Church authority vs. state authority over marriage

As gay marriage becomes the law of the land in many jurisdictions and, very likely in the near future, in the whole country, some Christians are saying, well, marriage is a religious function anyway.  Let the state do whatever it wants in regards to redefining marriage.  Or, better yet, let it get out of the marriage business.  We Christians will uphold real marriage, and we don’t need the state to let us do that.

Well, that might work if we were all Roman Catholics.  The church of Rome used to control and regulate all marriages.  But the Reformers took issue with that, insisting that the state should be in charge of marriage. [Read more...]

Why do the Orthodox ally with liberal Protestants?

One of the mysteries of the American religious scene is why all but one of the Eastern Orthodox church bodies in this country are members of the National Council of Churches, the mouthpiece for liberal Protestant denominations.  Not only that, the NCC consistently promotes abortion, homosexuality, a leftist social gospel, and a whole array of doctrines opposed to the traditional theology the Orthodox claim to champion.  And it isn’t like the Orthodox representatives are speaking up all that much against the NCC’s anti-orthodoxy.  John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy asks some pointed questions. [Read more...]

The Crucified God

For Lent I’ve been reading Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God.  It’s sophisticated theology, interacting and often agreeing with radical and liberal theologians, and yet there are treasures on virtually every page.  Here are some quotations:

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.” [Read more...]

Why the Lord’s Supper

Some years ago, I, as a Lutheran, was invited to write about the Lord’s Supper in Tabletalk, a magazine with mostly Reformed readers, which was doing special issue on the sacraments.  I didn’t want to argue, just explain what Holy Communion means and can mean in the life of a Christian.  I offer it to you, whatever your theology, for Maundy Thursday:

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity. [Read more...]

Evangelical conservatives vs. Liturgical conservatives

Thomas Holgrave says that the old distinctions among conservative Christians have faded and that the new divide–evident among both Protestants and Catholics–is between what he calls “evangelical conservatives,” who are strong on doctrine, and “liturgical conservatives,” who seek a richer mode of worship.  He calls for an approach that would bring these two together.  There is such an approach.  It’s called LUTHERANISM! [Read more...]

“Radical” Christianity vs. regular Christianity

The latest thing in contemporary Christianity is “radical Christianity.”  From the Christian bestseller lists to programs in megachurches, Christians are being told that Jesus was “radical” and that they should give up their “middle class” “mediocrity” and start helping the poor.  But how is this different from just liberal mainline Protestantism?  And isn’t just another form of works-righteousness?  For all the talk of the “demands of the Gospel” (doesn’t that turn the Gospel into Law?), I don’t hear anything about the Gospel.  That is, Christ on the Cross atoning for sinners.  Some of these teachers are making valid criticisms of typical evangelicalism, it seems to me, but they are slipping into some of the same mistakes, just in a different key.  And it also reaches for the spectacular, minimizing ordinary life, a serious “theology of glory” rejection of vocation.  (After the jump, read an account from Christianity Today and give me your take on this.) [Read more...]


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