Lutheranism is not boring–vocation is

For me, growing up in perhaps the blandest version of mainline liberal Protestantism, Lutheranism, far from being boring, seemed wonderfully exotic.  All of that medieval-style chanting; people thinking they were eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood; having beer at church dinners.  On that last point, both the liberal Christianity I grew up with and the conservative Christianity of some of my friends tended to see smokin’ and drinkin’ as the prime example of sins.  But Lutheranism cared little for these little life-style issues (indeed, seeming actually pro-alcohol).  That blew my mind, as we said back then.

But I think I know why people might think Lutheranism is boring.  It’s the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.

“In all our religious and ethical life,” said Swedish theologian Einar Billing, “we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary” (Our Calling (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964), p. 30).  His point is that vocation locates the Christian life precisely in the realm of the ordinary–your marriage, your children, your work, your community–as opposed to the extraordinary works and extraordinary experiences that most theologies look for.  And, according to most people today, if something is “ordinary,” it is “boring.”

Never mind that the way you treat your spouse, your children, your customers, and your neighbors is more challenging and more morally significant and more spiritually telling than the occasional spectacular good work or religious experience that gets all of the attention.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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