missing out on some of the means of grace’ or do they believe them to be heretics who are not saved?

These are genuine questions I am posing as someone who is trying to challenge some of my doctrinal beliefs, learn more about God, and understand the positions of my other brothers and sisters and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read and respond to this :slight_smile:

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@N0tThe1ne Great questions :slight_smile: You might consider separating each of these questions into separate threads: baptism as a means of grace, Christ’s presence in the eucharist, and once saved always saved. While I am not Lutheran and therefore cannot speak to the first two, I can give you plenty to read on once saved always saved. We’ve had a whole book discussion here on Connect on John Lennox’s book “Determined to Believe”.

I’ve actually never met a believer from any denomination, even Catholic, who said that all believers outside their denomination were outside of salvation. So I think that would be a very extreme position only to be found in cults.

Thoughts on Eternal Security

A few reasons someone might believe you could lose your salvation are listed below - this list is not comprehensive:

  • God warns us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling
  • God talks about Churches in Revelation that have left their first love
  • the Israelites rejected God as King even though they were chosen
  • Saul rejected God even after prophesying and being anointed
  • the passage you mentioned from Hebrews 6 seems to imply that while it is a very serious and rare thing, someone could choose to leave the faith (quoted below)
  • in Deuteronomy 28 God lists curses if the Israelites do not keep His covenant even though they are already His chosen nation - clearly God thinks it is possible to freely leave the covenant, though again it is serious business

Hebrews 6:4-8 - It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Romans 9

This passage does not necessarily suggest individual predestination in my opinion. William Lane Craig presents what to me is a more rational way of reading the text.

Paul’s burden, then, in Romans 9 is not to narrow the scope of God’s election but to broaden it. He wants to take in all who have faith in Christ Jesus regardless of their ethnicity. Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.

Connect Book Study / Threads

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@SeanO Thank you for taking the time out of your evening to reply, I greatly appreciate it! Its funny that you mention Lennox’s book… I’ve recently gone through it twice. As someone who considered myself reformed for about a decade, his book actually changed the way I view many texts and scripture as a whole… very enlightening, and in some ways, freeing on a personal level.

In the broader context of just the general rift between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility I don’t think I’ve ‘swung’ completely to the other side though. I find myself somewhere in the ‘middle’ because I still see such a paradox in scripture, as if it was never meant for us to truly iron everything out into neat little doctrines to hang on a wall.

That being said, I don’t want to make this thread solely about this issue (perhaps I may take your advice to create separate threads depending on the responses I receive here), but I know you’re linking this to my third point about assurance because of the fact that its typically Calvinists or reformed Christians who believe in it but for some reason the vast majority of Christians I’ve dialogued with seem to agree in ‘once saved always saved’, many of whom would never in a million years call themselves reformed which is why I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that it was the majority view in the Church (at least the American church).

The scriptures you reference/posted definitely indicate the possibility of walking away, and that Hebrews passage is one that has given me sheer terror during a long stint of rebelliousness and I can quite honestly say no other passage scares me more…though I have heard other interpretations indicating a different context/audience for it rather than as some general warning for Christians who wander into periods of sin.

Even despite these passages, I again find tension in the scriptures because as weighty as these are, they still don’t ‘cancel out’ (at least in my mind) the passages & concepts I referenced in my post which to me strongly indicate one cannot lose their salvation. So I am left with yet another seemingly paradoxical issue that I can’t wrap my head around. The fact that I’m even debating it right now is crazy to me after a decade of being so confident.

Thank you again for dialoging with me on this!

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@N0tThe1ne I’m glad you’re considering alternatives and growing - may the Lord bless you on that journey :slight_smile:

I do not believe in once saved, always saved, and I can honestly say it does not scare me in the least that there could be a possibility of losing salvation. I still trust God to complete the good work that He started and I trust His mercy and grace. God’s character is still one of compassion and steadfast love no matter our view on this particular doctrine.

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@SeanO Thank you, any prayers would also be appreciated as my wife and I are also currently looking for a home Church and I am considering a possible change in career path in the future.

I think I get what you’re saying, but its only comforting to me with certain qualifiers attached which may or may not be the case. To start with, ‘once saved always saved’ can be equally terrifying if you find yourself in sin and begin the cycle of questioning whether you are truly among the elect…then you start looking inward at your ‘fruit’ and obviously since you’ve been in sin you do not see it, so then the evidence of your election/salvation starts to become ‘works-based’ as you continually look inward rather than upward at which point you’re no longer dealing with the gospel. I’ve been through this and it only made my condition worse.

On the other hand, I think its important to define what is meant by saying one has the ability to ‘fall away’ or ‘lose’ their salvation, assuming this is true. If by ‘lose’ we mean it in the sense of something that falls out of your pocket then that can be terrifying as well. But if it can only be ‘lost’ by willfully rejecting God and his offer of salvation then it seems to make more sense and what scripture says (which you’ve alluded to) of God finishing the work he began in us can still be true (it could not be true if you just simply ‘lose’ your salvation as in the first sense I mentioned). This seems to be along the lines of the ‘unpardonable sin’ which many define as cursing the Holy Spirit… for if you reject the spirit of God and thus his offer of salvation then there is no other means by which a man can be saved, you are thus lost.

The one thing that comes to mind here is Romans 8:35-39 as I wouldn’t know what to do with this passage. People who believe that you cannot lose your salvation often reference it and add the clause that “if all these things cannot separate you then neither can you separate yourself,” to which some may object and say, “well it doesn’t say that you can’t, everything that is mentioned is external” but then it does say “nor anything else in ALL creation” which would include yourself no?

Would you be so kind as to tell me how you personally make sense of this passage in light of the belief that one can ‘lose’ / walk away from their salvation?

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@N0tThe1ne That is an important point that falling away, if it can happen, is not something unintentional or easily done, but rather a willful rejection of what has been offered.

Here are a few possible alternative readings taken from blog post below. Personally, I agree with Dunn that Paul is not trying to address the question that we are wanting to answer—namely, did God choose who would be saved before the world began / perseverance of the saints? I don’t think that these are topics Paul is addressing, so I think if we go to this text looking for those answers we will inevitably read our own perspective in rather than receiving what Paul is trying to say.

“Paul is not inviting reflection on the classic problem of determinism and free will, or thinking in terms of a decree which excludes as well as one which includes. . . . His thought is simply that from the perspective of the end, it will be evident that history has been the stage for the unfolding of God’s purpose, the purpose of the Creator fulfilling his original intentions in creating.” (p. 81. Citing Romans 1-8 James Dunn, (Dallas: Word, 1988, p. 486 Now published by Thomas Nelson)

Walls and Dongell offer three different possible readings all from an Arminian perspective. Here’s just the first one.

“Many point out that Paul expresses the last step in the past tense ( glorified ) even though for Paul and all Christians to date, glorification lies in the future. Less often realized is that the third and fourth steps ( called and justified ) are likewise presented as past events, though God has been and continues to be about the business of calling and justifying people down through the ages. This may show us that Paul is viewing the entire series not from a vantage point within history but from the end of human history, after God has brought to completion the whole redemptive plan. Seen from the end of history, Paul observes that all Christians who have been glorified have of course been foreknown, predestined, called and justified.” (p. 81)

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Thank you for posting these questions. I have never been familiar with the teachings of the Lutheran denominations (I used to think they were what are called reformed churches but I have since learned better). I just wanted to mention that I grew up in the denomination called the Church of Christ and most of those churches believed you could not be saved if you weren’t baptized, because baptism is commanded and you would be lost if you did not obey all commands, we never believed once saved always saved (we believed every sin committed, intentional or unknowingly, put us in danger of losing our salvation unless we repented, thus always giving us the feeling that we could be lost at any day of the week if we die before we repent of a sin), and that anyone claiming to be a Christian who was not in perfect agreement with our denomination (we believed everyone else was a denomination and that we were the true church of Christ and not a denomination) was lost, therefore we did not acknowledge the teachings of anyone not affiliated with the “Church of Christ”. I just thought you might be interested to know that there is a fairly large denomination with these beliefs. They aren’t as well known as Baptist’s, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholic, etc, but they are found all over the country.

The question of whether anyone can lose their salvation is very interesting and I’m enjoying this conversation. I’m sorry I don’t actually have anything to contribute to these questions about Lutheran beliefs. :smirk:

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Concordia Lutherans are Missouri Synod. Concordia is the name of the University and is a name that follows on many Missouri Synod missions such as homes and hospitals. They follow the Book of Concord, the teachings of Luther and his early followers. They are conservative. The ELCA is a more secular version of Lutheranism.

That being said, they believe that there is a holiness in the baptism and the bread/wine. It is not a symbol to be treated as a simple tool to be cast about without care or respect. A T-shirt is a symbol of your belonging to a group such as a sports team but it is not meant to be treated with respect. You can through it on the floor, burn it what ever you want to do with it because it is a symbol. The Catholics and the Lutherans (especially those from the Concordian tradition) see it was a transference from a meaningless symbol to something spiritual and real, thus holy, part of Christ. Therefore, if you treated the bread/wine with disrespect, it is like treating Christ and his gift for us with disrespect. Kinda like Satan joining Christ in the last supper and laughing and joking about what was to come later that night. Communion is holy and must be understood as such prior to ingesting hence Lutherans do not share the bread/wine with those who do not understand it to be holy. Joe-smoe can’t bring his dog into a church and insist that his dog also partake in communion. Nor can Joe’s 3 year old ingest the bread/wine because there is no understanding, no respect that can be understood by the 3 year old child nor by the dog.

Yes, they believe a person must be baptized to be saved. Hence, infants are baptized. A child who hasn’t been baptized drives the Lutherans to fits, what happens if the child dies? They are using the verse in the Bible that says that you must confess your belief and be baptized. How over, what about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized but he was with Christ in paradise. Also, what type of baptism is to be performed? There are at least 3 types – water, fire and trials/tribulation…I still would baptize because the bible says to do so. Will an unbaptized person go to hell? Lutherans teach it but not all believe it.

I forgot what your other point was…sorry.

I am Missouri Synod raised, baptized and confirmed.

tl