Lutheran or Biblical?

There shouldn’t be a distinction, a separation, but anecdotally speaking, it often seems as though there is.

Though born and raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I like to think that I remain in it, and am ordained in it, because our biblical theology is the strongest.  That we have the best ways of dealing with the tensions in Scripture.  Not that we are the only Christians out there, but that theologically speaking, we’re closer to the mark than not, and closer to the mark than more than a few others.

But this essay is dead on.

Let me say right away that I count myself among those who need to  know the Bible better.  I remember during seminary, working with the chaplain at the local county jail, he asked me what one of my goals was for ministry.  I told him memorizing the Bible.  Not word for word, but at least knowing basically the flow of every book in the Bible.  I marveled at his ability to cite book and chapter (and often times verse) in referring to Scripture.

His response was that I hadn’t preached enough.  And he was right – preaching does help drive us into Scripture.  But even if you use the three year lectionary system, you hit a remarkably narrow spectrum of Biblical books.

More than anything in this arena I’ve valued the in-depth Bible studies I’ve created and led over the past six years or so at my current congregation.  Working chapter by chapter through different books of the Bible while referencing or reading through 3-5 commentaries on the material has (hopefully!) given me a depth of knowledge and skill of remembrance of the books we’ve covered that is so very, very helpful and necessary.  It’s time consuming, of course, so we’ve only made it through Genesis, Exodus, Mark, John, Romans, Revelation, Jonah, and now we’re a bit over halfway through Isaiah.

Seminary didn’t (and arguably couldn’t) provide (or require) the level of Biblical knowledge I feel I’m gaining week by week, and hopefully providing to my people as well both in Bible study and in sermons.   I have a few wonderful scholars of the Bible in my congregation, but I imagine most are like I was as a lay person – familiar with the big picture stuff but very fuzzy on the details (especially the prophets!).

I can’t stress enough how important knowing the Bible is, and I’m grateful for the opportunity each week to get to know it better.  But I lament that many of my colleagues would much rather talk about Luther and Lutheranism than Scripture.  They aren’t separate, but we often talk as though they were by never actually grappling with the Biblical text itself.

Dust off that Bible.  Start reading it.  Start asking questions.  Ask for Bible studies from your pastor.  Form them with your friends if necessary.  But get in there and start really reading it.  You’ll be amazed at what you find – nothing less than the Creator of the Universe and you yourself and everything in between.

Maybe even Lutheranism.



One Response to “Lutheran or Biblical?”

  1. Doug Vossler Says:

    Hi Pastor Nelson,

    I’ve been giving this essay and your blog entry quite a bit of thought over the last two months. Like you, I don’t believe that Biblical and doctrinal knowledge should be two separate things. In fact, the approach used during confirmation classes clearly ties them together by supporting areas of doctrine with foundational Bible verses.

    Maybe a reverse approach, when possible, would be beneficial in Bible classes. One where the Bible text being studied is tied to doctrine. A few recent Easter articles on the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog ( show an LCMS Pastor doing this. This Pastor, Kurt Hering, makes a connection between the Gospel text for the day and the Book of Concord as a regular feature in his service folders.

    Doug Vossler

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