-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Bayer on the Separation of Faith and Theology

The disturbing decline of any theological integrity, especially among laity, in the church can be directly tied to the modern belief that faith is a purely personal and subjective experience. Bayer argues that this is due to a separation between the concepts of faith and theology. This can especially be seen in American Evangelicalism, though the Lutheran church is certainly not immune to this trend. Recent studies show that even many in the Lutheran church are willing to believe such things as Christ not being the only way to salvation, or salvation occurring outside of the Christian faith. The fact is, everyone has a theology, a set of beliefs that inform the way they view religion, their faith, and their interaction with the Word of God. The problem is, most people believe this is a personal journey that the church has little to do with. The Christian faith, though, is not a road that needs to be traveled alone, nor is it a road that hasn't been traversed before; many have gone before us and have experienced many of the same things we have. It is the Church's job to give their churches the tools to grow and strengthen faith and belief. This starts of course with Scripture, and then with the historic creeds of the faith, and then the historic teachings of their church and their confessions. By not emphasizing these through catechises we deprive our churches of the tools needed to sustain a faith that is based on God's Word. Liturgical churches tend to do this better, it seems, but we all need to decry the claim that one's faith is one's own personal business that one needs to figure out for one's self. While American Evangelicalism has enjoyed great success over the past few decades, this certainly will not last if they continue down the road of their substance-less theology; their congregations will drift farther and farther away from the historic Christian faith, even if their clergy nominally remain to cling to it.

"The point of the meta-critique is to deal with the much-criticized separation of church spirituality from university theology, life from doctrine, and a theologian's personal faith from the issues that impinge on that faith for which the theologian is publicly responsible. However, the meta-critique we are promoting does more than deal with the symptoms of these separations. It attempts to bring about a radical healing by going to the root of the problem. The experience of more than two hundred years of church history, the history of theology, and the history of ideas shows that Semler set theology on a fundamentally wrong course when he made the separations. It is time therefore to take a fresh look at the concept of theology, both historically and systematically... This new look at the understanding of theology within the context of a meta-critical engagement with the classical problems of modernity will shed new light on Luther's understanding of theology. It will also illuminate the traditions of the Middle Ages and of the ancient church, and at the same time Judaism, insofar as these have a bearing on the heart of Luther's theology: the crucial importance of prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio), and spiritual attack (tentatio) in the formation of the theologian.

"If we affirm Luther's understanding of theology in the context of a critical engagement with the problems of modernity, we will not try to resolve one-sidedly the tension between faith and knowledge, spirituality and scholarship, the affects (which include the emotions, the senses, the imagination, the memory, and the desires) and the intellect, the heart, and the head. In short, we will not try to resolve the tension between its monastic and scholastic aspects. Rather, we must preserve this tension and focus on meditation, which for Luther always means engaging with the biblical text, for this is central to understanding theology as a "grammar of the language of the Holy Scriptures." This is the only way to overcome the modern attempt to treat theology as if it had no substantive object, without resorting to the kind of scientific objectivity advocated by positivism."

-Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way, trans. Jeffrey Silcock and Mark Mattes (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007), 84-85.

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