Part 4–Our Theology

We have come to the last thing Pastor Huglen would have us consider — theology. I’m sure many people think theology isn’t about them and their faith lives. If this is what you believe, I want to say you are wrong. As the late R. C. Sproul noted some years ago, everyone is a theologian–even non-believers. Because what is theology if it is not the study of God and His ways and will. Even if you want to exclude atheists from theology, you can’t exclude yourself for you do indeed study God every time you open a Bible, listen to a sermon, sing a hymn, or even idly think about your Maker, Redeemer and Comforter.

Theology in American Christian circles is in crisis right at this moment. Poor reasoning, doubting the faithfulness of Scriptures, a desire to make the world “like” us, the terrible teaching in our seminaries–all of these things and much more are shredding the theology that is taught and preached in our churches. The Word of God is treated as a suggestion rather than a commandment. The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross is referred to as divine child abuse. Catechesis, the teaching of doctrine, is often replaced by whatever a particular pastor thinks would be fun and engaging. There are Lutheran seminaries where the students are told not to preach the Law, but only the Gospel, thereby stripping the Gospel of what it is — good news for sinners. One writer referred to what is going on in many evangelical churches as moralistic, therapeutic deism. And I could go on for a long time in this way.

But the founders of the AFLC dedicated themselves to the pure preaching of the Gospel and the proper teaching of Lutheran theology. And it has held up now for almost sixty years.

There is something else that should be a warning to our Association and our congregation as well. Studies have shown that after about fifty years there is a tendency to forget or water down things that motivated the founders of a Church body, including a congregation. Every generation has to have their faith and their focus on the important things that were the roots from which the church grew. There are all sorts of things that are habit or tradition which should be evaluated and possibly changed, but we must not lose focus on those things which are from God and are meant to be permanent.

One of the verses used frequently in our AFLC is from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth and to us:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

If we grieve the Spirit by ignoring or trying the change the way of Christ from what has been handed down once for all, we will not longer be free, free as God wants His people to be.

For the rest of this series which is part of a sermon given by my husband at our church, St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church of Leitersburg see:]

Part 1 — History of the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches)

Part 2–Our Polity

Part 3–Our Piety

Part 4–Our Theology

A Reformation Reading List

You know I can’t let a month go by without recommending some reading.  I found this Reading List for Lutherans.  What could be more appropriate for our month on the Reformation.  Let us know if you plan to read some of these.

A Reading List for Lutherans Quality, Lay-Friendly Books That Will Stretch and Shape the Lutheran Mind Easy reading: *                    More challenging: **                    Really challenging, but worth it: *** prepared by Gene Edward Veith
BASIC LUTHERANISM Gene Veith. Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals.* I wrote this one. It’s the book that I wish I had found before I became a Lutheran. It explains the Lutheran distinctives and the richness of Lutheran spirituality in what I hope is a lucid and engaging way. Scot A. Kinnaman, ed. Lutheranism 101.* A comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to Lutheranism, written in form of short articles, sound-bites, sidebars and illustrations. J. T. Mueller. Christian Dogmatics.** A systematic survey of Lutheran doctrine, as understood by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with Bible verses to back up every point. This is a summary of Francis Pieper’s fourvolume Christian Dogmatics. Steven D. Paulson. Lutheran Theology.*** Some may think Lutheranism is staid and respectable, but this book shows just how radical and mind-blowing Lutheranism — with its teachings about the Law and Gospel, the Word and Sacraments — really is.
THE CONFESSIONS The Book of Concord. As the definitive authority in all things Lutheran, this book is in a category by itself. The creeds and the catechisms*; the Lutheran Confessions of faith (Augsburg, Smalcald Articles, Formula of Concord, Treatise on the Primacy of the Pope)**; the extended defenses of those Confessions (the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord***.
LUTHERAN CLASSICS C. F. W. Walther. Law & Gospel. ** The founder of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod explains to 19th-century seminary students how to properly distinguish the Law and the Gospel and how to preach them so as to bring sinners to Christ. This book offers both stimulating theology as it lays out the distinctive Lutheran approach to Scripture and comforting devotional reading as it plumbs the depths of what Christ has done for us. Bo Giertz. The Hammer of God.* This is a novel by a Swedish bishop, depicting three generations of Lutheran pastors, who each have to deal with the religious fads of their day — pietism, rationalism, liberalism — ultimately finding in their ministries the strength of Lutheran orthodoxy. Martin Chemnitz. The Two Natures in Christ.*** Chemnitz is second only to Luther among the great Lutheran theologians. His brilliant work on Christology — dealing with the incarnation, whereby Christ who is truly God and truly man atones for our sins and the “communication of the attributes,” whereby Christ’s body and blood are truly present in Holy Communion — is a hallmark of Lutheran theology. Charles Porterfield Krauth. The Conservative Reformation.** Written in 1871 by an American Lutheran scholar, this book is a masterpiece of historical theology, showing the differences between the conservative Reformation of the Lutherans and the more radical Reformation of the Calvinists and Anabaptists. Moreover, it shows how those differences remain important today.
WORKS BY MARTIN LUTHER The Freedom of the Christian.** This early work by the Reformer proclaims the freedom we have in the Gospel. It also lays the groundwork for Luther’s doctrine of vocation. This treatise sets forth the classic paradox of the Christian life: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” And it teaches how we are to be “little Christs to each other.” Sermons.* Luther is among the most pastoral of theologians, and his many published sermons show him as a vivid expositor of God’s Word and, for all of the polemical fury that sometimes breaks out, as a compassionate minister to troubled souls. In his sermons, we often see Luther’s humor as well as his wisdom as he applies God’s Word to the ordinary people of his time.
Letters of Spiritual Counsel.* Here we see Luther’s pastoral heart, as he offers spiritual counsel to ordinary Christians of his day who struggle with some of the same issues that we do today. Commentaries.** Luther’s theology is drawn from the Bible, so his Bible commentaries are some of his profoundest works. Two good places to start are his Commentary on Galatians, which is a sustained critique of works righteousness, and his Commentary on Romans, whose explanation of justification by grace through faith led to the conversion of John Bunyan and John Wesley. His commentaries on the Psalms make rich devotional reading and his multi-volume Commentary on Genesis contains, among other things, a thorough treatment of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world. Bondage of the Will.*** This full-throated argument against the humanism of the Renaissance genius Erasmus is considered some of Luther’s greatest theological writing, but it is not for the faint of heart.
BIOGRAPHIES OF MARTIN LUTHER Roland Bainton. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.* This is an acknowledged masterpiece of the art of biography — compelling, easy-to-read and insightful into Luther’s tumultuous life and times. Martin Brecht. Martin Luther. 3 vols.** This exhaustive multi-volume treatment is the definitive scholarly biography of Luther. Heiko Oberman. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil.*** A deep psychological and spiritual treatment of Luther.
LUTHERAN THEOLOGY Hermann Sasse. We Confess Anthology.** This German theologian defied Adolf Hitler and his attempts to Nazify the Christian Church. He later emigrated to Australia, where he served as a seminary professor and as a major influence on confessional Lutheranism around the world. This book collects a number of Sasse’s works on Christ, the Sacraments and contemporary theological issues. See also the two volume collection of Sasse’s letters and essays, The Lonely Way. Francis Pieper, Church Dogmatics. 4 vols.** The definitive systematic theology for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, sketching out each topic in detail with full Scriptural evidence. Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics.** An ongoing series of volumes — six so far with more to come — by different authors, updating Pieper’s work and addressing contemporary theological issues. Oswald Bayer. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation.*** A distinguished contemporary theologian shows how Luther’s theology addresses modern and postmodern thought in a sophisticated way. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand. The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Theology for the Contemporary Church.* Two major LCMS scholars of the Lutheran Confessions show their relevance and that of Luther to contemporary issues in the Church.
VOCATION Gene Veith. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.* My book explores Luther’s doctrine of vocation on a popular level. Paul Althaus. Ethics of Martin Luther.** An important theological scholar explores Luther’s teachings about life in the world, including both Luther’s doctrine of vocation and his doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Gustav Wingren. Luther on Vocation.*** The key book on vocation with paradigm-shifting insights on every page.
THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS Richard C. Eyer. Pastoral Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering.* A hospital chaplain tells about how he applies Luther’s theology of the cross — as opposed to the more common “theology of glory” — as he ministers to the sick, the suffering and the dying. Alister E. McGrath. Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough.** A prominent British theologian explores the centrality of the theology of the cross in Luther’s life and thought. Gerhard Forde. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.*** A sometimes controversial theologian, an advocate of what he called “radical Lutheranism” explores some of Luther’s most radical ideas. In addition to Forde’s commentary, the book includes an edition of Luther’s Heidelberg Theses, in which the reformer outlined his teachings about how God comes to us in suffering and weakness, rather than in success