Michael Horton on Vocation

I’ve been appreciating Michael Horton for a long time. His critiques of pop Christianity, his polemics against “Christless Christianity,” and his work to apply the insights of the Reformation to our own times are right on target. Here is a video lecture he gave on “Christ and the Workplace,” which deals with vocation.

HT: Justin Taylor

The Catechism as graphic novel

Concordia Publishing House is putting out an edition of Luther’s Small Catechism in comic book–I mean graphic novel form.

I think it works! Don’t you? Buy it here.

The role of Satan in the Christian’s life

More from Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig on tentatio:

Strangely, we discover the mysterious power of God’s Word, the hidden work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Word most clearly in temptation. Thus Luther says, ‘Thirdly, there is tentatio [temptation, trial], Anfechtung [attack]. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.’” (Page 21))

When Satan attacks us, we experience the righteousness and truth of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the intellect; we experience the sweetness and loveliness of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the emotions; we experience the power and strength of God’s Word with our whole being, rather than just with the body. (Page 21)

“The German word Anfechtung describes Satan’s attack upon our faith in Christ and God’s condemnation of us as sinners. As long as we operate by our own power with our own intellect and our own too-human notions, the devil attacks us by stirring up misunderstanding, contradiction, opposition, and persecution. He mounts that attack through the enemies of the Gospel in the Church and in the world. The purpose of this attack is to destroy our faith and undo the hidden work of God’s Word in us. As soon as God’s Word is planted in our hearts, the devil tries to drive it out so that we will no longer operate by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But paradoxically, these attacks are counter-productive. Luther says, ‘For as soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor [of theology] of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word.” Thus the devil’s attack on us serves to strengthen our faith because it drives us back to God’s Word as the only basis for spiritual life. We cannot rely on our own resources in the battle against Satan and the powers of darkness. If we rely on our wisdom and power, we will fail. In that situation, our only hope is in Christ and His Word. Our spiritual weakness makes us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God’s Word, which is “wisdom above all wisdom.” Through temptation we learn to seek help from God in meditation and prayer. We walk with Christ on the way of the cross; we discover the spirituality of the cross. We do not experience the splendor of union with our heavenly Lord, but we share in His suffering and pain. We bear the cross together with our Lord as we suffer with Him. Through the attacks of the evil one we are drawn further out of ourselves and deeper into Christ.” (Page 22)

Prayer, meditation, temptation

Luther famously said that to be a real theologian takes oratio, meditatio, and tentatio. The first two are clear enough: prayer and meditation (on God’s Word). But tentatio is not so easily translated from the Latin. It can mean “trial, test, attack, temptation.” What does THAT have to do with spiritual formation?

John Kleinig, in his book Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today–a book that would make a great Christmas present for any serious Christian–explores this.

Luther proposed an evangelical pattern of spirituality as reception rather than self-promotion. This involves three things: prayer, meditation, and temptation. All three revolve around ongoing, faithful attention to God’s Word.

The order of the list is significant, for unlike that traditional pattern of devotion, the spiritual life begins and ends here on earth. These three terms describe the life of faith as a cycle that begins with prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, concentrates on the reception of the Holy Spirit through meditation on God’s Word, and results in spiritual attack.

This, in turn, leads a person back to further prayer and intensified meditation. Luther, therefore, does not envisage the spiritual life as a process of self-development, but as a process of reception from a triune God. This process of reception turns proud, self-sufficient individuals into humble beggars before God.” (Page 16)

We’ll be talking more about such “attack” in subsequent posts. But do you know what he’s talking about? Some people see temptation as a sign of spiritual failure, but notice how Luther and Kleinig see it, if it drives us to deeper prayer and meditation, as part of the Christian life and of Christian growth.

Classical education as a confessional mandate?

Tracing some of those helpful Luther quotes on vocations that some of you had given me, I came across this in the online Bente Triglotta translation of the Book of Concord. From the explanation of the Fourth Commandment in The Large Catechism:

Let every one know, therefore, that it is his duty, on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children above all things in the fear and knowledge of God, and if they are talented, have them learn and study something, that they may be employed for whatever need there is [to have them instructed and trained in a liberal education, that men may be able to have their aid in government and in whatever is necessary].

As I recall, the bracketed text means that it is in the Latin version, but not the German. I believe subscription is to the German version, which is the main text for the modern English translations. Still, it’s surely significant that “liberal education”–which is synonymous with “classical education,” referring to the liberal arts, the education that forms a free citizen)–is advocated in the Lutheran confessions. “On peril of losing the divine favor,” no less, at least for children who are talented.

Anglos don’t know Lutheranism

I was talking with an Anglican priest and, after we had compared notes about our churches, he expressed surprise that there are Missouri Synod Lutherans who worship with the liturgy. This, even though the typical Lutheran congregation is far more liturgical than he is, what with our chanted divine services and more elaborate practices! The day before I was reading Graham Greene’s excellent, profound, and highly-Christian novel The Power and the Glory . It includes some German-American Lutherans, whom Greene depicts as kindly and not put off by the whisky priest’s sinfulness, but who have no crosses, just Gideon Bibles, and reject all of its “non-essentials” that characterizes Catholicism. But German-American Lutherans have crosses–yea, crucifixes–and are replete with what other Protestants consider non-essentials! Earlier, I had been enjoyed the first-rate mystery series by C. J. Sansom, whose detective Matthew Shardlake in the reign of Henry VIII solves murders in the age of the Reformation. (Start with Dissolution.) Despite Sansom’s thorough research and his main character’s personal investment in the Reformation cause, Lutherans are portrayed as the most radical of the dissenting sects, known mainly for their doctrine of predestination!

I suppose the English are just unfamiliar with Lutheranism. They seem to assume it is the opposite end of Catholicism, the Protestant pole of the via media that they are always trying to achieve. I’m sure this is part of the reason Americans too are often oblivious to the Lutherans in their midst. Then again, part of the fault may lie with the Lutherans for keeping their beliefs to themselves.