Welcome to Under the Sun!
This blog is a chronicle of my struggles – and some of my friends’ struggles – to remain Christian in the twenty-first century.
I was reared in an old Lutheran family. Then, like many of my generation, I left the Protestant fold in their youth to re-discover the ancient church. After almost twenty years in the Orthodox church – a fascinating journey! – I have found myself back home, in Lutheranism. (For more about me, see my author profile.)
But like many of my generation, my relationship with church – any church – has become tenuous.
On a personal level I have begun to feel what many my age have long felt: that I no longer quite fit in church. Church has become something a bit other, disconnected, almost unreal. Traditional narratives, texts, structures either no longer speak to me, or if they do, they do so with difficulty, as if from a distance. My faith life is often pervaded by a sense of alienation, ambivalence and sorrow. I am still “here”, present, in church, but I feel a bit out of place — dissociated. I constantly have a sense that the old structures, however much I love them, and sometimes long for them, seem to be passing away before my very eyes.
Intellectually, as a church historian, I don’t find this surprising. I think that the old synthesis, in all of its flavours, from Lutheran to Catholic, Orthodox to Calvinist, is now undergoing a significant transformation (to put it positively). I’m not sure that much of the Great Church edifice – constructed in the late antique crucible of the 3rd and 4th centuries, and continuing through the great medieval and Reformation churches to this day – is going to survive much past a few generations, at least not in a recognizable form. Not only are its doctrinal and institutional pillars weakened, but the Greco-Roman foundations beneath them have been cracking for centuries – they will not, I think, hold.
(Ten years ago I used to look at my church-going friends and think “What are the chances any of their children will be going to church in twenty years?” Now I look at these same friends and think “What are the chances that they will be going to church in twenty years?”)
But can there be something new? Is there something that can rise from the ashes for me, and other like me? This is the topic of this blog.
My angle is to approach this question from a very personal perspective: by working from that which still gives me life, hope.
In my case, this happens to be a single voice from the old world that somehow still speaks to me with strength and power: Martin Luther. For whatever reason, Luther is just about the only theologian I can stomach anymore. The fat old foul-mouthed ex-monk from Eisleben has become something of a faith life-line: he is, in truth, one of the few things keeping me attached to the Christian fold.
So in this blog I’m exploring the thesis that whatever in Luther has caught my attention might be of broader interest for the church as a whole. It took me an Orthodox MDiv, over a decade of ecumenical experience, and professional-level historical training in the old synthesis to see it, but I think Luther might contain the seeds of a new Reformation far greater and far more extensive than anything that ever happened in the 16th century – and that this Reformation is probably already at work across the denominations.
But the Lutheran voice, although it’s out there, has become strangely quiet in modern theological discourse. So this blog seeks to be a forum for bringing a Lutheran perspective more boldly back into the theological conversation,
I should say that this blog has evolved over time (for the introduction to the first iteration, see here). It has had a number of other contributors, and always welcomes more. If you are interested, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
– David Wagschal