By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde

By Joseph A. Burgess; Marc Kolden | Go to book overview

Justification by Faith?
An Unguarded Essay

Leif Grane

Because the so-called “Porvoo Common Statement” has been adopted in many countries of Northern Europe, it might not be irrelevant to think about central issues of the Lutheran heritage. To emphasize such issues could very well be inconvenient for theologians and church leaders who are above all interested in ecclesiastical politics and in gaining influence in the world. A theology that takes its point of departure from Luther’s De servo arbitrio, for instance, is not well suited to reaching such goals. Gerhard Forde’s Theology Is for Proclamation is hardly on the list of books read with enthusiasm by the subscribers to the statement from Porvoo, for they show in their document what Forde calls “a strong drive for the church to become visible in this world’s agenda.”

The Porvoo Statement in itself is not very noteworthy. It is only mentioned here as an example of a current tendency of remarkable weight, namely, the tendency to see the Lutheran heritage as a confessional specialty that ought to be set aside or at least kept in the background. Only by making Luther’s cause an unimportant burden will it be possible to let the clerical point of view become essential. A church with no other task than the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments and with no other office than the ministerium verbi cannot be elevated to what Forde calls “high-handed clericalism.” This conception of the church is, therefore, even to an increasing number of “Lutherans,” reprehensible. In order to make an impact in the world — that is the idea — the church must be able to execute power, to talk in the name of God about matters of this world, and to make binding decisions for all members.

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