Thursday, November 03, 2011

Used and Abused

This looks very interesting: Robert Jenson has published a little book called Lutheran Slogans: Use and Abuse. Steve Wright gives it a quick review at Faith & Theology.

Regular readers know that the abuse of slogans (and logia) is one of the Egg's interests, and stimulates our occasional efforts to find sources and contexts for the sort of sayings that people tend to take for granted. (Fr. A.'s first published work of scholarship was, in fact, an exploration of the the words lex orandi, lex credendi. Hint: nobody uses them -- or even quotes them -- rightly.)

Wright gives few examples of the slogans addressed in Jenson's book. He mentions sola Scriptura and the law/gospel distinction. We wonder whether, and hope sincerely that, they also include sola fide, sinning boldly, and "sacrifice," or rather the rejection thereof.

Two matters give us pause. First, Wright says that Jenson "takes almost every effort afforded him to disagree with Melanchthon." Disagreement with Melanchthon has been a common enough pastime among Lutherans from the very beginning, but we are inclined to consider it an unhealthy one -- more like smoking than playing baseball.

It seems increasingly clear to us that Melanchthon is the essential Reformation theologian, the vital and indispensable link connecting the many different ideas and approaches that were then in play. It is Melanchthon the classicist who prevents Luther's evangelical insights from coming unmoored from patristic tradition; it is Melanchthon the ecumenist who, so long as he can, keeps the Reformation of Germany in communication with those of Switzerland and England. And yes, it is Melanchthon the much-abused "pussyfooter," the "synergist," even the author of the Interims, who offered the best hope that the Reformation had of being what it always claimed, a reform movement within a united church.

And second, we note that the book is published by ALPB, as was Jenson's catechism a few years back. Nothing wrong with that, but we do wonder why one of the three or four best American theologians is publishing with such a very small house. We hope it is because he chooses to.

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