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 about the Christian left?

A listener whose religious beliefs make him a political progressive asked NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben why we always hear about the Christian right, but seldom hear about the Christian left.  Read her answer, after the jump, and then consider the points I make. [Read more…]

“God punishes wicked subjects by wicked rulers”

Luther did not actually say the words attributed to him, that he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian (HT: Carl Vehse).  Though we might wish a wise Turk were running.  All we seem to be getting are foolish Turks.

But here is a political observation that Luther did say, from Treatise on the Ban (1520) paragraph 16:   “God punishes wicked subjects by wicked rulers.”

I quoted this in a previous post, but it’s worth thinking about and discussing for its own sake.  So, assuming that Luther is right and that both of the candidates have their own kind of “wickedness” (keeping in mind that maybe they don’t or will be changed), what did we do to deserve whichever candidate wins the presidency?

I’ll start with some reflections about how God punishes societies after the jump. [Read more…]

Luther and technology

David Gibson of Religious News Service tells about three major exhibitions opening this month on Luther’s Reformation:  at the Morgan Library in New York City; at the Minneapolis Art Institute; and at Emory University in Atlanta. These sound extremely interesting and worth going to.

I was struck by what the Morgan library curator says about Luther’s use of the new information technology of the time (with the assistance of artist and printer Lucas Cranach).  See what he says after the jump.  But read Gibson’s whole article, which includes the point about how Luther became the model for “speaking truth to power.”
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The candidates and the Two Kingdoms

I’ve been studying the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which has some interesting applications to our controversies today.  Christian defenders of Donald Trump are saying that his sexual transgressions show that he isn’t a saint.  But he is well-suited to the pragmatic, rough-and-tumble world of secular government, and that’s what we need in a presidential candidate.

Well, according to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, God’s spiritual Kingdom is ruled by the Gospel, but His earthly Kingdom is ruled by the Law.  That is to say, morality does apply precisely to secular government.

UPDATE:  Specifically, the first use of the Law, the civil use, which curbs external vices.  Though it cannot justify or get at our internal sinfulness, it restrains the outward expression of that sinfulness.  Such restraint and self-control can be practiced, to a certain extent, by all members of society, which depends on some kind of moral order.

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Non-denominational vs. confessional evangelicals on politics

Jacob Lupfer makes the observation  that non-denominational evangelicals tend to support Donald Trump, while “confessional evangelicals” (those committed to a specific theology) tend not to.

These are generalizations about leaders who are vocal about the election, not poll results of rank and file members.  But his lists of partisans on either side (see his article after the jump) hold up.

We confessional Lutherans are counted as “evangelicals” in surveys, based on our belief in the gospel of Christ and the Bible, though we are different from others in that camp.  We would doubtless count in the use of that term as “confessional evangelicals.”  As evident in our blog discussions, some Lutherans fiercely support Trump and others fiercely oppose him.

I don’t know how a majority of confessional Lutherans will come down on the election.  Because Lutheran confessions teach the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which distinguishes between the political and spiritual realms, there may be more political diversity among Lutherans.  Many confessional Lutherans are on the political left and many are libertarians.

But what would account for Lupfer’s observation?  Why would “mere Christians” support Trump, who himself makes some pretty strong distinctions and has a forceful ideology?  You would think that those who reject denominational distinctives and think all Christians should get along wouldn’t be attracted to Trump’s exclusive kind of nationalism.  And why would Christians with a distinct and forceful theology be so opposed to him?  You would think that these Christians often branded as “intolerant” would like Trump’s exclusive political ideology.  Somebody please explain this.

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