More on the Pope’s openness to communion with Lutherans

As we blogged about, Pope Francis recently visited a Lutheran church in Rome, where, in answer to a question, he expressed openness to allowing Roman Catholics and Lutherans to commune together.  An article on the subject and an interview with the pastor of the Roman Lutheran congregation have been published in the National Catholic Register.  The interview is excerpted here after the jump.

We conservative Lutherans agree with conservative Catholics in being opposed to any kind of intercommunion between the churches.  We both agree that communion requires full doctrinal agreement.  The pastor here is of the Lutheran World Fellowship/ELCA variety, which believes otherwise and that ecumenical unity trumps just about every other consideration.

But I found two things interesting in this discussion.  First, the interviewer does not have a clue about what Lutherans believe about Holy Communion.  He uses “the Real Presence” to describe the Catholic view, assuming that Lutherans don’t believe in that, even though the term is a Lutheran concept!

More significantly, though, the Pope is acknowledging that Lutherans have the true Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, that the Lutheran sacrament is valid.  I don’t know that a pope has ever acknowledged that before.  And if the Sacrament is valid, that means the Lutheran pastoral office is valid, which, as the pastor says, has long been a key issue. [Read more…]

The Pope’s coming accord with evangelicals

Pope Francis believes that the Reformation is over, that the breach with Luther and later Protestants has been healed.  This is thanks to the Joint Declaration on Justification worked out between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.  (Conservative, confessional Lutherans reject that document.)  Moreover, Pope Francis has deep ties to Latin American evangelicals and charismatics.

As reported in the Catholic Herald, he has written a document declaring an end to the hostilities between Catholics and evangelicals, which he plans on issuing on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. [Read more…]

The Future of American Evangelicalism–& Lutheranism

Patheos has put together an online symposium on the Future of American Evangelicalism.  It features lots of different opinions, analyses, and strategies.  Some of it applies to us Lutherans, but not all.  It also suggests opportunities for a distinctly Lutheran response to our times.

Check out the symposium.  Then consider what it suggests for Lutheran Christianity.  Then post in the comments your thoughts on “The Future of American Lutheranism.”

“Conscientious objection against the state”?

LCMS president Matthew Harrison has issued a response to the Supreme Court marriage ruling.  It’s a strong statement, but what’s most striking and surprising, coming from a Lutheran with a Two Kingdoms theology, is his quotation of the anti-Nazi theologian Hermann Sasse on signs that the state has lost its Romans 13 legitimacy.  President Harrison concludes that “Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state.”

Is he saying that the United States government is no longer legitimate?  Wouldn’t that mean we don’t have to follow any of the laws it passes?  The Lutheran theology of culture, the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, has sometimes been interpreted to mean that God rules through the state, so that we need to submit to the secular authorities no matter what.  But I think the Two Kingdoms offers a mechanism for critiquing the state.  If God is the King, hidden in secular institutions and vocations but working through them with His moral law, then states and rulers who repudiate that moral law are in rebellion against His kingship.  Right?  But presumably He would still be working through them, despite themselves, in other ways, so that Christians would still be obliged to submit to their authority where it doesn’t conflict with God’s Word.

How else might a Two Kingdoms approach to the gay marriage decision help us navigate these controversies?  Read President Harrison’s statement, after the jump.  What do you think about it?  What else might be said?

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Reviews of “Where Christ Is Present”

More shameless promotion of the new book I edited with John Warwick Montgomery, Where Christ Is Present.  (I am uncomfortable with promoting myself and my work, and you have to admit I don’t do it very often.  But I really like the essays in our collection and want people to read them.  Tell you what. . . .Buy the book, but don’t read my essay.  Just read the others.  OK, I feel better now and will now promote the book without inhibition.)

After the jump, what people are saying about the book on Amazon.  The reviews give you a good idea of what the different essays are about. [Read more…]

What’s in our new book?

The book I put together with John Warwick Montgomery, Where Christ Is Present, consists of some brilliant essays on different aspects of Lutheran teaching and practice.  As the Amazon reviews are saying of particular essays, each one is worth the price of the book.  And they aren’t just rehashing of old arguments and stale polemics.  They bring something new to the discussions and present the concept in fresh ways.

Some of them actually break new ground, or present things that I, at least, had never known before.  For example, Adam Francisco’s chapter on the Scriptures shows how the Early Church affirmed the Bible as its sole authority; later, it developed the concept of “tradition,” while insisting that the tradition is consistent with and normed by the Bible; later, though, some theologians started to teach that tradition is, in effect, above the Bible; not till fairly late in the Middle Ages was the Papacy elevated as a superior authority to both the Bible and tradition.  I never knew that.

I also learned a great deal from Angus Menuge about the influence of Lutheranism on science; Craig Parton on Christian liberty and how that is manifested in the work of the great Lutheran artist Johann Sebastian Bach; Steve Hein on the nature of the Christian life; and. . . well, all of them really.  After the jump is the Table of Contents, giving the list of chapters and their authors.

[Read more…]