This comes to us from the Cometh At Midnight Blog, a personal favorite of mine.
Today is Reformation Day in the Lutheran churches and I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Luther for making me Orthodox.
I grew up in the 60?s when the Lutheran Church was conservative and traditional. We still had felt Jesus banners in the church, but you didn’t find women or sexually confused or theologically heretical clergyman, or for that matter, sexually confused, theologically heretical women.
You knew just where German pastors were coming from. And they were the ones who shaped my beliefs and future life as an Orthodox Christian.
I am what the Lutheran Church first made me:
- I’m Catholic but not Roman. Luther is famously portrayed as a man who did not want to destroy the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it. He seems to have started out that way, though later on as things started to snowball, he sure ‘nuf took to the idea pretty darn well. Be that as it may, this idea struck very close with me. Why wasn’t I Roman Catholic if Luther only wanted to straighten things up? If the Roman Catholic Church was worth saving, why wasn’t it good enough for me now? So I began to explore the Catholic Church, but quickly found that Martin Luther had already primed the anti-papacy pump. I can buy first among equals, but not The Big Cheese.
- I’m sacramental. Luther tossed most of the sacraments, figuring only two (or maybe three if you count reconciliation) – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – were sufficiently biblical to remain. The practice of those two, particularly Communion, was all I needed to see that something special was going on between God and me. Communion rightly had a prominent place and at my first Communion class I was taught the Lutheran layer cake view of the Eucharist – bread and under that, Body; wine and ditto, Blood. I was sufficiently impressed that the Body and Blood were sacred or at least sacred enough until the wine was unceremoniously dumped down a holy disposal sink. Down the drain with our Lord’s Blood, but it wasn’t always Jesus’ Blood, only at the time of communion… Very confusing. Jesus was just kind of sitting under the elements – take ‘em out of context and Jesus wasn’t there anymore.
- I’m liturgical. Worship has an order and a flow to it and that’s just the way it is. As a German I can perfectly understand the need for doing things just so. Luther thought so, too.
- I’m traditional. Given that my religious education started only at the year 1517, I still acquired an ”older is better” mindset. At the time of my catechism, I guess I just never thought too much about the 1500 years before that. It was all Roman Catholic to me. First there was Jesus, then the Roman Catholics, then Luther. It was only later I realized Luther hadn’t been too straight with me about the timeline.
- I’m symbolic. Thanks Luther for the Holy Pine Tree and it’s sacred symbols. I can remember a big, whopping Christmas tree in the sanctuary of Christ the King Lutheran Church covered in white lights and shiny, white, glittery Christian symbols. Doves, Chi Ro’s, fish, Alpha and Omegas, Lambs with a Cross. It’s only one small step from accepting churchy symbols to accepting the greatest visual symbols the Church has ever produced – Holy Icons. Now I won’t say I didn’t have some initial trouble kissing them, but it’s just like kissing that first boy when you’re thirteen; do it enough and you warm up to the idea.
So Happy Reformation Day today and this coming Reformation Sunday. Sing a good rousing chorus of “A Mighty Fortress is our God” for me. I have much to appreciate where I came from and the foundation it planted in me. Thanks Martin Luther for putting me on the path to Orthodoxy.
I wouldn’t be here without you.
I am also a former Lutheran who found the Orthodox Church
I am a reformed protestant pastor who is exploring and on my journey into the historic church and trying to be intellectually honest with my handed down protestant skepticism. I read a timeline where Icons were reestablished a few hundred years after the pentecost. How can one be sure that they were not added instead of reinstated? And even if they were added how do we know for sure that the early church used them (kissing, etc.) the way the church does presently.
Kissing my first girlfriend who later became my wife does not seem remotely related to kissing an icon. While I may hold a picture of her to my heart, or even kiss a picture of her, there is no law that says I must do so to venerate her. Is there a law in the EOC that says one must kiss an icon of he has not truly worshipped Jesus Christ.?
If you kiss anything enough you might warm up to it but what does that prove? What is truth not what I can warm up to is my quest. I am trying to learn.
Fr. John says
You treat and venerate an icon the same way you would the Bible. It’s the same thing – only in color! That is why we love them, they are Scripture (which we love) in picture (originally very helpful and pedagogical for the illiterate).
They also declare that the invisible Word of God became a visible man. Without icons, Christianity leans towards gnosticism.
Hi Father John,
I have some questions:
Do Orthodox Christians consider Luther as a heretic?
What about the Oriental Orthodoxy? Some websites consider Oriental Orthodox Christians are Orthodox, but some website consider Oriental Orthodox Christians are heretical.
Fr. John says
Greetings in the Lord, Luke.
Yes, Luther is considered the teaching of heterical teachings. We love brother Martin, but his teachings are skewed. For example, he tried to take James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation out of the Bible on his own authority, and his version of the Bible did not initially contain these books.
Oriental Orthodox are similar, but not the same, as Orthodox. They have a theology of Christ which is also not Orthodox, usually Monophysite. Some strides are being made which may indicate that their theology is actually Orthodox, and misunderstood from the Council of Chalcedon, but this has not been proven, nor made manifest by concelebration and unity. Still working on that.
However, they are both our friends and brothers in the Christian faith, and we love them all. I myself grew up Lutheran, and have a great love for what I was taught – it led me to the Orthodox faith! And, as you can see on JTO, I’m not alone.
I also was raised Lutheran, although my faith journey has taken me through a number of Protestant denominations on the way… I have begun to explore Orthodoxy and have read and/ or heard various teachings on points of theology and am still confused by some differences in thought. Could you explain a little about the Orthodox position on the work of Christ on the Cross and their views on substitutionary atonement?
Timothy Erickson says
I was also raised Lutheran and am now a reformed baptist. I have a friend who recently converted to EOC and am endeavoring to learn more as I hold this friend in exceedingly high regard and am trying to learn about the EOC as well. Could you please explain more as to the efficacy of kissing an icon? I’m a little foggy there. Are icons viewed as a means of grace? Is the kissing directed at the icon or is it directed towards the Savior?
Daniel Jewell says
Oddly enough, Charismatic Pastor Jack Hayford prepared me to recognize the truth of Orthodoxy as his theology incorporated Eastern concepts. He obviously had read the Fathers, but sadly decided to only pick and choose what he liked and left the rest. He introduced me to Christ and I owe so much to him for that.
Fr. John says
Daniel, please write up your journey for us, so that others may learn and benefit.