A Jagged Contention: The Irrelevant Reformation


“Luther would find the modern world irrelevant right away because it no longer makes any distinction between human judgment and God’s judgment. What is important is strictly human judgment—what others think of us, or what we think of ourselves, what we call self-esteem. Self-esteem, Robert Schuller says, is the ‘new Reformation.’ Feeling good about ourselves is the goal of life. Therapy, not theology, is the way to go. ‘St.’ Sigmund (Freud) is the real patron of the modern age. It seems nobody worries about God anymore. God, if anyone thinks about him (her?) any more, is just love, love, love. God is a patsy. And so God just drops out of the picture for most folks. If God is just love, love, love, then no on need worry about him anymore. What is important is not to get right with God, as they used to say in the old days, but to get right with ourselves. What is important is not to live the godly life, but to learn how to affirm one another in our chosen lifestyles. Whatever happened to God? Does anyone believe in God anymore, i.e., that God is living and that he is not only love, but above all, the judge?  Does anyone believe that the ultimate question for our lives is not human judgment but God’s judgment?”

– Gerhard Forde, “The Irrelevance of the Modern World for Luther” in A More Radical Gospel.


If Forde’s assessment is correct and God is no longer a problem, that is, relevant to the modern person, how does one go about preaching the message of the Reformation? If God’s judgment is not a problem for us, and what matters in our age is the judgment of others, how are is the church to proclaim justification? Or, how are we to maintain the “old Reformation” way of preaching over and against Schuller’s “new Reformation” of therapy?

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