Full Text for Current Lutheran Beliefs and Misbeliefs According to 'A Study of Generation (Text)

Current Lutheran Beliefs and Misbeliefs According to "A Study of Generations" I N 'THE LAST TEN years a nrinlber of socioIogica1 studies deal- ing with Lutherans have appeared in the Lnitcd States. In 1968 1%. Stark and C. Y. Glock issued At~aericau Piety: the Nature of Re- ligio7ts Coznr~zit~r~ent. The nest year J. I<. I-iadden published The Gntheri~tg Storm in the Chzlrches. In 1 970 \iTaltcr 'Fheophil Janzow rnacle a study of the 1,utheran Churc11-Alissouri Synod's beliefs and practices, entitling his study, Seczllnrizntio~z it2 An Orthodox De- 1zoi7zntiox (available from the publisher, University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, i\lichigan). In the saixe year Dr. Lanlrence L. Icersten pub- lished The L7~thera1z Et7zic: Tke 1vzpnc:t of Xeligio?~ o7z Laymen nlzd Clergy. 1onsibly By a skilled team. 'The first tllorough denominational portrait has set high standards for others to follow." The authors wrote: "The task of assembling the information could be conlpared with the task of fitting together 7,000,000 pieces of massive jigsaw puzzle with the box cover picture miss- ing. To minimize the subjective influence of the research team in assembling the data, empirical methods were used which would allow the data to organize thernselves" (p. 286). Most of the 7,000,000 answers are said to have grouped themselves around 78 descriptive dimensions, which formed 13 factors. Con~~arecl with the Glock research the controls employed by the four-~~tan research team factorecl out many of the things that rnadc the study of Glock deficient in that it had glaring oversimplifi- cations and generalities. 'Thus Glocli equated prejudice and anti- selnitism with "orthodox" or conservative theology. The publishers of A Study of Generations claim that it is the most complete study ever rnade of the personal beliefs, values, attitudes and behavior of a major religious group in the United States. The Lutherans who participated n7cre between the ages of 15 and 65. There is in this bool< a storehouse of inforrl~ation for today's church leaders. This penetrating booli transcends thc usual measurement of a church's vitality-statistics, that usually give the assets, income, geographic location, membership and activities of individual or collective churches. Because of the sufficient inagni- tude of the research here for the first time is revealed the diversity and general posture of what church members of three major Lu- theran church bodies value, believe ancl do. A study of generations emphasis was in part a control to. check age and educational differences against 740 items on the inter- views. The four lnajor generations are 15-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-65. However, the subgenerations of youth: 15-1 8, 19-23, 24-29 were also significant to the study. Much of the study of youth verifies concepts developed by Erik Erkson's study of life cycles and espe- cially his works on Luther and Ghandi. This massive study gives answers to questions relating to the clergy-laity gap, outlines the tension factors between generations, sets forth the prejudices, behavior patterns, biblical l. ~.U'I'HERI~NS AND THE DEVII, The devil is describecl in E-Ioly Writ as the demonic person- ality that tenlpteci Eve in Eden, that caused Davicl to nun~bcr the people, \vllo tenlpted Jesus in the wilderness and ivho is active tempting and seducing people to sin. Luther and the Lutheran Con- fessions believe in Satan's reality and in his activities. rissociated with the devil's er;istence is the corollary doctrine of evil angels n~ho according to the Neiv Testament on occasion took bodily possessio~l of human beings. According to the Report 75 % of the illembers of the i\/Iissouri S~~noci believe in the Devil's reality, ivhile onIy 50 % of the ALC, alld 3 3 % of the TEA. Historic J-utheranism has emphasized the necessity of the cor- rect relationshil> bettveen justification and sanctification. Luther taught that justificatiorl occurrccl the moment a person belie\.cd that Jesus Christ had paid for his sins by His vicarious and substi- tutionary death upon the cross. This faith was created in the incti- vidual's heart by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, either by the IVorcl or the Sacraments. 'The nlornent a person's sins are forgiven he is declared righteous and he becomes a member of God's family. Salvation is 100% a gift of God, the forgiven sinner cannot colltribute anything toward his justification and sal~ation. The Rel~ort shows how serious misconceptions exist on this important matter in Anlerican Lutheranism. 33 % of the mcnlbers of the ALC indicate that loving your neifihbor and doing good for others arc absolutely necessary for salvation, i\lore members of the LC- hIS (20% ) definitely reject these assertions than do people affili- ated with the ALC or LCA. LUTHERANS AN11 THE SACRAMENTS Ninety-five percent of Lutherans state that faith, prayer, Bap- tisin are important to them. Only 5 % claim that they are of little importance or of no importance. 54% state that Baptisnl is very important to them. However, only 25 % "strongly agree" that "in the Holy Communion we are given the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins." LUTHERAN BELIEFS ABOUT CHRISTOLOGY TWO of the ecumenical creeds of Christendom collfcss the Virgin Birth of Christ. Two Gospel passages set fort11 the truth that Mary became pregnant because the Holy Spirit brought about this condition in he: womb. According to the Report on117 40% of Lu- therans agreed with the statement: "Jesus was coiceived by the iIoly Spirit and born uf the Virgin Mary" (p. 3 79). Historic Lu- theranism has held to and confessed its belief in the deity of Christ, who is depicted in the iVe.tr7 Testament as possessing the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. 5 6 % of Lutherans reject Christ's omnipresence. According to John 1: 3, Colossians 1 : 16 and I-Iebrews 1 : 2, Christ is set forth as the Creator of all that exists. Yet 54 % of Lutherans who are supposed t.0 draw their doc- trines and beliefs solely from the Holy Scriptures, deny that Jesus Christ created everything. A vital part of Christian doctrine is the correct unclerstanding of the nature and purpose of Christ's death. One of the statements to which responses were requestecl was: "Jesus died for sinners. As a substitute, he suffered the just penalty due to us for sills in order to satisfy the wrath of God and to save guilty nlcn from hell" (p. 379). Only 3 7 % would strongly agree with this statement. Only 24% .tvould assert about those people who deny the substitutionary death of Christ or disbelieve the Pauline statement about the nature of Christ's atoning death that they are not true Christians. Historically Lutherans have recognized only one source for doctrine and ethical directives, the I-ioly Scriptures. That "the Bible is the i,VorcI of God, and that God inspired mcn to report verbally J' what hc said. The Bible in the original test contained no errors, only 24 % iverc willing to accept in 1970. Two of the "solas" of the Lutheran Reformation were soln gratia and soln fide. Salvation is a gift of God anci it is God's grace which pronlptcd Him to create faith in peoplc's hearts in Christ crucified. 59 % believe that the main ernphasis of the Gospel is on God's rules for right living (Scale 15, Item 17, p. 369). 50 % said: "God is satisfied if a person lives the best life he can" (p. 369). Half of the nearly 5,000 Lutherans inter~ie~ved hold that "God is satisfiecl if n person lives the best life he can.'' That at birth a person is neither good or bad is the conviction of one-half of L,utheranism, a stance ulhich conflicts with the Scripture on original sin and the statements in the Lutheran Confessions that subscribe to the cloc- trinc of original sin. 44% believe that "Salvation depends upon being sincere in whatever you believe" (p. 3 69). 3 1 % contend that "If I belicve in God and do right, I will get to Heaven" (p. 369). Onc of the great problems aff ecting Protestant and Lrltheran Churclt~es has been the charismatic movement in the last decade (1960 onward). Speaking with tonglies and miraculous healing were practices and beliefs limited to the holiness churches and Pentecostal churches. Congregations have been divided, pastors have been expelled from some churches, others have resigned and formecl their own churches. Some pastors are speaking about "Lu- thercostals," others are employing the term "Lutheran chariseiples." On page 119 the Strommen report informs us: The charismatic movement has had an impact on Lutheran- ism. Six percent arc sure they have had an experience of speak- ing in tongues and 12 % think they have. This compares with 12% \tho were willing to say that anyone who (lid not be- lieve spenlcing in tongues shouIr1 be practiced today was not a true Christian. An additional 15 % agree that speaking in tongues should be practiced but aren't nrilling to say that a person who disagrees isn't a true Christian (Scale 34, Itcin 7 9). A significant nlinority of Lutherans are either involoccl in the charismatic movement or fairly receptive to it. From other sources, we learn that Lutherans adopting the charis- matic theology have sho~vn a willingness to worship and cooperate with Iloman Catl~olic, Reformecl churches and even theological lib- erals. This of course condones erroneous teachings rejected by the Lutheran Confessions. The doctrine of baptism held by Pentecostals is not the understanding of this sacrament in the Confessions, Neo- Pentecostals do not: Ilold that the Holy Spirit operates solely through the means of grace, Indifference to doctrine and ignorance of Bible teaching could be the reason why two out of three Lutherans are ready for the merger of all 1,utlterans in one Lutheran Church in America, a dream that has been vigorously promoted for a number of years by leaders in all Lutheran denominations, except the Wisconsin Evan- geIical Lutheran Synod. Again the writer asserts that A Stzrdy of Ge~zcrcrtio~zs contains a wealth of infornlation and only certain aspects of this study have been set forth. Since Lutheranisnl, hom~ever, has a definite ethic, it v,1ould not be out of place to call attention to some conclusions that can be made about the current Lutheran scene. The heart of Lutheranism can be succiilctly stated in the four solas: soln Scrip- tzlra, sola grntia, sola fide, solus Christzis. For many Lutherans the BibIe is not the IT70rd of God and the source for obtaining a correct world view, but they allow phi- losophy, human reason or the current feelings and beliefs to deter- mine their Weltnnschauu~zg. h,lillions of Lutherans are as bad off as the heathen, because like the latter they do not ltnom the plan of salvation. Since for a significant minority Christ is not God, he can- not be a Savior. Many Lutherans deny the need for a Savior and believe in salvation by works. Again for at least one-fourth of Luther- anisin this life constitutes man's existence. Beliefs, attitudes and practices are deternlined by what people are taught or what they adopt from their secular reading and con- tacts with non-Lutherans. Indications are that the Lutheran re- ligious press and many Lutheran seminaries have been partly respon- sible for nlany of the nlisbeliefs and doctrinal errors found in Lutheranism today.