More on the Pope’s openness to communion with Lutherans

As we blogged about, Pope Francis recently visited a Lutheran church in Rome, where, in answer to a question, he expressed openness to allowing Roman Catholics and Lutherans to commune together.  An article on the subject and an interview with the pastor of the Roman Lutheran congregation have been published in the National Catholic Register.  The interview is excerpted here after the jump.

We conservative Lutherans agree with conservative Catholics in being opposed to any kind of intercommunion between the churches.  We both agree that communion requires full doctrinal agreement.  The pastor here is of the Lutheran World Fellowship/ELCA variety, which believes otherwise and that ecumenical unity trumps just about every other consideration.

But I found two things interesting in this discussion.  First, the interviewer does not have a clue about what Lutherans believe about Holy Communion.  He uses “the Real Presence” to describe the Catholic view, assuming that Lutherans don’t believe in that, even though the term is a Lutheran concept!

More significantly, though, the Pope is acknowledging that Lutherans have the true Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, that the Lutheran sacrament is valid.  I don’t know that a pope has ever acknowledged that before.  And if the Sacrament is valid, that means the Lutheran pastoral office is valid, which, as the pastor says, has long been a key issue. [Read more…]

What are the top books that have influenced YOU?

In the course of the discussion over Christian History’s list of the Top 25 most influential spiritual classics,  it was suggested that we talk about what spiritual classics have been influential to us, personally.  That’s a great idea.  (Thanks, Paul.)  Let’s make it a little easier.  You don’t have to list 25.  The books don’t have to be “spiritual classics,” as such.  Our focus is on faith and theology, but I’m also curious about other kinds of influences.  So I’d also like to hear from those of you for whom politics or philosophy or ideology has been more formative than faith and theology.  What are the top books that have been the most influential in your life?

Indulgences for the Jubilee Year

Nearly 500 years after the 95 Theses, Roman Catholics still believe in indulgences that will free you or someone else from the punishments of Purgatory.  A big one is offered in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as initiated by the Pope when he opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s basilica last Tuesday.

If you go through this door or one of other designated doors in churches throughout the world and fulfilled some other conditions (not paying money–the Counter Reformation accepted Luther’s arguments about that), you will be given a plenary indulgence that will give you complete remission of punishment for your sins up to that point.  You may receive one plenary indulgence per day for subsequent sins or to release others from Purgatory.  (But I thought souls want to be purged from their sins in Purgatory, according to modern Catholic and even some evangelical apologists for the doctrine!  And if you can pay for others’ sins, why can’t Christ pay for all?)

Anyway, see how the plenary indulgence works, from a Catholic website, after the jump. [Read more…]

Pope says to preach Gospel, then Law

The Pope began his Jubilee Year of Mercy by ceremonially opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s basilica.  (More on that and the indulgences going through a door like that will get you in a later post.)  In the accompanying address, Pope Francis reversed what Lutherans say about preaching the Law (to awaken hearers to their sinful condition), then the Gospel (the message of free salvation won by Christ on the Cross).  He said to first preach God’s mercy and THEN preach God’s judgement. [Read more…]

Prayer shaming while praying to the government

When a tragedy strikes, it seems natural for those affected to ask for people’s prayers and for those concerned to pray for the victims.  This held true with the recent shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernadino.  But this time, multiple pundits and media figures mocked those who were praying.  Prayer won’t solve the problem, went the theme, gun control will!

Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway has written a piece about this that you need to read all the way through.  She cites the various commentators and publications that indulged in this “prayer shaming.”  She then showed how they too are praying with unquestioning faith to their omnipotent deity–the federal government!  She concludes with an excellent discussion of what Christian prayer is and why it is important.  I’ll quote the first few paragraphs after the jump, but then click the link to read the whole thing. [Read more…]

What members of the LCMS actually believe

That Pew Religious Landscape study we blogged about last month now has denominational breakdowns.  This includes information about demographics, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and moral beliefs.

Members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (categorized under “evangelical,” “Lutheran family”) are not as conservative as their church is (though the same could be said of other “conservative” church bodies).

After the jump, some surprises that pastors need to know about. [Read more…]