Monday, April 28, 2008

Kind Words about Lutheranism

I'm for people following Jesus and I've got no problem with 31 flavors of believers in the world as long as we don't embarass Jesus by the way we treat each other out in public. That said, I recently replied to a question about what I value most in my own Lutheran theological heritage and I thought I'd also share that here. No doubt many of these things are shared by other traditions as well. (I imagine my #1 is pretty popular.)

What I most value in my Lutheran heritage these days are the things that I think are assets for effective mission to postmodern North America.

1. The centrality of grace. I can't imagine mission making any sense without that a priori.

2. Minimalism. Lutheran theology can be as ornate as anyone's, but I think that at it's heart the "Lutheran impulse" is towards minimalism. The Solas steer in that direction. The concept of adiaphora parses essentials from non-essentials, which is minimalistic. "The canon within the canon" has this feel too. What this means to me is that Lutheranism has a leanness in it's DNA, and the leaner it gets the more portable it becomes, and that is an asset for moving out far and fast in mission.

3. Mystery. Again, Lutheran theology can be extremely Modern and rationalistic, working to explain everything and tie up every loose end so that it all "make sense." But Lutheran DNA has a lot of mystery encoded in it that just doesn't get expressed as much these days. We readily talk in terms of "both/and," "already/not yet" and the simul of being both saint and sinner. You could even bring in things like Two Kingdom theology and the Law/Gospel dynamic itself. What I see in all this is an embrace of things that exceed human understanding - mystery. An that, I believe, is what makes Lutheranism a natural fit for the emerging postmodern conversation which is critical for missional effectiveness.

4. The priesthood of all believers. The amount of freedom this affords us in ordering congregational and worship life is truly exhilarating and almost totally uncapitalized on (among Lutherans). This is what has opened the door wide for me - as a Lutheran - to embrace the house church movement which has enormous potential as a missional strategy. Luther himself actually proposed HCs as the preferred mode of Christian community. You can find that on my website here. "Mutual conversation and consolation of the saints," a very close also-ran for sacramental status, so I hear, also comes in here.

5. The Bible is not the Word of God, Jesus is. That may not be the way it's usually put, but it get's the point across. Someone else already mentioned the idea of the Bible as the rough cradle in which we meet the Christ child. That way of engaging scripture is HUGE to me, and especially so, again, for mission into postmodernity.

1 comment:

Carol A Jensen said...

This is why I'm a Lutheran. Amen.