03 March 2009

Why do Lutherans go east?

I notice a rise in Orthodoxy-related posts on Lutheran blogs of late. The Revds. Weedon and McCain both have some. Perhaps it's due to the recent ordination of Daniel Hackney to the holy priesthood; or perhaps they are vaguely aware of other developments. It doesn't really matter.

Why are Lutherans looking east?

Rev'd. McCain seems to think it's a 'bug,' an infection whose aetiology he does not disclose, choosing only to focus on its symptoms. For its 'cure,' in part, he endorses a reading of the church fathers--whose views, he says, are closer to Lutheranism than to Orthodoxy.

Rev'd. Weedon opines that the antidote is a good read of C.P. Krauth, the magesterial representative of another American branch of Lutheranism whose magnum opus was "The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology."

One of my former colleagues used to speak of men who esteemed preaching above the sacraments. He called such a person a "word bird" (or "avis verbalis"). It is natural for such creatures to look at problems and solutions in terms of words.

But I, for one, did not leave Lutheranism chiefly because I found some faulty formulations of dogma. Nor do I sense that to be the case with others who have left. (There are, of course, faulty formulations: the filioque comes to mind. Original guilt is another. The denial of the essence/energy distinction is still a third.)

No; what was missing in Lutheranism for me and, I suspect, for those others who have become and are becoming Orthodox is what Florensky called "Tserkovnost" or "ecclesiality." It was the recognition that Lutheranism is not Church, but a school of thought which is incarnated in various corporations. The problem is not first and foremost verbal, but existential.


Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself and not others, but it began long ago, when I sensed a particular legalism in the Lutheran teachings, as if we could put our knowledge of God in a box and analyse it. I thought that God must be greater than that. Then the disrespectful, Bible-church style of worship started creeping in and we got rid of the old 1941 Lutheran liturgical hymnal. It just started to convict my soul as life went on that I was seeing "worshiptainment" and not the respect and devotion we should be showing to our Lord. I also found that Pastors could no longer answer my questions and though them to be quaint or overly concerned. As if to say, "after all, we're justified by faith, so don't worry about it". I don't think one should take the Lord's great sacrifice for granted, but be humble and thankful throughout life.

Anonymous said...


In your blog post you stated, "...perhaps they are vaguely aware of other developments..."

I am curious as to where you were headed with that thought. What other developments are going on, if any?

Thanks for entertaining my curiosity.

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

I could have never found peace in "I agree with the Lutheran Confessions." I'm not smart enough. I can't read enough. I don't understand enough of the esoteric phrases in all their nuances, and any doubts I had automatically cast me outside the pale of Lutheran orthodoxy. That's hard enough as it is, but one must also deal with the assumption that all of the Church Fathers would have picked up a Book of Concord, given their assent, and then broken communion with everyone who disagreed. I've never heard it put this way by catholic-minded quia Lutherans, but isn't this the implied end result?

In my opinion, a Lutheran must always look back and find ways that the church fathers might possibly have affirmed some ideas from the Lutheran confessions. Orthodoxy shares a living continuity with The Church of all ages because it IS ontologically that Church. She affirms the good and dismisses the bad of certain teachers but claims Eucharistic unity even in spite of the failings of some of those teachers. Confessional Lutheranism takes an ecclesiastical cleaver to anyone who isn't quia and casts them outside her communion. Communion with Chrysostom, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, St. Basil the Great, or St. Gregory the Theologian...it could never happen in Lutheranism. It's a given in Orthodoxy.

Dixie said...

It's Lent--a time for spiritual battles.

Kali Sarakosti!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


It was speculation on my part. None of their posts have made reference to Fr. Daniel; so I don't know what else might be motivating this flurry of Orthodox-oriented posts...


Your remarks put me in mind of an excerpt from Khomiakov's "On the western confessions of faith." It's a worthwhile read if you can get hold of it.


You're right, of course. Sometimes the challenge is discerning where the battle lies, and how to respond. Please pray that the Lord give me discernment.

Jonahs_Daddy said...


I am one of the Lutherans who is looking East.

I am finding the East to be 'alive, and organic'..not dusty (well, maybe from incense), and unfortunately in a lot of ways too scholastic in theological approach.

I am looking for any good resources information. I have been in contact w/ an Antiochian Priest in San Dimas, CA; I live in Mankato, MN.

No Orthodox churches w/in 80 miles..what to do..

I was also a language course or two away from entering a Confessional Lutheran seminary..I feel as though if I move East I am void of vocation.

sorry this got so long.

In Christ,


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The East, scholastic?? Jeremy, can you unpack that a little? I have always found it the opposite.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Jeremy,

You're in a bit of a pickle, to be sure. There are Orthodox parishes in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

One of my former Lutheran parishioners became Orthodox after his return to Minnesota. He and his wife drove about 2 hours a week to get to St. Cloud, to the little parish there. They moved to SW Minnesota and now attend a parish in South Dakota.

I know he looks at my blog from time to time; perhaps the two of you could touch base? He's a great guy, and wise well beyond his years...

Jonahs_Daddy said...


I'm sorry..i typed in error. The too scholastic (in a bad sense)was intended to be towards my camp..Confessional Lutheranism.

Dixie said...

Jeremy, when I first read your statement I read in "Lutheran" regarding scholasticism and in the process of quoting you to write back a "hey, I saw that, too" comment I held back because I was concerned you were referring to Orthodoxy.

Now that you have clarified I can write my "hey, I saw that, too" comment!

I was so frustrated in my studies about what I saw as scholasticism in Lutheranism. I remember telling a Lutheran friend of mine about this frustration and he didn't see it so I thought I must be crazy...but your statement affirms that either I am not or you are too! :D

While I realize this discovery of Orthodoxy throws a spanner in the works regarding your plans...better it happen now than 15 years from now...God gives us what we need when we need it. All Glory to God!

Blessed Lent to you.

Anonymous said...

The Church is where the Word is preached in it's purity and where the sacraments are administered with that pure gospel.

There, is the Church. Whether it be Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, or Baptist.

The Church is not one particular organization.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


Your comment calls for a response longer than is fitting in a combox. I'll take it up, God willing, as soon as I can. Thank you for visiting and for posting!

Drew said...

I left Lutheranism for Orthodoxy because I was enslaved to some extremely serious sins -- the kind of sins that lead unto death -- and the Lutheran 'gospel' left me powerless. Harsh words, I know, but that was my experience -- and not only my experience, but the experience of my other Lutheran friends as well. We were all students of staunchly Confessional Lutheran teachers and pastors, so the blame cannot be laid on the fact that we received teaching that wasn't truly Lutheran.

The simul iustus et peccator notion as it is popularly taught is an insidious doctrine that destroys souls.

For those Lutherans who are enslaved to deadly sins (and I know there are those who peruse the blogosphere; I was one of them) please -- Please! -- strongly consider that maybe the problem is what you are being taught about the nature of salvation, the Christian life, sin and grace, etc.

There is freedom within Holy Orthodoxy! Seek it out!

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone. I was deeply wounded by Confessional Lutheranism, and I obviously feel very passionately about it.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Drew, I am very interested in what you say, especially the part about simul iustus et peccator. I have a feeling you might not feel comfortable elaborating upon that here, but I'd sure be grateful if you care to do it privately. If so, please e-mail me. Thanks!




Drew said...


The simul iustus et peccator doctrine is grounded in the extrinsic -- and that is the operative word here -- nature of the Lutheran understanding of salvation. I had it hammered into my thinking time and time again: 'The whole Gospel is extra nos; it is outside of you!' While this teaching might have some psychological benefits at times, it truly is spiritually destructive, especially in a culture such as ours that is saturated by carnal sensuality.

There were times, especially when I had spent the Saturday night before church the next morning engaging in serious sexual immorality, where this message, preached so eloquently from the pulpit, did in fact calm my troubled conscience. But that's exactly where the true danger, the satanic delusion operates, I think; the extra nos leaves one thinking they are 'right with God' when in fact, they may not be -- as in my case. 'Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.' See Galatians 6. I was sowing in the flesh, and therefore reaping corruption, but I was led to believe I was justified before God, righteous in His eyes, because I believed that Christ had died for my sins, and because I received the Sacrament of the Altar trusting that it was 'for me'.

Some Lutherans may be reading this thinking that I did not properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. Perhaps. (Although I always that that was the pastor's duty; that is, to determine what the spiritual state of his parishioners were and therefore preach appropriately.) But I always came to church 'repentant'; I came to church feeling sorry for my sins. Not to mention I was told by my Confessional Lutheran pastor that I was not to look to my repentance, but to Christ.

The extrinsic nature of the Lutheran gospel fits hand in glove with monergism, or monoenergism: we do not participate in anyway in our salvation. God had baptized me, he was forgiving my sins, and He would see me through to the end no matter what I did in my life, as long as I kept believing that Christ's work was 'for me'. So I could go on living a duplicitous life, a life characterized by anything but 'the Spirit', and I was 'justified' given my trust in Christ's atoning death on the cross. I had no continual or substantial life of prayer. I let my thoughts, my logismoi in Orthodox parlance, run the show. The only thing that set me apart from other non-Christians was the fact that I would give an intellectual defense of Christianity if needed, the fact that I would show up to church on Sundays, and that I read a bunch of theology. But my will and my heart were not Christian.

I realize that there are probably Lutherans who are reading this who think I didn't really 'get it'. Fine. Think what you will. This was my experience; the experience of a well catechized, communicant member of a Confessional Lutheran parish who read a lot of Lutheran theology.

Drew said...

Forgive me for rambling.

What what needed? Well, for one, I needed God to almost literally smack me across the head to get my life on track. That 'smacking' came one day where I literally 'came to my senses' and for the first time in my life feared God. Yes, feared Him. Feared the fact that if I continued on my path I would be going to Hell. And with this I knew I needed to repent. To truly repent. Not just feel sorry for my sins; no, to turn around, to make an about face. I went to all those I had been lying to and told them the truth about who I was. I resolved to end my sexual promiscuity. And here's the kicker: I don't know how or why, but I knew, I had a strange inner premonition, that I needed to be Orthodox to truly repent, to be saved. Now mind you, given that I was a Lutheran I wasn't one that paid much heed to inner premonitions. But this was so strong that it could not be ignored. It felt like the next strongest thing to an audible voice. Before this I had had absolutely no intention of becoming Orthodox. I thought they had some nice things about them, but that they did not have the 'pure gospel'. You know the drill.

I started going to an Orthodox parish, and the rest is history as they say.

Here's a modicum of what Orthodoxy provided that Lutheranism didn't:

1) A consistent and directed life of prayer; continual communion with God; 'Without Me you can do nothing'
2) Corporate services that direct one to deep and inner prayer, more communion with God
3) Correct doctrine: salvation was not monergistic, but synergistic; God's life, God's activity, God's energies are communicated to me, quicken me, and empower me to live the life in Christ, to be victorious over sin, sin that I was told I would live with until the day I died as a Lutheran

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Drew, thank you very, very much for sharing all this. It has brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

Are you saying that as a Confessional Lutheran, you were not given to understand repentance as anything more than feeling sorry? Not turning in a new direction? Because that would be a violation of the concept of monergism? Because then you'd be contributing something??? Am I understanding correctly?

Oh, dear, oh, dear.

Drew said...


I was taught that repentance was first and foremost a change of mind, which is fine as far as it goes, I guess, because that's what the word in Greek literally means (as I'm sure you well know, given your name!). But what this meant in my life was a cognitive awareness that what I was doing was wrong. That's what repentance meant for me. That's all it really meant.

My understanding of the Christian life was that is largely centered around the passive reception of Christ's forgiveness through Word and Sacrament. And passive is really the key here. I cannot recall ever hearing a sermon preached on the dynamic change that life in the Spirit brings to the Christian. In fact, I specifically remember time and time again hearing that Christians were really no different that non-Christians in terms of how they lived their lives. The sins of the Corinthians was used as a proof text for this. Now maybe this was just for rhetorical purposes, you know, to drive home the point that Christians must not see themselves as 'superior' to non-Christians or something like that. Nonetheless, hearing this sort of thing from the pulpit only pampers the flesh, and definitely does not lead to true repentance.

The boogeyman of 'works righteousness' will always haunt the Confessional Lutheran. Anything that looks even remotely close to 'works righteousness' is shunned. Just bring up fasting around Lutherans and witness the debate that ensues. In fact, exhorting the Christian to do anything (besides the passive reception of Word and Sacrament) often leads to debate as well. Just go read about the Lutheran debates centered around the so-called 'third use of the Law'.

I realize that there are Lutherans who understand that there is something deeply wrong here. And I appreciate the efforts of pastors like Weedon and McCain to call Lutherans to a more authentic faith that rejects the rampant 'antinomianism' (that's the Lutheran word that's thrown around) and incorporates things like the traditional spiritual disciplines.

But this is only a band-aid patched on to alleviate the pains of terminal cancer. The rot goes much, much deeper.

Let me try to clearly state what I've been (thus far) poorly communicating:

1) The Lutheran (holdover from medieval scholastic) doctrine of God is erroneous, as Fr Gregory has shown several times on this blog. Without a distinction between God's essence and His energies, one can only have grace as understood as a created effect (Roman Catholicism) or grace as understood as the unmerited favorable disposition of God (Lutherans and other Magisterial Protestants). On the Lutheran (Western) doctrine of God, if God were to actually communicate His divine life to us, we would be numerically identical with God; this is obviously false, therefore grace must be extrinsic.

2) Because grace is extrinsic, the gospel is therefore the good news that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, and all we can to is trust that divine declaration given to us through Word and Sacrament.

3) Confusion results over how this extrinsic grace actually effects our lives, besides on the psychological level (e.g., troubled consciences being quieted). See everything I've written above as for how I was confused.

I hope that helps. I never know if what's inside my head is actually effectively communicated in what I write.

Dixie said...

Drew, I don't know how your comments will ring with others but you have quite clearly documented a large bit of my experience (and frustration) as well.

I can't tell you how many times I wrestled with trying to understand the Lutheran view of sanctification. I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to work. If I knew I should be working on the homeless shelter project on Saturday morning but instead decided to stay home, veg out and watch TV...was that OK? Was it OK to fight my own desire to veg out and force myself to do the work? If I was really supposed to do that work wouldn't the Holy Spirit just make me want to do it? And since I don't want to...what does the mean?

Being Orthodox is not easy...the path is narrow...but it makes sense.

Ignatius said...

Jonahs daddy,
The good Father is too kind! I thank him for motivating me to intensify my prayers to God for the gift of humility. Again my beloved Fr. Gregory is far too kind, and as you will see in my late night musings on this blog, that I sometimes can make very little sense. I am in my last semester at SMSU and simultaneously working on setting up a manufacturing facility in Reno Nevada. I have a ten year background in manufacturing working for a company in Willmar, a long story that I can share with you later, anyway when I add to this blog it is usually after writing a paper or studying for an exam. Therefore, much of the time my brain is mush and when I return to what I wrote during day light hours, I sometimes cannot even understand what I was trying to say. So forgive me ahead of time if I am ever nonsensical. Never the less, I am overjoyed to hear there is a fellow Minnesotan contemplating about our beautiful faith. My name is Brandon, or my +name is Ignatios, and my wife’s name is Anne and we reside in Marshall. I would like you to email me an : sherodb@southwestmsu.edu
Please provide contact information so we can touch base.

We live in a state that is unbelievably rich in Orthodoxy. Unfortunately we live a very large state where Orthodox parishes are mostly located in and around metro areas. Do not let this discourage you, for this is the reason our parishes are as magnificent as they are. We are only separated by mere geography. My wife and I are members of Transfiguration Greek Orthodox church in Sioux Falls, as you know is just across the border, where a past Lutheran pastor is Priest. His name is Fr. Sava Leida and has been Orthodox for nearly 20 years. Our first parish was in St. Cloud where Fr. Nathan Kroll is pastor. They are both very humble and pious shepherds in Christ and I would love to introduce you to them. I look forward to talking to you!

In XC,

Trent said...

Could you provide me with your email address for an offline note on this topic.

Jeffery said...

My priest said that prayer is dangerous. The Lutherans have been praying for the unification of the Church since time in memoriam and now they wonder now why Lutherans are going East. Could it be that their prayers are being answered?

Anonymous said...

Jeffery, you lost me. Your Orthodox priest said prayer is dangerous, or your Lutheran pastor said that? And why? What was his point?

Jeffery said...

It was my Orthodox priest that said prayer was dangerous. He was referring to the types of prayers that can lead to harm. The type that nag God into giving you something that you greatly desire but God did not give it to you for an extended period of time because He knew it was not good for you. Or in the case of the Lutherans, they have been earnestly praying for the unity of all believers for a very long time then they end up shocked that many of their number end up heading East. So the gist of the warning is be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.

Ignatius said...


Prayer is, as I am sure you very well know, approached differently in the east than it is in the west. Your beloved priest is teaching us something about prayer that has been echoed by priests, monastics, and bishops for thousands of years. That is, we must only approach prayer in fear and trembling! Really, is there any other way to approach the Almighty who created the heavens and earth? This is one reason why we do not recline or lay in our bed when we pray, we Orthodox stand, kneel, or prostrate before God in prayer. If Christ physically stood before a person, it is hard to argue that that individual would not become extremely attentive, fearful, and in awe. Well, when we pray do we not put our self physically before God? Any sane believer will agree that this is a fearful or rather potentially dangerous place to be. I think what your priest is teaching is usually taught in a way that ultimately brings about awareness, to the child of God, that prayer can be a fearful thing. What’s more, in the Lord's Prayer we say "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven", and if that does not strike fear into our hearts we do not understand what we are saying.

One of my favorite books is Living Prayer by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom+. I keep it next to my bed on my night stand as a reminder to me about my prayer life. I will leave you with a quote from the book.

"It is that prayer is a dangerous adventure and that we can not enter upon it with out risk. As St. Paul says, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). Therefore to set deliberately to confront the living God is a dread adventure: every meeting with God is, in a certain sense, a last judgment. Whenever we come into the presence of God, whether in sacraments or in prayer, we are doing something which is full of danger because, according to the words of scripture, God is a fire. Unless we are ready to surrender ourselves without reservation to the divine fire and to become that burning bush of the desert, which burned but was never consumed, we shall be scorched, because the experience of prayer can only be known from the inside, and is not to be dallied with." "We can approach God only if we do so with a sense of coming to judgment."

Rdr. Ignatius

Jeffery said...

Dear Rdr. Ignatius,

I apologize if I am a little dense in my understanding as far as how Orthodox understand various subjects. I am very new on this pilgrimage to/in Orthodoxy. I guess one could say, borrowing a term from Father Hogg, that I still have many "thought bridges" to cross.

However, I feel that the main point of my initial post has been lost in that the Lutherans have prayed for the unity of the Church since time in memoriam and are shocked when they start seeing Christ calling His sheep out of the wilderness that the West became due to the many abuses and errors of Rome as well as the mess Protestantism very quickly became.

Ignatius said...

Dearest brother in Christ, Jeffrey,

Forgive me if I came off as being critical, that was not my intention at all. I actually piggy backed off the powerful and fearful question you raised and then took a crack at it from a different angle. Hopefully I added another dimension to it. I was inspired by the connection you made about prayer and the micro exodus in the Lutheran Church. Most of my family, friends, and neighbors are Lutherans of one banner or the other. Just from my experience in knowing some of these Lutherans, over many years, there is certainly a hemorrhaging going on in the denomination. Unfortunately, many of them are not coming in our direction.

I suppose we should be careful not to start another topic within a topic. Maybe this is a topic Fr. Gregory will consider posting at a later date.

God be with you and strengthen you in this Lenten season.


Ignatius said...


Your experience sounds very familiar to mine. You have brought me tears and have helped soften my hard heart by sharing your story. When I was a catechumen my Priest explained Confession in the Orthodox Church, or rather in Thee Church, in a very beautiful way. He said, “When you come to confession it is like when you were a child, and you were sick, and went to your mother for comfort and care. If you can remember what it was like when she held you in her arms and said it is going to be ok."

When I carried those longtime haunting passions with me to my first confession, my experience was as he said it would be.

Truly yours in XC,

Jonahs_Daddy said...


Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry I haven't replied. I've been very busy w/ various things and not exactly busy w/ the things I should be busy with, does that make sense; i.e. greek homework.

Please feel free to send me an e.mail and then that way we'll have each others e.mail address.

In Christ,



Jeff said...

My mother ran into a Lutheran deaconess friend of mine. When my mother mentioned my conversion to Orthodoxy my friend responded that their are a lot of people becoming Orthodox. Knowing what circles she is in, I can only assume that I am not alone in going from Fort Wayne to the East.