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This is the number two question I get, after:
Are there pets in heaven?
Both questions are tough to answer in a simplistic way!
First of all, there is often a “question behind the question.” So, before answering, I counter with “What do you mean by Lutheran?”
Let’s start with Martin Luther (1500′s in Germany). I once was blessed to meet the greatest Luther scholar of the 20th century, in person, Roland Bainton, in the early 80′s after a lecture. I asked him why he never joined a Lutheran Church. His witty response was: “I’ve never seen one. Luther himself, ironically, would not be welcomed in most Lutheran churches today.”
So, are you Lutheran? If you can answer difficult theological questions simplistically, you probably aren’t following Luther’s pattern.
Asked whether there is pre-destination, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we can lose our salvation, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we are basically sinners or totally justified, he answered “yes.” Luther was a Bible teacher, and not a systematic theologian. He loved the (obvious) dramatic tensions in scripture and was OK with just leaving them be. His counterpart, Calvin, seemed to have a high need to cram the Bible into a neat system.
There are parts of Luther’s teaching and personality that I, without reservation, condemn and reject. His bizarrely anti-Semitic view of European Jews was an outrage. His mowing down of the peasant revolt was inexcusable. His eschatology was primitive at best and incomprehensible at worst (He thought Pope Leo was literally THE Antichrist). He had no sense of Christian mission to the majority of the non-Christian world.
But he was spot-on right about the whole Bible revolving around Grace, Faith, and Christ. And he was crazy-courageous in standing up to the whole authority structure of his world (Popes and Emperors) to make it stick. He rediscovered Paul’s “Jesus plus nothing” and remade much of the Western Church around it.
Along with Isaac Newton, he is one of the most mercurial and influential humans ever to walk this planet (Newton, like Luther, had his mega-quirks). By deconstructing the monastic world-view (which had been dominant for centuries), philosophically and practically, Luther helped lay the foundation for the Modern World in which you and I live.
Ironically (I thought of this while walking the ancient stones of the Via Sacra), Luther and Paul were the two greatest historical figures ever to walk the streets of Rome. No one at the time, in that city, even noticed them. Luther and Paul could care less–they just went out and re-made the world. All of the emperors and heroes of Rome amounted to: not much. We name our sons Paul–and our dogs, Nero.
Am I a follower of Paul or Luther? No. So perhaps I’m not a Lutheran, in that sense. Luther didn’t want us to use the term “Lutheran” (see his exact quote at the bottom of this page) and Paul, in 1 Corinthians, was horrified that people would label themselves with his name. I, like Luther and Paul, am a follower of Jesus Christ alone.
But what about faith families? What about denominations? I am totally a product of Lutheran theological-cultural upbringing, and can’t do much about it. It’s like being Jewish, it’s a cultural tattoo which you can’t remove without lasers. Even if I (God forbid) were to become an atheist, I’d be a Lutheran atheist.
If I were to join a Baptist or Catholic congregation, I’d still be a Lutheran member of that church. If you are Jewish or Lutheran, you understand the tribal implications of these labels :-). I’d actually, if I had my ‘druthers, like to be a charismatic Anglican (the Alpha London folks), but I’m too blue-collar Lutheran to pull it off long term.
So, is the church I pastor, Robinwood Church, Lutheran, because I am the primary teacher? Perhaps. We affirm (in our bylaws) the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and the ecumenical creeds. We would qualify, thus, for joining the Lutheran World Federation.
But we are non-liturgical. Totally. More than you think. And we are very Pentecostal in our expression. It doesn’t look “Lutheran.” We have no Euro-centric trappings of any kind. We are a California beach church that meets in a warehouse. No Lent. No Advent. No lectionary. No altar table. No permanent cross. I don’t own a clerical collar. There isn’t a single hymnbook in the building. It would be hard to find the word “Lutheran” on our website. I only wear shoes if it’s a cold day. The music is loud.
But if any trained theologian were to visit us for three Sundays, he or she would say:
They sure aren’t Calvinists or Arminians. Not Roman Catholics. Not Southern Baptists. Not Eastern Orthodox. Not liberal North American PC activists. Not Anglicans. By default, they must be Lutherans. Expressive, non-legalistic, missional–but pretty dang Lutheran at the core.
If Luther were to show up at Robinwood Church, I’d probably tell him off (privately) for that goofy Jew-bashing (and a few other things) of his, but we’d pour him a beer (and cut him off at two) and share his love of God’s Word, and the tensions that are simply there in it.
Is Robinwood Church Lutheran? Yes and no
And like Luther and Paul, we don’t care if “important” people don’t notice what we’re up to, we’re busy remaking the world.
For more information:
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LUTHER’S QUOTE on LUTHERAN LABEL:
“People should not call themselves ‘Lutherans’. ‘What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for anyone . . .How then should I — poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am — come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name?’ Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teachings we hold.”
Who said that?
–from, “A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion 1522”
Some reflections on the National Day of Prayer
1) President Obama did not cancel it. In fact, here is his proclamation affirming it:
2) There has always been tension between church and state. For 2,000 years. Not just in America. To kings, the idea that there is another King has been problematic. Always has been, always will be.
3) There never has been a time when any national government and the true, faithful Christian Church were fully aligned.
4) Christian activity rises and falls in America. It goes in waves. Great Awakenings. The Pentecostal Azusa awakening in 1906. The big post WW2 churchgoing boom. The Jesus movement of the 60′s and 70′s. We are not in a post-Christian era. We are between booms.
5) Our Founding Fathers of the USA were neither the Focus on the Family Republicans the “right” makes them out to be, nor the “enlightenment Deists” that the “left” makes them out to be. Thomas Jefferson considered himself to be a devout follower of Jesus, but would hardly move to Colorado Springs to be with his peeps if he lived in our generation.
6) We cannot COERCE people to pray. Government should never coerce any faith practice. Jesus never coerced anyone. He let them walk away. But, on the other hand, the fact that some are OFFENDED by us “intentionally, publicly spiritual people,” does not obligate us to practice our faith only in private.
Any OFFENSE on the part of others, because of any of our faith practice, private or public, when we are not being coercive, is NOT another reason to push us out of the public practice of our faith (which is totally guaranteed in the Bill of Rights). That was a long, complicated sentence, but I don’t know how else to say it.
It seems like, lately, whenever what we do offends someone, some court makes us stop doing it. This is not constitutional. We are not properly distinguishing between coercion and offense. The former is wrong, the latter can’t be helped in a free society. The systematic elimination of all offense leads to a controlled, non-free society.
7) No government can cancel a national day of prayer. Any more than churches can legislate tax code.
8.) Over 90 percent of Americans pray regularly. Not just born-again Christians. Everyone prays before algebra exams. Humans come hard-wired for prayer. Built in wi-fi.
9) As a free-market family-values conservative, I have the right to criticize our own movement. We have gotten way less attractive since Bush left office. We are more prone to conspiracy theories than ever before. A lot of us have just turned off our brains.
I just confronted a man who was looking for signatures using a poster of our president with a Hitler mustache in front of our post office. We are going to lose the next elections if we don’t work on our image. Middle America is not going to vote with what they see as crazy people.
Elections are won and lost with the moderates. We are alienating them. We come across as extremists (remember how may votes Goldwater got?) who love big guns, big business running our health care, closed borders and deportations, conspiracy theories, and people who hate gay people. Reagan (as opposed to Goldwater) got huge votes because of what he was FOR (free markets, strong America, positive-optimistic attitude).
10) We have another national day of prayer, instituted by Abraham Lincoln: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a transitive verb which requires an object. And that would be God.
11) For the record, I believe:
-in having “in God we Trust” on our money
-in school prayer
-that the Bible should be taught in public schools, at least as literature and history
-that intelligent design should be taught in public schools along with spontaneous non-designed evolution.
-that marriage is between one man and one woman.
-that faith conversation and prayer belongs in the marketplace, the public square, the government, the media, and our schools. It is a part of who we are and free societies are free to be who they are.
Please follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch and feel free to pass this on
Biology has yet to experience her Newton; her Copernicus.
Biology has not yet come of age. It just doesn’t feel as if it has “arrived” yet.
Darwin will not enjoy his current “Mount Rushmore” status a few centuries from now. He’s just too wrong about some basic concepts. He’ll most likely end up like Galen (the important guy before they figured medicine out)
For a scientific theory (i.e. evolution) to be so controversial well over a century after its “unveiling” begs the question, “What’s wrong with it?” Darwin’s acolytes are still trying to convince us, and generation after generation, it’s not working.
The truth is, we don’t yet understand “life,” and most people are fully aware of the opaque mystery of the topic at hand. All proposed “definitions” of life are hopelessly arbitrary; in the end, life is pretty strange stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I need to lay my cards on the table–I trust the narrative of the Bible and am a committed follower of Jesus. But that’s not why I have trouble with Darwin and his neo-Darwinian offspring. If I had never seen a Bible, I still wouldn’t buy what they are selling.
It’s just too counter-intuitive.
I’m not the sharpest crayon out of the box, but I can tell stuff that happened randomly (i.e. potholes on the 405) from stuff that got designed (i.e. cool Swiss watches). Life seems way more like the latter than the former. Simple as that.
Many “progressive” Christians try to merge evolution and the Bible. They think they have “solved” the problem by saying, “I can believe in evolution and the Bible.” Problem is, no matter what you think of the Bible, spontaneous, undesigned evolution isn’t true. Why staple God onto a system that doesn’t need one?
First of all, “science” about the past is dicey. On a good day!
Truth is, the past doesn’t exist. You can’t go there. Even if you were Bill-Gates-rich, you couldn’t take me there tomorrow. And time travel will never happen because you can’t go somewhere that isn’t there.
The present is simply all we have. Joe’s Crab Shack here in Newport Beach has a sign: Free Crab Tomorrow. There never is a tomorrow. Only a today.
Science, by definition, is organized observation. We can only observe and measure the present, since that is all there is to see. Science must be “repeatable.” You can’t repeat an observation of something you can’t observe in the first place.
Science is a good thing and I am not anti-science. All truth is truth. But science has been running up against limits, in many areas of study, for several generations now. Science has entered a time of diminishing returns. It has never lived up to what we thought was its potential. It’s just created a lot of yucky chemicals we can’t seem to get rid of. Remember when nobel prizes in science were about cool things like beating polio and figuring out electricity? Nowadays the prize winners “achieve” something like figuring out some nuance in a light wavelength. Diminishing returns. Science is losing mojo.
Complex storytelling (scientific or otherwise) about the “past” is fraught with pitfalls. We always tend to read in what we want to see. I want to see a Creator, and I can easily find one; at least I’m honest about my motives–my opponents, on the other hand, pretend to be “objective.” Immanuel Kant described our minds as “waffle irons” which impose our patterns and views on the runny batter of reality “an sich.”
Pick the opposite pre-supposition to mine (i.e. no designer), and you can “find” that too. Your geometry system all depends on the postulates you pick beforehand; same goes for me.
This is why history is such an “odd” discipline. It is a detailed description of something that isn’t actually there. Add science to the mix, and it gets even stranger. History is written by the victors in life and all storytelling about the past is deeply influenced by our current biases. Our historical interpretation of the past far outweighs any actual evidence; we can write volumes and volumes on Greco-Roman society and we only have a few flimsy pages of actual primary sources from that era (Tacitus, Suetonius, etc.), and most of those earliest manuscripts date from almost a millennium after they were written.
Susan Sontag wrote a magnificent essay “On Photography” which talks, among other things, about how it gives us the illusion that we can know the past. Interesting how Darwin’s theory and photography developed (no pun intended) around the same time.
Let’s just come right out and say that all story-telling (including mine) about the past is deeply agenda-driven. This includes secular, mechanistic evolution theories.
We simply have no consensus, in the USA, as to the place of spiritual/supernatural discourse, if any, in the public marketplace. Big agendas are pushing big ideas, but we haven’t even agreed on how to chalk the lines on the football field.
Most of the reasoning on both sides is totally circular. Pre-define science as having no spiritual content, and voila!, you relegate talking about a Creator to the realm of “feelings” and “opinions,” claiming the turf of “fact” for your side. (Theologians do the same thing, BTW)
Who says science can’t entertain supernatural/spiritual/design components? Some grand scientific world congress that imposes this definition on the rest of us? Who gets to decide what science is? Only those who a priori exclude all spiritual content?
Science is nothing more and nothing less than an organized, inductive, collective search for truth by observation, publication, repetition, and consensus. Pre-defining the rules (most narrowly) to ensure your preferred outcome is no longer science.
Pre-defined in non-Designer mechanistic terms, science is no longer worthy of the name “science.” It no longer has the muscle to seek truthful answers to the (big) question: “What are we doing here?”
Getting back to biology–I simply don’t find the argument for evolution convincing. Neither “mircro (within a species)” nor “macro” evolution.
You can separate out traits (dog breeding, agriculture, etc.), but these are artificially isolated trait groups. Put all the dogs in the world on one of the Hawaiian Islands and in a few generations they’d all look just like their proto-ancestors. There is remarkable consistency within a species.
It seems, from whatever incomplete evidence that we have, that species appear out of nowhere, enjoy a long period of “stasis” where virtually nothing happens, and they they go extinct. These mass “flowerings” of species seem to have happened in a handful of mega-waves over time.
And no one has ever convinced me that one species can become another one. Clearly, it didn’t happen gradually (lizards growing wings ever so slowly over millennia), and if it was a new-species mutation, then it wouldn’t have the right number of chromosomes to mate with anything else (why dogs and cats can’t mate with each other producing any offspring)–it would be a mule at best. And the chances of two identical (male and female) mutations who can mate and be the Adam and Eve of a new species? Please.
Let’s go back to the wings. It would take a bazillion years for wings to evolve to the point where an animal could actually fly (try designing a wing that will lift solid matter off the ground–go ahead). All during that time, the non-flying wings would be a serious liability in terms of survival. And during that bazillion years, the genetics of the animal would be screaming to the offspring not to change anything. Our genes are deeply conservative by temperament.
Real Darwinists have given up on the “gradual change” story and the neo-Darwinists don’t have anything to convince me that mutations (as opposed to gradual natural selection which they have given up) could produce new species. Apparently, species just start, go on for a long time, and die out (looking much the same as when they started).
And micro-evolution going on with humans today? If that were the case, then people in harsh environments (more improvements because of forced adaptation) would be superior to those who have spent thousands of years in “resort” climates. Let the racism begin…
I’m not saying that we’ll never figure this out. I just think that we are all (myself included) missing a really big insight; as big as Copernicus shifting the sun to the middle of the solar system.
I don’t have an answer for the “What are we doing here?” question. I believe God was and is deeply involved. Not because of some old, dusty dogma, but because I encounter supernatural reality on a regular basis, and this reality seems to have focus, personality, and intention. I can’t conceive of this Being having nothing to do with why we are here. And I am not alone. A majority of humans in every time and place (whatever their faith system) relate to what I have just written about spiritual things. They will continue to reject a spiritually-sanitized story about our origins.
Perhaps some truly fresh-thinking person reading this will set aside the tired Creation/Evolution debate and think a truly original thought about what life actually is and how some forms of life relate to other forms of life on earth.
Secular evolution theory, after generations of teaching, has never reached true consensus in our society. It never will. Which begs the question: What’s wrong with it?
Time for some new thinking.
Time for a Newton.
Time for a Copernicus.
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