Tag Archives: Martin Luther

End the Ref: Protestants Should Get Over The Reformation

As somewhat of a disclaimer, I would like to say this post comes from someone who remains very happy within the Protestant tradition. Additionally, do not mistake this as a call for us to stop celebrating Reformation Sunday; I do believe that it as a complementary holiday to All Saints’ Day as well as a valid alternative to the “secular” Halloween and all the junk that entails.

There are several problems with Protestantism today, and people like to pick and prod at each and every one of them. I think the overwhelming concern should be the lack of knowledge the average Protestant layperson has about Christian history. In part, this is the failure of Christian educators, but that would implicate all Protestants, since we are all teachers in our own way, whether it be as members in the choir, nursery directors, Sunday School teachers, or members of the board of trustees. I feel partially responsible myself; in an email exchange with a close friend, because I had failed to explain what the Nestorian controversy was, he was confused by my reference to it. Should it not be up the Protestant churches to distinguish what was once considered heresy from what we consider orthodoxy, and why?

This failure to educate, to teach proper doctrinal differences is due in large part because of Protestants’ tendency to solely venerate Christian history post-Reformation. If a pastor were to consistently go back before, to talk about Augustine and Jerome and Clement of Alexandria in any mainline or evangelical setting, any Sunday or Wednesday out of the year, she would get the most bewildered of faces. What does that have to do with us, laypeople would ask? I would say, “a whole lot!”

In the minds of many Protestants, the Christological and Trinitarian controversies are settled; if that is so, how come Nestorianism, Arianism, Marcionism, and Docetism still appear in popular forms, i.e., inspirational writing sections at Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books? The Reformation hero-worship endemic in evangelical and mainline Protestantism today presents for us a three-fold problem: first, it means a lack of knowledge of our own history, and therefore ourselves; second, it means a lack of discernment in the area of teaching–that is why people continue confuse the prosperity gospel with the Good News of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah–so they are ill-equipped to battle heresies. Thirdly, in trying to mimic the approaches to culture as the Reformers, things like the “Culture Wars,” play out much in the same way that Luther found protection under his princes and Calvin, his city councils. We end up being dependent on fixed and absolute political power structures to justify our positiosn rather than the Prince of Peace. It is not a matter of withdrawal versus separation, but a preference for faithfulness over infidelity to the Good News.

For this reason, we should End the Ref.

Brian Mclaren on Predestination/Sola Scriptura

Check out Brian McLaren’s comments to an email question he received about two perennial theological issues. I find that he put my thoughts into words better than I could have at the moment.

McLaren on Sola Scriptura and Predestination

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Blogger Responds to the Terrible Two Party series

Damon Eris of Poli-Tea Blog brought up my four-part series on the Terrible Two Party system in American Politics.

See:
part 1 ; part 2 ; part 3 ; and the conclusion.

Although he commended my stance against the two-part system, as we call it, the duopoly, he has some questions concerning my use of Martin Luther’s Priesthood of all believers, and the contradictions within Luther’s theology.

d.Eris says,

“It would be interesting to see how Rod squares the central contradiction of Luther’s theology with the call for consensus democracy and proportional representation. In On Christian Liberty, for instance, Luther employs a dualistic metaphysics of body and soul to allow for the possibility of spiritual freedom despite the reality of human bondage:

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.

In other words, Luther’s notion of Christian freedom is consistent with human slavery. Luther himself denounced peasants who were at least partly inspired by his teachings to rise up against their feudal overlords. During the Peasants’ War, the protestant reformer admonished the “murderous thieving hordes of peasants” first and foremost for breaking an implicit oath of “submission and obedience” to their social and political masters.”  “

I am glad Damon mentioned Luther’s dualism. It is something that I addressed in a presentation (and blog post last week).

First, we have to remember that no one’s theology can be applied universally, and we must take into context a person’s historical context.  When Luther was writing Against the Murderous Hordes of Peasants, he was reacting to criticism that he himself was the blame for the Peasant wars and rebellions leveled at him by the Catholics in Germany in the early 16th century.  Luther had to reject those arguments and he also had to persuade the princes to save the lives of women, who were being shared through wife swapping in the heretical anabaptist New Jerusalem.  His call was an act of mercy, not terror.

Second, Damon made a great point about Luther dividing spiritual freedom from all other freedoms, and the need for self-giving (submission) among Christians when it comes to political authorities, especially in his On Christian Freedom. It is this very dualism that is at the heart of Luther’s Two-kingdom theory, in which God had created two orders, one that is under the law (politics and society) and one under the edicts of the Gospel (the church).  The community of believers belongs to the second kingdom.  Civil authorities have no reign in the kingdom of the Gospel.  Christians owe no allegiance to the state, but because Christians are at the same time both made righteous and remain yet still sinners, we have to obey the law.[1]

What this means in the future of German history, after Martin Luther, is the German church’s submission to Adolph Hitler in the name of law and order.  However, if one want to continue in the tradition of Martin Luther, I would suggest to look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer, like most of the orthodox (non-violent revolutionary) Anabaptists in Germany, practiced Christian nonviolence, but he also opposed Hitler in his regime.  Bonhoeffer had to reject Luther’s Two Kingdom theory because Bonhoeffer re-examined Luther’s doctrine of grace, and what it meant for the church; the church was in the world, as Stanley Hauerwas noted, for all to see and not invisible while the state/government remained visible.[2]

Therefore, dualism is unnecessary.  Those who have been set free by the power of the Gospel are free in the world, to engage the world.  What this might mean for proportional representation and consensus democracy in the US? It means that rather than Christians fighting for power, being bought off by politicians through horrendous programs such as the Faith Based Initiative, Christians would have the liberty to created their own parties, that are openly Christian, like the Christian Social Democrats in Germany and the Netherlands. That would be a practical implication. a proportional representation system would benefit the church, third parties, the poor, and every American.

I hope that helps.

Truth and Peace,

Rod

[1] The Story of Christianity: Volume II by Justo Gonzalez , Page 36-37.

[2] Stanley Hauerwas. Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence. Page 43