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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The Word, flesh and text?

Let's pick up Luther's lenses to see the difference

Martin Luther stands out in the history of Christianity as a remarkably bold and free interpreter of Scripture. Lutherans, thus, stand theologically in a mediating position between overly literal and overly casual readings of the Bible — sometimes a fine line to walk.

Now the ELCA Book of Faith initiative helps us recapture distinctive Lutheran interpretive principles, and the public debate on human sexuality lets us see the usefulness of interpretive methods that neither imprison us in the culture of an ancient past nor leave us adrift in a rapidly changing world.

As we have often heard, Luther saw the whole of Scripture through two interpretive lenses: first, the idea of the Word of God as Jesus — the Word made flesh — as distinct from the words of the biblical text. Then, second, in the special relationship between “law” and “gospel” as paired ways of communicating the divine message of grace.


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