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.

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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…]

“Baptism is not supposed to be nice”

The Church of England has decided to take out the part in the Baptism liturgy in which the candidate or sponsors answer the questions, “Do you renounce the Devil?  And all his works?”  British journalist Giles Fraser complains at the attempt to make Baptism nicer, reducing it to a sanitized middle class naming ceremony. [Read more…]

Does God determine who wins the Super Bowl?

Last year a respected research institute found that 50% of sports fans believe supernatural forces are at work in sporting events.  That includes 19% who believes that God determines the outcome, 26% who pray for their team to win, and 25% who believe their team has been cursed.  More recently it’s been reported that 25% of Americans believe that God will determine who wins the Super Bowl.  (See this.)

Now the obvious response is to be indignant and say that’s ridiculous.  God doesn’t care about such trivialities as who wins a football game.  But wait a minute.  If God cares about the fall of a sparrow, why wouldn’t he care about the fall of a wide receiver?  If God’s providence extends to all of reality, why wouldn’t that include football games?

So what do you think about this?  Apply actual theology in answering this question one way or the other.

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Confessing the faith

Yes, Nadia Bolz-Weber is on the “progressive channel” at Patheos and she is a “pastorix” (her word) in the ELCA, but she continues to defy conventional liberal theology.  I came across a post in which she first discusses Moltmann’s view that the Virgin Birth of Christ is just a meaningful legend, and then talks about what it means to confess the faith of the church. [Read more…]

Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more…]