How church growth strategies keep missing the point

Rachel Held Evans tells about how churches that want to reach young people keep missing the point, trying to be cooler and hipper and more contemporary instead of attending to the far greater issues of substance.  Yes, she is calling for a measure of liberalism, but notice what else she is calling for.  Read what she says after the jump and then consider my comments. [Read more...]

Depression among Christians

Christians struggle with depression–including the bleakest, blackest clinical depression–like everyone else.  On Emily Scrivener’s blog A New  NameEmily has written about her own struggle with anorexia–a guest writer, Glen, posts about evangelicals’ bouts with depression.  He writes about what helps and what hinders in the evangelical tradition.

Just because he cites as problems things Lutherans don’t do and recommends things that Lutherans already have, let’s not us Lutherans discuss this in a triumphalistic or evangelical-bashing way.  Clearly, Lutherans too often battle with depression.  (Certainly, Luther himself did!)

There is a sense in which depression is tied up with psychological and physical factors that ought not be confused with one’s spiritual state.  (Doing so is often part of the problem.)  But what spiritual resources and truths can help a person through this?  (Comments from depression-sufferers are especially welcome.) [Read more...]

The Salvation of Unborn Children

What is the eternal destiny of children who die in the womb or who are aborted?  Some have said that their original sin merits eternal condemnation.  Most such a horrible conclusion hasn’t rung true for most Christians.  Roman Catholics have posited the existence of “Limbo,” a place of natural–though not supernatural–happiness for the unbaptized.  The Orthodox see the Fall as giving only the predisposition to sin and not sin itself, so children who die before they are baptized go to Heaven.  Calvinists have recourse to their doctrine of election.  Arminians see no problem for those who never had the opportunity for a decision.  Baptists say no one can be lost before the “age of accountability.”  Lutherans leave it to the Grace of God.

But Martin Chemnitz, the second greatest Lutheran theologian and the man most responsible for the Book of Concord has actually addressed this question in his classic treatment of Christology, The Two Natures in Christ:

“This teaching [the doctrine of the hypostatic union] is not idle sophistry, for it is an article of faith that Mary did not beget a man in whom God dwelt. Rather she bore the only Son of God by receiving His flesh, as Augustine says, “He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary who for this reason and in this sense is correctly called the God-bearer (Theotochos).” If reverently considered, this act produces the most comforting thoughts. For the Son of God embraced the human race with such great love that He did not shrink from descending to such a humble state that He not only did not assume a man who was already formed and born, but rather He united to Himself personally an individual human body in the very moment of its conception and made it His own. Thus the Son of God in assuming His own flesh, but without sin, also endured those things which commonly befall man in conception, pregnancy, and birth (as the fathers of the Council of Ephesus said), so that from His very beginning, rise, and, as it were, root, He might first restore in Himself our depraved nature and so cleanse and sanctify our contaminated conception and birth that we might know that Christ’s salvation applies even to man’s fetus in conception, gestation, and birth.”  

Chemnitz’s Works: The Two Natures in Christ, (St. Louis:  CPH, 2007), p. 102. [Read more...]

Books on Faith and Work

The doctrine of vocation, though neglected for a long time, is coming back in force.  Though “vocation” refers to God’s various callings in which we are to love and serve our neighbors and goes far beyond a “job,” it does include what we do to make a living.  Quite a few books have come out recently on what is being called the “Faith and Work conversation.”  Greg Forster has written a useful review essay online with links to the various titles.

I appreciate what he said about my book on vocation:  “Gene Edward Veith’s classic God at Work demonstrates that faith/work integration is indispensable if we wish to uphold the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

A classic already?  Don’t I have to be dead to have a book attain that status?  But I’ll take it.  I’m glad Dr. Forster sees what is so often missed:  That vocation is connected to justification. [Read more...]

Indulgences via Twitter

Pope Francis will be offering a plenary indulgence–that is, a full release from Purgatory for sins committed up to that point–for those who follow the World Youth Day activities on Twitter or other social media sites. [Read more...]

An evangelist to theologians

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of a theologian I had never heard of but whose Christ-centered approach to theology sounds very promising:  Thomas F. Torrance of the Church of Scotland, described in First Things as “an orthodox, ecumenical, and pastoral theologian”:

He considered his primary calling to be a minister of the Gospel and an evangelist to theologians. Modern western theology, he believed, has been trapped in an obsolete, dualist mindset that detaches Jesus Christ from God, worship and mission from Christ, and biblical and theological study from fellowship and communion with the living God. [Read more...]


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