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May 2018 - The Lutheran Answer to the American Spirituality Question

The Lutheran Answer to the American Spirituality Question

            A few years ago, one spiritual authority summarized America’s cultural religion as “Moral Therapeutic Deism” – wow!  What in the world did that mouthful mean (or as a good Lutheran would ask: What does this mean?)?   It means that the general spiritual beliefs of Americans are as follows:

1. A god exits who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one’s self.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

5. Good people go to heaven when they die


In other words, most Americans believe in a somewhat removed or distant god (deism) who wants you to be nice to each other (moral) that will ultimately help you fulfill or attain the highest life goal of happiness and good self-esteem (therapeutic), and of course, heaven if you were good.  Listen to the multitude of modern day oracles and you will definitely hear this belief system.  Of course, vividly missing is any thought of sin, the need of forgiveness and the person and work of Christ as the sole means of life and salvation (the Gospel, which is always despised by the world). 

            Now, this same American spiritual culture has some very interesting characteristics and needs that we as Lutherans are uniquely equipped to meet.  First, our culture is absolutely fascinated by spirituality.  Well we have the Living and Abiding Word of God – the very means that the One True Living God comes to us in order restore us back into His image.  Next, our culture is captivated by mystery, a reaction to the cold and clinical scientific age.  There has even been a movement of those who have grown up in non-liturgical/non-sacramental churches to seek out churches such as the Eastern Orthodox that have an element of the mysterious about them.  We have the grandest mystery of the Holy Sacraments where God attaches Himself through the Word to earthly, lowly elements in order to give the forgiveness of sins won for us at the Cross of Christ.  The Uncontainable God of the universe contains Himself and dwells with us in those means of Grace, assuring us of forgiveness and salvation – truly a blessed mystery.

Our culture wants the participatory, the experiential.  We have the liturgy.  We come together with the fellow Redeemed of God, hearing His Word proclaimed to us and joining with our voices in speaking back to Him His very Words of life in the Divine Service.   

            Our culture is starved for concrete connection with solid realities.    There is nothing more “real” than He Who Is.  And it is in the Divine Service where we come into the very Real Presence of the One True Living God, Who comes to us under the Means of Grace and serves our true needs of forgiveness, grace and life eternal.  You can never be more “connected” to the Real God than the One Who gives you His very Incarnate Body and Blood under the bread, wine and Word of His Supper.  Here is where we are reminded of the reality of our sinful conditions and the joyous truth of our salvation through Christ alone. 

            Our culture is fragmented, needing community.  We have the Unity that comes in being brought into the Body of Christ, the One True Christian Church through the faith God the Holy Spirit creates and sustains in us.  This fellowship of the community of Christ we enjoy and are strengthened by as we come together around His Word every Sunday morning.

            Our culture is without moral direction and substance.  We have the baptismal life in Christ.  We who have been reconnected through that blessed sacrament to the Living Vine of Christ, have also been partially restored in the image of God and enabled to begin reflecting the will and ways of God to the people God has placed around us. 

            Our culture has questions and needs – we have the only true answers.  God grant you the grace to grow in your knowledge of your life in Christ, and focused on Him, that you will be moved to share these answers with the people you interact with in your daily lives.



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