Catholic-Lutheran Issues

by Jimmy Akin

in Other Christians

A reader writes:

Hello JamesJimmy, I have a Roman Catholic friend who was in the process of becoming Lutheran.  After speaking with him regarding our Faith he has halted the process and is interested in understanding the differences between the Lutherans and us Catholics.

Is there a book or some literature out there that in a no-nonsense sort of way can explain the differences ?

One of the first things that springs to mind is the book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer. It’s a sympathetic look at Lutheranism and Calvinism by Bouyer, who is a convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism.

Bouyer is a real theologian, though, so the book may be a little heady for what your friend is wanting. If that’s the case,

HERE’S A GOOD ARTICLE BY MARK BRUMLEY SUMMARIZING BOUYER’S KEY POINTS.

There’s also a lot of good material over at CATHOLIC.COM.

And if justification is a special issue for him, he might want to check out a copy of my book, The Salvation Controversy, which goes into the subject in detail, along with an analysis of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification that the Holy See signed with the Lutheran World Federation a few years ago.

Hope this helps!

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{ 12 comments }

anon March 1, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Wow, astonishing – an RC wanting to become a Lutheran! I have only heard of people (in recent years) moving in the OPPOSITE direction.
If it has ANYTHING to do with that nonsense about faith versus works, the friend should learn that Catholics believe we are saved by GRACE (“By Grace you are saved THROUGH faith”).
Perhaps the friend should read Richard John Neuhaus. Or perhaps he might be asked whether he believes God truly left Himself without a witness for 1500 years. Or perhaps he should – as I did – read some of Luther’s more egotistical work, such as the things about throwing the Book of James out of the Bible since it doesn’t accord with what he thinks. Or maybe he should read the vile, foul, obscene, and anti-Semitic remarks in Luther’s “Table Talk”, or…..
Never mind. I could go on forever and ever, world without end.

Paul H March 1, 2006 at 12:32 pm

You might want to get a book called “There We Stood, Here We Stand: Eleven Lutherans Rediscover Their Catholic Roots” by Timothy Drake. From what I understand, it contains the conversion stories of eleven former Lutherans who became Catholic — sort of like “Surprised by Truth”, but concentrating only on former Lutherans.

Annalucia March 1, 2006 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the Brumley link, Jimmy. Good stuff.
As for why anyone would move from RC to Lutheran, Jimmy’s correspondent doesn’t give any reasons, but in my experience people who’ve made the move have done so because they’re divorced and remarried, or they want to use artificial contraception in good conscience (that is, without Nasty Old Rome telling them that they can’t), or have some other “I wanna” that Rome doesn’t satisfy.

Leah March 1, 2006 at 3:59 pm

I second the recommendation for “There We Stood, Here We Stand” – I read it as a Lutheran considering becoming Catholic, and it was so comforting to know that I wasn’t lone in that journey. It’d be a worthwhile viewpoint for someone considering the opposite.
When I was growing up there was a young couple at my church who had been Catholic. Last I heard, actually, they’d gone back to the Catholic Church :)
I had the impression at the time that they were sincere Christians that found someting about the Church that they just couldn’t get around (I was in my early teens at the time). I’m so glad they were able to win that battle and go Home again (although that’s not what I thought at the time!).

austin March 1, 2006 at 7:17 pm

Speaking of Lutheranism, I thought you’d appreciate this e-mail to me from a Lutheran minister, who has a blog…He posts anti-Catholic posts with amazing frequency (we worship Mary, we don’t have the gospel, Pope John Paul’s funeral was a travesty, etc. ) Weekly, I glance at it and politely respond to the usual anti-Catholic or anti-Orthodox comment with a counter-statement of what the Church teaches, asking that they look at our Catechism. But recently, in response to his anti-Orthodox post, I asked why he considered a church named after a person who was full of faults himself (Luther) to be the true church.
First I got an email saying I was no longer welcome to send comments. or post …when I wrote a note and apologized for offending him unintentionally…I got this condescending email…(never did he respond to my point about Luther…)
“I took no offense at your post. They are simply typical of a Roman Catholic who is lost in the maze of error that is Roman Catholicism.”
He is not interested in the search for truth because he just wants to post distortions about Roman Catholicism, in my view.
Perhaps the person wanting to become Lutheran has heard distorted explanations of what Catholics believe.

Puzzled March 1, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Austin, I think I know whom you are referring to. :-( Oddly, that individual has a high regard for B16.
I found Brumley’s article quite good. It is not for no reason that Luther thought he was recovering and re-emphaizing Catholic doctrine which had gotten obscured by the Nominalists. (who required -perfect- contrition before one could have confidence that a given sin was forgiven – imagine someone obsessively introspective like Luther trying to deal with -that- – it nearly drove him mad)
Not for no reason did Melancthon – to his very death – believe that he really was a good Catholic, and that Wittenberg and Rome simply weren’t understanding what the other was saying, and that the Church must be reunited.
I find that most Protestants believe in both imputation and impartation, though after the firestorm that errupted after _The Gift of Salvation_ document was published, some professors, at least, felt that they had to be quieter about that. I’m not sure that Brumley understands that to understand the imputation business, you have to at least for the sake of argument, accept the Protestant parsing of salvation into justification ->sanctification->glorification, even though we all agree it is also an organic whole. Justification = imputation in this parsing, whereas impartation, occuring simultanaously, begins sanctification, which is either completed *when* we see Jesus face to face (Protestant aka Evangelical Catholic) or *so that* we can see Jesus face-to-face (Roman Catholic)
Otherwise you get some sort of (falsely attributed to Luther) “snow on dunghill” understanding, which is a very bad idea indeed. You can’t get the Lutheran understanding that we need to have daily contrition, faith, and obedience, from that analogy.
Discussing his understanding of sola Scriptura(supra omne) would take a much longer post.

Puzzled March 1, 2006 at 10:57 pm

Austin, if that is who I think it is, he seems to really think that his understanding of Roman Catholicism (and Calvinism, etc.) is correct, over aand against the self-understanding of the Magisterium, and of actual Calvinists.
He isn’t insincere. Just. . . .

Barry March 2, 2006 at 4:20 am

I was there once, I just did not see why being Catholic was anything special. I had a friend who was Lutheren and would answer the questions I had, but “something” was holding me back. (I usually attribute that “hold” to my grandmother praying in heaven) I just happened to come across Scott Hahn’s conversion story on audio cassette one day and that stopped my heading out the door. Scott has a really good story of how we have so many treaures but have basically covered them up and hid them from the people. Once I started to dig into the faith I really understood why the “church” is in Rome.

austin March 2, 2006 at 7:33 am

Puzzled:
I think that Catholics do misunderstand and distort what Protestants say; so now when people ask me about Protestant beliefs, I say “This is my understanding, but I could be wrong; especially since there is no Protestant ‘magesterium’ explaining the definitive view of sola scriptura, etc.
After all, I know how it feels when someone tells me what my church believes, and it is not what the mageterium teaches.

Tim J. March 2, 2006 at 8:02 am

As I think I heard Jimmy say on Catholic Answers Live once, it is almost always a mistake to talk about “the Protestant position” on a certain issue, because there really are probably many “Protestant positions” on any issue.

Tex March 2, 2006 at 6:54 pm

The World Lutheran Federation is made up of liberals & modernists, isn’t it?

charles austin March 19, 2006 at 4:36 pm

can we eat eggs on friday lent?

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