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luther-5On May 10, 2014, a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) responded to my article about leaving apostate denominations.

In that written response, the claim was made that because men like Martin Luther are not living today, we are not able to know whether or not they would “be able to join the more liberal churches in their respective denominations.”

While this may initially seem like a reasonable argument, it is simply not persuasive because abortion (the main issue raised by the respondent) is not at all a modern issue.

Abortions were performed in the days in which Martin Luther ministered and he denounced them as murder, writing, “…those who have no regard for pregnant women and who do not spare the tender fruit are murderers and infanticides.” [1]

For a more contemporary witness to the historic lutheran position on abortion, consider also the following statement from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.” [2]

I would agree with the respondent that there are indeed at least three “different kinds” of Lutheran churches in the world today. There are two which are in substantive agreement with historic lutheran theology and ethics (i.e., WELS and LCMS) and there is one which is not.

Rather than retracting the statement which the respondent called into question, I would here reiterate it and even make it more specific: If Martin Luther or Dietrich Bonhoeffer were living today, they would not be able to join the ELCA.

— Christian McShaffrey


1. What Luther says: An Anthology, complied by Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), Vol. 2, No. 2826, p. 905.

2. Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Macmillan, 1965), pp. 175-176.