Are Lutherans Anti-Catholic?

Hermann Sasse had a great insight to this question:

“Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in that it lays great emphasis on the fact that the evangelical church is none other than the medieval Catholic Church purged of certain heresies and abuses. The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Athanasius and Ireneaus once belonged. The orthodox evangelical church is the legitimate continuation of the medieval Catholic Church, not the church of the Council of Trent and the [First] Vatican Council which renounced evangelical truth when it rejected the Reformation. For the orthodox evangelical church is really identical with the orthodox Catholic Church of all times. And just as the very nature of the Reformed Church emphasizes its strong opposition to the medieval church, so the very nature of the Lutheran Church requires it to go to the farthest possible limit in its insistence on its solidarity and identity with the Catholic Church. It was no mere ecclesiastico-political diplomacy which dictated the emphatic assertion in the Augsburg Confession that the teachings of the Evangelicals were identical with those of the orthodox Catholic Church of all ages, and no more was it romanticism or false conservatism which made our church anxious to retain as much of the old canonical law as possible, and to cling tenaciously to the old forms of worship.”
Here We Stand, pp. 110-111

So no, Lutherans are not Anti-Catholic.  In fact, one of the worst reasons to avoid something is if it is “too Catholic”.  I’ve heard this argument used when it comes to the ceremony and decorum of the Church (ie:  chanting, vestments, incense, bowing, making the sign of the cross have all been accused as being “too Catholic”).  When such an argument is made, so long as such a practice does not directly contradict the Gospel, if one is being consistently Lutheran, the accusation “that’s too Catholic” actually is making the case that such a practice should be enacted.

3 thoughts on “Are Lutherans Anti-Catholic?

  1. Revisionism… Next thing you know, you’ll be using the term ‘catholicity’. I am aware that the holy Reformation, was not a replacement of The Church. However, an affinity with Catholicism and its theology is incompatable. I find Catholicism to be of a fatalism, that is incompatable with liberty in Christ. I find the prospects that corruption of the early church by Ceasar, to be plausable as well.

  2. It cannot possibly be “revisionism” as “Catholic” is one of the very terms that the earliest Lutherans used to describe their theology. In the Augsburg Confession, authored by Phillip Melanchthon with considerable input from Martin Luther, Lutherans confess the following:
    “This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority… Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience.”
    -Augsburg Confession Article XXI (Triglotta Translation)

    As to “corruption of the early church by Caesar”, well there simply is no historical evidence of such a thing happening. In fact, to the contrary, the early Church in her confession Jesus is Lord boldly defied Caesar. This is also borne out in the various martyrologies (though I admit, some of them may embellish the facts… ie I doubt Polycarp smelled like frankincense when he was burnt or that his blood extinguished the pyre).

    I think the thing that is confusing for you is the very term “Catholic” which many simply equate to that which those who follow the pope believe. I have heard a quote attributed to a former Seminary Professor (which one, I am not certain) that said, “That which is uniquely Roman is not Catholic. That which is Catholic is not [uniquely] Roman.” In other words, the Vatican does not have exclusive claim to the term “Catholic.” As Lutherans we would point out that the faith that we confess is the faith that is confessed in Scripture and by the Church for nearly 2 millennia and that it is Rome, not Lutherans who have diverted from the pure teaching of Scripture. To say one is Catholic is simply to say that one believes not in the innovation and invention of man’s false teaching, but that one believes what God’s Word says.

  3. Why is this corruption? Die America! Why is this considered (solely, or if at all) Roman Catholic? Has not American founded Lutheranism and americentric Lutheranism world-wide succumbed to a secular temporal plane?

    Luther on the union of Church and State: ‘Until something better comes along’..?

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