Thursday, December 28, 2006

Religion and Worldview

I've decided it's time to reprint a post I wrote almost a year ago, with some slight updates and revisions. In addition to this reprint, I'm going to add in a little about worldview.


When looking at anything, be it music, media, movies, books or anything in this world, you will see a worldview behind it. I recently read an article (click on the title of this post to read it yourself) which articulated a few ideas I'm putting below.

Worldview Test
A test that any worldview must pass to be a viable worldview.
- Must be rational
- Not contradictory
- Consistent with what we observe
- Explains reality satisfactorily
- Provides the basis for living

Worldview Components
The building blocks for a viable worldview.
- Something exists
- Everyone have absolutes
- Two contradictory statements cannot both be right
- All people exercise faith

Worldview Questions
Questions you can ask to determine a worldview.
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- How do you explain human nature?
- What happens to a person at death?
- How do you determine what is right and wrong?
- How do you know that you know?
- What is the meaning of history?

Influential Worldviews, Past and Present
- Christian Theism
- Deism
- Naturalism
- Nihilism
- Existentialism
- Eastern Pantheism
- New Age
- Postmodernism


It’s tough in this day and age to be Lutheran. You are shunned by many people for not being Christians. I’ve been told that I will go to hell for being a Lutheran. I’ve been told I’m a cannibal for believing in real presence (explained below). I’ve been told I’ve never been saved because I was baptized at the age of 14 days old and I never “accepted” Jesus.

As a Lutheran, I’m an anomaly in three ways. First off, in main-stream Christianity. Second off, I’m homeschooled. This presents two problems. One, I’m not a Lutheran who goes to a public/private/Lutheran school, therefore most people in our church body don’t think I’m “normal” or getting a good education. Granted, there are other Lutheran homeschoolers out there, but they are few and far between. Two, I’m homeschooled but I’m not a happy clappy, touchy-feely, whatever seems good at the moment type of “modern” Christian, so I’m shunned there too.

However, I’m proud to be Lutheran. I do indeed dare to be Lutheran. Why? Well, let’s look at the difference between “mainstream” Christianity and Lutheranism, and see why. Before I get into all of that, I recommend that ALL of you, Lutheran and non-Lutheran alike, read The Spirituality of the Cross by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Jr. It’s a great book on why he became a Lutheran, and what being a Lutheran means as far as our beliefs.

Now, to get the formalities out of the way. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible verses are from the King James Version. Quotes from Luther's Small Catechism are from the 1943 edition. For more information, you can access Dr. Veith's blog at: I would highly recommend it, not just for its religious content, but it's political posts. He also writes for World Magazine part-time, and his articles are highly interesting if you want to read more. He's a new Dean at Patrick Henry College.

Now, let me explain a little of the background for this book. Dr. Veith began as a "church shopper" (a term not exactly accurate but fits for what I'm trying to say). He went to different denominations in his town, and yet, he was never satisfied. He, like many of us, had come to the realization that there is no perfect church. There are some, perhaps, that are more correct than others, but how can we really say that?

I’ll be taking a look at a few main divisive issues between Lutherans and other Christians and why I feel the Lutherans are right on those issues. Don’t get the impression that we disagree with everything. If there’s one I don’t address, please feel free to ask me about it in the comments section.


There are three types of spiritual aspirations:

  • "Moralism, in which the will seeks to achieve perfection of conduct"
  • "Speculation, in which the mind seeks to achieve perfection of understanding"
  • "Mysticism, in which the soul seeks to achieve perfection by becoming one with God"
(note: these are from Adolf Koeberle's book The Quest for Holiness as quoted in Spirituality of the Cross)

While these all are good to a degree, and have measures of wisdom in them, Lutheran spirituality is "totally different" (Spirituality of the Cross) than any other form of spirituality out there. For example, "Most philosophies and theologies focus on what human beings must do to be saved; Lutherans insist that there is nothing we can do, but that God does literally everything. Human sin and God's grace are two poles of Lutheran spirituality. To be sure, these are intrinsic to all of Christianity, but in Lutheranism they are both heightened. They are resolved in the principle by which, it is said, the church stands or falls: justification by grace through faith." (Spirituality of the Cross, emphasis added)

Each of the three types of spirituality mentioned before can be considered "Paths to God" (as can Lutheran spirituality, but we'll get to that in a moment). Let's look at each one in a little more detail and relevance to the current day and age. Moralism demands a strict adherence to the law. No questions asked. That is the only path to go. I see this as a "works righteousness" mentality. You must keep the law perfectly to save yourself. That is the problem I see in many Christian churches today.

Speculation is, in sharp contrast to moralism, a viewpoint that demands the seeker find knowledge, and that is the only path to God. This is the mentality of "The Enlightenment of the French Revolution [that] gave us the Reign of Terror and Napoleon. The liberal-sounding tenants of Marxism gave us gulags." (Spirituality of the Cross, brackets added)

Finally, Mysticism is in contrast to the previous two. This is the mentality of those who seek to become one with God (or the gods, depending on the religion). This is seen most often in the Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc).

All three of these leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled in the end, or cause big problems. That's where Lutheran spirituality comes into contrast. These three ways are an act of will, an act by the human to gain spirituality.

Lutheran spirituality begins with the insight that all human effort to reach God is futile. The will, to use Luther's term, is in bondage---not only can we not fulfill the moral law perfectly, on the deepest level, we don't want to." (Spirituality of the Cross, emphasis original)

Moralism, or the perfect fulfillment of the law, is fulfilled by Jesus' perfect life. Speculation, or the seeking of knowledge, is fulfilled by the Word. Mysticism, or becoming one with God through an emotional experience, is fulfilled by focusing on "God's union with human beings in Christ and the phenomenon of faith." (Spirituality of the Cross)

Let's finish this with a look at Romans 3:12 (NIV): "There is no one who is righteous, not even one [so much for moralism!]; there is no one who understands [so much for speculation!]; no one who seeks God [so much for mysticism!]." (as quoted in Spirituality of the Cross, brackets and emphasis original)

Law and Gospel

Now that we have looked at that, let's take a brief look at the aspects of Law and Gospel. Basically, a quick definition of these terms, respectively, are the Old and New Testaments. In the Lutheran theology (or spirituality), we believe that Christ has fulfilled the Law, therefore there is no need for a moralistic spirituality.

This, in no way, does not mean that as Christians we should not try to obey the law, but we do not need to fulfill the law to earn our salvation. The Gospel is the preaching of the good news to the people. A Lutheran sermon (or really, any sermon) should always consist of convicting the parishioners (through the Law) of our sinful nature, and of the salvation and victory won by Christ (through the Gospel) so that we don't have to perfectly fulfill the Law (as if we could if we tried). Unfortunately, it seems that many sermons in many Christian churches preach only the Law (or, only the conviction of the sinners) or the Gospel (and it becomes a touchy-feely sermon only made to make sinners feel better).

Salvation and the Sacraments

"When a Lutheran is asked "When were you saved?" the answer is often something on the order of "about two thousand years ago when Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead."" (Spirituality of the Cross)

The problem that arises with the "pop-Christian" culture of today is the moralism spirituality mentality. Everything is dependent on YOU and how YOU can save yourself. For example, when asked the question, "When were you saved?" most pop-Christians will answer, "Oh, on such and such a date when I accepted Jesus into my heart." Notice the emphasis on "I" and where that word is in relationship to our Lord. Before. Who is driving the verb? The word "I" is. YOU CANNOT ACCEPT JESUS! He accepts you. End of discussion.

Nothing you can ever do would make Him want to accept you. We are filthy, disgusting, awful sinful beings. NOTHING you can ever do will change this. By saying that you have accepted Jesus, it is like putting yourself before God and making your efforts and your action more important than His. Remember the 1st commandment? "Thou shall have no other gods before Me." A better answer for everyone, not just Lutherans, would be on the order of the answer from the quote above. It’s the answer I have given for years. I would ask that you consider this response the next time you are asked when you were saved.

The Sacraments of the Lutheran church (and most Christian churches) are baptism and Holy Communion. The quickest way for me to summarize these beliefs is in this quotation: "The Word of God itself speaks of other tangible means of grace, which, by the power of that same Word, also convey Christ and create faith. … Lutheran spirituality is a sacramental spirituality, centered in the conviction that the Holy Spirit actually descends in the waters of Baptism, and that Christ is really present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion." (Spirituality of the Cross)

The Lutheran church practices infant baptism. You may ask, how can an infant make a choice to have faith? I will direct you to the previous explanation I gave for not making a choice to accept, not making a choice to believe. Even an infant can have faith. Does not the baby have faith that it’s parents will feed, clothe and provide for his/her well-being and health? Does not the Bible give examples of whole families being baptized?

Last year, a friend of mine and I had a discussion on this issue. It’s made me realize that infant baptism is less about the baptism itself and more about the salvation that is achieved through it. I would advise you to look at any of the following websites for more information as well as Bible verses that back up my beliefs on infant baptism. I have further articles (not with links) that I can provide if you'd like more historical or succinct examples.
The Lutheran church is different from any other denominations in their beliefs pertaining to Holy Communion. While the Catholics believe in transubstantiation (that the bread and wine BECOME the body and blood of Christ) and the rest of Christendom (at least, as far as I know) believes in representation (a term I’ve coined to basically show that they believe that the bread and wine only REPRESENT the body and blood of Christ), the Lutherans believe in something called real presence or consubstantiation. The bread and wine do not become anything, nor do they represent anything. They just ARE what Jesus says they are (This is My body, this is My blood). It’s one of those mysteries of God that cannot be explained. It just is. It takes an act of faith to believe it. But then again, isn’t believing in God Himself an act of faith?

The Theology of the Cross vs. The Theology of Glory

Let’s start this by looking at the difference between "The Theology of the Cross" and "The Theology of Glory". A Theology of Glory is focused on man. It is a form of "to man be the glory". A Theology of the Cross is focused on the Cross, on what Christ did for us. It is a form of "to God be the glory". Many churches focus on what man can do (on the Theology of Glory). It is depressing to me. One of the many things I love about the Lutheran church is that they focus on the Theology of the Cross.

The liturgy itself is a vivid testament of this. Look at the focus of many church services today: singing "praise songs". Now, I’m not anti-praise-song. I’m anti-singing-praise-songs-in-church. I feel that a vast majority of praise songs are not focused on what they should be (they praise man, not God) and they aren’t very worshipful.

"Legalistic religions, in which one saves oneself by one’s own efforts, are very specifically theologies of glory, optimistically assuming success and glorifying the powers of the successful, virtuous person. But when we realize just how lost we are, then we cling to the cross, trusting Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is saving faith, the theology of the cross." (Spirituality of the Cross, emphasis original)

The focus of a Christian’s life should be on taking up the cross (Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27). Bearing this cross is not an easy task. It is a hard, lifelong job. "Saving faith involves giving up on our pretensions of being self-sufficient, strong and in control. Instead, we are to rest in utter dependence on Jesus Christ. "My grace is sufficient for you," the Lord told St. Paul, "for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9)." (Spirituality of the Cross)

This leads back to the Theology of the Cross and the Theology of Glory. The former would be what we give up (see italicized above). The latter is what we gain as a Christian (see bolded above).

"Bearing the cross often has to do more with the petty, ordinary obstacles and frustrations of everyday life and … with troubles in one’s vocation. Boredom, mild depression and bad moods can be crosses, no less than physical pain and emotional turmoil." (Spirituality of the Cross)


I think that covers the main issues. This is a long post anyway, so I won’t make it much longer. Please ask any questions you have. Be prepared to back your statements up with Bible verses, as will I when I answer questions. I just ask that you please keep this discussion civil. I’ve had too many bad experiences with this in the past that I hope won’t happen again.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Well written! I stumbled upon you in a round-about manor, starting at laughingalwayshelps. Very thoughtful.
A fellow Lutheran