Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's NOT the Church's Mission

Henry P. Hamann’s book On Being A Christian is a commendable text for confessional Lutherans. The following passage directs us to what is and what is not the mission of the Church (pp. 113-114).

The marks of the church determine the mission of the Lutheran Church in the world. It is in the world to bear clear, genuine, unambiguous witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the sacraments he instituted: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is there to make this witness both to those who are Lutherans and to those who are not, both to Christians and to non-Christians, for it is entrusted with the very Word of God, the Word of salvation. . . .

Discerning readers will probably think at this point of the argument that I have been guilty of a grave omission in my account of the mission of the church. They will be aware that most churches in the world — and especially the large representative bodies like the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, as well as the pope of Rome — have assumed for themselves a leading role in the endeavor to bring about a better world. The various churches make solemn declarations on a whole host of important concerns: on war and peace, on poverty and health, on justice and human rights, on freedom and the role of women in society. The churches have much to say on the proper action of governments in all quarters of the globe, calling upon them to change such-and-such a policy and enact such-and-such reforms. Knowing all this, it may well be a matter for wonder that the present description of the mission of the church has failed to speak of such activity as part of that mission.

The answer is that the confessional Lutheran just does not consider these matters to be part of the mission of the church. A distinctive teaching of Lutheranism comes up here: the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms — although this traditional view has also been discarded by a great part of the modern Lutheran church.

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