The Two Cities vs. the Two Kingdoms

It’s common to associate Augustine’s Two Cities with Luther’s Two Kingdoms.  But they are really quite different.  In The City of God, Augustine defines the two in terms of two different loves:  The City of God has to do with the love of God; the City of Man has to do with love of self.

Thus the two cities are in opposition to each other.  This is a scheme for dualism, for ascetic rejection of the world, giving rise to monasticism.

Luther’s Two Kingdoms is a paradigm for embracing the world.  The Kingdom of the Left, for Luther, is about neither love of God nor love of self, but love of neighbor.

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Why the Pope likes Luther

At the joint Catholic/Lutheran service in Sweden, commemorating Reformation Day, Pope Francis was said to have “issued some of the most positive language ever used by a pope to describe Martin Luther and his beliefs.”

The Pope said that the doctrine of justification “expresses the essence of human existence before God.”  The Reformation “helped give greater centrality to sacred scripture in the Church’s life.”  And in his teaching that salvation is “by grace alone, ” Luther “reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response.”

The Pope also signed a commitment with the head of the Lutheran World Federation to work towards full intercommunion between the two theological traditions.

After the jump, a news story about the developments from a Catholic publication.  For the full text of the Pope’s remarks, go here.  For the Communion agreement, go here.  See also my thoughts on the matter.

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Pope praises Luther

Pope Francis is set to celebrate Reformation Day in a joint service with Swedish Lutherans.  A story from NPR quotes him praising Luther.

It’s appropriate for Catholics to celebrate Reformation Day!  As Pope Francis says, the church had become extremely corrupt.  Without the Reformation, there would be no Counter-Reformation, which is where much of today’s Catholicism and Catholic lay piety comes from (the Rosary, frequent Communion by the laity, Catholic schools, the Jesuits, etc.). [Read more…]

Reaching today’s idolaters of the self

How do you proclaim the forgiveness of sins to someone who doesn’t think he has done anything wrong?  How can you apply the Law to someone who feels no guilt and the Gospel to someone who feels no need for Christ?  Trying to evangelize today’s relativists seems like a futile project.  How can we get through to them?

The Australian pastor and theologian Michael Lockwood has just published a stimulating, paradigm-shifting book entitled The Unholy Trinity:  Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I.

On one level, it is a study of Luther’s view of idolatry.  For Luther, idolatry is not just worshipping graven images, as with Christians who think tangible objects used in worship, such as crucifixes, are idols.  Rather, idolatry is worshipping false gods created by the self.  In his explanation of the First Commandment in the the Large Catechism, Luther asks, “what is it to have a God?”  His answer:  What do you put put your faith in?  That’s your God.  Ultimately, idolatry is the opposite of saving faith in Christ.  It means putting your faith in yourself.

Dr. Lockwood then applies the insights from Luther to today’s spiritual landscape, from “Moralistic-therapeutic-Deism,” through the whole array of false spiritualities, to the pure secularism that sees no need for God at all.  All of these, at their root, are idolaters of the self.  But the self will let you down every time.

Drawing on his experience as a missionary, Dr. Lockwood says that non-believers first need to be “disenchanted” with their idols. He shows how the Law brings a message not only of guilt but of disenchantment.  In times of suffering, failure, and the prospect of death, even the idolaters of the self can find redemption in Christ.

This is a ground-breaking book that brings a distinctly Lutheran perspective on the task of apologetics, evangelism, and pastoral care.  But all Christians will benefit from its fresh approach to cultural criticism and from learning from Dr. Lockwood the art of “spiritual diagnosis.”

Read my review after the jump.  Then buy this book.

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“God punishes wicked subjects by wicked rulers”

Luther did not actually say the words attributed to him, that he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian (HT: Carl Vehse).  Though we might wish a wise Turk were running.  All we seem to be getting are foolish Turks.

But here is a political observation that Luther did say, from Treatise on the Ban (1520) paragraph 16:   “God punishes wicked subjects by wicked rulers.”

I quoted this in a previous post, but it’s worth thinking about and discussing for its own sake.  So, assuming that Luther is right and that both of the candidates have their own kind of “wickedness” (keeping in mind that maybe they don’t or will be changed), what did we do to deserve whichever candidate wins the presidency?

I’ll start with some reflections about how God punishes societies after the jump. [Read more…]

Luther and technology

David Gibson of Religious News Service tells about three major exhibitions opening this month on Luther’s Reformation:  at the Morgan Library in New York City; at the Minneapolis Art Institute; and at Emory University in Atlanta. These sound extremely interesting and worth going to.

I was struck by what the Morgan library curator says about Luther’s use of the new information technology of the time (with the assistance of artist and printer Lucas Cranach).  See what he says after the jump.  But read Gibson’s whole article, which includes the point about how Luther became the model for “speaking truth to power.”
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