The Pope on salvation by works

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Catholics, Protestants often say, believe in salvation by good works.  This engenders the reply from thoughtful Catholics, no we don’t!  You have to have grace.  In fact, we even believe in justification by faith, just like you Lutherans do, as proven by the accord we signed with liberal Lutherans.  Since there is now no real disagreement, there is no need for the Reformation divisions.  You can come back to Rome and enjoy being under Pope Francis.

But Pope Francis keeps preaching that salvation is, in fact, by good works.  He is reported to have said recently that it’s better to be an atheist than a bad Christian.  Now this is not exactly what he said, according to ChurchPop; in context he was referring to Christians living a “double life” of sin and piety, which creates a “scandal” that makes outsiders think it would be better to be an atheist.  But read his sermon yourself to get a sense of where he stands on the importance of good works for salvation.  Note how he warns against “excessive confidence” in Christ’s forgiveness.

Earlier the Pope has said that on the last day the only issue will be “what we did.”  Lots of Christians won’t make it.  But atheists will, if they do good.  Here is what the Pope said of atheists:  “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

So those who do not believe but do good works will meet with the Christians who do good works in Heaven.  While Christians who believe but are sinful will not.

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Are evangelicals responsible for Milo?

1806225034_50df5b8ba4_oHow did the gay, profane, iconoclastic Milo Yiannopoulos get to be a poster child for conservative Republicans?  Was this due to a surge of pro-gay tolerance?  Or have conservative Republicans lost their moral compass?Ben Howe, writing in the Atlantic, blames evangelicals, especially evangelical leaders who taught that Donald Trump’s moral failings should not prevent him from getting their followers’ support.  These evangelicals used to hold politicians to high moral standards.  But in their zeal to support Trump, they have become moral relativists, at least when it comes to politics.  If morality and politics have nothing to with each other, Milo presents no problem.Now the question is, will evangelicals and this new breed of Republicans take the next step of separating morality from government?  Have they already?

Consider Howe’s argument after the jump.  He is writing from an openly anti-Trump position.  I doubt that he would criticize Milo’s gayness.  I would think that he would laud the evangelical leaders who have been giving him a pass.  But does Howe have a point anyway?  Do you see an error in his reasoning?  Didn’t Milo get taken down by a moral reaction? [Read more…]

What the Reformation did for preaching

Evangelical theologian Timothy George has written a fascinating and illuminating post entitled “How the Reformation Recovered Preaching.”

Prof. George shows not only historical facts about how the Reformation put the sermon back into the worship service.  (Before, sermons were only given on special occasions, and often outdoors instead of in the sanctuary.)  Drawing deeply on Luther, He also explores the theology of the sermon, which is a “sacramental event.”

Read highlights after the jump.

(Painting by Lucas Cranach, Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg.  Reproduction by Torsten Schleese (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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The death and new life of “Jane Roe”

Norma_McCorvey_(Jane_Roe),_1989_(cropped)Norma McCorvey, who went by the name of “Jane Roe” in the infamous Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, has died at the age of 69.

After winning the Supreme Court case, McCorvey became active in the pro-abortion movement.  But the kindness of a pro-life demonstrator at an abortion clinic led to her conversion to Christianity.

She then became a pro-life activist, battling the abortions that in another life she made legal.

The Associated Press obituary, excerpted and linked after the jump, has some fascinating details about her life, such as these:  During the Roe v. Wade case, she claimed that she needed an abortion because she was pregnant due to rape, but she later admitted this was a lie.  She was basically used by feminist activists who ran with her case and took it to the Supreme Court.  She became involved in a lesbian relationship, but after she became a Christian, they became celibate.  After her conversion, she was an evangelical, but she later become Roman Catholic.

Her life is a remarkable testimony to the grace of God, who redeems sinners and changes them. [Read more…]

The pastor who baptized a murderer

Emanuel_African_Methodist_Episcopal_(AME)_Church_CorrectedDylann Roof, who was sentenced to death for murdering nine African-Americans at a Bible study, had been baptized at the age of 2 in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, an ELCA congregation in Charleston, SC.

The pastor who baptized him, Rev. Richard Graf,  is now in the news, trying to explain the Lutheran doctrine of Baptism and how there is still hope even for this monstrous killer if he turns back to Christ.

Is his explanation adequate?  Does anything else need to be said?

 

Photo of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston [site of the shootings] by Cal Sr from Newport, NC, US [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons [Read more…]

A new approach to evangelism

prayer-1143598_640The traditional approach to evangelism, according to Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today, has started with presenting the Gospel to unbelievers.  The new approach, he says, starts with getting them involved with the church.  In the course of their relationships in the community of Christians, they will come to believe.

He sums up the two models this way:  Old:  Believe, Become, Belong.  New:  Belong, Believe, Become.

For more details, read the excerpts and the article linked after the jump.

As a Lutheran, I do see that bringing an unbelieving friend to church is a good way to evangelize that person, since a pastor, by virtue of his call, is going to proclaim the Gospel better than I can.  And yet, the church is a community of Christians, not something non-Christians can fully enter into, even if they wanted to, and I’m not sure they do.

And what makes a non-believer into a believer is the Gospel.  Even if the non-believer becomes, to some measure, a part of the  community and comes to have Christian friends who are good influences, at some point that friend–or the pastor, or someone–is going to have to tell the person about Christ.  (Actually, bring the person to the point of repentance through the Law, so as to make the hearer receptive to the Gospel.)  At that point, the “old” model would seem to reassert itself.

Actually, both models seem inadequate.  Baptism is nowhere mentioned.  Nor is Law, which leads to Gospel.  The very breaking down of the process into steps seems to go against the organic, unique, and varied way the Holy Spirit works.

What do you think about these approaches?

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