May Issue of Lutheran Theological Journal
28 May 2013
Do Christians need to keep their Christian convictions and the research findings of the natural sciences in separate compartments due to their apparent incompatibility? Mark Worthing explores this fascinating question in the lead article of the May issue of Lutheran Theological Journal (LTJ) - a publication of Australian Lutheran College - out now. To subscibe to LTJ, please call LLL on 1800 556 457 or visit www.lll.org.au.
The research methods and findings of the natural sciences would appear to take us in directions that diverge radically from the central affirmations of the Christian faith; or at least they may do at first glance. For this reason believers tend to keep their scientific understanding and their religious convictions in separate compartments. In this first issue of LTJ for 2013, devoted to the topic of Christology, Mark Worthing proposes that it was the institution of the church that provided the fertile ground and the intellectual climate for the universities of the western world to emerge and for the natural sciences to grow and flourish. Far from keeping science and faith in two non-interacting compartments, Worthing draws on the incarnation of our Lord to show that Christianity deepens our thirst for scientific knowledge and enhances our appreciation of new findings. Then he addresses the vexed issue of the Christian conviction that Christ rose from the dead in relation to the findings of science. Fasten your seat-belt and enjoy the ride!
Narrative Christology has become a topic of interest in gospel scholarship and systematic theology. In ‘Narrative Christology in the Gospels’, Stephen Hultgren considers the importance of narrative for understanding Jesus’ identity at three levels: the written Gospels, the gospel tradition, and the historical ministry of Jesus. The gospel narratives resist an easy reduction of Jesus’ identity and invite us instead to ponder his identity in its fullness. Narrative has the capacity to reconcile diversity and identity in personhood. Accordingly narrative Christology is well suited to uphold diverse perspectives of Jesus and one identity of Jesus. Preaching can and should take advantage of narrative features in the gospels in answering the question, ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us?’
Arising from an abiding love for the teachings of Luther, David Griffin raises afresh the question concerning the foundations of Christian ethics. Conscious that as a Baptist minister he may be rushing in where angels fear to tread, Griffin asks with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and against Helmut Thielicke, whether the church has been unduly afraid to propose that imitatio Christi may well serve as the indispensable starting point for Christian moral teaching. In an essay titled, ‘Imitatio Christi: on easing some concerns’, Griffin asks: Do we retreat from notions of imitating Christ’s conduct for fear of legalism? Does the church suspect that it may reduce the confession of Christ to that of moral example? Or does our hesitancy arise from a suspicion that regarding humans as moral agents subject to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit may dilute the doctrine of original sin? Or does the Protestant world simply recoil from anything that may resemble mediaeval monasticism? Griffin constructs a careful argument to the effect that these reservations can readily be overcome with nothing but gain for the cause of the gospel and the church’s ongoing reflection on Christian ethics.
In ‘The psalm introit as a constitutive element of the opening liturgy’, Friedemann Hebart raises some concerns about what he regards as the increasing marginalisation of the introit in the liturgies of the Lutheran church across the globe. Where the introit has been retained, it no longer seems to have a set location within the liturgy, which means that it no longer serves its proper role. Hebart says that the introit does far more than provide a musical interlude so that the clergy have time to enter the church in procession and take their place. Indeed, it does more than provide the theme for the specific Sunday in the church calendar and set the scene for the service that follows, as essential as those functions are. In keeping with the Christological emphases of this issue of LTJ, Hebart demonstrates that the introit serves to mark the entrance of the crucified and risen Saviour, who comes to us with his remarkable promises of salvation and renewal, differently nuanced every Sunday. Maybe, Hebart speculates, the fixed place of the confession and absolution at the start of many Lutheran services has aided and abetted the slippage that he laments.
Greg Lockwood was introduced to Roman Catholic theology while sitting at the feet of Dr Hermann Sasse during his seminary studies years in Adelaide. He pursued his interest while serving with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, where he sensed the excitement that the Second Vatican Council generated among Catholic church workers. Greg later included a unit on the theology of Thomas Aquinas in his doctoral studies. And in more recent years he has been drawn to the writings of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, especially his books about Jesus and Paul. With an issue of LTJ devoted to Christology, Greg readily accepted an invitation to focus his gaze specifically on Benedict’s Christology, as gleaned from his 2012 book, Jesus of Nazareth: the infancy narratives.
Peter F Lockwood
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