The Reformation as a restoration of catholicity

Even some Protestants are saying that we shouldn’t celebrate Reformation Day.  Why celebrate the breakup of the catholicity of the Church?  In his excellent Reformation Sunday sermon, our pastor quoted the distinguished seminary professor and theologian Norman Nagel, who maintained that the Reformation was actually a restoration of the Church’s catholicity.

Read why after the jump.

UPDATE:  Dr. Nagel made a rare mistake in crediting Irenaeus for the quotation when it should have been St. Ignatius of Antioch.  (HT:  Steve)

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Pope praises Luther

Pope Francis is set to celebrate Reformation Day in a joint service with Swedish Lutherans.  A story from NPR quotes him praising Luther.

It’s appropriate for Catholics to celebrate Reformation Day!  As Pope Francis says, the church had become extremely corrupt.  Without the Reformation, there would be no Counter-Reformation, which is where much of today’s Catholicism and Catholic lay piety comes from (the Rosary, frequent Communion by the laity, Catholic schools, the Jesuits, etc.). [Read more…]

The medieval Christian–not pagan–origins of Halloween

We have long been told that Halloween goes back to the ancient Celtic pagan holiday Samhain.  But Baylor historian Beth Allison Barr points out that it doesn’t.  For better or worse, Halloween and its customs grew out of Medieval Christianity. [Read more…]

Reaching today’s idolaters of the self

How do you proclaim the forgiveness of sins to someone who doesn’t think he has done anything wrong?  How can you apply the Law to someone who feels no guilt and the Gospel to someone who feels no need for Christ?  Trying to evangelize today’s relativists seems like a futile project.  How can we get through to them?

The Australian pastor and theologian Michael Lockwood has just published a stimulating, paradigm-shifting book entitled The Unholy Trinity:  Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I.

On one level, it is a study of Luther’s view of idolatry.  For Luther, idolatry is not just worshipping graven images, as with Christians who think tangible objects used in worship, such as crucifixes, are idols.  Rather, idolatry is worshipping false gods created by the self.  In his explanation of the First Commandment in the the Large Catechism, Luther asks, “what is it to have a God?”  His answer:  What do you put put your faith in?  That’s your God.  Ultimately, idolatry is the opposite of saving faith in Christ.  It means putting your faith in yourself.

Dr. Lockwood then applies the insights from Luther to today’s spiritual landscape, from “Moralistic-therapeutic-Deism,” through the whole array of false spiritualities, to the pure secularism that sees no need for God at all.  All of these, at their root, are idolaters of the self.  But the self will let you down every time.

Drawing on his experience as a missionary, Dr. Lockwood says that non-believers first need to be “disenchanted” with their idols. He shows how the Law brings a message not only of guilt but of disenchantment.  In times of suffering, failure, and the prospect of death, even the idolaters of the self can find redemption in Christ.

This is a ground-breaking book that brings a distinctly Lutheran perspective on the task of apologetics, evangelism, and pastoral care.  But all Christians will benefit from its fresh approach to cultural criticism and from learning from Dr. Lockwood the art of “spiritual diagnosis.”

Read my review after the jump.  Then buy this book.

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Restoring society by going to Church 

In the course of a review of R. R. Reno’s Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, Texas A&M professor James R. Rogers (an LCMS Lutheran) observes that most people on every side assume that going to church is a private activity.  Christians are urged to go outside the walls of their churches to change society.

But it’s within the walls of churches that God works and society is changed.  Dr. Rogers quotes St. Ignatius of Antioch:

Take heed to meet together frequently for thanksgiving [eucharis] to God and for his glory. For when you meet together frequently, the powers of Satan are cast down, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.

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“America needs a religious right”

New York Times Ross Douthat offers a defense of the Religious Right.  In fact, he argues that America needs a religious right in order to save conservatism from its own darker impulses.

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