A heresy trial over baptism

Reformed theologian Peter Leithart is in trouble again over his views on baptism.  He was tried by the Presbyterian Church in America and found innocent of doctrinal violations, but when the prosecutor in that case recently converted to Catholicism, the church body is questioning that decision and looks to put Rev. Leithart back on trial.   (So double jeopardy doesn’t apply to church trials?)  I am in no position to know whether his position is in accord with PCA doctrine or not, but I am curious about the extent to which it accords with Lutheran doctrine.  I’ll post his statement of his beliefs after the jump. [Read more...]

“The assumption of the humanity into God”

Yesterday was Ascension Sunday. (The actual Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter, the time the risen Christ remained on earth, was last Thursday.)  It commemorates something important and profound:  the now-and-still Incarnate Son of God, His work of redemption complete, returning to His Father and assuming His eternal place in the Holy Trinity.

Some people think Ascension Day means that Jesus isn’t here anymore.  (I have heard that put forward as a way to deny His presence in Holy Communion!)  But what it really means is that now He can be present in all times and places (particularly Holy Communion!) because the Ascended Christ fills all things (Ephesians 1:20-23).

Christ’s Ascension has to do with His Incarnation, which, according to the Athanasian Creed, was “not by conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by “the assumption of the humanity into God.”  Think of that!  Our human nature, taken on by Christ, has been taken “into God.”  This is why, in connection to Holy Communion, Christ’s body and blood, elements of his and our physical human nature, can be distributed to us human beings in our own times and places.  What are some other implications of “the assumption of the humanity into God”?

“Radical,” “missional” Christianity as the new legalism

The esteemed Anthony Bradley describes a “new legalism” stemming from the vogue of so-called “radical” and “missional” Christianity.  He decries the emphasis on spectacular works, emphasizing instead the role of  good works in the realm of the “ordinary.”  That is, the love of neighbor as carried out in [wait for it] VOCATION!  (See!  I told you, Anthony Sacramone!)  Dr. Bradley goes so far as to link to a talk I gave on that subject at the Evangelical Theological Society convention, which I didn’t even know was online. [Read more...]

The Freedom of a Christian

What’s the best book by Martin Luther to start with?  The answer is simple:   The Freedom of a Christian.  This is Luther at his very best, both in the brilliance of his writing and in his penetrating insight into the Word of God, the Gospel, and the Christian life.   “Freedom” lacks the harsh polemics that so often turns off modern readers, though all sides practiced it in the 16th century.  Like the best works of theology, it is stimulating both intellectually and spiritually and reading it is a profoundly devotional experience.  (Calvinists want you to start with the Bondage of the Will, which, they think, makes Luther sound like Calvin, though, as commentator Larry keeps pointing out,  really isn’t so.)

Most of all, “Freedom” gives us the most exhilarating applications of the Gospel, including Luther’s teachings on how Christians are simultaneously saints and sinners, that we are simultaneously free lords of all and servants of all, that the Christian life involves loving and serving our neighbors, that we are to be “little Christs” to each other, etc., etc.  (The book has recently been released in a new modern translation by Ed Engelbrecht from CPH:  Christian Freedom: Faith Working through Love.)  I bring this up because of a fascinating post from Mathew Block (head of communications at the Lutheran Church-Canada, which which the LCMS is in fellowship) at the First Things blog. [Read more...]

On denying the sacrament for “political” reasons

Confessional Lutherans get excoriated for not admitting members of other churches to the Lord’s Supper, though I don’t hear many people complaining when that happens in Catholic or Orthodox churches, which likewise practiced “close communion.” Some Catholics are taking this to another level by refusing to commune politicians who favor abortion.  Some are considering refusing to commune regular laypeople who disagree with the church’s other moral teachings.  Is that a possibility for Lutheran parishes, or does our different understanding of the Lord’s Supper and church discipline preclude that? [Read more...]

“Lutherans Know Something We Don’t Know”

In the appreciation-for-Lutheranism-by-non-Lutherans department, here is a post by Cap Stewart at Happier Far.  It tells about how he has been helped by the Lutheran distinction between Law and Gospel and, in particular, by the The Lutheran Study Bible:

Lutherans Know Something We Don’t Know

A Charismatic, a Presbyterian, and a Lutheran walk into a bar. Okay, that probably would never happen, but if those three people were to somehow enter a bar, coalesce, and emerge from the establishment as one man (who realized he wasn’t too fond of beer to begin with), that one man could possibly be me.

Yes, many denominations have made an impact on my spiritual development. And while I could possibly be labeled as something of a Reformed Charismatic (which, I assure you, is not a contradiction in terms), I have also been heavily influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. One Lutheran doctrine in particular has been especially helpful—the paradigm-shattering distinction between law and gospel. [Read more...]


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