This interview was conducted over a week's period of time and will be in three parts. This is part one. Pastor Jordan Cooper is not a Lifetime Lutheran, so the article is intended to show how he moved from certain doctrines he used to hold to then onto Confessional Lutheranism with resources he gives to see the process God used to help him.
He became a pastor in 2013 in the AALC and took his first call at Hope Lutheran Church in Brighton, Iowa where he resides with his wife, Lisa, and their son who just turned a year.
In addition to being the pastor at Hope Lutheran, he also blogs at Just and Sinner along with doing podcasts with interviews and commentaries on such things as Calvinism and Lutheranism where he has more than sixty entries on his blog on that topic alone. One of his most sought out podcasts is about Paul Washer, one that is a gentle and fair critique of the preacher's theology.
He has been published in the LOGIA Journal of Lutheran Theology and the Issues Etc. Journal along with a couple interviews on Issues, Etc. A book put out by Wipf & Stock about the New Perspectives of Paul is available at Amazon: The Righteousness of One: An Evaluation of Early Patristic Soteriology in Light of the New Perspective on Paul.
Some would wonder what a pastor does during his off time. Pastor Cooper not only enjoys time spent with his family, but has quite the fascination with Star Wars. He says, “I spend a lot of time playing with yo-yos, and I also have a large collection of Star Wars memorabilia. In fact, it fills up an entire room in my house.” Another interesting fact is that Uma Thurman is his third cousin.
Pastor Cooper was baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church. Though he heard the gospel growing up, he does not recall a particular moment he “got saved.” After falling away from his faith in Christ for some time, at age fifteen, he had what he calls a radical conversion. In his words: “this was simply a return to my baptism and that which I had learned from childhood.”
When asked how long he was a Confessional Lutheran before becoming a pastor, he answered:
I was en route to become a pastor before becoming a Lutheran and had plans to attend Covenant Seminary in St. Louis so that I could be ordained in the PCA. I believe it was about four years that I was a Confessional Lutheran.” (Cooper)
Pastor Cooper had a dilemma figuring out Lutheranism because he didn’t see many resources available. As he tells it, Calvinistic resources were plenty available and not very expensive. He has a passion to help others now who had the same problem he did. He says:
I had to look extremely hard to find Lutheranism. Calvinism was always there, available at every Christian book store, Christian radio stations, and on the internet. I had to do google searches for hours to find any resources on Lutheran theology, and had to spend quite a bit of money to get theology books. And many of these books aren’t even available on Amazon.
The reason we are not a viable option to most people is simply because we are terrible at marketing. This is unfortunate, but I think we are getting better at it. This is why I do the podcast and run the publishing house. I would like to see us be available to a broader audience.
I am trying to put books out cheaply so that others can afford them, and get free podcasts and reading materials online. Others are really helping in this effort as well, and I think there will be a large turnaround here.” (Cooper)
Touching on his views of the Roman Catholic Church as a Calvinistic Reformed man prior to becoming a Lutheran, Pastor Cooper explains what he calls Romophobia which dominated his thinking. He speaks of the Council of Trent and how he views the Roman Church now:
As a Reformed Christian, Rome was generally seen as the “great whore,” or basically the greatest enemy of the Christian faith on this earth. As I studied more church history and understood the Biblical teaching on the sacraments, I ceased to see Rome in the same way.
While being Reformed, I often viewed anything that looked Roman Catholic as automatically bad, rather than thinking through issues Biblically and historically.
This is what some call “Romophobia.” Baptismal regeneration? That can't be right because it’s Roman Catholic. Pastors wear clerical collars? They must be Roman Catholic. Now, don’t get me wrong, Rome has a lot of real theological issues and I’m not ready to cross the Tiber. The statements of Trent have not been rescinded. However, with all of this, the Roman Church is not the ultimate enemy of Christ as I once thought they were.” (Cooper)
During Pastor Cooper’s journey into Lutheranism, he explains his conversion was very much due to the Scriptures about the Sacrament of Baptism:
The baptism passages played the most prominent role in my conversion to Lutheranism. I learned all the hermeneutical tools I needed from my Reformed background. The problem is that when these tools are used consistently, they point toward something other than Reformed theology. If the Reformed used the same hermeneutic they do on the baptism passages when it comes to other topics, they could essentially overthrow every article of the Christian faith.” (Cooper)
When asked what books and resources he used to get a better grasp on Christianity and Church History, he answered:
I mostly read the primary sources. I spent a lot of time reading the works of Luther and Schaff’s popular set of the texts of the church fathers. I also read through Schaff’s church history, the writings of Pelikan, and J.N.D Kelly.” (Cooper)
On the subject of the differences between Lutheranism and Calvinism in regards to Baptism and what God says it does, Pastor Cooper tells how he came to understand what Martin Luther taught and confessed:
My mind changed from reading Pieper and studying the church fathers. Baptism is extremely clear in so many texts, there really isn’t any way around it. When I began to look at the Reformed exegesis of the baptism texts it was obvious that they were simply using every tool they could to explain away the clear meaning of the texts.
The Lutheran exegesis of the baptism passages is pretty simply: they mean what they say. When Scripture tells us that baptism saves (1 Peter 3.21), it means it. When Scripture tells us that we have been buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6.4, Colossians 2.12), it means it. When Scripture tells us that baptism forgives sins and brings the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.38), it means it.
The Supper is the same. Jesus’ words “this is my body” should bare their obvious meaning unless there is significant reason to do otherwise.
When other theological considerations are taken into account such as the connection between Jesus and the Passover lamb, the fact that Christ explicitly states that his flesh and blood can be eaten (John 6.54), that we participate in his body and blood (1 Corinthians 10.16) through the Eucharist, and that eating and drinking unworthily is sinning against Christ’s actual body and blood (1 Corinthians 11.27), it becomes clear that Jesus’ words are to be taken at face value.
In fact, the only time that the word “regeneration” is actually used in Scripture to refer to something that happens to an individual, it is called a “washing” (Titus 3.5), clearly referencing baptism. I would also point to Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus about being born again, when he speaks of being born of water and the Spirit (John 3.5).” (Cooper)
The interview with Pastor Cooper will pick up in Part 2.
J. Cooper (personal communication, February 2 - 9, 2014)