Great words

Bayer, Oswald Bayer. Theology the Lutheran Way. Edited by Jeffrey G. Silcock and Mark C. Mattes. Lutheran Quarterly Books, 2007, pp. ix-x (Editors’ Introduction):

One of the great merits of Theology the Lutheran Way is that it convincingly demonstrates that the modern split between theory and practice — along with the other bifurcations of post-Enlightenment rationalism, such as the antithesis of public and private, inner and outer, theological scholarship and church spirituality — is foreign to the Reformation as well to the scriptures, and misrepresents the nature of Lutheran theology.

What then is theology? This is the question that Oswald Bayer, Luther scholar and professor emeritus of systematic theology at the University of Tübingen, sets out to answer in this book. His answer, which is also Luther’s answer, comes as a shock to most Lutherans because they have drunk deeply from the wells of Protestant modernity. But the water in these wells has been poisoned by the streams of modern secular thought.

Much more of value in this book. Worth the time to read and digest.

Freedom of the Christian

In re-reading the NT again and studying the freedom of Christian, I marvel at how my understanding of freedom had been shallow at times. Sure, theologically I had it nailed at seminary and in post-graduate school. But in my heart I had fallen into a superficial understanding, which then pushed me to reconsider even what I gained in seminary. Our last two seminary classes on the course Law and Gospel focused on this topic.

Gerhard Forde wrote (The Preached God: Proclamation in Word and Sacrament, edited by Mark C. Matte and Steven D. Paulson, Lutheran Quarterly Books, 2007, p. 257) Some crucial thoughts about our inability to grasp the freedom of our faith.

The problem we face is seduction of the spirit. That is to say, we are quite convinced by the arguments against freedom. But how then shall we escape the seducer? Christ is for Luther the only answer. Christ must simply defeat the tempter and drive the law our of the conscience. Christ is the end, that is both goal (telos) and cessation (finis) of the law to those who have faith (Rom. 10:4). The freedom that Luther championed was the freedom of faith, the freedom for which Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1), liberation of the conscience from the power of the law, sin, death.

Much to consider, once again. In fact, how could we tire of such wonderful news.

Continuity of Faith Expression

I have been working on this topic for some time, from professional interest and from a practical application. With so much innovation in worship, there seems to be little continuity even within one congregation. But this is really on the tip of the iceberg. The issue affects worship, catechesis, Bible translation, Bible study, memory work, daily devotional life, etc.

Worship: It makes a difference that there is a commonality of faith expression within the same worship community. By having that common faith expression, we can share the Biblical heritage as well as the worship heritage over the centuries. “Homemade liturgies” might be appealing for a while, but novelty doe snot have staying power. The various forms of the historic liturgy provide more than enough variety with the added advantage of continuing the faith expression of the centuries. The latest hymnal from CPH (Lutheran Service Book, LSB, 2006)  is perhaps the best English language resource available because it gives the historic sense and continuity.

Catechesis: Sadly this area is neglected even among Lutherans who confess the Christian faith. Memory work does not have to be drudgery, does not have to be intimidating, and should not be neglected. Luther’s explanations are fine examples of how to compose material for easy memorization (it works in German, obviously, but also in English translation). Pastors are to be encouraged to have parents and children memorize the catechism. In fact, why not have the whole congregation participate in learning the catechism by heart?

Bible translation: In English we have been blessed with many translations… In English we have been cursed with many translations. The latest figure is around 75 English translations available on the marker today. While from a study perspective such abundance is beneficial, from a continuity of faith expression such abundance is actually a hindrance. Sadly many translations have not been focused on the rhythm and cadence of the translation making it usable for musical and liturgical expression as well as understood by the majority of worshipers. For instance, NIV has been used because of its readability, but it is not as useful for liturgical work. ESV fits better into the liturgical framework and historical continuity of faith expression, but in some (many?) places it is not a good translations for the average Bible reader.

I could go on, but the key thought is that every aspect of the Christian life is affected by being “in Christ.” That includes the faith expression of the gathered believers, the devotional life, the catechetical instruction, and the prayer life.