Vocation as the foundation of culture

I learned some things at the Two Kingdoms conference I spoke at, sponsored by Jordan Cooper at Just and Sinner.  Jordan commented that our vocations–in the family, the economy, the church, and the state–are no less than the foundations of culture.

He studied the first chapters of Genesis and concluded that the so-called “cultural mandate” (by which human beings are given the authority and the ability to rule the earth), should more properly be called the “vocational mandate.”

UPDATE:  You can hear Jordan’s complete presentation here.

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Liberalism of the left & liberalism of the right

The well-regarded ethicist Stanley Hauerwas reviews a new book by John Milibank, of “radical orthodoxy” fame.  Entitled The Politics of Virtue, Milibank argues that both today’s liberals and conservatives are essentially liberals.  Both sides are fixated on “freedom,” whether sexual freedom or economic freedom, to the exclusion of other things needed for a good society (such as virtue).  Milibanks goes on to argue for a “post-liberalism.”

Read Hauerwas’s discussion and interaction with the ideas after the jump. [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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Conference on Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms

I’ll be speaking at the 2016 Just and Sinner Conference this Thursday through Saturday.  The conference topic will be “Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms.”  I’ll be joining my friend Eric Phillips and fellow Patheos blogger Jordan Cooper (who is organizing the conference at the congregation he pastors).

We’ll be unlocking a concept that I think gives clear and helpful guidance for Christians trying to sort out the relationship between the spiritual realm and the secular realm.

The conference will be at Faith Lutheran Church in Watseka Illinois, not far from Chicago.  For more information, including the schedule and the topics of the various presentations, go here.  For registration information go here:

Christ, Culture, and the Two Kingdoms (2016 Just and Sinner Conference) @ Faith Lutheran Church Watseka Illinois (Thu 19:00, 2016-10-27) | etrigg.com

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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What Trump gets right

The empty factories have their windows broken and weeds are taking over the parking lots, but they remain as monuments of the prosperity that rust-belt cities used to enjoy.  Small towns in the heartland have downtowns with shop windows boarded up.  Their young people either move away the first chance they get, looking for work, or they stay with many of them getting hooked on crystal meth or heroin.  A large number of the displaced workers in both the cities and the towns have given up on marriage and have stopped going to church, such is their despair.

What has happened to many of our cities and our small town culture–which used to be the Norman Rockwell vision of America–is tragic.  Here we see where economics and culture come together, destroying each other.

Who’s to blame?  Wal-Mart or Amazon for destroying America’s small retailers?  Corporations closing factories here and opening them overseas in lands of cheap labor?  Can or should anything be done about it?  Maybe these are just casualties of the market’s “creative destruction.”  But we are writing off a good part of America.

Donald Trump is pretty much the only one in either party who shows any concern whatsoever about the plight of America’s working class. [Read more…]