A Lutheran reading list

Thanks for those suggestions about funny reading and serious reading.  They are very helpful and give me ideas for lots of good reading.  Now T. R. Halvorson has put together a reading list for Lutheran laypeople, divided into “beginning,” “intermediate,” and “further on.”

See the list after the jump.  Are there other titles you would add? [Read more…]

Note on the “justifying” series

I’ve been doing a series of posts about what I am getting from a book I am reading:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. (For earlier posts on the subject, see this and this. and this.)  He makes the point that the term “justification” is not just a theological term.  Rather, it is a word and a concept that we use all the time, and that, in fact, is a major preoccupation, going deep into the human psychology:  We keep being accused and condemned,  so we continually have to “justify” ourselves, proving that we are right, insisting how good we are, getting defensive, accusing and condemning our critics in retaliation.  We want approval.  We want to be accepted.  We want to be considered good, including when we aren’t.

I think the comments have showed some misunderstanding.  I wanted to draw your attention to a comment I just made to that first post:  “It isn’t that this is a bad thing. We HAVE to do it, given who and what we are. The point is that this necessity of justifying points to our underlying need for what Christ does: Justify us freely.” [Read more…]

The comfort of Baptism

Dr. Benjamin Mayes is working with Concordia Publishing House on the new translations of Luther’s Works.  He was researching what Luther wrote about where Christians can find comfort.  Dr. Mayes writes, “Baptism is one of the comforting things, alongside various Bible passages, that console us regarding God’s particular love for us, giving peace of conscience and certainty of salvation. See LW 51:166 for an example: “Then, in this Christian church, you have ‘the forgiveness of sins.’ This term includes baptism, consolation upon a deathbed, the sacrament of the altar, absolution, and all the comforting passages [of the gospel].”  After the jump, two powerful quotations from Luther on the comfort that we can find in Baptism. [Read more…]

Justification by faith and the physical world

More from Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. (For earlier posts on the subject, see this  and this.)

When we no longer have to justify ourselves, observes Bayer, but know the “passive righteousness” of faith that comes from being justified by Christ, we are reconciled to ourselves (no longer having to justify ourselves); we are reconciled to God (no longer having to justify Him); we are reconciled to others (no longer having to justify them); and we are reconciled to the world (no longer having to justify existence).  This latter point is because, he says with great Lutheranness, God uses the physical world of His creation to bring to us our justification:  water, bread, wine, language, pastors.

[Read more…]

From justifying God to justifying existence

More (see my last post on the subject) from Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. . .

Not only are we always judging, condemning/justifying ourselves and each other, we also judge, condemn/justify God.  Bayer has some interesting reflections on “theodicy,” the question of how or why God allows evil,  drawing on sources that I wasn’t familiar with.  But what most struck me was Bayer’s observation that when the idea of God fades away in some people’s minds, the problem of theodicy remains.  He describes a “secular theodicy.”  No longer, “why does God allow evil and suffering,” but “why does existence allow evil and suffering.”  In many ways, that latter question is harder to answer.  I am seeing that this is why so many people today believe that life is meaningless, absurd, pointless, and (in a tragic number of cases) not worth living.

I’m thinking that, as I read on, Bayer will show that justification by Christ on the Cross justifies God (in this sense) and justifies existence itself.

[Read more…]

Justifying ourselves

I am reading a book that is blowing me away:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer, the contemporary German theologian who is sort of the Lutheran answer to radical orthodoxy.  Instead of reading it all, then writing a formal review, I am so excited by this book that I thought I would write posts about what I am finding so interesting as I am reading through it.

Bayer begins by showing that the concept of “justification” is not an arcane theological concept.  Rather, it’s something we are preoccupied with all the time.  We are always engaged in trying to justify ourselves.  We are always maintaining that we are right, particularly when other people say that we are wrong.  At work, in our casual conversations, in our relationships with others, we are always defending ourselves, making excuses, scoring points, and seeking approval.  I mean, you see it in the comments on this and other blogs. [Read more…]