“Can Nadia Bolz-Weber save evangelicalism?”

As we’ve blogged about, Nadia Bolz-Weber has been getting a lot of attention as an ELCA “pastorix” who, for all of her tattoos, ministry to gays, and violation of “culture wars” stereotypes, preaches justification by grace through faith, Christ’s Atonement for sin, and the theology of the Cross.

Now a British journalist has written an article that asks the question, “can Nadia Bolz-Weber save evangelicalism?”  (See excerpts after the jump, along with my thoughts.)  But I wonder if what people are so impressed with is just a matter of her “style” or if it isn’t even more so a reaction to her Lutheran theology, which comes across as new, mind-blowing, and just what people need to hear. [Read more...]

Should Christianity try to be “cool”?

Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity,  argues that there are intrinsic contradictions inherent in the various attempts to make Christianity “cool.”  See what he says after the jump, whereupon I offer some thoughts on my own on the efforts to adapt Christianity to one culture or another and offer a modest proposal. [Read more...]

The Nadia Bolz-Weber phenomenon

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a tattooed, non-conformist, cutting-edge kind of person.  She’s also a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, two strikes against her for us Missouri-Synod Lutherans.  But she has the ear of “progressive Christians.”  And the thing is, she preaches the Gospel.

For all of her ministry to gays, the poor, and other outcasts, she does not approve of the leftwing social gospel that dominates most mainline liberal churches.  She is supernaturalist.  She proclaims Jesus.  She focuses on the theology of the Cross, not theologies of glory.  She teaches salvation by grace through faith.  She quotes Martin Luther.  She is having an impact.

Can we bracket all of the ELCA things we disapprove of?  Can we refrain from simply attacking her?  How can you account for the Nadia Bolz-Weber phenomenon?  Her audience is mainly “progressive Christians” who haven’t heard this sort of thing in a long time.  Does she illustrate my thesis that Lutheranism is the true emergent Christianity?  That is, that the way to reach postmoderns is not to water down faith (which was the tactic, mostly unsuccessful, to reach modernists), but to emphasize faith as Lutheranism does, in a way that is different from much of contemporary Christianity? [Read more...]

Justification by Faith Alone is Still the Issue

Back in the 1990s, I was asked to be on the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, an organization dedicated to applying the solas of the Reformation to contemporary Christianity.  Organizations change, and I’m not a part of it anymore.  But I was recently asked to contribute a post for the group’s website  Place for Truth.  The topic?  Whether the Reformation is still relevant today.  I said, “yes.”  More specifically, I argued that the major issue in Christianity today is the same as it was in 1517, a notion that is currently under almost unprecedented attack, even by Protestants:  Justification by faith alone.

See my essay after the jump. [Read more...]

What’s missing in today’s churches

Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church,  has published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, no less.  The problem with America’s churches today, he argues, is that so many of them have been downplaying the main message of Christianity.

We can give people the impression that Christianity is first and foremost about the sacrifices we make rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us – our performance rather than his performance for us. The hub of Christianity is not “do something for Jesus.” The hub of Christianity is “Jesus has done everything for you.” And my fear is that too many people, both inside and outside the church, have heard our “do more, try harder” sermons and pleas for intensified devotion and concluded that the focus of the Christian faith is the work that we do instead of the work God has done for us in the person of Jesus.

After the jump, read the whole column. [Read more...]

Christianity without the Atonement

The committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has thrown out a popular praise song, “In Christ Alone,” not just because it refers to the “wrath” of God, as originally reported, but because of the word “satisfied.”  That is, because it says the wrath of God was satisfied in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  What was objectionable is the doctrine of the atonement.  (See Abby Stocker, writing for Christianity Today, and follow her links, which show how this bedrock teaching of the Christian faith has become controversial lately, even among many ostensible “evangelicals.”)

What is the point of Christianity without the atonement?  It becomes turned into another religion.  I suppose the attraction is that it gives us another religion of law, which people somehow prefer to a religion that says they are sinners in need of forgiveness and, yes, atonement.  Jesus becomes the example we have to emulate, though surely those who are honest will have to admit that this is an even higher standard that they fail to live up to.

At any rate, after the jump I quote Timothy George on the controversy, who, though he focuses on “wrath” rather than “satisfaction,” makes some excellent points as he puts the controversy in the context of church history.  I also appreciate his account of how hymns have been tinkered with.  See, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle choir version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and what the Unitarians have done to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” [Read more...]


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