In a 1992 episode of the TV show Cheers, the slow-witted bartender Woody is distressed to find out on his honeymoon that he has just entered a “mixed marriage.” He belongs to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and his bride is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Among Woody’s concerns is that the two church bodies have differing views of Scripture and the Book of Concord. The studio audience finds this hilarious.
In the end, Woody does the “right thing” and joins his wife’s church body.
The gag works because, in our culture, differences between religious beliefs are quaint and silly—especially as, in this case, the two bodies share the name Lutheran.
Over a decade ago, a classmate of mine, who had transferred to Concordia Theological Seminary from an ELCA seminary, explained to me that his former school taught that the Resurrection of Jesus and the Virgin Birth are myths. We in the LCMS accept these as historical truths. Our difference with the ELCA is based on how we interpret the Bible and our Confessions. In the ELCA, the Bible is seen as “containing” God’s Word, whereas we confess that the Bible “is” God’s Word. In the ELCA, the Book of Concord is accepted “insofar as” it agrees with Scripture; in the LCMS, it is accepted “because”...