Friday, December 30, 2011

FW: On the Post-Evangelical Path

Internet Monk…


Posted on: Friday, December 30, 2011 12:01 PM
Author: Chaplain Mike
Subject: On the Post-Evangelical Path


Out of the wilderness; onto a path — this is a summary of my spiritual/theological experience in 2011.

As Antonio Machado wrote, "The way is made by walking," and I guess I've just kept walking through the wilderness long enough that eventually a path appeared. That path remains before me, its direction and character unknown. I am certain there will be twists and turns, unexpected conditions to navigate, places where the going gets hard and slow, and other spots where astonishing vistas may appear, inviting long contemplation and wonder.

I discovered that "I'm a Christian, and I practice my faith in the Lutheran tradition."

That's what I wrote on November 4 in a "Wilderness Update." I followed with a series about how the Lutheran tradition has answered many of my concerns about the culture of revivalistic evangelicalism, in which I spent most of my ministry career.

I was happy to see that this series received some notice among the Lutherans themselves, as Gene Edward Veith blogged about the posts and invited discussion. Some Lutheran commenters were appalled that I chose to affiliate with the ELCA rather than one of the more conservative synods, and in fact, as on many blog comment threads, those with strong black and white views about such things dominated the conversation. You can read Veith's perspectives and the comments here:

I especially appreciated this supportive word from Dr. Veith:

"Don't get me wrong:  I'm as supportive of the LCMS and as critical of liberal theology as anyone can be.  But to say that Chaplain Mike, in joining the ELCA, is just joining mainline liberal Protestantism is manifestly not true.  What he is finding in his congregation that he is responding to so gladly is not leftwing politics or feminism or gay marriages.  Rather, as he says, he is finding the centrality of Christ, Law & Gospel, vocation, worship, the sacraments, and the other things he is discussing in his three posts."

And he's exactly right. The path I've started down puts Christ in the center of everything. It also understands the central importance of worship focused on Word and Table. Lutheranism has a strong emphasis on pastoral theology and the role of the ordained minister, as well as a wonderful perspective on the vocations God has given every believer as a priest of God. Luther, of course, is best known for his emphasis on God's grace in Christ received by faith, they make helpful distinctions between Law and Gospel in the Scriptures. I have especially come to appreciate and embrace the sacramental perspective that is at the heart of Lutheran spirituality. The Theology of the Cross is perhaps the Lutheran emphasis most needed in today's American church, which is often triumphalistic, shallow, and immature.

Finally, everyone needs heroes to admire and emulate, and Martin Luther has long been one of mine. But since exploring and embracing the Lutheran way, I have come to appreciate him even more. Utterly human and remarkably flawed, he put his hope and trust in Christ alone, restored the Gospel to a corrupt church, revitalized congregations and the pastoral ministry, gave dignity to ordinary Christians, their marriages, their music, and their daily lives, and courageously spoke truth to power when necessary.

I'm still a post-evangelical, and the culture of evangelicalism remains of great interest to me. Many of my brothers and sisters continue to practice their faith in revivalistic evangelical churches. I continue to appreciate the good things I gained from my time in non-denominational churches, even though my tenure there ultimately led me to the wilderness.

Now a path has appeared, and I have begun to walk on it.

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