It’s been awhile since I’ve shared anything from my favorite Lutheran Theologian Gerhard Forde. Here’s a doozy:
The tragedy of post-Reformation Lutheranism and the theological root of its identity crisis is to be found in the persistent attempt to combine the radical gospel of justification by faith alone with an anthropology that cannot tolerate it…
The division of the house against itself is thus quite evident. Lutheran theological ranks… seem filled by practitioners who on the one hand get spooked… by Lutheranism’s fateful attachment to the gospel of justification by faith alone and, of course, frightened to death of ‘exaggerated’ assertions about the bondage of the will and such unpleasantries. So where does one end? Somewhere in the middle, no doubt, in a theological no-man’s land where one will be shot at form all sides. ‘Yes, justification is nice, but it’s not the only choice in the biblical cafeteria.’ A little criticism and relativism to counter the absolutism, a dash of ‘free grace’ to relax the moralism (but not to be overdone), a little resorting to the Lutheran Confessions when in a tight spot (but not to be exaggerated), and a general tailoring of the message to ‘meet one’s needs.’ The result is a loss of recognizable identity, a tendency to fade into the woodwork of generic religion, and an almost complete failure of nerve.
What is to be done? The analysis leads to a crossroads.
The radical gospel of justification by faith alone does not allow for a middle-of-the-road position. Either one must proclaim it as unconditionally as possible, or forget it.
Virtually all the failures and shortcomings of Lutheranism can be seen in the hesitancy to proclaim the gospel in uncompromising, unconditional fashion, to proclaim as though we were about the business of summoning the dead to life, calling new beings into existence. Most generally, it seems, the gospel is preached as though it were a repair job on old beings… It is preached to old beings instead of for new beings.
A radical Lutheranism would be one that regains the courage and the nerve to preach the gospel unconditionally; simply let the bird of the Spirit fly.
For the full text click here.