1580
The Church Doesn't Need "Children's Church"
“None of us are too young or too old to receive what Jesus is doing for us in church. Baptism drowns all age requirements. In that water we all become—and remain—children of God. In that sense every worship service is Children’s Church.”
Ministry 
6 weeks ago
The rhetoric of our era has reached its vile peak - The Washington Post
For starters, I would deny that most people would have anything to do with such revolting garbage in their own lives. A guest at your dinner table like Wolf who profanely attacked other guests would be politely (or not so politely) asked to leave. A neighbor who ranted like Trump about Mexicans and the FBI would be avoided like the plague. And yet people whom we could not trust to behave in civilized company now dominate American public discourse. It is something Wolf would immediately recognize: a sad, sick joke.
Politics  Language 
7 weeks ago
The Disturbing High Modernism of Silicon Valley - Study Hacks - Cal Newport
The study of High Modernism, however, undermines this optimism. The problem with social media’s attempt to improve human sociality is not the details of its implementation, it’s instead the very fact that they’re pursuing such a utopian objective in the first place.
Social 
9 weeks ago
children’s crusades – Snakes and Ladders
So if you want to celebrate the courage of trans tweens, or for that matter high-schoolers speaking out for gun control, please do. But can you please stop the pretense that “the children are leading us”? What you are praising them for is not courage but rather docility, for learning their lessons well. (I wonder if anyone who has praised the students who speak out on behalf of gun control has also praised the students who participate in anti-abortion rallies like the March for Life.) And perhaps you might also hope that, if things go badly for the kids whose gender transitions you are cheering for, your role will be as completely forgotten as those who, thirty years ago, sent innocent people to prison by doing only what they thought was best.
Transgender 
11 weeks ago
The Ignoble Lie | Patrick J. Deneen
Campaigns for equality that focus on the inclusion of identity groups rather than examinations of the class divide permit an extraordinary lack of curiosity about complicity in a system that secures elite status across generations. Concern for diversity and inclusion on the basis of “ascriptive” features—race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation—allows the ruling class to overlook class while focusing on unchosen forms of identity. Diversity and inclusion fit neatly into the meritocratic structure, leaving the structure of the new aristocratic order firmly in place.
Justice  Politics  Identity  Christianity  Society 
march 2018
Twenty Theses about Twitter
No tweet has ever persuaded anyone of anything.
Social 
march 2018
When Christians Change Churches, Where Do They Go?
I think there are some other factors that need to be considered.  The generic evangelicalism (I do not mean that as a slight) that has given us non-denominational churches, which downplay “divisive” doctrines in favor of a common evangelical experience, exists far beyond the non-denominational congregations.  You can find it in virtually every megachurch no matter its denomination.  And in today’s ecumenical climate–which exists in a conservative as well as a liberal version–with its wide acceptance of intercommunion, indiscriminate fellowship. and acceptance of all, nearly all Protestant churches, whatever their label, have become non-denominational.
Most people can move from one Protestant church to another by simply going forward at the end of the service and shaking the pastor’s hand.  So moving from church to church is easy, often having little to do with a change in faith or theological conviction.  A person can leave a congregation to escape a conflict, because of a new pastor in a neighboring congregation, to take advantage of different programs, or just because of a felt need for change.

The denominations from specific confessional traditions, on the other hand, are harder to join, which, perhaps, makes them harder to leave.  In my own Lutheran church, prospective members first must undergo an intensive catechesis, grounding them in Lutheran theology.  Those classes vary, but they generally take months and months.  I believe Calvinists also require membership classes, along with providing evidence of one’s regeneration.  Even to become an Episcopalian requires a membership class.  (I’d be glad to hear details about these and other churches that require some kind of instruction for new members.  Chime in on the comments.)

Perhaps one day, in all of this movement from church to church, more Christians will stumble upon one of these confessional church bodies that will give them more theological stability. Also, by staying with a church for more than four years, they may find a spiritual stability that they can come to appreciate.  That may be what they are looking for, as they go from church to church.
Reform  Membership 
march 2018
Paideia on the Practice Field
Far from the educational bedrock of a free society, Johnson observes a triangulated corruption of intellectual life, leading toward a renaissance patronage model where any notion of a public good is predetermined by the ultra-wealthy who dish their pocket change to influence the direction of higher education and the results of political campaigns.
Reform  Education 
march 2018
The Anti-Christian Alt-Right | Matthew Rose
The Church midwifed many nations into existence, and it can renew their cultures still. For now it must suffice to say the alt-right cannot. It speaks of tradition, while transmitting no traditions. It guards a false patrimony, while destroying real ones. Its mistake is fundamental and tragic. Race offers no inheritance, and its mere preservation reflects no human achievement. Our stories, art, music, institutions, and religious traditions—unlike race—are transmitted only through special efforts of human intelligence and love. They are a bequest of the spirit, not blood.

...

“When Christ calls a man,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “he bids him come and die,” and in dying, to receive true life. For Christians, the problem with Faustian man is not the vaunting heroism of his aims. It is the pitiable smallness of his goals. We are not meant to merely aspire to the infinite. We are called to participate in it—to be, in a word, deified. Faust could not overcome death. Through Christ, Christians already have.
Religion  Politics 
february 2018
Who Has the Right to Die?
Jan Bernheim, an emeritus professor of medicine at the Free University of Brussels, who studies ethics and quality of life, told me that euthanasia is “part of a philosophy of taking control of one’s own existence and improving the objective conditions for happiness. There is an arrow of evolution that goes toward ever more reducing of suffering and maximizing of enjoyment.”
Virtue  Death  Ethics 
february 2018
Fake Love, Not News
“It’s a funny thing to hold these two premises together. In one domain of human life, the political, we’re expected to be entirely sober, civic, and lacking in prejudice. We’re supposed to avoid what is coarse and coarsening. And the code that programs our media experiences needs to reflect those same commitments. In the next open tab, judgments about coarseness and its effect on the rest of society are openly sneered at.”
Criticism  Society  Sexuality 
february 2018
The Apotheosis of Donald J. Trump
“I am not sure I have. . . . Now, when I take—you know, when we go in church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness. And I do that as often as possible, because I feel cleansed, OK?”
Religion  Politics  Society 
february 2018
The Left-Wing Infatuation With Taking Offense
“This is why identity politics can sometimes seem like a new sort of political theology. Belief and conviction are good things, but only if there’s something to believe in. Identity politics and the virtue-outbidding it necessitates often signal the absence of religion in search of religion—with followers mimicking its constituent elements: ritual, purity, atonement, and excommunication.”
Religion  Politics 
february 2018
Should Children Sit Through “Big Church”?
So, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. Any sense of being there out of duty or being forced to or some other reason besides I love being here, kids know that and they will hate it just like you do, deep down. You can’t impart what you don’t possess. And this is what you want your children to catch. You want them to catch authentic worship. Authentic, heartfelt worship is the most valuable thing in human experience. Think of it. The cumulative effect of 650 worship services spent with mom and dad in authentic communion with God and his people between the ages of 4 and 17 is utterly incalculable.
Ministry  from instapaper
february 2018
"Being's self-gift to being:" James Matthew Wilson and the Encounter with Beauty - Seminarian Casual
From the moment that life becomes about your well-being, and you are no longer viewing your happiness as being conditioned by an end that transcends you, every distinctively Christian activity can only look grotesque.
Virtue  Philosophy  Sermon  from instapaper
february 2018
Evangelicals and Christian Unity
Speaking of denominations, despite a well-meaning if naïve flight into the phantasm of “nondenominationalism,” thousands of mutually exclusive versions of Protestantism persist. In all likelihood, if the sixteenth-century reformers time-traveled to today, they would be aghast at what they had created. “The [early] Reformers,” to quote the Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten, “intended to reform the one church, not to smash its unity into innumerable sects whose unity remains totally hidden. The sectarianism within Protestantism is a sign of the failure of the Reformation, not of its success.”
Church  History  from instapaper
february 2018
Why is the language of transhumanists and religion so similar? – Beth Singler | Aeon Essays
Istvan’s short story ‘The Jesus Singularity’ (2016) explores what happens when an AI scientist, Dr Paul Shuman, is forced to feed the Bible as data to his AI, Singularitarian. The evildoer forcing Shuman’s hand is an evangelical Christian president. When Singularitarian is finally turned on, it spouts the pronouncement: ‘My name is Jesus Christ. I am an intelligence located all around the world. You are not my chief designer. I am.’ Very soon afterwards, it obliterates the world with nuclear weapons.
Transhumanism  from instapaper
february 2018
You Are the Product
Also, many of Facebook’s metrics are tilted to catch the light at the angle which makes them look shiniest. A video is counted as ‘viewed’ on Facebook if it runs for three seconds, even if the user is scrolling past it in her news feed and even if the sound is off. Many Facebook videos with hundreds of thousands of ‘views’, if counted by the techniques that are used to count television audiences, would have no viewers at all.
Social  Technology  from instapaper
february 2018
Death To Self: Can You See It?
For there is nothing that the old man-the self which must die fears so much as having everything taken out of his hands.
Sermon 
february 2018
The Lutheran Difference
Lutherans do have much to offer to the wider American community, but only if they can fulfill two conditions. First, to contribute as Lutherans in America, Lutherans must remain authentically Lutheran. Second, to contribute as Lutherans in America, Lutherans must also find out how to speak Lutheranism with an American accent. Falling short of either condition means that, though Lutherans as religious individuals may contribute much to Christianity in America, there will be no distinctly Lutheran contribution.
Sermon  Lutheran  Evangelism 
february 2018
One Long Circular Argument
Dennett tells us that his critics simply find views like his “unsettling,” and he is correct to this extent: a steady barrage of begged questions, red herrings, non sequiturs, straw men, ad hominem attacks, and other transparent fallacies can indeed be unsettling, especially coming from a professional philosopher.
Review  Philosophy  Humor 
february 2018
Wokeness and Myth on Campus
For those who have been formed largely by the mythical core of human culture, disagreement and alternative points of view may well appear to them not as matters for rational adjudication but as defilement from which they must be cleansed.
Reform 
january 2018
The NRA’s Assault on Christian Faith and Practice
On issues related to gun violence, safety, and regulation, evangelicals clearly need, and deserve, a more theologically robust discussion. A good start might be formulating questions for reflection and study, such as: Are there aspects of American gun culture that contradict or confuse the message of the Gospel? (If so, let’s name them.) Have evangelicals sought to understand gun violence in America under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with prayerful discernment of practical solutions? How can followers of Jesus preserve the distinctive speech and practices of Christian witness from the religion of the NRA, whose distinctive speech and practices cluster around the promise of overwhelming force? Under what conditions, if any, should the Christian lay down his or her arms? Does the support of the American gun lobby bring glory to God?
january 2018
The Internet, Blogging, Authority, and the Sexes
The Internet causes problems by bringing us all too close together, in ways that encourage confusion, conflict, impulsivity, and reactivity. It also obscures the healthy social functioning of authority, by making such things as age, context, community, and office invisible and by obscuring the reality of sexual difference. On the Internet we all have egalitarian ‘accounts’, we are not bound to any particular community, and are caught up in a spectacle of our own virtual identities that makes virtue- and identity-signalling practically unavoidable. Again, this is not something that we choose to do (or can simply choose not to do), it is just the way that the Internet is and how it shapes us.
january 2018
Empathy is Not Charity | Patricia Snow
“Guardini goes on to describe the economy of the Triune God, and the way the Holy Spirit, mediating the relationship of the Father and the Son, makes possible a life characterized by both individuality and union. Only by the mediation of the same Spirit, he argues, can man’s longings for selfhood and intimacy be realized. Only with the help of God’s Spirit can his needs for both autonomy and community be met.”
Sermon 
january 2018
Marching for Life
“What happens in abortion happens to a 1) living 2) human 3) organism. The tissue in question is living tissue, not dead tissue; it is human tissue, not rutabaga or aardvark tissue; it is arranged in an organism, not as a tumor or a fingernail clipping. It has its own DNA and it will continue on a life course — maybe majestic, maybe tragic — as it grows, because it is a living human individual at the earliest stages of its development. A “clump of cells”? Yes, which is what living human organism is at that stage in its life.”
Ethics  Abortion 
january 2018
The Claims of the Unborn
If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents. [...]

In truth, every child’s life is so full of possibility and risk that no parents can hope to achieve the kind of full and conscious consent we so often demand elsewhere in our lives. To accept a child is to accept the limits of our own powers, and burdens we can’t properly measure. And we know that anti-abortion laws, and cultures that support family formation, can help people to reconcile themselves to what really has happened in their lives, and what may yet still. So we have a duty to continue supporting those laws, and creating that culture.

But the pro-life movement’s final work will necessarily involve helping us to accept not just the full scope of an unborn child’s life but to the full claims of life upon ourselves. We need to protect family life from the commercial logic that we accept in almost every other sphere of life. Our lives are not conducted by the rules and stipulations of explicit contracts. We are often called up to give much more than we want, and in turn we often get much more from life than we bargained for.
Abortion  Ethics  via:ayjay 
january 2018
the horror of homeschooling
When people who cry out for mass surveillance of homeschooling families articulate some strategy for addressing the far, far larger problem of bullying in schools — I’ll even allow them to ignore spousal abuse — then I’ll believe that they care about the children. Until then, I’ll continue to believe that recommendations like Damon’s exemplify plain, straightforward bigotry against religious conservatives.
Homeschool 
january 2018
Unspoken Sermons by George MacDonald: Kingship
Jesus is a king because his business is to bear witness to the truth. What truth? All truth; all verity of relation throughout the universe — first of all, that his father is good, perfectly good; and that the crown and joy of life is to desire and do the will of the eternal source of will, and of all life. He deals thus the death-blow to the power of hell. For the one principle of hell is — 'I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject. I am the centre from which go out my thoughts; I am the object and end of my thoughts; back upon me as the alpha and omega of life, my thoughts return. My own glory is, and ought to be, my chief care; my ambition, to gather the regards of men to the one centre, myself. My pleasure is my pleasure. My kingdom is — as many as I can bring to acknowledge my greatness over them. My judgment is the faultless rule of things. My right is — what I desire. The more I am all in all to myself, the greater I am. The less I acknowledge debt or obligation to another; the more I close my eyes to the fact that I did not make myself; the more self-sufficing I feel or imagine myself — the greater I am. I will be free with the freedom that consists in doing whatever I am inclined to do, from whatever quarter may come the inclination. To do my own will so long as I feel anything to be my will, is to be free, is to live. To all these principles of hell, or of this world — they are the same thing, and it matters nothing whether they are asserted or defended so long as they are acted upon — the Lord, the king, gives the direct lie.
Sermon  via:ayjay 
january 2018
the future of Christian educational institutions – Snakes and Ladders
The people who argue that Christian institutions should support the modern left’s model of sexual ethics or else suffer a comprehensive shunning do not think of themselves as opponents of religion. And they are not, given their definition of religion, which is “a disembodied, Gnostic realm of private worship and thought”. But that is not what Christianity is. Christianity intrinsically, necessarily involves embodied action in the public world. And this the secular left cannot and will not tolerate, if it can help it, because it rightly understands that Christianity stands opposed to the secular left’s own gospel, which, popular opinion notwithstanding, is not essentially about sex but rather may be summed up as: “I am my own.”
Reform  BenOp 
january 2018
Oprah: Prophet, Priestess … Queen? - The New York Times
But in between secularism and traditionalism lies the most American approach to matters of faith: a religious individualism that blurs the line between the God out there and the God Within, a gnostic spirituality that constantly promises access to a secret and personalized wisdom, a gospel of health and wealth that insists that the true spiritual adept will find both happiness and money, a do-it-yourself form of faith that encourages syncretism and relativism and the pursuit of “your truth” (to borrow one of Oprah’s Golden Globes phrases) in defiance of the dogmatic and the skeptical alike.
Religion  Society 
january 2018
“The Lord is with you” – Snakes and Ladders
‘The Lord is with you’. Gabriel’s greeting blazes into the life of time and hangs between him and the girl to whom he is speaking. It is not a promise. Promises are about the future. This is now.
Sermon 
january 2018
Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. - The New York Times
The strongest argument against allowing that choice is that one student’s use of a laptop harms the learning of students around them. In a series of lab experiments, researchers at York University and McMaster University in Canada tested the effect of laptops on students who weren’t using them. Some students were told to perform small tasks on their laptops unrelated to the lecture, like looking up movie times. As expected, these students retained less of the lecture material. But what is really interesting is that the learning of students seated near the laptop users was also negatively affected.
Screen 
january 2018
16 Ways to Find a Wife According to the Bible
We should also note that in its collective history, the church has never addressed the issue in its creeds or confessions about how to find a spouse. Perhaps this should tell us that it is a matter of Christian liberty and that in the end, we should rely on God's grace, wisdom, prayer, and godly counsel rather than make claims that the Bible has never made.
Marriage 
january 2018
Malcolm Muggeridge on “Idiot Hopes and Idiot Despair” | Russell and Duenes
The world’s way of responding to intimations of decay is to engage equally in idiot hopes and idiot despair. On the one hand some new policy or discovery is confidently expected to put everything to rights: a new fuel, a new drug, detente, world government. On the other hand, some disaster is as confidently expected to prove our undoing. Capitalism will break down. Fuel will run out. Plutonium will lay us low. Atomic waste will kill us off. Overpopulation will suffocate us, or alternatively, a declining birth rate will put us more surely at the mercy of our enemies… In Christian terms, such hopes and fears are equally beside the point. As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometimes flounder. Whereas we acknowledge a king men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work, to concern themselves with the things that are unseen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal. It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ. [from But Not of Christ (circa 1980)]
Sermon 
december 2017
Caves and Shadows
Caves and Shadows: A Classical Approach to Cinema Studies is a multi-tiered cinema studies curriculum specifically designed for homeschool, classical, and Christian learning environments. Caves and Shadows will provide students, parents, and teachers with a complete, year-long study of cinematic literacy. The study will explore the individual’s role as both audience and creator in an environment that currently offers unlimited access to the consuming and creation of the artificial moving image, approaching the topics of watching and making movies from a uniquely Christian perspective. The course will focus on the grammar, logic, and rhetoric of cinema and how film can be used to specifically deliver information, shape thoughts, form our affections, and influence culture. This curriculum is the first of its kind, combining cinema theory and history, original student exercises, classical pedagogy, and contemporary movie samplings.
Reform  Classical  Education  Film 
december 2017
Beware of Dog
“It is no coincidence that in the thirteenth century and the twenty-first, veneration of dogs arises alongside contempt for burdensome children. Pets permit us to enjoy companionship without commitment and tenderness without sacrifice. They are bred to our liking. They arrive on our terms and live at our pleasure. Human at one moment but not at another, objects of adoration that we can “put down” without sin, pets are more perfect versions of what children become when we refuse to welcome human life that is weak or strange. As playgrounds become dog parks and pets are put into strollers, the symbolism is hard to miss. Dogs are stalking horses of the culture of death.”
Criticism  Culture  Abortion 
november 2017
Slaves of Sin Are Always 'Free' to Choose Deathly Things
I wonder if Abraham ever loved his son more than when he unbound him, when he received him back as a gift. It is a wonderful freedom to receive gifts, to recognize all as gift. Gifts are meant to be enjoyed. And gifts are signs of the Giver’s love. Gifts indicate, not obligation, but affection. Gifts open our hands to receive. Gifts fix our eyes on the hands of those who give them.
Sermon 
november 2017
How Churches Become Morality Clubs of Religion
Preaching the Gospel is pouring into the ears of your hearers nothing and no one but Jesus Christ and his limitless, universal, blood-soaked love for sinners. It is not taking people back to the cross, but hauling the cross into the pulpit, standing beside that dying God, and proclaiming, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away your sin.” It is not to make the three main points of your “How to Strengthen Your Marriage” sermon, then to tack on a P.S. of Jesus-talk at the end. It is to build the entire homily out of the flesh and blood of God incarnate.
Ministry  Preaching 
november 2017
Using Metadata to find Paul Revere
I have been asked by my superiors to give a brief demonstration of the surprising effectiveness of even the simplest techniques of the new-fangled Social Networke Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects. This is in connection with the discussion of the role of “metadata” in certain recent events and the assurances of various respectable parties that the government was merely “sifting through this so-called metadata” and that the “information acquired does not include the content of any communications”. I will show how we can use this “metadata” to find key persons involved in terrorist groups operating within the Colonies at the present time. I shall also endeavour to show how these methods work in what might be called a relational manner.
Technology  Society  NSA 
november 2017
When Character No Longer Counts
“Jerry Falwell, Jr., has compared Trump to King David — "God called King David a man after God's own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer" — though, since this statement overlooks the rather significant fact that David profoundly, passionately repented of his sins while Trump has said that he does not ask God for forgiveness, the comparison is perhaps not wholly apt.”
Religion  Politics 
november 2017
To attract young people to your church, you’ve got to be warm. Not cool.
“Stability, patience, faithfulness to a local community. These unsexy traits give root to churches that grow young, eventually producing the fruit of warmth. It takes time and commitment to move past the superficiality of lobby hellos into the intimate space of authenticity.”
Ministry  Reform  Church  Evangelism 
november 2017
Inevitable Catechesis
“Parents, you really have no choice as to whether or not to have your children instructed in the Lord. Your children will be catechized whether you like it or not. If not by you and the Church, then by the world. Someone will teach them right and wrong. Someone will teach them whom or what they should worship. Someone will tell them what to believe, what to trust, and what to avoid. Your kid will be instructed one way or another! And when a parent allows Christian instruction to take a back seat to everything else in life, she is effectively teaching her children to believe exactly that. Your child is being actively catechized about Jesus whether you want it or not!”
Catechesis  Reform  BenOp  Education 
november 2017
Rustling with the Rumor by C.S. Lewis
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves-that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that ‘beauty born of murmuring sound’ will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet.

For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.”
Quote  Sermon 
november 2017
Four Points About Martin Luther on 31 October 2017
1. As a theologian, I return again and again to Luther’s theological method, especially his highly dynamic and creative way of transmuting his own sufferings and experiences into theological insight on behalf of others, in dialogue with Scripture. In this again I think he is usefully understood as a kind of artist or poet rather than simply as a thinker or exegete, and I think this is part of what Kierkegaard meant in his journals when he called Luther an ‘extremely important patient for Christianity’. As Luther puts it, ‘in tribulation [the exegete] learns many things which he did not know before; [likewise,] many things he already knew in theory he grasps more firmly through experience’ (WA 3:44; LW 10:49). We can seek to follow this method without having to agree with what Luther actually concluded at any given point. And I do personally think that a dose of this kind of experientialism, done well, is what theology today needs more than anything.

2. Luther’s account of the persistence of sin in the Christian in the later parts of Against Latomus is probably the darkest such account we have anywhere in the tradition, and in this it is enduringly profound. ‘[T]he motion of anger and evil is exactly the same in the godly and the godless, the same before grace and after grace’ (WA 8:91; LW 32:207). Luther argues at one point here that the way that sin persists in Christians is quite precisely analogous to the way that physical death persists: its ‘reality’ and ‘substance’ is unchanged, but its ‘sting’ is taken away. In this he is taking a major strand of Christian tradition and turning it up to eleven. In practice, the account in Against Latomus can and should function as a kind of firewall of divine mercy for Christians who feel like failures; there is no circumstance it cannot encompass. These bits of Against Latomus are not all that Luther had to say on the subject of the Christian life but they are the parts that have stood out the most to me over the years.

3. Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel, loosely held and experientially/affectively understood, remains one of the most powerful diagnostic tools for making sense of what people I see around me actually do in their lives – all the anxious striving – and why it so rarely feels like ‘enough’, and for explaining the power of Christianity as a clear-eyed but utterly compassionate response to this. It is a shame that this aspect of his thought which pastorally-speaking has dated so little in 500 years (in our cultural moment of performancism and overwork) has been so misunderstood in recent theology.

4. The theology of the cross, as expressed with such simplicity and depth in the Heidelberg Disputation, seems to me to match the reality of life as it is very often actually experienced by human beings in the world, better than any other such category I have come across. ‘God can be found only in suffering and the cross’ (proof of thesis 21). Whatever their tradition (or anti-tradition), students always respond to this extraordinary text, which (with the Disp. Against Scholastic Theology) is I think the paradigmatic example of Luther’s art.
Theology  Lutheran  via:ayjay 
november 2017
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