What evangelicals need from Lutheranism (and vice versa?)

The late Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, who just passed away, was ecstatic about the new resources for theology and spirituality recently published by Concordia Publishing House: the Concordia (the reader’s edition of the Book of Concord), the Treasure of Daily Prayer, and now the Lutheran Study Bible. In the course of his rave review of the latter, he expressed his frustration with Lutheranism, which tends to keep to itself even though its emphases are exactly what the broader Christian and evangelical world needs right now. From Some Thoughts on Lutheranism and Evangelicalism + A Brief Review of the Lutheran Study Bible :

Which goes to the heart of a growing frustration I have Lutheranism: With the dominance of the reformed camp in the Christian blogosphere and much of conservative evangelicalism public voice, there has never been a time the Gospel-centric, church-formed-around-the-Gospel/Sacraments, focused, classical, catholic, reformational, law and Gospel voice of Lutheranism was needed more.

The imbalances of the current versions of resurgent Calvinism are more and more obvious all the time. The beating heart of our life and message is Jesus and justification, not sovereignty and election. It is the free offer to all, not the efficient offer to the elect, that needs to be clearly heard now. It is all of scripture as law and Gospel that needs to be filling the church. Reformed Baptists are ascending at just the time that Lutheranism’s view of the Christian life is most needed. If you do not know the difference, then make that a project.

How many Calvinists cite Bondage of the Will as virtually a Calvinist text, having no idea that Luther rejected the rest of the TULIP?

Lutheranism is attracting more and more evangelical converts who do not struggle with issues of Lutheran ethnic identity or denominational purity. (If I hear one more prideful Lutheran denominationalist say they alone have “the pure Gospel,” I’m going to break things.) When an evangelical hears Rod Rosenbladt or Craig Parton or the God Whisperers they realize they are hearing something substantial, but those same evangelicals are by and large convinced that the “Lutheran” label means an insurmountable accumulation of the very things most evangelicals want to avoid or leave behind.

I am not talking about evangelicals who want Lutherans to go ablaze with megachurch tactics. No, I am talking evangelicals who…
1) Need and want to be taught the significance of liturgy.
2) Are not attracted to denominationalism as a primary label. (Secondary is another matter.) Show me your Nicene Creed first please.
3) Want their attraction to the eucharist to be met with an affirmation of their own Christian profession, not a denouncement of their evangelical journey and ignorance. In other words, while someone is on the way, be kind.
4) Want to have worship with intentional depth and seriousness in worship, not just something old and familiar to the regular residents. They like what they see, maybe more than some Lutherans (and Anglicans, etc) like it themselves.
5) Want leaders committed to missional outreach and evangelical, Gospel-centered ecumenism. Evangelicals aren’t attracted to your tradition to become less interested in evangelism and missions.

So whether you are talking about incredibly useful books or the entire tradition, there is a point at which Lutherans have to say, “We want to get this out to evangelicals. We want to build the bridge. We want to say we have something worthy reading and looking into…and we are willing to go the extra mile to get it to you.”

His praise is tempered by his frustration, and I think he has a point. (As Paul McCain says in his response at Cyberbrethren, it isn’t that CPH doesn’t reach beyond the Lutheran market.) Lutherans often tend to condemn those with different theologies before reaching out to them.

I’ve got to hand it our Calvinist brethren. The Calvinist influence in evangelicalism far exceeds the number of actual confessional Calvinists. Lutheran theology would seem to resolve a number of issues that evangelicals are strugging with: how you can believe salvation is by grace alone while also insisting that Christ died for all; how to resolve the conflict between Christianity and culture; how to affirm the heritage of catholic Christianity while also affirming the best of Protestantism; etc., etc.

It is true that the Lutheran understanding of fellowship keeps us from ecumenical ventures and the sharing of the Sacrament with those with whom we are not in full doctrinal agreement. But Lutherans can still interact with and share ideas with non-Lutherans more than we do, don’t you think?

I try to do that, and this blog has been a good forum for some profitable exchanges with people from a wide variety of confessions and no-confessions. At any rate, Matthew Harrison–who just received the highest number of nominations for the presidency of the LCMS–has been saying that, if we only knew it, this is the Lutheran moment. Thanks to Michael Spencer of blessed memory for showing how this is true.

Death of the Internet Monk

Michael Spencer, a.k.a. Internet Monk, has died of cancer.  (Not to be confused with our own commenter on this blog Webmonk, who is still alive.)  His <a href=”http://www.internetmonk.com/”>blog</a>, subtitled “Dispatches from the post-evangelical wilderness,” was a favorite site for honest theological and spiritual discussions.  A Baptist minister who strugged with some of the trappings of evangelicalism, Spencer was influenced by, among others, the Christ-centered, Gospel-centered emphasis of Lutheranism, though he bemoaned the way Lutherans tend to shut themselves off from other Christians.

Trevin Wax has gleaned some of his favorite posts:

I Like the Prayer List

The prayer list frees us from the notion that the people of God are the healthy, happy ones who turned up for worship today. It reminds us that our community is extended into hospitals, nursing homes, psych hospitals, the homes of the poor, the relationships we have with other kinds of Christians and the mission we’re on together.

The prayer list is a picture of the broken and humbled body of Christ. It has a particular kind of beauty, and I’m glad our church- which hasn’t gotten around to a confession, covenant or constitution- has that prayer list.

It’s part of my journey these days to know that my name will one day be on that list, and these will be the people who will love and pray for me when my place in the church is to be ministered unto by the praying people of God.

Grace is as Dangerous as Ever

When the quality of God’s mercy in the Gospel no longer amazes you, you will begin to justify the dilution of amazing grace into religious grace, or moral grace, or grace in response to something.

Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.

The Question is God; the Answer is Jesus

If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.

This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.

It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.

Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

via In Memory of Michael Spencer 1956-2010 : Kingdom People.

HT: Mary