Luther’s cross-cultural appeal

Portrait_of_Martin_Luther_as_an_Augustinian_MonkSarah Hinlicky Wilson, the editor of Lutheran Forum, has been co-teaching a seminar in Wittenberg on Luther to students from all over the world.  She writes in Christian Century about the continuing impact of Luther 500 years after the beginning of the Reformation.

She gives an ELCA perspective, full of ecumenical yearnings for union with Rome, and there will be other points that Missouri Synod Lutherans will disagree with.  Though they find it  worth reading.  For example, notice how she deals with Luther’s anti-Judaism.  I was interested in how she demonstrates that the message of “inclusion”–which is very big in theologically liberal circles–has anti-Judaism problems of its own.

What most struck me was what she had to say about Luther’s cross-cultural appeal, how his theology is being seized upon by Africans, Indonesians, Brazilians, and other people of non-European cultures, who are finding his teachings helpful in dealing with the problems in their churches and societies.  I quote this section after the jump. [Read more…]

Saying Christ is the only way to God is “abusive and criminal”?

coexist-1211709_640Two British street preachers were arrested for publicly reading the Bible, particularly the parts about Jesus being the only way to God.

In their trial, the prosecutor said,“To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”

The prosecutor apparently thought that those teachings were just quirks of the King James translation of the Bible, rather than basic doctrines of Christianity.  He said, “to use words translated in 1611 in a very different context, in the context of modern British society, must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”

The court agreed, sentencing the two Christians to a fine of £2,016 each ($2,452.42). [Read more…]

LCMS judge is censured for following her church

We blogged about (here, here, and here) the case of Judge Ruth Neely, a municipal judge in Pinedale, Wyoming, who mentioned to a reporter that, as a Lutheran Christian, she would not be able to preside at a same-sex wedding.  Uproar ensued.

Never mind that no gay couples have ever asked her to do their wedding, so that she never discriminated against gay couples.  Never mind that Wyoming law does not require judges to do weddings of any sort.  But the enforcers of the new morality complained to the Wyoming Supreme Court, demanding that she be removed from office.

The court has now issued its decision:  Judge Neely will be censured, but she will be allowed to keep her position.

After the jump, an AP story about the decision, as well as the reaction of the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Matthew Harrison.

The title of his message puts the case in vocational terms:  “Living Out Vocation under the Cross.”

[Read more…]

Converts to “religion of freedom” are boosting church attendance in Europe

refugees-A-INThe Muslim immigrants converting to Christianity are having a noticeable effect on church growth and church attendance in Europe.  (See this, this, and this.)

For the last few decades, churches have been almost empty on Sunday mornings. But congregations that have evangelized Muslims are coming back to life.  For example, theTrinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, which we have blogged about, used to have 150 parishioners.  Now they have 700.

The phenomenon has spread to England.  One Anglican bishop says that one out of four of the confirmations he performs are for Muslims converting to Christianity.

Two stories from British sources after the jump.  They give some inspiring testimonies about how some of these immigrants came to Christ.  A common theme:  the realization that Christianity is “the religion of freedom.”

I suppose there is a connection between the freedom of religion and the religion of freedom! [Read more…]

The liquid bread fast

In the 17th century, a strict order of monks gave up all solid foods for Lent.  So to sustain themselves, they developed a particularly rich version of what they called “liquid bread.”  That is to say, beer.

This was the origin of the Paulaner brewery, which still makes its acclaimed beer.

A few years ago, a Christian  journalist went on an all-beer fast.  Intoxication faded.  Hunger subsided.  And he developed a remarkable “clarity of focus” and devotional intensity.

I suspect that any kind of long-term fasting can have that affect.  (Can anyone speak to this?)

I should add, don’t try this at home!  Most beers today lack the nutritional substance of the old brews.  (The journalist found a special doppelbock.)  And there can be other unintended consequences. [Read more…]

We Lutherans as others see us

480px-Lutherrose.svgI stumbled upon a tab at the Patheos site that is called “Religion Library.”  It includes information about a host of religions and Christian denominations and traditions.  So I checked out the information for “Lutheran.”  For each church category, you can click on topics such as “Sacred Narratives,” “Sacred Time,” “Sacred Space,” “Rites and Ceremonies.”  Reading them feels like being the object of an anthropological study.

The author, Ted Vial, is a professor at Illiff School of Theology, a Methodist seminary, that also serves other mainline Protestant churches.  He is a true scholar and he gets much of Lutheranism right, considering that he is writing about the whole gamut of this tradition.  He does distinguish between the confessionalism of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod from the more liberal branches.  But I didn’t notice mention of the other conservative branches, such as the Wisconsin synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Free Lutherans, etc.

Prof. Vial is good on vocation, Luther’s neighbor-centered ethic, the Two Kingdoms, and justification.  He mentions the distinction between the Theology of the Cross and the Theology of Glory but doesn’t do too much with it, and readers don’t get a sense of the distinctly Lutheran Christology that allows our confessions to talk about “God suffering” and “God dying,” which, in turn would give him more to say about the Lutheran take on “Suffering and the Problem of Evil.”

Also, you can see the lens through which Prof. Vial is seeing.  He uses the Reformed numbering in the uses of the Law–he calls the use that convicts us of sin the “First Use,” whereas that is the “Second Use” for Lutherans, the first being the use that constrains outward behavior.  And he is clearly Methodist in saying that Lutherans “don’t expect to be sanctified.”  We do, only not in the Methodist sense of achieving moral perfection.

Part of Lutheranism he “gets” very well, other parts he misses, but in other places he is just “off” a little, as is probably always going to be the case when someone tries to understand religious beliefs from the outside, rather than as someone who believes them.

Check out what he says about Lutheranism from the live links given after the jump.  Those of you who aren’t Lutheran, go to the Religion Library and read about your church and how it measures up to those anthropological categories of “sacred time,” “sacred space,” etc.

Did you learn anything about your church that you didn’t realize before?  What is the author missing about your theology and your religious identity?

[Read more…]