Friday, October 27, 2006

Lutheran (noun) vs. Lutheran (adjective)

From Gene Veith's Blog today -

Lutheran (noun) vs. Lutheran (adjective)

In answer to your question, Dustin, being Lutheran has to do with being a Christian whose sole hope is the Gospel, who has a theology of the Cross rather than Glory (that is, grows closer to Christ in the experience of weakness, suffering, and defeat rather than strength, power, and victory), who has a sense of vocation (that God is in the ordinary tasks of life that He calls us to), who recognizes the depths of human sin and also the depths of God's grace... Someone with at least some of these characteristics I describe can be said to be, figuratively and at least some degree, Lutheran.

Yes, I am aware that Dostoevsky is not a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and that I could not commune with him and he certainly would not commune with me. Yes, I know he was a member of the Russian Orthodox church. But you don't see much salvation by works or even by piety in Dostoevsky's novels. There is a sense in which you don't have to be a Lutheran (noun) to be Lutheran (adjective) . (There is also a sense in which not all Lutherans are Lutheran.)

---- Obviously, this blog is much the latter, and not at all the former. -JAZ


Jordan Stratford+ said...

" who rejects all gnosticism in a recognition that God comes to us in the material world of flesh, creation, incarnation, a book printed on paper, and sacraments of water, bread, and wine."

Gnosticism accepts the Incarnation and does not reject the flesh or creation. It rejects the kosmos, the system; it rejects the "powers and principalities of the world". Gnosticism is also a sacramental religion which includes a eucharist of water, bread, and wine.


John Zahl said...

Jordan, thank you for chiming in. I actually do not have strong feelings about "gnosticism", pro or con. The portion you quoted is the part of Vieth's passage with which I resonate the least. That said, I will edit the excerpt both to avoid the misunderstanding to which you refer, and also to better emphasize the thrust of the statement (i.e., as I read it).

Best, JAZ

AMvL said...
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AMvL said...


I appreciate your longing for righteousness, and your hunger for the Lord. I cruised your blog, and wanted to discuss a quote from Veith’s blog in light of a quote from yours (but not in that order).

You write: “Gnostics do not repudiate salvation through Grace : The role of Grace, and of the Holy Spirit, is of paramount importance to the Gnostics. Where Gnosticism differs from Christianity is that Gnosticism says that ‘blind faith’ does not grant salvation. To be saved from the forces of deception and ignorance (maya in Buddhist parlance) one must attain enlightenment: the direct experiential intimacy with G@d that is gnosis. This experience is the birthright of every aware human person.” – Your blog (from 10 Things Religious Pundits Need To Know About Gnosticism, Blog: Ecclesia Gnostica in Nova Albion)

Is this statement not in fact a Gnostic “repudiat[ion of] salvation through Grace?”

Is Grace a gift? Yes, absolutely. Can you attain a gift? No, at that point it becomes recompense for service. Is awareness a precondition to this attainment? Yes, according the Gnostic view you describe. Is this Good News, that we now must in some way attain our salvation? Never.

This is why the Gnosis cannot be the Gospel (as I understand it. It is the insight of Luther; more importantly the revelation to Paul- Luther simply “got Paul” via Grace). Jesus died on the cross for humanity. He paid the price for my inability to attain enlightenment. He is able where we are not, and through his blood we enter into relationship with God. His role does not change, I continue to rely entirely upon him, and for any change in my life or actions. As I understand it: the Gnosis is attainment where the Gospel is acceptance (which I believe comes from Grace as well). More simply put: not I, but Christ alone.

Vieth writes: “The author of ‘Pilgrim's Progress’ became a Christian when we attended a meeting at which Luther's ‘Commentary on Galatians.’ He said that he prized this book above all others next to the Bible for the consolation it gives to wounded consciences. And a major theme of ‘Pilgrim's Progress’ is the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The most dramatic--and funny--example is what happened with the character Faithful. He tries to get to the Celestial City by climbing Mt. Sinai. He is carrying this heavy burden, which makes it even harder for him to climb those steep slopes. Then it turns out that Mt. Sinai is an active volcano, which erupts as he tries to climb it, sending fire and smoke and rocks down on him . And then, Moses shows up, who starts BEATING HIM UP!

Finally, Faithful slips down, realizing that he can't save himself by the good works of the Law. He just cannot fulfill the Law's demands. Then he finds a narrow gate and Christ on the Cross, whereupon his burden falls off and rolls into an empty tomb.” –Veith’s blog

Jordan, I must ask, when we (Lutheran Christians and Gnostic Christians) say “Grace,” are we possibly discussing two entirely different concepts? Can the Gnostic view of Grace be described as: help from outside plus action from within? Would you maintain then that salvation (or “enlightenment”) is not received, but rather obtained? If that is the case; are you not being saved, but instead enjoying merit through your own actions?



David said...

Leaving gnosticism for a second, I would like to chime in on one of my favorite subjects: Dostoevsky.

People get tired of me saying it, but this man is exactly as the article describes him. He is totally grace-centered and not at all pelagian so far as I can tell. His works are all about beauty pursuing the unlovely. If you don't believe me, read Crime and Punishment or The Idiot.

I would definitely consider him Lutheran (adjective) and I filter a lot of my theological thought through his literature.

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