October 22, 2003
Sundays with Uncle Marty

I'm going to say something that will probably please some of you and disappoint some of you, but them's the breaks. I decided to stop being an ecclesial nomad and pitch my tent at a Lutheran church.

I described before how I visited a Lutheran church and the things I liked about it, but I still had some hesitations -- it was between pastors, it was very small and mostly middle-aged, and I wasn't sure if I'd have a long-term place there. So this past Sunday I tried another Lutheran church that was a little bigger, has a pastor, and is also closer.

I still really dug the liturgy -- it's hard to put my finger on why, I just do. And even though this congregation was bigger, it was just as friendly. The pastor came over and talked to me before and after the service, which I appreciated (the Episcopal church was the only other one where I could have an extended chat with the pastor). I wasn't exactly bowled over by his writing on the website but he came across better in person. The church also has a whole lot of activities going on throughout the week, and even has a midweek service this evening, where I hope to talk more to the pastor about what's going on there.

There are practical reasons I have for liking Lutheranism, but ever since I went to the other church I've felt an attraction I can't fully explain. When I described my feelings to Telford he was sure it was the Holy Spirit, which is pretty big of him considering he never really got over his teenage rebellion against mainline Protestantism. Recently I read Bill Cork's remarkable account of his journey from Adventist to Lutheran minister to Catholic, and I recognized a bit of myself in his view of "Lutheranism as a via media between Rome and the excesses of the Reformed Protestantism of Calvin and Zwingli." Bill wound up in Rome anyway, which I suppose might be telling me something, but this is my journey.

At any rate, I'm pitching a tent rather than building a house, because I'm still uncertain about Christianity in general, and because I also don't know a whole lot about Lutheranism. What I know about "Uncle Marty", as the pastor likes to call him, comes from high-school history and a few quotations here and there. So this announcement is also a question: does anybody know some good introductory readings on Luther? I figure Allen Brill should know something about this...

Posted by Camassia at October 22, 2003 02:13 PM | TrackBack

Uuuups, Lutheran... with all those Lutheran dogmas about "Sola Fide" and "Sola Scriptura"...

OK, take your Bible and please read this web:

Also I recommend you the funny -but serious- book "Rome Sweet Home". You can also try reading a resume of it at the web:

"Try it all and keep the good"

Don't be in a hurry, take your time...

Posted by: Pablo on October 23, 2003 05:21 AM

Roland Bainton's biography of Martin Luther


Posted by: David on October 23, 2003 07:19 AM

You can borrow my copy of Grisar's biography of Uncle Marty.

A respected guest on CSPAN (but not so respected I can recall his name) said the best way to be informed is to eschew TIME & Newsweek and instead read NATIONAL REVIEW and MOTHER JONES.

In that spirit, you could read Tom's "Demon Monk" followed by something praising Luther. :)

Posted by: TSO on October 23, 2003 07:22 AM

I am sure that others can give you better advice on what to read about Lutheranism. As a Roman Catholic who hopes and prays that we may all be one, I hope that, as you learn about Luther, you will keep ecumenical concerns in mind.

Pope John Paul II has written, "Common roots and similar, if distinct, considerations have guided the development in the West of the Catholic Church and of the Churches and Communities which have their origins in the Reformation. Consequently these share the fact that they are 'Western' in character. Their 'diversities', although significant as has been pointed out, do not therefore preclude mutual interaction and complementarity."

Thus, I trust that becoming Lutheran will not lead to exclusivity or isolation but rather to awareness of this "mutual interaction and complementarity." That said, may I suggest reading the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification? Also, a rather interesting, if not uncontroversial book that relates Luther to patristic spirituality, especially the idea of theosis, is _Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther_, edited by Braaten and Jenson.

You will be in my prayers.


Posted by: Neil Dhingra on October 23, 2003 09:34 AM

You could always take the easy way out and see the new biopic "Luther" http://imdb.com/title/tt0309820/ if you happen to live in a place that gets "art" films.

So what do you think about "Justification by Faith Alone"?

Posted by: Duncan Frissell on October 23, 2003 11:29 AM

in my prayers too

hope you find peace, and meet the love of Christ
(wherever you pitch the tent or build the house)

Posted by: hernan on October 23, 2003 12:19 PM

Thanks for the kind words and prayers, all. Believe me, I haven't cut off Catholicism (or the evangelical world, for that matter). I've just come to point where I need to stop and burrow deeper into a church, and this is the one to which I feel most drawn. Where it leads, we shall see.

Posted by: Camassia on October 23, 2003 12:45 PM

I suggest reading Luther rather than reading about him. His Large Catechism is a good place to start. His commentary on Galatians is a good place to gain a better understanding of Law/Gospel. To understand Lutheran doctrine, there's nothing better than Melanchthon's Augsburg Confession.

For the LC online and an older translation of the Galatians commentary, go here. For the Augsburg Confession, go here. Sadly, I had to go back to the LCMS website to find the AC.

Posted by: Allen Brill on October 23, 2003 03:15 PM

Congrats on pitching your tent! I really appreciated what you said about the Holy Spirit calling you there. I felt that was something missing in many of the discussions about Andrew Sullivan's leaving the church. For me, I think being a Catholic is as much about being chosen as it is about my choice. As much as I struggle with certain issues, in the end it may come down to listening to the Spirit.

I also love the tent imagery!

"Enlarge the space for your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly; lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.
For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left. . . " (Isaiah 54:2-3)

Posted by: Regina on October 23, 2003 08:55 PM

Roland Bainton's "Here I stand" is a well-written, lucid biography that covers the times, the person, and the theology really well.

Posted by: walden on October 24, 2003 07:22 AM

Hiya, Cam,

I emailed you a bit ago with a bunch o'links, but now I wonder if you may not have gotten that email. Anyway, here are a few of them, these having to do with Luther. Happy reading!

Project Wittenberg http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/wittenberg-home.html

95 Theses

Augsburg Confession

Book of Concord

Melanchthon 500 anniversary (Uncle Phil was an important colleague of Uncle Marty and key figure in the Reformation)

Luther Institute

By the way, it is a particularly fine time of year to attend a Lutheran church. I hope your church enjoys a joyful celebration of the Reformation this Sunday! And All Saints the next!

As always, blessings on your searching!
Peace, Dash

Posted by: dash on October 24, 2003 03:39 PM

Here's a link to a piece from First Things on "The Catholic Luther", by a professor at a Lutheran seminary:


Posted by: David on October 29, 2003 11:52 AM
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