Biographies are intensely personal affairs, filled with the often mundane details purporting to tell the life story of some person of alleged importance. Occasionally, however, a figure of true influence will come along and change the world. In the American context, such figures have often been religious or political leaders, those two realms of discourse which seem to influence all others. Indeed, few can deny that Washington, Lincoln, King, and Graham do not continue to play important roles in shaping our context. Yet few characters of history have simultaneously transformed both religion and politics. One such person was the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose public advocacy—for both political left and right and for Christian faith in the public square—continues to influence our world. Continue reading
In Luther, the NFP Teleart and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ film starring Joseph Fiennes, the story of German monk Martin Luther’s journey to what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation is told. The film begins with Luther’s entrance into the realm of late medieval Roman Catholic monasticism, moves to his struggle with faith, tells of his trip to Rome, his teaching at the University of Wittenberg, his scathing writing against the abuses of the Church, and the ensuing struggle to reform the Western Christian Church. The film portrays Luther’s struggle in captivating fashion and fared well when released internationally in 2003. But as with any other film production portraying historical events, one must ask how accurate the film Luther is in its portrayal of Martin Luther, the Catholic Church, and the events surrounding the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th Century. Continue reading
I have forgotten where I first saw that quote, but I do remember that I was immediately impressed with its accurate assessment of contemporary culture and discourse. How often do we listen, discuss, or read with the intention of learning? How much worse do those skills become once we’ve opened our web browser and entered the world of 140 character Twitter interaction, sound-bite news, rhetoric-oriented politics, #hashtagactivism, internet forums, Facebook statuses, and polarizing worldviews? In my assessment, Covey is right–today, people don’t seriously, thoughtfully, and civilly dialogue, we have it out in the comments section, we engage so that we may “show” people where they are wrong. Does it really have to be this way? Continue reading
For the past year (with some interruptions), Hayley and I have been visiting different churches, some for only a week and others for more extended periods of time, as part of the “First Exposure” phase of our Church Search. These visits have been to a purposefully broad range of churches, both to denominations we thought we might seriously consider, as well as several visits which were primarily aimed toward experiencing other forms of Christianity and gaining an appreciated for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result of this “First Exposure” phase, we have learned lots and gained some insights into where we should investigate further as part of our “Serious Considerations Phase.”
In this second phase, we intend to engage several churches/denominations more intensely as we seek to understand where we will best fit in the People of God. This investigation will involve two primary steps: First, extensive research on the churches we are considering. This means engaging additional written works theologians, pastors, and teachers within each respective denomination that we are considering, as well as seeking in-depth conversations with pastors and members of the local churches that we are visiting. A second step will be multiple visits to the churches/denominations we are considering. Here we intend to visit not only specific churches multiple times, but also to visit multiple churches within the denominations that we are considering. Where possible, we hope to visit at least three different churches in each denomination, at least one of which we will visit three or four times.
After much thought, prayer, and conversation, we have narrowed down the churches we are considering into three broad categories: Orthodox, Lutheran, and Episcopal/Anglican. We have come to recognize the internal diversity within each of these labels, and thus again emphasize that these are the broad denominational categories which we are considering. That said, the central theme that we have found to be important in our faith lives is the balance of ancient truth and tradition with contemporary applicability and service. That is, by-and-large these churches (or certain parts of these churches) seek to balance scripture, liturgy, tradition, worship, and living Christian love. It is for this reason that we have decided to focus our search on these three groups of churches.
Through our experiences with each of these churches already, we have already experienced that no church is a perfect church, primarily because we are there. Yet we are excited to learn and experience more fully how God and His people are learning, living, and loving in these churches. Though we have learned much already, we recognize that God is but beginning His work in our lives, and eagerly await this next phase in our journeys, including the part where we leave Winston-Salem (NC) and move to St. Louis (MO) in a few weeks time. We ask for your prayers and guidance as we continue this search, and look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come.
One of the more interesting thought-experiments that Reformation-era scholars embark upon is asking if there could have been a “Protestant Reformation” without Martin Luther. Understanding that we would likely need to reconceive our current notions of “Protestant” and “Reformation,” it seems likely that some form of theological reformation would have occurred in 16th century Europe even without the flamboyant figure of Martin Luther. In historical inquiry it remains a highly abstract (and somewhat fanciful) process to ask “What if…?” questions. However, given the pre-Protestant Reformation circumstances and European theological and socio-political context, it seems appropriate to let our minds wander and ask “What if there had been no Luther?” Certainly Luther powerfully shaped the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent history of Western Civilization. One need only look to Biblical Studies and the justification-centered interpretation of Pauline thought and the book of Romans that only now, nearly five-hundred years later, Protestant (and protestant influenced) scholars are beginning to emerge from in earnest. One need only to drive down the street in any town or city to notice the diversity of Christian Churches in America, each with the conviction that they cannot give into to other forms of theology, lest they betray their conscience. Unquestionably, Luther indelibly colored the fabric of the reformation and its subsequent impact on our world, few would argue otherwise. Continue reading