Archive for December, 2009

Marshall on Grace

December 30, 2009

If one wants to see an important element missing in contemporary Lutheran theololgy (or in Lutheran theology simpliciter), see the reflections of Bruce Marshall in the most recent issue of First Things, especially the final paragraphs. You can find the essay here. There is not a direct conceptual connection between his reflections and the present plight of Lutheranism, but the indirect connection is of profound significance.
[Addition in response to comment. I think the ‘profound significance’ relates most closely to whether and how we understand the gospel as a call into a specific form of life. If the gospel is a call into a specific form of life, then some agreement on the shape of that life is inherent to the gospel. And, in that case, the assertion of the Sexuality Social Statement that agreement in the doctrine of justification is all that the church needs must be wrong.
More distantly, but more importantly, there is the question of how we are called and graced to participate in Christ and Christ’s saving action. That we are called to participate is clear: our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection is our salvation. But do we participate in the way Marshall describes? I increasingly think that Marshall (and behind him, Aquinas) is correct.]
Michael Root


A Blessed Christmas

December 22, 2009

I will have limited internet access until Dec. 27 and probably will not be able to moderate comments.
Readers will have noticed that postings have slowed down lately. The end of the semester produces a backlog of work and I have worried that I have started to repeat myself. We will see what happens with the new year.
In the meantime, best wishes for a blessed and merry Christmas.
Michael Root

The ELCA Conundrum

December 14, 2009

Two recent news reports illustrate the conundrum before the ELCA.

On the one hand, Pr. Richard Johnson in the December issue of the Forum Letter (not available online; subscribe here – it is well worth the subscription price) describes the November meeting of the ELCA Church Council. The Council, he reports, is committed to the finding in Sexuality Social Statement that the ELCA has no consensus at present on the morality of homosexual partnerships and thus the four positions outlined in the Social Statement should all be respected as valid in the ELCA (a bad argument, but that is another matter). This attitude would seem to imply that if a majority of a synod council or candidacy committee finds such partnerships incompatible with the ordained ministry, they should be able to vote their convictions.

On the other hand, an ELCA news release (here) quotes ELCA Secretary David Swartling expressing concern that the resolutions of the NE Iowa Synod (here), which embody that freedom to vote one’s convictions, seem incompatible with the ministry recommendations adopted by the Churchwide Assembly.

Secretary Swartling may be correct, but the problem does not lie with the NE Iowa Synod resolutions. The problem lies in the divergence between the Social Statement (which argues that the church has no position on the sexuality questions) and the recommendations on ordained ministry (which, as amended by the ELCA Church Council and adopted by the CWA, implicitly affirm a specific position).

Secretary Swartling dodges the bullet by saying the Church Council will need to decide the issue in April. Their task is not to be envied.

[I have not made any posts for a while. I worry about repeating myself and have needed to attend to other tasks. I should return to posting more regularly soon.]