To put this journey into perspective, it might be helpful to mention the "brand" of Christianity from which I departed. I was a Calvinistic Baptist, influenced most profoundly by a pastor named John Piper. As it is not my intention at the moment to address in detail what I perceive to be the harmful teachings of both Calvinistic and Baptistic theologies, I will only mention that Calvinism robs a person of the objectivity of the Gospel. That is, there is no way that a person can know that the good news of Christ's death and resurrection is for him without first finding hope in something within himself, namely, his own faith. This is, in an important way, a denial of the Gospel (which I hope to address in a later post), and I like to say that teachers like Piper, Mark Driscoll, Paul Washer, and others of The Gospel Coalition variety led me by the hand into Lutheranism. And I thank them for that.
Nevertheless, it was in the midst of honestly acknowledging my own utter sinfulness and failures that I discovered the blessed Lutheran faith. I once heard a pastor say that it is the Evangelicals who realize their brokenness who will dare to darken the door of a Lutheran church, and I very much believe this to be true. The Lutheran church is a home for sinners. And it is a place where Evangelicals can find rest.
But it is not just because I was tired of being a hamster in a wheel that I became a Lutheran. That was just what initiated my search and my growing belief that there had to be something more. Surely Christianity held better news than what I had been taught. What I discovered was a Christ-centered, Cross-focused theology that taught the pure, unadulterated word of God. My eyes were opened to doctrines that my hyper-spiritualized bias caused me to deny throughout all those years I spent as a Baptist, such as baptismal regeneration (for babies too!) and the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. There they were, plain as day in the text, rationalized away by unbelief. And I finally found the peace that Christianity promised but never seemed to deliver. There is nothing like knowing that the Gospel is "for you." Full stop. No doubts linger any longer. For Christ shed His precious blood for me, and I am His baptized child.
Two events from this year are worth rejoicing in: the baptisms of my children and our first communion in the Lutheran church. As Baptists, we had, unfortunately, withheld baptism from our children when they were born, so when our four, three, and one year olds were buried and raised with Christ, it was amazing. I held each of my dear ones as they received the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through God's word in the waters of Holy Baptism. When our fourth child was born this Spring, she was given all of God's precious, saving gifts five days later. All of my children are Christians, sealed by the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Trusting in Christ's promises where they are found, we no longer wonder and hope that God would show them favor at some unspecified date in the future. I weep for those who struggle over their children in this way because they are unaware of God's willingness to give them all this and more. I weep that I was once there.
The second equally memorable event was our first taste of the body and blood of our Risen Lord. I grew up a Roman Catholic, so it was not as though I had never had the true body and blood of Christ, but I cannot say that I ever gave it a second thought or understood what was happening. As a Baptist, I denied it outright; I, perhaps unknowingly, called Jesus a liar. So when we finally learned the biblical doctrine of the Supper, we hungered for it and were overjoyed to receive it. To state a truth that would have scandalized me a little over a year ago, the Lord's Supper is the Gospel. The body and blood given and shed for us on Calvary are delivered to us to eat and drink in the Divine Service each Sunday for the forgiveness of our sins. This is the New Testament in His blood.
I could go on and on about those things I cherish in Lutheran (aka biblical) theology. The comfort it gives is astounding. Indeed, ain't no Gospel like a Lutheran Gospel. But my experience hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows. Despite the glorious doctrines found within this theological tradition, not all within this tradition appreciate it. Many would rather mimic the methods employed at the Evangelical churches I used to frequent in order to be more "missional." Lex orandi, lex credendi. The way we worship and conduct business shows what we truly believe. When we worship like Evangelicals, we prove that we believe like Evangelicals, namely, that the means of grace, word and sacrament are insufficient to grow Christ's church. But despite this rain on my parade, and despite the fact that I have to drive past three Missouri churches on my hour and a half trek to a Missouri church that is actually Lutheran in doctrine and practice, I am still profoundly thankful to have found this truth and comfort, where Jesus' word is taught in all its purity.
Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.