Conservative Lutherans start dialogue with Catholics

Roman Catholics and the Lutheran World Federation made a splash a few years ago when they came to some agreements about Justification by Faith.  But the much-hyped talk of the two parties getting together has floundered, since many of the liberal Lutherans of the LWF have jumped off the deep end, as far as Catholics are concerned, when it comes to issues of sexuality. Another limiting factor is women’s ordination, practiced by most LWF church bodies, but ruled out by Roman Catholics.

But now, the world organization of conservative Lutherans, the International Lutheran Council (ILC)–whose churches do not ordain women and continue to uphold traditional teachings about sexual morality–is starting talks with Rome.  The goal is surely not union, nor papered-over agreements on justification and other important doctrines, but we’ll see what comes of it.  (Any ideas of what might be some legitimate areas of agreement and co-operation?)

Mathew Block (yes, one “t” is correct), the communications director of the Lutheran Church-Canada, tells about it, including who is involved (including someone from the LCMS)  after the jump. [Read more…]

Court throws out pastors’ housing allowance tax break

Pastors and other church workers have long been able to take part of their compensation as an untaxed housing allowance, resulting in substantial tax savings.  But a federal court has ruled in a suit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation that the tax break for clergy is unconstitutional.

The ruling has been stayed, pending appeal, but if it stands, pastors and their families will take a significant hit in their income. [Read more…]

80 lashes for receiving Communion

Aspects of our faith that are so commonplace that we often take them for granted are serious crimes in other countries, bringing horrible punishments.  Yesterday we blogged about North Korea executing people for simply possessing a Bible.  In Iran, since Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, if you are a Muslim convert, receiving Christ’s blood in the wine of Holy Communion is punishable by 80 lashes.  Evangelism–that is, the crime of spreading Christianity–can mean 3 years and 8 months in prison.  Would we pay prices like that for our Bibles, for Holy Communion, for witnessing to our faith? [Read more…]

Heaven and the widow of seven husbands

The Sunday before last, our Gospel reading was about the Sadducees who tried to shoot down the doctrine of eternal life by asking Jesus a hypothetical question about a woman who was widowed seven times–in the resurrection, whose wife will she be (Luke 20)?  Pastor Douthwaite preached a powerful sermon about the nature of life after death, in the course of which he did something I never thought of before:  He took the situation of the hypothetical woman seriously. [Read more…]

My take on the Lutheran/Calvinist discussion

Some thoughts on the discussion about Lutherans and Calvinists that was provoked by thoughts from Peter Leithhart and D. G. Hart.  (To get up to date with the latest contributions, see also what Anthony Sacramone had to say about it, as well as Dr. Hart’s rejoinder.)

I am one Lutheran who is not a Calvinist basher.  Having grown up in mainline liberal Protestantism and then hanging out in grad school with collegiate evangelicals, I heard about God’s grace for the first time from a friend who was a Calvinist.  It had never occurred to me and I had never been taught that God accomplishes everything for my salvation.  I found that very liberating.  I read Calvin’s Institutes and was greatly instructed.  I credit Calvin for leading me to Luther, whose theology seemed to me to have everything I appreciated in Calvinism while avoiding some of its problems.   In Lutheranism, I would find  dimensions of grace that I never dreamed of before.  But, frankly, if there had been a Calvinist church in the small Oklahoma town where I got my first teaching job, I might have gone in that direction.  Instead, there was a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which opened up to me dimensions of grace that I had never dreamed of before, including a deeply sacramental kind of spirituality.  Which brings up my first point:  [Read more…]

Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?

There are lots more Lutherans than Calvinists.  And Calvinism has all of those scary doctrines like double predestination and the limited atonement, whereas Lutheranism is, well, happier, with its emphasis on the certainty of grace, Christian freedom, and its affirmation of the secular realm as God’s hidden kingdom.  And yet it’s Calvinism that has been so influential in English and American Christianity and the culture as a whole.  So marvels D. G. Hart, himself a confessional Calvinist and a perceptive scholar of American Christianity.  Read his ruminations after the jump, and then offer your own theories about why this is.

UPDATE:  Anthony Sacramone, former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran, has a very helpful response.

[Read more…]


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