Presentation at Wartburg Theological Seminary

April 10, 2005

How do you ground missiology in the Lutheran Confessions? Before answering that question, I guess there is a previous question that must be answered:  Do you ground missiology in the Lutheran Confessions?  As I began researching the subject, I looked at the last few official documents on mission of the Lutheran World Federation,1 as well as the ELCA Division for Global Mission‟s latest mission document,2 to see how they make use of the Confessions.  While undoubtedly they reflect many of the central ideas we find in the Confessions, perhaps I wasn’t too surprised to discover that, in over 100 pages of text, there were over 120 references and allusions to passages from Scripture, but only one to the Lutheran Confessions.3

Do we as Lutherans ground missiology in the Lutheran Confessions?  Can we? Gustav Warneck, considered the father of missiology as a theological discipline, argued a century ago not only that Luther and the 16th-century Reformers failed to develop a clear sense of mission as it has come to be understood today, but that their “fundamental theological views hindered them from giving their activity, and even their thoughts, a missionary direction.”4   Both Protestant missiologists such as David Bosch, as well as Roman Catholic missiologists such as the Spanish Jesuit Angel Santos, have observed that these “fundamental theological views” have to do precisely with the Lutheran understanding of justification, primarily because it attributes salvation to God alone, and not to anything human beings do.5  In response to such claims, Richard Bliese has recently noted that some Lutherans have “fought back and at least won some recognition that Luther – but not Lutheranism – laid out many of the modern insights into mission thought.”6   Yet Bliese himself argues convincingly that “Lutheran theology has been mostly silent on mission and evangelism and has thus created a vacuum of missiological thought,” which has led Lutherans “to liberally borrow their mission theology from other churches.”7   Of course, if we are borrowing our mission theology from other churches, then we are obviously not grounding our missiology in the Lutheran Confessions.

In fact, outside of repeatedly affirming the need to proclaim and teach the gospel, the Confessions rarely speak of what we today call “mission.”  Many of the main themes of contemporary missiology seem to be lacking there.  With the exception of a couple of passages from Luther‟s Large Catechism, throughout the Confessions we find almost no expressions of concern for social justice.8   Of course, the word “justice” appears on just about every page of the Confessions, if we recall that neither German nor Latin make the distinction we make in English between righteousness and justice; Gerechtigkeit and iustitia encompass both ideas.  Yet this Gerechtigkeit and iustitia are understood primarily in individualistic terms, and are seen as something reckoned or accounted to us by God.  And if God already considers us just, the question arises, What need is there that we actually become just and seek justice in the world? Ronald Baesler phrases the question thus:  “How can one stimulate human activity in pursuit of justice while at the same time proclaiming human passivity with respect to justification?”9

Similar problems arise with regard to other contemporary missiological questions.  The concern for the environment and for gender equity are on mission agendas such as those we find in the LWF and DGM documents, for example; yet there is virtually nothing in the Confessions on those issues.  In fact, not only the authors of the Confessions, but even those who attached their signatures to the different documents are all men!  In contrast to the holistic approach we take to mission today, the Confessions seem to conceive of salvation primarily in terms of souls being delivered from eternal punishment.  In the context of increasing diversity and plurality in which we live today, we generally understand part of our mission in terms of seeking dialogue and strengthening relations with those of other faiths, rather than condemning them or seeking to convert them to Christianity; yet in his Large Catechism, Luther continues to insist that outside the church (where there is no gospel), there is no forgiveness, thus seemingly denying salvation to all who are not Christian.10

In the face of all of this, it does not seem surprising that many Lutherans feel the need to borrow their missiology and mission theology from other churches and traditions, as Richard Bliese observes.  Not only do the Confessions appear to be silent on many of the missiological questions we face today, but they even seem to present ideas that run contrary to the way many of us understand mission.  Equally unsurprising is the lukewarm reception that the Confessions seem to receive in our church.  In his book Dying We Live, Gerhard Forde notes, “When I ask graduating seniors at my seminary if they espouse the church‟s Confessions, I am apt to get some such answer: ‘Well, yes. I don’t have any problems with them.’” He goes on to add: “No problems! But where is the fire, the passion? It is like asking a husband, ‘Do you love your wife?’ and getting the answer: ‘Well, yes. I don‟t have any problems with her’.”11  If that‟s how we view the Confessions, it‟s not surprising that we would rather ground our missiology in other sources, most notably Scripture itself.

Of course, we would all agree that ultimately our missiology should be grounded in the Scriptures, rather than in the Lutheran Confessions per se.  We go out in mission, not because the Confessions mandate it, but because Christ does. But what role, then, are the Confessions to play, not only in our missiology, but our theology and practice in general?  I don‟t think we can talk about grounding missiology in the Confessions until we have addressed that question.  And in order to address it, I‟d like to share with you a story told to me by a Mexican Lutheran pastor named Tomás Guzmán, now living in retirement.

In Mexico, we often feel like the Roman Catholic church is still in the 16th century.  You can even still find churches with signs telling you how many years of purgatory you will be spared if you pray in front of a certain image or relic.  Well, back in the 1930‟s or so, when Pastor Guzmán was a youth, he lived with his family, all of whom were Roman Catholic, out in a rural area.  One day his grandfather died, and all he was able to leave to his wife, Pastor Guzmán’s grandmother, was a small herd of cattle.  According to the Roman Catholic traditions and beliefs at that time, she had to pay for masses for her deceased husband, so that he could get out of purgatory.  The only way she could pay for them was to sell off the cattle one by one, and she did so, becoming increasingly poorer.  The priest was well aware of this.  After a couple of years of paying for one mass after another, she finally went to the priest and asked how much longer it was going to take for her husband to get out of purgatory.  He asked her, “How many more cows do you have left?”  She replied, “Only one.”  And the priest answered her, “Well, then, it should be soon, my dear.  Soon.”  What the priest and the Roman Catholic system had done to his grandmother, leaving her in the end with nothing, made Tomás Guzmán so angry that he left the Roman Catholic church for good.

Now, I like to tell that story when I teach Confessions and Lutheran history because it illustrates very well what the situation was at the time of the Reformation.  All of society and reality was based on a divine, hierarchical order: God was on top with Christ, as the supreme authority, and then below God were God‟s representatives.   The pope was the vicar of Christ, and spoke for God and Christ; ultimately he alone had the authority to interpret Scripture and judge all things on earth.  Kings, queens and princes were also up there on top, although it was a matter of debate whether they were subject to the pope or not.  There were other levels in the hierarchy, the nobility in the secular realm and the bishops and priests in the church, but at the very bottom were the common people, the “laity,” who were the vast majority.  In some ways they were little more than slaves, subjected in body and soul to the authorities above them.  The third article of the Twelve Articles of the German peasants, in 1525, said, “it has been the custom up to now for men to hold us as their own property.”  And not only people themselves, but every aspect of society, the economy, the culture, the religious life, was subject to these authorities.

What held this system in place?  What gave the pope and the hierarchy such power over people? It was precisely what we see in the story I just told:  control over people‟s souls.  The Roman Catholic priest had the soul of Pastor Guzmán‟s grandfather captive, under his power; he had the authority to determine when it would be delivered from the torments of purgatory and enter into heaven.  And because he possessed the soul of her husband, he had control not only over the soul of Pastor Guzmán‟s grandmother as well, but over just about every other aspect of her life, including her possessions.  And the priest’s power was derived from the hierarchy of the church, and ultimately, from the pope himself, as if he were God on earth.  The church had such power over people‟s bodies and lives and labor and possessions because it owned their souls.

And if one wanted to save one‟s soul, one had to do the “works” that the church prescribed; these were not so much “good deeds” such as serving others, but things like those mentioned in Article 20 of the Augsburg Confession, which speaks of works “such as rosaries, the cult of the saints, joining religious orders, pilgrimages, appointed fasts, holy days, brotherhoods, and the like” (2, 20, 3), as well as tithes, masses and other such things.

When Luther and the other Reformers proclaimed that we are saved by faith alone without works, then, they were in effect attacking this entire system.  They were saying that by faith we have direct access to God and Christ and salvation, independently of the pope and the priests and the church hierarchy, who oppressed people by claiming that access to God was only through them, and that only through their power could one obtain a gracious God and attain salvation. Luther and the Reformers put the gospel back on top, subjecting everything else to it, in particular the church and its hierarchy.

That‟s what the Confessions are all about. A number of articles from the Augsburg Confession and the Apology insist that everything needs to be defined in light of the gospel: Article 5 in effect subjects the church‟s ministry to the gospel, while Article 7 defines the church in terms of the gospel.  Article 15, like Article 10 of the Formula of Concord, says that there is freedom with regard to ecclesiastical usages and rites, as long as the gospel is not compromised, thus subjecting these things to it.  Article 28 defines the episcopacy in relation to the gospel: bishops exist primarily in order to proclaim the gospel.  Thus the church and its leaders and ministries and worship life are not above the gospel, but subject to the gospel; they do not define the gospel, but the gospel defines them.

Other articles subject everything directly to God or to Christ, which amounts to essentially the same thing as subjecting all to the gospel.  Article 3 says that Christ alone has dominion and that through him alone forgiveness is attained, as the one mediator between God and human beings; this means that neither pope nor hierarchy nor church can dispense salvation, because that is the exclusive work of Christ.  In arguing for the true presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Lord‟s Supper in Article 10 of the Augsburg Confession, as elsewhere in the Confessions, the concern of the Reformers was to insist that Christ is not way up above, out of the reach of believers, who can only have access to him through the church.  The doctrine of transubstantiation makes Christ subject to the church, since it gives the clergy the power to make him present in the sacrament.  In contrast, Luther and others taught that through the sacrament believers have access to Christ directly, since his body and blood are truly present there for them.

Article 17 stresses that Christ will ultimately judge all people and save believers; that means that the task of judging all people and saving souls does not correspond to the pope or the church hierarchy.  For the same reasons, the Reformers reject the practice of denying the cup to lay people as well as the doctrine of transubstantiation, since these things served to maintain the superiority of the clergy over and against the common people; it was a question of power. Similarly, Article 12 teaches that, as long as there is repentance, no one, in particular the church, has any right to deny forgiveness; forgiveness is dependent on God, not human beings.  In fact, we can find these same basic ideas and concerns underlying just about every article of the Augsburg Confession, as well as throughout the other writings of the Book of Concord.

By putting all people and all things under God and Christ alone, including the gospel, the Reformers sought to deliver people from the oppression of the church.  In effect, the church had said to all people, “Your salvation depends on us, and therefore you must do what the church commands.” And this in turn put the burden of salvation on believers themselves.  That‟s precisely what the Reformers wanted to get away from.  As one reads through the Confessions, seemingly on every page one encounters references to believers and their consciences being “troubled,” “tormented,” “tortured,” “terrified,” “burdened,” and their being treated with “cruelty” by the Roman Church through its “tyrannical” doctrines and practices.  That is oppression language. Having to enumerate all one‟s sins in confession, fulfill vows, pay for masses, abstain from certain foods, and practice celibacy in the case of clergy –- all of this was oppressive, together with the other works commanded by the church.  For this reason, the Confessions constantly insist that people must not be burdened with the task of effecting their own salvation by being directed to their own efforts and strength, as the church was doing so as to benefit from their labor and enrich itself with their sacrifices; instead, the Reformers pointed people directly to Christ, through faith, so that the church no longer had power over them.  The discussions about original sin and free will and justification and faith and works and predestination are all about the same thing:  saying, “Your salvation does not depend on you, nor on any other human being, such as the church hierarchy.  Your salvation depends on God alone, on God‟s grace and mercy and love in Christ.”

And that is how the Confessions liberate, by pointing people to merely look to and trust in Christ alone.  Even though they may tend to speak of salvation as something having to do primarily with the human soul, in reality they have to do with the liberation of the entire person, as well as all aspects of reality, including the economical and political and social aspects, as the story I told about Pastor Guzmán’s grandmother illustrates; because the way that the church and state in that time maintained power over people and society in general was by claiming power over people’s souls.  If you had their soul, you had everything else.  And so the Confessors took away people’s souls from the church and from human authorities, and put them back where they belonged, in the hands of God alone, so as to liberate them.

All of this explains why we need the Confessions, and not just the Bible.  The Confessions make sure that God and Christ alone stay up on top, and that the gospel is not subjected to any human being.  You see, there are many other ways to interpret Scripture.  It can be argued, for example, that the central teaching of Scripture is not the gospel of justification by faith but passages such as Matthew 16 and John 21, where authority is given to Peter, so as to claim that as Peter’s successor, the pope is above all, including Scripture itself.  Other churches and Christians have often put other aspects of Scripture at the center, such as the experience of the Holy Spirit, or have justified putting certain people or groups of people up on top, above the gospel, next to God and Christ.  To this, our Confessions say, “No.  We believe that is contrary to Scripture and the gospel it proclaims.  Everyone and everything must be subjected to the gospel, and on that there can be no compromising.”

Once we have understood this, we can also see how to use the Confessions today to address questions such as those having to do with missiology.  As David Truemper wrote before his death last Fall, Lutherans have had problems defining precisely how to use the confessional writings to which they subscribe.  While some absolutize them as “timeless expressions of quintessential Lutheran formulations about doctrine and practice,” others tend to take them more as “historical curiosities” so as to “dismiss them as documents of decreasing relevance in the contemporary situation.”  He instead proposed seeing them as “both confession of faith and witness to the biblical gospel,” honoring the historical situations in which they arose so as to employ them as “problem-solving” literature.12  Similarly, Timothy Wengert has written, “The less we demand that these documents answer ‘our questions’ and allow them to speak in their own context, the more likely we will hear what they have to say to us.”13

This means that the Confessions are not some type of comprehensive Lutheran systematic theology, addressing all subjects of importance.  Rather, as David Truemper stresses, they are occasional documents, written to respond to specific problems and questions and concerns that arose in the 16th century.14   That is why we cannot simply ask our questions of them, as Timothy Wengert says, but first must listen to them.  To use them properly, we need to begin by entering into the world in which they were written, the particular historical context.  I like to speak of this in terms of a “worldview,” a Weltanschauung.  In reality, this involves a “cross-cultural” experience, doing the same thing we do when we enter into other cultures and worldviews today, using the same skills, learning to look at reality and the world through different eyes.  In this way, the Confessions come to life.  We see them in their original context as documents that were all about power and control and oppression and liberation; we come to understand why people fought and died over what is in these writings.  If we don‟t see them against that background, and instead look at them merely as a collection of abstract theological propositions, they lose all their power, and become drudgery to study and read.  People weren’t fighting over abstract  theological propositions, but over questions that struck at the core of their existence.  And once we grasp this, then we use another cross-cultural skill, namely that of “translating” those Confessions back into our own reality and contexts, so that they speak to us today as we address many of the same basic problems in our own context with the gospel.

This involves using essentially the same methodology found in Latin American liberation theology.  As theologians such as Gustavo Gutiérrez have insisted, liberation theology is a way of doing theology; that is, the focus is on the method and not just the content.15   Similarly, the Confessions do not point simply to a what but to a how.  Instead of being a textbook of systematic theology, they are more like a manual on theological method.  What we subscribe to are not so much timeless theological propositions, as a way of doing theology with the gospel at the center. In effect, they tell us, “First, we must take the gospel, the gospel of God‟s grace and mercy and love and forgiveness in Christ, on account of whom we are freely accepted by God; we place ourselves and all of reality under that gospel, so as to look at everything in its light. And then, together, we evaluate and judge the reality around us, looking to see what is contrary to that gospel, that is, what is oppressing and enslaving and tormenting human beings, at the same time that we look and point to God in Christ for salvation and liberation from those evils.” We do this together under the gospel, as the Reformers did; the Confessions also point to a method of doing theology in the sense that they are the product of dialogue and mutual encounter, in which many different voices were listened to and consensus was sought.

To use the Confessions in this way, we must avoid the type of “dogmatic absolutism” rejected by David Truemper, in which they are seen merely as timeless propositions of theological truth.  As he stresses, they are the product of their times and reflect a worldview that in many ways is foreign to ours.  Not only their understanding of God, but their soteriology and anthropology and demonology and Christology are different from ours today.  Given our scientific knowledge of the world and its origins, we can no longer view the world and its history in the exact same way that the Reformers did.  Today we no longer use an Aristotelian ontology to speak of things in terms of “substances” and “accidents,” as Article 1 of the Formula of Concord does in discussing original sin.  After almost two centuries of the historical-critical method of biblical studies, it‟s simply not possible for us to look at the Scriptures or use them in the same way that the Reformers did.  Some, such as Mark Thomsen, have even argued that we can no longer accept the understanding of Christ‟s death we find in both Luther and the Confessions, according to which “the suffering of the Son is… interpreted as the propitiation of the wrath of God that now makes possible what was impossible, the forgiveness of sin.”16   This does not involve denying or eliminating the propter Christum, the um Christus’ willen, “for Christ’s sake,” but reinterpreting it.  In fact, even though we would say that the gospel itself does not change, our ways of talking about it may: today, for example, we tend to associate ideas such as unconditional love and inclusivity and God‟s gift of wholeness in Christ with the essence of the gospel, even though those words and phrases are found neither in Scripture nor in the Confessions.

What does all of this mean for our Lutheran missiology?  For me, it means that, in faithfulness to the Confessions, we understand mission in terms of subjecting all things, including ourselves, to the gospel, so as to see and judge everything in its light alongside others. This is how we ground our missiology in the Confessions, taking the gospel as our starting-point so as to address the problems and concerns and needs we encounter in our world today on the basis of that gospel.  As the 16th-century Reformers did, we look particularly to where people are being oppressed and burdened, for whatever reasons, be they religious or economic or political, or social or physical or psychological; they may be oppressed by hunger or illness or injustice, or guilt or doubts or personal problems or interpersonal relationships, due to all different kinds of causes, both human and non-human.  In mission, we enter into those contexts of oppression with others, and from there look to and point to Christ in faith with them, as well as calling others to do so together with us, so that there may be liberation and salvation and wholeness.  This involves both proclaiming the gospel in its broad sense, by prophetically proclaiming the need for repentance and change on the basis of God‟s law, as Article 5 of the Formula of Concord teaches, but also in the strict or narrow sense of sharing God‟s grace, forgiveness, mercy and love in Christ.

A couple of Latin American theologians illustrate well the way in which mission can be grounded in our Lutheran understanding of the gospel by making use of this methodology.  Elsa Tamez, perhaps the leading female Protestant voice in Latin America, has examined the doctrine of justification by grace through faith as taught by Paul and taken up by the Reformers, so as to argue that throughout the world today, a type of doctrine of salvation by works is being promoted and proclaimed by the predominant political and socio-economic system.  This system demands that each individual save herself or himself by producing, and thus enslaves and dehumanizes them; it places the burden of “salvation” or meeting one‟s most basic needs on individuals themselves, who must resolve their own problems on the basis of their own works. Here, she says, there is no grace or mercy, only law; in contrast, “the gospel announces that you are free and a person of dignity not because you fulfill the law but because of God‟s grace and mercy.”17   This gospel is liberating, both because it enables people to see themselves and their world differently, and because it empowers them to change that world.

Similarly, the Brazilian Lutheran theologian Walter Altmann has argued that Luther‟s theology, “far from being a systematic and linear work, is more like a continuous response, often with unforeseen twists and turns, to an endless stream of challenges and problems.” In this respect, it is like the Confessions themselves.  According to Altmann, Luther‟s doctrine of justification by faith had “immediate repercussions in both church and society,” and made possible a church “whose supreme authority would no longer be the pope or canon law but rather the people of God under the Word of God.” Altmann then notes that in today‟s context, “simply to repeat the terms of Luther‟s doctrine yields little,” since people “do not long today for liberation from the church but rather from political, economic and social systems of domination and dependency that impose ever costlier sacrifices.”  Luther’s doctrine of justification is thus relevant today in that “justification by grace and faith implies a radical principle of equality among human beings and of the valuing of each one of them before God; it implies utter opposition to all forms of discrimination against persons and to all limitations of the quality and dignity of their lives.”18   Here we see the same theological method of developing a missiology by contextualizing the doctrine of justification both in its original setting and in our contemporary world.

Both Elsa Tamez and Walter Altmann, therefore, ground the concern for social justice and equity precisely in the gospel as the Lutheran Confessions understand it.  Like other Latin American and third-world theologians, their starting-point is not some “theory” which then becomes the basis for “practice” or “praxis,” but a social, political, economic and religious analysis of the world and reality, both in the 16th century and in the present.  I think this approach is necessary as we consider the question of the relationship between justification and justice.  Rather than taking an abstract understanding of justification as our starting-point so as then to ask how to make the theological move from a supposedly passive reception of justification to an active seeking for justice in the world, we must begin by looking at the evils and injustices around us and in us in the light of our Lutheran understanding of the gospel, so as to ask how to bring about a world of greater justice.  In part, of course, that is accomplished by applying the precepts of God‟s law according to its first use, so as to impose outward order and check injustice.  But to achieve a world of greater justice, you need more than that:  you need people who are firmly committed to justice, people who are caring and compassionate.  How do you get such people? I think our Confessions say very clearly that you do not make people compassionate and caring and committed to justice by threatening them or condemning them, or making them feel guilty, that is, through the law, demanding works of them.  Rather, the only way for people to become compassionate and caring is by being shown compassion and care, grace and mercy; people can only love much when they have been loved much.  As Luther and the Confessions so often insist, what is necessary is that people have a new heart, and then that new heart begins to bear fruits.  I think this is one of the presuppositions of liberation theology.

Theologians such as Gustavo Gutiérrez and Leonardo Boff have stressed that the starting-point for any liberating theology must be a commitment of faith, that is, trust in God.19   To build a more compassionate and just world, then, we point to God‟s grace in Christ, and live out that grace by showing compassion and acceptance to others, treating others as God has treated us in Christ, and calling on others to do the same.

When the Confessions are contextualized in this way, they can provide a solid grounding for other aspects of our missiology as well.  David Bosch, for example, mentions over a dozen elements of what he refers to as the “Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm”; these include an understanding of mission as the Church-with-others, as missio Dei, as evangelism, as witness, as dialogue, as inculturation, as ministry by the whole people of God, as action in hope, among others.20   Other missiologists understand mission in terms of the church living out its identity through its ministry of Word and sacrament, gathering people in fellowship and sending them  out to serve.  For me, in faithfulness to the Confessions, each one of these understandings of mission needs to be seen in terms of placing ourselves together with others under the gospel of God‟s grace in Christ so as to discern God’s will and do it. Because we continue to be sinners, subject to the same disease of sin as all other people (as the Confessions teach), as we do this, we see ourselves as equals with others; we are not above them, as if the gospel were our possession, but alongside of them; we place ourselves under God’s grace together with them and look up at the gospel with them from different perspectives.  Like those who wrote the Confessions, we understand our God-given mission in terms of giving prophetic witness of our faith and of our understanding of the gospel in words and actions.  We say, as the Confessions repeatedly do, “this is what we believe, teach and confess”; those are words of witness and an invitation to dialogue, rather than words that seek to impose our views on others or convert them to our own point of view.  As we share our faith prophetically with others, we ask them to share their faith with us, and invite them to look together with us at the gospel above us to judge everything in its light.  I think one of the most liberating aspects of the Confessions is their insistence in Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession, as well as elsewhere, that the Holy Spirit works faith, where and when it pleases God, or where and when the Spirit pleases, in those who hear the gospel.

Because true dialogue must be open-ended, that means that we can truly enter into dialogue with others and actively share our faith without feeling pressured to produce results or change people; that is not our task, but the task of God’s Spirit.  Our task is merely to actively share the gospel of God‟s gracious acceptance of sinners in Christ, not only in word but especially in our deeds, in the way we treat others.

When we see others in the way that the Confessions teach us to, as fellow sinners and saints that are under the gospel together with us, we also learn that mission is not just about giving to others but receiving from them; as a missionary, I have always believed that I have been sent out not just to teach others or give to them on behalf of our church, but also to learn from them and receive from them on our church‟s behalf. The Confessions in general, and particularly Luther’s Catechisms, place not only proclamation but education at the heart of their understanding of the church’s mission, because without education people are easily dominated, manipulated and oppressed, and lack the knowledge required to transform their reality; but this education must be a two-way street, in which all teach and learn.  When we place ourselves together with others as equals under the gospel, we see education in much the same way as Brazilian educator Paolo Freire; our objective is not to deposit knowledge in others, as if we were the ones possessing full knowledge of the gospel, so as to treat others as objects.  Rather, as we stand together under the gospel, we problematize reality, looking together at reality in the light of that gospel, sharing our different perspectives, asking each other questions and seeking answers together through dialogue, as well as taking action together in ways that we have defined jointly under the gospel. We do not define others, nor do they define us; it is the gospel that defines us all, so that no one is a mere object; rather, we are all subjects.  It is not a matter of converting others, but of all of us being converted together “daily,” as Luther repeats in his Catechisms, as the Spirit speaks to us through the gospel and one another.  All of this also means that we do mission, not just for the sake of others, but for our own sake:  only by giving can we receive, only by reaching out to share what we have learned and received can we learn and grow and receive, only by seeking to meet the needs of others can our own needs be met, only by looking to bring wholeness into the lives of others can we ourselves be made whole.  And precisely because of that, we call on others to do the same things together with us, following Jesus as his disciples in mission so that they may be made whole with us.  As we minister to others and touch their lives, we are ministered to by them so that our lives are also touched by God through them; that is the priesthood of all believers, the vocation to which we are all called in baptism.

Well, I feel as if I have just scratched the surface of the question; there is so much more to be said about mission and the church, ecumenism, evangelism, worship, and many other subjects on the basis of the Confessions.  In summary, however, I would simply say that the way I believe our missiology should be grounded in the Confessions is by following those Confessions in taking the gospel to which they so powerfully bear witness, and placing ourselves together with all things and all people under it, so as to look at and examine everything in its light–including especially our doctrine and practice or praxis–so that in and through us, as we live under that gospel, God may accomplish God‟s mission, the missio Dei, of liberating and saving us and others from all forms of evil, oppression and suffering, and giving life and wholeness to all.

David A. Brondos



1. Together in God’s Mission: An LWF Contribution to the Understanding of Mission (1988); At
the Threshhold of the Third Millenium: Together in God’s Mission (1998); Mission in Context:
Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment. An LWF Contribution to the Understanding and
Practice of Mission (2004), all by Lutheran World Federation (Geneva, Switzerland).

2. Global Mission in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision of Evangelical Faithfulness in God’s
Mission, ELCA Division for Global Mission (Chicago, Illinois: 2000).

3. Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession is mentioned in Together in God’s Mission, 1.3.

4. Quoted in David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission
(Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991), p. 244.

5. Angel Santos, “La misionología como ciencia teológica: Sus orígenes,” in La Misionología
Hoy, Obras Misionales Pontificias de España (Estella, Navarro: Editorial Verbo Divino, 1987),
pp. 34-35.

6. Richard H. Bliese, “Lutheran Missiology: Struggling to Move from Reactive Reform to
Innovative Initiative,” in Niels Henrik Gregersen et al., eds., The Gift of Grace: The Future of
Lutheran Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), p. 226.

7. Bliese, “Lutheran Missiology,” pp. 221-222.

8. See the Large Catechism, Explanations of the Seventh Commandment (1, 223-253) and the
Fourth Petition of the Lord‟s Prayer (3, 84).

9. Ronald Baesler, “Justification: Another Side to the Story,” Currents in Theology and Mission
27:1 (2000), p. 32.

10. Large Catechism, Explanation of Third Article of Creed (2,56).

11. Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith – A Matter of Death and Life (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1982), p. 2.

12. David G. Truemper, “The Lutheran Confessional Writings and the Future of Lutheran
Theology,” in Gregersen et al, eds., The Gift of Grace, pp. 131, 139.

13. Timothy Wengert, “The End of the Public Office of Ministry in the Lutheran Confessions,”
on the ELCA website,

14. Truemper, “The Lutheran Confessional Writings,” pp. 137-139.

15. Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation, Rev. ed., trans.
and ed. by Sister Caridad Inda adn John Eagleson (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988), p. 12.

16. Mark W. Thomsen, Christ Crucified: A 21st-Century Missiology of the Cross (Minneapolis:
Lutheran University Press, 2004), p. 22.

17. Elsa Tamez, “Three Biblical Reflections for Our Time,” in Oscar L. Bolioli, ed., Hope and
Justice for All in the Americas: Discerning God’s Mission (New York: Friendship Press, 1998),
pp. 143, 149.

18. Walter Altmann, Luther and Liberation: A Latin American Perspective, trans. by Mary M.
Solberg (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), pp. 1, 4-5.

19. Gutiérrez, Theology of Liberation, p. 9; Leonardo Boff, Teología desde el Cautiverio
(Bogotá, Colombia: Indo-American Press Service, 1975), p. 17.

20. See Bosch, Transforming Mission, pp. 368-510.