In our silliness, Lutherans like to think of our tradition as being a singular continuous stream flowing from Luther’s pen to the current age. But as my research into pietism and orthodoxy has shown, this is obviously not the case. Almost immediately after its establishment, different flavors of Lutheranism began to emerge. This fact might be troubling at first, but on a second look it makes lots of sense in a Lutheran lens.
One of the most important significances of the Reformation is that the church is in constant need of reform. It is terribly dangerous to assert that the faith is completely defined and set, that its precepts are perfect and need no revision. Obviously the Augsburg confession continues to be a groundwork for our doctrines, but it does not address many of the concerns of the contemporary church. One of the slogans of the ELCA is “Always being made new.” We believe we need this constant renewal on two levels. We need it on a personal level, for although we are redeemed we remain sinners. We also need it on the institutional level, for the brokenness of our lives leads to brokenness in the church.
However while on the outside pietism and orthodoxy can seem quite opposed initially, within the lens of Lutheranism they can be seen as quite hand in hand. At the core of both movements is the preaching of the Good News. This preaching manifests itself in different ways, in different communities, but this also is good news! We needn’t be carbon copies of each other in order to be living the faith in an authentic way. Just like Pastor Matt explained that we shouldn’t think of translations as faux pretenders, but rather as living expressions of the same word. This is how I’ve come to think about different expressions of Lutheranism in the 17th century.