“Spiritual Communion”?

According to Roman Catholicism, you can receive “spiritual communion” even when you don’t take actual, physical communion.  That is, if you desire to receive the sacrament, that is almost as good as actually receiving it.  I learned this seeming bit of Gnosticism from a post by Nicholas Frankovich as part of the discussion about whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the Sacrament.

Note too, in the excerpt after the jump, that whereas Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are given and received specifically for the forgiveness of sins, Roman Catholics believe that sinners must not receive them.  More evidence that Lutherans actually have a higher view of the Sacraments than Catholics do! [Read more…]

Open questions

Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, posted a passage from the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (1932) regarding “Open Questions.”  It makes the wise point that Scripture does not clearly answer all theological questions, and so the Church may not offer definitive answers to them.  See the passage after the jump.

First, can anyone explain the confessional status of the Brief Statement?  Is acceptance of this document obligatory for Missouri Synod Lutherans?  Just pastors?  Laymen?  (The only requirements for formal subscription I’ve come across are to the Scriptures and to the confessions in the Book of Concord.)  This statement affirms things like the inerrancy of Scripture and the Six Days of Creation, but it leaves out important Lutheran doctrines such as the Theology of the Cross and Vocation.

Second, what ARE some of these open questions?  I suspect there are different positions on whether the Scriptures are clear or not on some issues. [Read more…]

Doctrine as health

What’s the importance of doctrine?  Is it just “head knowledge” that can be set into opposition with the “state of the heart”?  If your doctrine is off, does that mean you are not really a Christian?  If not, what difference does it make?  Pastor Matt Richard gives an answer by quoting Robert Kolb, who offers an interesting analogy. [Read more…]

Bringing back the religious left?

A Brookings Institution study says that today’s Democrats are less interested in even liberal Christianity, but that it still might be possible to bring back the religious left.  I would think this is true.  Pope Francis seems to be bringing liberal Catholicism back into power.  Many ostensible evangelicals are reconfiguring their teachings to promote liberal, rather than conservative,  politics.  And of course there are the mainline liberal Protestants who are still around in significant, though reduced, numbers.   (Do notice that I am not referring to people who are liberal politically though conservative theologically, which used to be commonplace and is still evident in many congregations and on this blog.  I’m referring to new iterations of the social gospel.) [Read more…]

The glory of God hidden under suffering

Thanks to Scott Diekmann for bringing to our notice a 2002 piece by Rev. William Cwirla that succinctly explains the “theology of the Cross” and applies it to human suffering. [Read more…]

Back to the social gospel

Hillary Clinton cited her commitment to the “social gospel” in a speech to United Methodists.   That goes back to the 19th century when many Protestants said that instead of emphasizing the gospel of eternal salvation in Heaven through Christ, they should emphasize a gospel of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

The social gospel, which inspired all kinds of social reforms and progressive political activism,  became the hallmark of liberal theology.   After World War II, even in liberal theological circles, neo-orthodoxy reacted against the utopianism of the social gospel, though in the 1960s it came back with liberation theology.  Conservative theologies, of course, rejected the social gospel, but today there is arguably a social gospel of the right. [Read more…]


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