East German Lutherans

Walter Bauman, a systematic theologian and retired professor of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, taught a Systematic Theology course I took a few years ago, commented on the role the East German Lutheran Church during the Communist period. He said that the East German Lutherans did not campaign against the godless communists in power, but decided that they would hold their communist leaders’ feet to the fire and demand they actually do what their propaganda promised. The Lutherans held their public leaders accountable to the egalitarian and socialist ideals they said they believed in, they fought against public graft, corruption, and enrichment of leaders at the expense of the people, and they demanded that their leaders actually abide by the grand claims of the socialist and communist system.
If that is what the majority of people who voted for “moral values” want, then that is what we should hold them accountable for. If that is the language and schema they want to use, then so be it.
We should demand that they explain that they mean by “moral values,” then demand that they prove their assertions using good exegetical and hermeneutical methods of Biblical interpretation, historical and cultural understandings that apply to those Scriptures, and not let them get away with the misuse and misinterpretation of Scripture. We should also be vigilant in demanding that they live up to their own rhetoric, and sadly make sure their failures are widely known. Of course, because we strongly believe in the merciful grace of God, which they claim also, by pointing out their failures we are fighting the sin of hypocrisy and we are actually helping them be free from that which enslaves them and helping them come to the freeing realization of God’s grace, mercy, justice, and peace.

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