One of the resources I use as a Lutheran to help people understand the tradition is a small book called Baptized, We Live: Lutheranism As a Way of Life, by Daniel Erlander.
One of the book’s strengths is its consistent rejection of a “theology of glory” for a “theology of the cross,” and its insistence on the Christian way as a way initiated and sustained by God’s grace from beginning to end. This leaves us free, as Erlander says, “to be weak, to be honest, to be interdependent, to be vulnerable, to LOVE.”
Here is an excerpt from Baptized We Live, a list of “forms of religion” that the Lutheran way finds wanting because they, in some form or fashion, depend upon something other than that amazing grace. I don’t necessarily find all of these equally persuasive with regard to Erlander’s point — some are certainly much stronger than others and I might state some differently. But I do find this to be a list that is worth putting out there for discussion, so I hope you’ll consider it and chime in today.
We share the NO of Jesus when we reject any form of religion which promotes or validates itself by human reason, human persuasion, human power, or by offering “cheap grace.”
We share the NO of Jesus when we reject:
- religion which proves itself by miracles, answered prayer, worldly blessings, fulfilled prophecy or rational thought.
- religious which validates itself by worldly standards of success, strength, effectiveness.
- religion which uses worldly power techniques to make history come out right or to force society to fit a certain definition of “righteousness.”
- religion which promises certitude, life without questions or risk — a security often provided by an infallible leader or an infallible book.
- religion which asks us to only believe doctrines about God rather than introducing us to a living God who calls for radical change.
- religion which offers the joy of “living with Jesus” without facing our sinful ways — our egotistical, over-consumptive, earth-destroying, people-oppressing patterns of life.
- religion which offers personal salvation without living, serving, growing, struggling, and celebrating with the body of Christ, the church.
- religion which avoids the pervasive Biblical themes of sharing food with the hungry, caring about the poor and oppressed, living as good stewards of God’s creation.
- religion which fulfills our human need to have higher status than others, to be better than others, to have “outsiders” or “unbelievers” to despise.
- religion which provides divine approval for the assumption of a particular nation, culture, society, economic system, or race.
- religion which provides a way we can bargain for, work for, or earn our status as saved persons.
- religion which teaches “going to heaven when I die” as the main reason to believe in God.
- religion which avoids teaching that the crucifixion is both the sacrificial atoning act of Christ and the example of the way of Christ we are to follow.
Baptized into Christ, we reject, as he did, the theology of glory.
Jesus said YES to the way of the cross — the way of…
- submission to the will of the Father.
- absolute trust in the Father.
- dedication to human liberation.
- solidarity with human pain.
- freedom to be human, weak, and vulnerable.