The pope’s “seismic shift” in theology

Jay Michaelson says that the most important aspect of the Pope’s encyclical on the environment is that it represents a “seismic shift” in Christian theology and Western thought:

  • It says that human beings have a relationship with the earth, on a par with their relationship with God and with their neighbors;
  • It says that the Genesis account is “symbolic and narrative,” not literal;
  • It rejects the notion that human beings have “dominion” over nature;
  • It advocates a “mystical nature panentheism.” [Read more...]

The Pope’s preacher says Luther was right

British religion reporter Christopher Howse tells about a sermon from Pope Benedict XVI ‘s preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa, that basically concedes that Luther was right on justification.  Well, sort of.

This was in the context of the Joint Declaration on Justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.  We confessional Lutherans deny that this accord was a true agreement, but this sermon–published in the book Remember Jesus Christ–faults Catholics for neglecting justification.  Howse’s discussion, however, also shows the differences that remain.

[Read more...]

The Crusades, the Inquisition, and Protestants

President Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast that Christianity, like Islam today, has been used to justify violence, mentioning particularly the Crusades and the Inquisition, historical episodes that are always being brought up against Christians.  It’s kind of strange, though, for us heirs of the Reformation to be blamed for those particular incidents. [Read more...]

Reformational Catholicism

Calvinist theologian Peter Leithhart is calling for “The End of Protestantism.”  It should be replaced, he says, by “Reformational Catholicism,” which he goes on to describe.  Much of what he is calling for sounds like Lutheranism.  Is it?  His essay and questions from me after the jump. [Read more...]

Tolkien’s Imagination

Arman J. Partamian has written a fascinating piece entitled “J.R.R. Tolkien and the Catholic Imagination.”  My question:  What is distinctly “Catholic” about what he describes?  Could a Lutheran or an Anglican or Orthodox or other kinds of Christians (at least sacramental Christians) have this kind of imagination as well?  From the post (but read it all):

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a genius. The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of Catholic literature, and in fact was a big factor in my conversion to Catholicism. The books are rich in the “sacramental imagination” – seeing the extraordinary behind the ordinary. In its deep and complex history and its high symbolism, it beautifully tells the story of our Fall and Exile (especially in the Silmarillion, which contains the creation myth and the ancient history of men and elves), and our longing to return to Eden/Heaven. It is a Christian story that powerfully draws non-Christians into its world, and it does this by concealing its Catholicism. In fact, Tolkien’s genius was to re-tell the Christian story in a hidden way. [Read more...]

Where are the Lutherans, revisited

Reformed baptist Kevin DeYoung raise a question on his blog asking where are the  Lutherans in the contemporary evangelical scene.  It provoked quite a conversation, both on his blog and here.  As a follow-up, Kevin interviewed Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House.  Paul did a superb job of communication.  You’ve got to read his the entire interview:   Those Dern Lutherans: An Interview with Paul T. McCain – Kevin DeYoung.  I especially liked his concluding remarks:

9. Anything else you think the world needs to know about Lutherans?

I would say this: I think Evangelicals often find themselves searching for something they feel might be a bit “missing” in their Christian walk, and think that Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy may fit the bill, while all the while Lutheranism is there, right around the corner. Often when they find a traditional Lutheran Church they are surprised to find a robust, rich worship life, rooted in the Scripture (which is what the liturgy is, in its entirety). They find a rich focus on Christ and the Gospel–Lutherans are adamant that Christ is the heart and center of everything, and they also find a tangible experience with God, not based simply on feelings or emotions, but on a concrete and objective experience with God’s grace through the sacraments. And all this is wrapped up in such a vibrant passionate love for Jesus. We Lutherans combine the best of what is Evangelical, with the best of what is truly catholic about the Church, with the rich heritage of the Lutheran Reformation. I think it is a winning combination, but of course, I’m kind of biased.

Which raises another issue:   Many evangelicals yearn for sacraments and liturgy and historic Christianity.  They seem to first become Anglicans and then migrate to Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy.   To be sure, some find Lutheranism, where sacramentalism and liturgical worship go hand in hand with a theologically rigorous commitment to the Bible and to the Gospel.  And yet many ex-evangelicals do not even consider Lutheranism but go right to other traditions even at the expense of giving up  the Gospel of justification by Christ alone (in favor of Rome’s  justification by faith plus works, or Constantinople’s theosis).  I mean, I can understand someone ceasing to believe in the evangelical view of justification–and many “evangelicals” are now disbelieving in it, which is a major reason to leave their churches–but I don’t see the Lutheran alternative even being considered by many of these folks.

Why is that?  Is it that they don’t know about it, or that if they go to a Lutheran church they find one trying to be like the one they want to leave?  In which case, this is the fault of Lutherans, and our lack of contact with other Christians, which is what DeYoung first complained about, has to be a factor.  Or are these ex-evangelicals running towards elements of Catholicism or Orthodoxy that are already inherent in their own theologies, namely, a preference for moralism (as opposed to the Lutheran freedom in the Gospel) and absolute authority (the pope or tradition as a more certain authority than how they formerly used the Bible, as opposed to the Lutheran view that sees the Bible as an authority that gives us mysteries, not rationalistic clarity, and that functions primarily as a means of grace in which God’s Word addresses us personally)?