The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Taking stock & transitioning

Where we've been, how we got here, where the discussion is going

As we enter the third year of this series "Deeper Understandings," I hope you have discovered that, as our first authors Jonathan Strandjord and J. Paul Rajashekar declared: "The teaching theologians of the ELCA are among God's gifts to the church. [They] prepare our leaders in ministry and serve as theological resources for congregations, synods and the whole church."

In this series they have served as teachers of the church, faithfully drawing from the Scriptures, the confessions, our liturgies, our tradition and human wisdom to provide deeper understandings for you on difficult topics.

In that first essay ("On being theologians of the church today"), Strandjord and Rajashekar also wrote: "As theologians attempt to articulate the meaning of the faith in the same God, in the same crucified and resurrected Christ, and in the same Spirit, they relate the Scriptures, the creeds and the confessions to issues of life in diverse contexts and cultures and issues confronting the church."

We began with the Lutheran understanding of the Bible as both law and gospel. We heard the deep bass notes in our doctrines of justification, the theology of the cross, the Trinity and the church. We learned of the centrality of worship and of the sacraments: baptismal water to remember Christ's life given for us for forgiveness, bread and wine for the journey. We worship as communities of disciples, which is the body of Christ singing alleluias to the crucified and risen Christ.

Addressing our culture's fear and dread of the end time ("End-times"), Sarah S. Henrich and Dirk G. Lange comforted us with these words:

"There is acknowledgement of an 'end,' but an end that is not somewhere off in the future. It is already present, in every moment, in every event. Present, yes, but also vanquished. The battle is not before us; it is behind us. The apocalyptic in-breaking of Jesus is the genesis of faith in each and every life. It is an in-breaking that happens in baptism and continues daily afterward ... rooted in the cross and resurrection. Baptism is its deepest expression in our lives. In baptism we have already won the 'battle' — Christ has the won the battle for us."

As our teaching theologians taught us these classic doctrines in our current context, we also asked them to take on difficult and controversial questions like the rapture, the Trinity and gender, interreligious dialogue, and our understandings of Islam and evolution. They have tried to address your questions and have used the Scriptures, the creeds and confessions, and the riches of the tradition as sources and resources for you.

The design of this series was to initiate conversations about theology, drawing upon the best minds and resources that we have in the church. We can be confident in our Lutheran freedom to address difficult theological issues because we know we have been justified by grace through faith. "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1).

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February issue


Embracing diversity