The Theological symposium in Taiwan was focused on Lutheran Identity. That may seem to be a strange topic but when you are surrounded by a different culture both religious and racial it is important for several reasons. First is the very strangeness of the Gospel, it’s exclusive claims and absolute centrality of God’s action are literally unbelievable. That’s why Lutherans remind themselves that we “cannot by our own reason or strength believe in our Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel etc”.. Secondly, and this is really important the fall back position for all human beings is work righteousness. Thirdly, and this has more to do with what is happening in so-called western countries and is causing fits in the Third Word or the Global South and that is the absolute abandonment and attack upon the entire concept of natural law. What we mean by natural law could be called commonsense but it is a bit more than that. I believe that it is the moral law written on the heart of all men but in unbelievers it is weak and for many they resist it to the point of anger. The Law takes its toll on unbelievers and they react by hysteria or perversion. There was a time when it was common sense that marriage was between a man an a women because if it were not there could be no children. No children no future etc. Now some even question the validity of having children at all because of the “environmental impact”. There was a time when people acknowledged somehow or someway that creation was made for human beings and we are a part of it and meant to be stewards of it. Now there is a violent reaction to that concept and it is being promulgated that the world is an organism itself and we are somehow parasites, or that the earth itself is God.
Anyway all this is interesting but the idea of natural law has to do with vocation and the theology of creation means that what we do as a vocation is an important part of being a Lutheran. So as I sit hear and watch the sunshine on a late April morning and watch my neighbors walk by dressed like Nanook of the North I dream of warm weather and beach books. Summer reading seems to be one of cultural norms we can still agree exists so here are my suggestions for great summer time reads.
Detlev Schulz – “Mission from the Cross”.
Gene Veith “Spirituality of the Cross.”
Kolb and Wengert – “The Book of concord – Confessions of the Evangelical Church”
Holsten Fagerburg – “A New Loof at the Lutheran Confessions”
You can get them all from Concordia Publishing House
Here is a distillation of some of the ideas on vocation distilled from the above books.
Martin Luther and the Lutheran Church instruct Christians on how to live out their vocation in this world. Through the teaching about Creation, the Small Catechism, the Ten Commandments, the Second Table of the Decalogue (Commandments 4–10), the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer (daily bread), and the Table of Duties are all sources of encouragement for Christians to receive God as Creator into their lives and participate in everyday activities alongside their unbelieving neighbors. A theology of creation teaches Christians to uphold this specific Lutheran concept of “vocation” or “calling.” It is not of human invention, but Christians are called to it in Scripture (Eph. 4: 1). Vocation contains great mission potential, for it demonstrates how Christians may contribute in the civil sphere toward the promulgation of the Gospel. The priesthood of all believers lives out its Christian vocation within their daily occupations and in their sharing responsibility for the corporate witness of the church.
Christians share common convictions with non-Christians because, in a certain sense, the Ten Commandments have to do with natural law; thus non-Christians can in a limited degree understand the Ten Commandments in an external sense. Moreover, to Christians, both the Ten Commandments and natural law are summarized in the command to love one’s neighbor (Matt. 22: 39). Thus all Christians together with their fellow citizens are directed to the natural sphere of life in which God has placed them and where their neighbor is in need of help and love. Melanchthon already noted: “Love goes forth upon earth among the people, and does much good, by consoling, teaching, instructing, helping, counseling privately and publicly.” Clearly, the commandment of loving one’s neighbor compels Christians especially to participate in social life rather than to abandon civil responsibilities. And though the duties vary from person to person according to his or her station or calling, everyone is held equally accountable to the Ten Commandments in word and deed; as Luther once stated: “Here reflect on your walk of life in light of the Ten Commandments.”