“Lutherans Know Something We Don’t Know”

In the appreciation-for-Lutheranism-by-non-Lutherans department, here is a post by Cap Stewart at Happier Far.  It tells about how he has been helped by the Lutheran distinction between Law and Gospel and, in particular, by the The Lutheran Study Bible:

Lutherans Know Something We Don’t Know

A Charismatic, a Presbyterian, and a Lutheran walk into a bar. Okay, that probably would never happen, but if those three people were to somehow enter a bar, coalesce, and emerge from the establishment as one man (who realized he wasn’t too fond of beer to begin with), that one man could possibly be me.

Yes, many denominations have made an impact on my spiritual development. And while I could possibly be labeled as something of a Reformed Charismatic (which, I assure you, is not a contradiction in terms), I have also been heavily influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. One Lutheran doctrine in particular has been especially helpful—the paradigm-shattering distinction between law and gospel. [Read more...]

Lutheran libertarians

I keep running into conservative, confessional Lutherans (including on this blog) who, in their political ideology, are libertarians.  Could somebody explain how that works, in light of the relatively high view of the state and of temporal authority evident in Lutheran theology (e.g., the orders of creation, the estates, the vocation of citizenship, the Table of Duties, Augsburg XVI,  etc.)?  Doesn’t libertarianism require a kind of individualism unknown until the Enlightenment and Romanticism?  Wouldn’t the distaste for earthly government that characterizes libertarians be more characteristic of Karlstadt and the enthusiasts of the Peasants’ Revolt rather than Luther, Gerhardt, and Chemnitz?   Or are Lutheran libertarians different from regular libertarians?  (I’m not criticizing Lutheran libertarians, mind you, just trying to understand them. Please, somebody, explain.)

Luther memes

I stumbled upon He Rice Tanned (read it fast), a collection of sometimes humorous Luther memes.  Samples after the jump.  (If you know of others, or other Christian-related, or other good ones of any kind, let us know in the comments.) [Read more...]

Swimming the Elbe

Those who convert to Catholicism are said to have “swum the Tiber,” referring to the river that runs through Rome.  Those who convert to Orthodoxy are said to have “swum the Bosphorus,” the strait in Turkey that separates Europe from Asia.  So what is a person swimming who converts to Lutheranism?  I have heard “Mississippi” for those who join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, based in St. Louis.  But Anthony Sacramone gives the definitive solution (whether he came up with it first or someone else did, I don’t know) when he refers to “paddling the Elbe.” [Read more...]

Sanctification and Vocation

The estimable Anthony Sacramone has been carrying on a fascinating and helpful discussion (in two posts here and here on Jonathan Fisk’s  Broken) about the Lutheran view of the Christian life, how it perhaps doesn’t do enough with sanctification.  I think the missing link, so to speak, is the doctrine of vocation.  Here is a somewhat revised version of what I posted as a comment:

The doctrine of vocation is not just about our work.  It really is the Lutheran doctrine of the Christian life.  We are brought to faith through Word and Sacrament and then we live out that faith in love and service to our neighbors.  “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God  has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17).  And God assigns us and calls us to various and multiple tasks in the orders that He has created for human beings:  the household (the family plus economic labor), the church, the state, and what Luther called “the general order of Christian love” (the informal relationships of friendship, interactions with others,  as in the Good Samaritan parable, etc.) . Vocation is where sanctification happens, where we exercise our faith, where we battle with sin, where we grow “in faith towards you [God], and in fervent love for one another” (as it says at the end of the liturgy, when we are sent back into our vocations).

I wonder if the problem is the ordinariness of the good works that take place in vocation.  As Einar Billing says in Our Calling, “In all our religious and ethical life, we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary.”  [Read more...]

Why the Lord’s Supper

Some years ago, I, as a Lutheran, was invited to write about the Lord’s Supper in Tabletalk, a magazine with mostly Reformed readers, which was doing special issue on the sacraments.  I didn’t want to argue, just explain what Holy Communion means and can mean in the life of a Christian.  I offer it to you, whatever your theology, for Maundy Thursday:

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity. [Read more...]


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