Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World

By Pietsch, Thomas | Lutheran Theological Journal, August 2018 | Go to article overview

Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World


Pietsch, Thomas, Lutheran Theological Journal


Gene Edward Veith Jr. and A. Trevor Sutton. Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World. Saint Louis: CPH, 2017.

The experience is familiar to many Lutherans. Sitting at an ecumenical table, we see the Catholics looking puzzled at the Presbyterian presentation, and then the Baptists shifting awkwardly at the Orthodox input. The Lutheran, however, seems to find room to understand all, and to have common ground with all. We take both the altar and the pulpit, both the mystery and the clarity of doctrine, both the human and divine activity. Wilhelm Löhe intuited this, writing in Three Books About the Church (1845): 'everywhere that the denominations draw apart, our church shows how that which is true in the opposite extremes may be reconciled and beautifully combined'.

In Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World, Gene Veith and Trevor Sutton seek to explore this Lutheran charism. They suggest that the Lutheran church has a 'metatheology' and indeed is a 'metachurch' in that it encompasses the best of all Christian traditions, and indeed is the place that fosters their fulfilment. For example, when Calvinism and Arminianism went their separate ways, they each focused respectively and exclusively on Scriptural passages of divine agency or human agency. When Lutherans take the whole of Scripture, they walk the catholic path, the meta path, not by playing off different aspects of Scripture and the faith against each other but rather by amplifying and elevating them all. Human agency is fulfilled and made intelligible with, and not in contrast to, divine agency. 'Lutherans, therefore, are the metacatholics, the metacharismatics, and the metaevangelicals' (50).

The greater promise of this book is that Veith and Sutton seek to expand this Lutheran charism for catholicity to the realm of non-Christian postmodernity. It is not just that different theological trajectories can find their apogee in Lutheranism, but that the full range of postmodern concerns and anxieties can find their fulfilment in Lutheran Christianity. Thus, for example, justification is not just for the church, but is 'the article on which we all stand or fall' (82). The world has moved on from asking how God could allow evil and suffering to asking simply how life itself can allow it. While earlier generations struggled to justify God, our world struggles to find any justification for existence itself. Rendering life meaningless, and rejecting the justification of God, has led inevitably to the diabolical fruit we see around us and within us. The Lutheran proclamation of justification through Christ who comes to us extra nos actually agrees with the futility of self-justifying pursuits. To postmoderns weary of self-expression, Lutherans point to Christ and his objective means. To postmoderns who have come to distrust institutions and religions as mere exertions of power, Lutheranism stresses the weakness of the cross and a God-man who emptied himself of power. …

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