So what were the biggest stories or most important developments in confessional Lutheranism for 2015? I have come up with 6, which I give after the jump. We really need 10. Can we come up with 4 more? [Read more…]
Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for plotting against Hitler, is in vogue today. Much of what people are so excited about in his writings is simply Lutheran spirituality. Michael Gerson writes a fine column about Bonhoeffer’s reflections from a Nazi prison on Christmas. What Bonhoeffer is saying–the inversions, the paradoxes, the repudiation of power (of great interest in a postmodern apologetic)–is an application to Christmas of Luther’s theology of the Cross. [Read more…]
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…]
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…]
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.”
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?