Pulled and pushed down memory lane

The marvels of Google Desktop… Having had a few problems getting the desktop search to work properly, I did a test search using the word “Lutheran”. One of the results that came up was a note buried somewhere in my Outlook folders, dating back at least two and a half years to when I was still spiralling slowly towards Lutheranism.

Here is the note, verbatim but with a few changes of formatting and other minor edits:

Lutheranism: “pull”, “push” & “fear” factors

PULL FACTORS

  1. Emphasis on the Word as the means of grace.
  2. Efficacy (by faith) of the sacraments as means of grace actually conveying forgiveness of sins and the promises of God in the gospel: “baptism … now saves you”; “this is my body”.
  3. Proper distinction of Law and Gospel.
  4. “God in the flesh and God on the Cross”
  5. The theology of the Cross.
  6. Emphasis on vocations.
  7. Combination of dignified, biblical liturgy with sound, evangelical theology.
  8. The personality and teachings of Martin Luther; the music of J.S. Bach.

PUSH FACTORS

  1. Inability to get [younger son] baptised at current church.
  2. Implosion of Anglicanism, and lack of any nearby Anglican church that is neither theologically unsound nor liturgically chaotic.
  3. Frustrations with current church: strong baptistic emphasis; lack of Words of Institution in the “Lord’s Supper”; Law-heavy preaching; “Happy Birthday” (last but definitely least).
  4. Integrity issue: no longer hold to Basis of Faith at current church.

FEAR FACTORS

  1. Tiny and marginal Lutheran church in UK.
  2. Local Lutheran church may disappoint: small, old, lack of children/creche etc. What if it closed after we joined it?
  3. Loss of communion with other Christians.
  4. Evangelical friends would misunderstand, be disappointed, think we’d “gone Catholic”.

The one comment I have is that most of my fears turned out to be exaggerated. Our local Lutheran church, while scarcely a megachurch, isn’t quite as fragile as I’d feared prior to visiting it.

While some of our more alert non-Augsburg evangelical friends are clearly slightly perturbed by the Lutheran approach to the sacraments, on balance I think they’ve tended to respond well to “the Lutheran take” on issues such as law/gospel, the theology of the cross and vocation. And while being formally “out of communion” may feel a bit awkward at times (especially at Communion services at other churches), overall the “friendship of the baptised” remains strong with all our Christian friends and family members.

And more positively, the “pull” factors remain as strong as ever.

(BTW, if you’re wondering what the reference is to “Happy Birthday” in the “push” factors, our previous church developed the unfortunate habit of singing Happy Birthday during the service if it was somebody’s birthday that week. Since that happened almost every week, “Happy Birthday” ended up as the only fixed part of the “liturgy” at an otherwise fiercely non-liturgical church. Our current church also sings “Happy Birthday”, but after the service, out in the hall.)

(Update: please note the “previous church” referred to in this post was not an Anglican church, but an independent evangelical church we attended between leaving our Anglican church and joining the Lutheran church. See this February 2004 post for the full story of my pre-Lutheran wanderings!)

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