Posts from the “Theology” Category

Dreaming of a Christian community

Posted on September 11th, 2014

Idealizing people, politicians, pastors, and churches leads to disillusionment. Some go from church to church searching for the perfect pastor or small group, then move on when they discover problems. The same is true on a denominational level. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer addresses these longings for the perfect church and how such longings can make things worse: Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They…

Decomposing bodies, living bread

Posted on September 10th, 2014

A gem from St. Irenaeus: A cutting from the vine planted in the ground bears fruit in its season, or a kernel of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises and is multiplied by the Spirit of God, who contains all things. And then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for our use when, after receiving the Word of God, it becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time. The Word of God grants them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to…

A new and real human fellowship

Posted on September 10th, 2014

Regarding “the question of truth,” Hermann Sasse observed that The American concept of the church basically avoids this question. It surrenders dogma and liturgy as something unessential—“ trifling matters” as Goethe put it. For us, however, both of these belong to the essence of the church: the Word and the Sacrament, confession and liturgy. We understand the protest against an ossified orthodoxy and a dreary ritualism , and we agree with this protest. But we believe that the church possesses in the Verbum Dei [“ Word of God”] the eternal truth, over against all the relativism of human knowledge. And we believe that in the evangelically understood Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that in the liturgical life of the church which is grounded…

Vocation and Virtue

Posted on September 5th, 2014

Vocation and Virtue: What’s the Purpose of a School? For Immanuel Lutheran School’s Back to School night; adapted from a longer essay written Spring 2014. Introduction Our culture pressures us to parent in unhealthy ways. Last Spring, the Washington Post had a feature on the parenting culture that drives children to succeed to the detriment of other values. The Post profiled Wilma Bowers, leader of a movement “that seeks to upend the achievement-at-all costs intensive parent and school culture” in northern Virginia. “There’s such a status thing here: ‘I went [to] Georgetown. I want my kid to go to Georgetown or better.’ It’s such a rat race,” says Bowers.… “Nobody is taking a step back and asking, ‘Is going to Princeton going to make me…

Church as social corporation

Posted on September 3rd, 2014

A portion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s assessment of American churches in the 1930’s: So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that— who knows how —claims the right to call itself “Christian.” And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation. Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident to join the church, insisting that you’ll get into society quite…

Peddling live rattlesnakes

Posted on September 1st, 2014

How sad it is, then, to reflect on what the world actually hears from the church in so many instances. We offer to sell them the mystery of the love of God in Jesus; but the way we talk about God and Jesus only makes it sound as if we are trying to peddle a live rattlesnake. People converted by fear-mongering are people converted from evil, not to the truth. Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Kindle Locations 1524-1526)

Living documents

Posted on August 16th, 2014

The Lutheran Confessions, John Pless writes, are “not relics of church history confined to their historical context, but living documents which call for either confession or denial.” In Herman Sasse,  Letters to Lutheran Pastors – Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 576-577)

Adapting the local lifestyle

Posted on August 14th, 2014

In a recent interview on Issues, Etc., LCMS President Matthew Harrison encouraged pastors to get to know their people, spend time in their homes, hospital rooms, lives. Only through this will the preacher be able to truly preach to his people. It reminded me of this quotation from Eric Metaxas’s biography of Bonhoeffer about his time spent in Barcelona: The intellectual dullness and the overwhelmingly languorous atmosphere of Barcelona pushed hard against Bonhoeffer’s hyperactive mind and personality. He was amazed at how people of all ages seemed to while away the hours sitting at cafés in the middle of the day, chattering about little of any real substance. He observed that besides coffee, vermouth-and-sodas were particularly popular, usually served with half a dozen oysters.…

A given righteousness

Posted on July 11th, 2014

The Lutheran Symbols presuppose that the righteousness which God has a right to expect of man is something which man, because he lacks insight and power, is unable to produce. Left to himself, man can achieve civil righteousness, but he lacks the ability to do the same with the only righteousness that is valid before God. As a result, iustitia Dei receives the completely new meaning that it is a given righteousness, not a demanded one. What man is unable to accomplish by himself is given him by a gracious God. Holsten Fagerberg, A New Look at the Lutheran Confessions (1529-1537) (Kindle Locations 2141-2145)