Saturday, January 23, 2010

What can be learned from Lutherans?

Rev. Paul T. McCain has two posts at Evangel about two things that I very much suspect the Lutherans get right and that the rest of us should consider. They both rest on the Scriptures. The first is theological, concerning the ever vexing issue of predestination:
The other day, my son asked me, “Dad, why are some people saved, and others are not.” I said, “Aha! You are taking Latin, so tell me what this means. You are asking about the crux theologorum.” He thought for a moment and said, “The cross of theologians?” “Correct you are, sir,” I said, “What you are asking is the old question that has proven the downfall of many theologians through the ages, ‘Why some, not others?’ ” And from there we proceeded into an interesting conversation about a feature of Lutheranism that makes both Calvinists “God predestines some to hell, others to heaven”, on the one hand, and Arminians “I have chosen to follow Jesus!” folks, on the other, frustrated with us. Lutheranism, as does Sacred Scripture, simply does not answer the question why some are saved, and not others. ....

Some answer this question by pointing to man’s “free will”–only those are saved who “choose” to be saved. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible even man’s will is “dead” and powerless to “choose” God and his grace in Christ. We are saved not because we “choose” to be saved but because the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart through the Gospel (even faith is a gift!). Others answer this question by pointing to God’s sovereign will: God himself predestines from eternity some to be saved and others to be damned. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible God sincerely desires all to be saved and has predestined no one to damnation.

So how do Lutherans answer this question? The answer is that Lutherans do not try to answer it, because (we believe) the Bible itself does not provide an answer to this question that is comprehensible to human reason. Lutherans affirm, with Scripture, that whoever is saved is saved by God’s grace alone, a grace so sure that it excludes all human “action” and “choice” but rather rests on the foundation of God’s action in Christ and his “choice” (predestination) from before the beginning of time. Lutherans also affirm, with Scripture, that those who are damned are damned not by God’s “choice” but on account of their own human sin and rebellion and unbelief. From a human perspective, there is no “rational” or “logical” way to put these two truths together. Lutherans believe and confess them not because they are “rational” and “logical,” but because this is what we find taught in Scripture. .... [more]
The second entry that interested me is about worship, specifically use of The Church Year as the framework for worhip:
The Christian Church Year is such a blessing. Many people who are new to the Lutheran Church, or other liturgical churches, coming from general evangelical protestantism, are unfamiliar with the ancient custom of observing a series of festivals, also known as “feasts,” and unique times throughout the year, known as “seasons.” in what is known as the “liturgical year.” While the basic structure and words of the core components of the liturgy do not change from Sunday to Sunday, there are changes in other texts, particularly the various readings from Holy Scripture appointed for every Sunday and festival day, that give the various times in the Church Year their unique emphases and nuances. ....

.... Some people think that having a rigid order of every-Sunday readings is too restricting. I must respectfully, but strongly, disagree. I’ve noticed, so often, in congregations that do not follow the Church Year and the appointed readings that there sets in an impoverishment of teaching, it is easy to miss the major events of Christ’s life and the chief doctrines of God’s Word when there is not a thorough presentation of the Scriptures main stories and teachings, as is made possible through the Church Year and its appointed readings. .... [more]
Why are some saved, and not others? » Evangel | A First Things Blog, The Church’s Calendar » Evangel | A First Things Blog