Extracurricular Activities 11.01.14 — Favorite Heresies, Luther’s 95 Theses, Ross Douthat’s Catholicism
Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.
A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.
On October 31, 1517—a Saturday—a 33-year-old former monk turned theology professor at the University of Wittenberg walked over to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed a paper of 95 theses to the door, hoping to spark an academic discussion, making the first order of business the proposition that all of life should be marked by repentance. Little did he know that this call for an disputation on repentance would eventually change the course of history through a reformation of the church and the culture.
Below is an interview with Carl Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. His forthcoming Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Crossway, February 2015)—with a foreword by renowned Luther scholar Robert Kolb and an afterword by America’s most famous Lutheran historian Martin Marty—will be an indispensable resource on appropriating Luther for today (and will challenge the use that’s made of him by many of his gospel-loving fans)
I consider myself fortunate to have been born into a devout Christian home. My mother’s family had been active in the Free Methodist Church for several generations. And the local Free Methodist Church in which I was raised was a nurturing, caring congregation that sought to embody the gospel…
I was especially enthralled by the power of the preached Word. One of my earliest memories is that of sitting in church, with my head resting of my father’s chest, listening to the preaching of S. B. Sams
and caught up in the sensation that what I was hearing were not just words, but rather that something was happening, that people were being changed deep within. I knew this powerful activity was occurring, because I recognized that it was occurring within me.
My early experience within the church taught me not only the power of the Bible and its message, but also the proper way to read the Bible, in other words, method…
I have observed over the years that, when conservative evangelicals defend the Bible against perceived attacks, they enlist into service a number of stock responses deflective rhetorical strategies…
These strategies—which are not necessarily deployed consciously—are aimed at protecting evangelical theological boundaries but do so at the expense of those evangelicals, who, through the course of reading and studying scripture, come upon legitimate questions for which they are seeking thoughtful answers. Issues like the tribal violence of God, true (not apparent) contradictions, and historical problems are quite real and cannot long be kept at bay through these strategies.
Although intended, no doubt, as a defense of the faith, these strategies often have the exact opposite effect. They are compelling only to those who are content with the “assured results of evangelicalism” and so are a discouragement to those who, for the sake of their own spiritual survival, are seeking ways forward that are more intellectually and spiritually sustainable.
Here are 12 rhetorical strategies that I have seen employed past and present…
Of all the columns I imagined writing when I started out at this job, it’s safe to say that Sunday’s piece, in which I suggested that conservative Catholics should “resist” their pope if he seems intent on leading the church off a doctrinal precipice, was not one of them. So it’s worth saying something briefly about my own personal religious perspective on the church to which I belong.
I am a Catholic for various contingent reasons (this is as true of converts as of anyone else), but on a conscious level it’s because I am a mostly-faithful Christian who is mostly convinced that Roman Catholicism is the expression of Christianity that has kept faith most fully with the early church and the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself…
(Image: 95 Theses, By Wittenberg: Melchior Lotter d.J., 1522 (Martin Luther) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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