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Possibly the best thing Luther ever wrote (for my money only the Large Catechism offers the best competition for that claim), "The Freedom of a Christian" turns 500 this year and accordingly merits even more attention than usual. In this episode Dad and I explore the two halves of the treatise, one each for "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none" and "A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all," drawing out the powers of faith and joyful exchanges that illuminate the apparent contradiction—and how to live as both a lord and a servant half a millennium later.

 

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Notes:

1. You can find older public domain translations of "The Freedom of a Christian" online (often under the title "On Christian Liberty"). In print, try the Luther's Works translation (which is what we read from in this episode) or the newer translation by Mark Tranvik. We also discuss in passing the Large Catechism, Small Catechism, and 1519 Galatians commentary.

2. This is the Luther seminar I teach every November in Wittenberg

3. Dad's one and only work of fiction: Luther vs. Pope Leo (I admit I was skeptical at first, but it's actually really good—and if we have any Methodist listeners out there, you'll be amused to learn that John Wesley saves the day... sort of)

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I talk to Dad about his book Luther for Evangelicals: A Reintroduction. (Non-Evangelicals warmly invited to eavesdrop.)

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Last time we talked about the job of the pastor, so this time we're discussing the job of the congregation, which is a bit like the old Atari video game Pitfall—look out for those alligators, especially if you're one of Jesus' sheep. But most of the time it's just the sheep learning to bear with one another, and bear one another's burdens: a whole zooful of grace, evidently. Also, what to think about the roof, and how to navigate the inevitable requirement these days of being a church shopper.

 

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Notes:

1. Hari, Lost Connections

2. For background on this episode, have a (re-)listen to One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church: The Worst Thing in the Best Words.

3. Dad has been talking about beloved community for a long time now: see Luther and the Beloved Community and plain ol' Beloved Community

4. Luther, without a trace of irony, calls the church "a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms" in the Large Catechism.

5. H. R. Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism

6. Not discussed here but relevant: The Church Has Left the Building; Rebuilt; Christianity Rediscovered

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Dad talks to me about my "poetic paraphrase" of the Sermon on the Mount.

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Less obvious than you might think! The pastoral office functions like a magnet, attracting an infinity of valuable tasks without knowing how to shed them when it gets to be too much. In this episode we address the distinction between lay and ordained ministries, attempt to clear away some of the aforementioned well-intentioned clutter, and chart out a triage approach to the pastor's true calling. Hopefully helpful to burned-out and compassion-fatigued pastors, lay folks may also appreciate this reminder of what their pastors are actually for.

 

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1. Dobbs, “The Coming Pastoral Crash

2. Stephen Ministries

3. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation

4. Heinrich Heine, not Voltaire, said: “of course God will forgive me; that’s His job

5. Jan-Olav Henriksen, Christianity as Distinct Practices: A Complicated Relationship

6. Check out what our gifted friend Pastor Natalie Hall is doing at St. Mary Magadalene Lutheran Episcopal Church as well as her excellent confirmation curriculum.

7. See Dad’s book of sermons, Preaching God's Word according to Luther's Doctrine in America Today, and his discussion of issues surrounding the pastoral ministry in Beloved Community pp. 355–382

8. You might be interested in my essay on “Sources of Authority according to the Lutheran Confessions” and a rather melancholic rumination on my first call in The Church Has Left the Building. My sermons for Tokyo Lutheran Church are on YouTube.

9. We didn’t get around to discussing these, but two of my favorite books for re-envisioning a faithful pastoral ministry in the midst of hugely different cultural settings are Vincent Donovan’s Christianity Rediscovered (lousy title: it should be more like Church Reimagined) and Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s Rebuilt, both by Catholic clergy.

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Isaiah

How could anyone possibly feel "meh" about Isaiah? Well, that was me, before digging in deep to prepare for this episode. I have since come around (whew) and, if not quite as excited as about Leviticus, I'm still pretty jazzed now about both the prophet Isaiah and the book named for him. In this episode Dad and I discuss both the text in its own time and the text in the hands of Jesus and the apostles, and wrap up with ruminations on how not to exploit Isaiah and other prophets as a soapbox for a preacher's pet concerns.

 

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Notes:

1. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho

2. Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews

3. Dad on Divine Simplicity

4. Hays, Reading Backwards

5. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel

6. Dahl, Jesus the Christ

7. Juel, Messianic Exegesis

8. Witherington, Isaiah Old and New

9. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

10. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation(s) of the Old Testament, which took its final form in the first century after Christ’s birth. Here is one common English translation.

11. Stuhlmacher, The Suffering Servant

12. I recently did a short sermon series on: Isaiah 6, 9, and 25; Isaiah 43, 52–53, and 55; and Isaiah 56, 61, and 66.

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I get Dad to talk about his new book, Lutheran Theology: A Critical Introduction. Fact: Lutheran theology is NOT the same as Luther's theology! Shocker, right?

 

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Generally you should run screaming in the opposite direction when someone starts talking about her dissertation, but we promise this is a good one. French Orthodox theologian Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (1907–2005) knew pretty much every important Orthodox theologian of the 20th century, pioneered Russian hagiography, co-edited a journal, was active in the ecumenical movement, and supported the possibility of the ordination of women in the Orthodox church. Wait, what? Yes—but not until she was 75! And she kept at it until her death at the age of 98. We review her atypical support for women in ministry (atypical in many ways) and draw out some larger lessons for thinking about sex and gender in light of the Christian faith today.

 

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Notes:

1. Some useful background to this episode was already covered in our earlier episode on What Is a Person?

2. Among the books by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, check out: The Ministry of Women in the Church, The Place of the Heart, Discerning the Signs of the Times, The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church (with Kallistos Ware), and Lev Gillet: A Monk of the Eastern Church.

3. Olga Lossky has written a wonderful biography of Behr-Sigel entitled Toward the Endless Day, which I reviewed here.

4. My book is entitled Woman, Women, and the Priesthood in the Trinitarian Theology of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel; there’s an interview with me about it here. I co-edited a collection of essays about Behr-Sigel entitled A Communion in Faith and Love, which includes Elisabeth Parmentier’s essay about Behr-Sigel’s education at the University of Strasbourg and one from me on “Behr-Sigel’s ‘New’ Hagiography and Its Ecumenical Potential.” I’ve more recently contributed to Women and Ordination in the Orthodox Church with the essay “Elisabeth Behr-Sigel’s Trinitarian Case for the Ordination of Women.” I created an archive of my collection of Behr-Sigel’s books and articles at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France.

5. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (5 vols)

6. Among the other Orthodox theologians mentioned in this episode are Alexander Schmemann, Kallistos Ware, John Meyendorff, and John Behr.

7. Our friend Michael Plekon is the author of (among other things): Living Icons, Uncommon Prayer, Saints as They Really Are, The World as Sacrament, and Hidden Holiness

8. Paul Evdokimov’s main books on women are Woman and the Salvation of the World and The Sacrament of Love

9. See Dad’s essay “Whose Church? Which Ministry?” in Lutheran Forum 42/4 (Winter 2008): 48–53

10. For further detail on some of the topics discussed here, see my contribution to the Lutherjahrbuch 2017 and also the Lutheran Forum essays “The Epistle of Eutyche,” “The Face of Jesus, Part One” and “The Face of Jesus, Part Two,” and “Where Have All the Women Gone?

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The party never stops at the Queen of the Sciences podcast! Coasting on the generally optimistic, cheerful, and devil-may-care attitude of a world gripped by pandemic and the various cultural and political responses to it, we break out our kazoos and streamers for the wrath of God. In this episode we talk about what it is, why it matters still to talk about it, and why (gasp) it may even be a good thing.

 

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Notes:

1. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America

2. The hymn I mentioned is “He Is Arisen, Glorious Word

3. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

4. If you haven’t already listened to them, you'll find our episodes on Anselm and Kazoh Kitamori deal with some of these same issues. 

5. Lactantius, De Ira Dei

6. See in Dad’s Divine Complexity the subsection entitled, “Theology of Redemption,” chapter 6, pp. 212–222, and in Beloved Community the subsection entitled “God is the Eschaton of Judgment” in the Conclusion pp. 865–878, which take up these topics further

7. See also my final sermon on the Sermon on the Mount and essay “Peace, Peace, Where There Is No Peace” 

8. Oswald Bayer talks about God’s Umsturz in Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, p. 215

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No, not a glam metal band, but a martyr of the second century and one of the first post-New Testament writers whose works survive. In the episode we take a look at the first heresies to erupt in Christianity—first analyzing just what counts as a "heresy" and why the concept remains a useful one—namely, Ebionitism and Docetism. Ignatius en route to Rome as a prisoner elucidates for us just why it matter so much that God really took flesh in Jesus Christ, and that his flesh was really crucified, and that his crucified flesh was really raised... just as Ignatius himself was really in chains and was really going to be devoured by the wild beasts.

 

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Notes:

1. You can read the seven extant letters of Ignatius here. Note that only the shorter version of each paragraph is authentic—the longer version is probably an expansion by later authors/editors.

2. Dad's Divine Complexity, ch. 2, discusses the formation of the New Testament canon in light of the martyrological witness, not least of all Ignatius's. If you've been interested in picking up one of Dad's books but don't know where to start (or are nervous about committing to 900 pages), start with this one—it'll give you a great overall read on the development of Christian theology and how it completely remade the way we think about God.

3. For a little taste of my learning about the nature of the church from being a missionary in Japan, take a look at this short piece, "Dispatch from a Bewildered Missionary in Japan."

4. Here's some info on the exchange between Pliny the Younger and Emperor Trajan about the wacky sect of Christians.

5. We talked more about martyrdom's "agency" in the face of suffering in the episode on Perpetua and Felicitas. See also the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

6. William R. Farmer and Denis M. Farkasfalvy, The Formation of the New Testament Canon

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The terrible killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests and riots around the country have prompted us to record this bonus episode, in which we reflect on our experiences and theological interpretations of being "white," American, and Christian.

 

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Notes:

1. Much of what we say in this episode presumes topics we've covered already; you may want to check out What Is a Person?, Faith to the Aid of Reason, Two Kingdoms: 16th-Century Edition & Two Kingdoms: 20th- and 21st-Century Edition, and The First Two-Thirds of Acts.

2. See Dad's Mission to the Catskills: A History of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Delhi, New York and his discussion of Martin Luther King Jr in Luther and the Beloved Community, informed by teaching a course on MLK for many years at Roanoke College.

3. A little info about my forthcoming memoir here

4. Review of Albion's Seed

5. This is a thoughtful reflection from a Christian in the South coming to terms with his ancestors and their history.

6. Bonhoeffer talks about the ultimate and penultimate in Ethics

7. Cornel West, Race Matters

8. James Cone, God of the Oppressed

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We bet you still have a hangover from the crucifixion episode with which we opened this season. Well, you had to wait longer than three days, but here it is at last: the counterpart episode on the resurrection. For we consider the sufferings of the crucifixion episode are not worth comparing to the glory that is this resurrection episode.

We cover a range of questions here, from what is even meant by resurrection (and just as importantly what is not) to what an event like this means in the stream of creaturely history to the ultimate question of what the resurrection of the crucified one means within the life of God.

Plus, some fun verbs.

 

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Notes:

1. Jesus Christ Superstar. I wouldn't go as far as to call it a "timeless" work as the advertising fluff on the homepage says—it's pretty obviously the product of its time—but still well worth the listen. Pilate gets to me every time.

2. Two essays by N. T. Wright addressing the meaning of "resurrection" and considerations for its historicity: "Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus" and "Jesus' Resurrection and Christian Origins."

3. Bodily boundedness is discussed at greater length in our Leviticus episode

4. Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man

5. My article on "The Verbs of the Resurrection"

6. Käsemann, Commentary on Romans

7. Theissen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition

8. For Dad vs. Bultmann, see: Divine Complexity ch. 2 for an extensive discussion of the resurrection and its metaphysical implications for God; Beloved Community on the difference between demythologization and deliteralization (easiest thing here is just to look at the index for all listings); the forthcoming Joshua commentary from Brazos, which will also deal extensively with this topic; and finally "The Theology of the Martyrs," in Martyrdom and the Suffering of the Righteous, 87–110.

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Following on our last episode about eucharistic discipline, in this one we actually dig into the doctrine, discussing what and who it is in, with, and under the Lord's Supper and what it even means to talk about Christ's presence therein. Lots of fun terminology (see below). Then some liturgical advisories on bread vs. wafers, I momentarily lose it over how people approach their shot glasses, and we (perhaps a bit disappointingly) argue less about the eucharistic prayer than either of us anticipated.

 

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Notes:

1. Luther's writings referred to in this episode are: The Small Catechism, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, the Jonah commentary, and (obliquely) the Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

2. Some of us because theologians because we're enchanted by the vocabulary. Here are some good ones that were or weren't mentioned in this episode pertaining to the Lord's Supper that you can have fun googling: alleosis, capernaitism, epiclesis, ubivolipraesens, transubstantiation, consubstantiation (just so long as you promise not to use it to describe the Lutheran doctrine of the the Lord's Supper), and extracalvinisticum (N.B. I first fell in love with my husband because of a prank involving the extracalvinisticum, so, you know, there's more than one reason to master theological vocabulary).

3. I talk more about gospel imperatives in this bonus episode, and reflect on unusual sacramental circumstances in "The Sacraments in Time, Space, and Matter."

4. Dad discusses the Lord's Supper in detail in Beloved Community, pp. 476–509.

5. Sacramentine sisters

6. For a good survey of early church practice and Reformation response on the eucharistic prayer and the words of institution, see Dorothea Wendebourg, "Traveled the Full Extent of Rome's Erroneous Path?" Lutheran Forum 44/4 (2010): 18–33.

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We put the cart ahead of the horse in this one: after a good start in I Corinthians, we gallop off into matters of eucharistic discipline, but not to worry, we decide to keep going in the next episode, in which we'll back up and deal with the doctrine. In the meanwhile, if you get really exercised about questions of who's in and who's out, you're either going to love this episode... or unsubscribe. Either way, enjoy!

 

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Notes:

1. Dennis Di Mauro, "For You, For Many, For All People?" Lutheran Forum 50/4 (2016): 20–23.

2. We never did get around to infant communion, but here's an article I wrote on the topic called "Mildly Opposed to Infant Communion." A bit off topic but related to something that came up in this episode, I critique C. S. Lewis's doctrine of purgatory in "A Lutheran Reflection on C. S. Lewis."

3. For a study of early liturgical history that doesn't annoy me, see Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson's The Origin of Feasts, Fasts, and Seasons in Early Christianity

4. The Vatican II statement on ecumenism is Unitatis Redintegratio; see especially section 3 on "Churches and Ecclesial Communities Separated from the Roman Apostolic See."

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Christianity has had a 1900+ year bad history with (rabbinic) Judaism, with devastating consequences for the lives of Jews and theological bankruptcy for Christians. We hone in on the problem within our own tradition by looking at Luther's contorted and confusing attitude to Jews—from being the first person in about 1000 years to propose toleration and speak well of them, to his famously horrific suggestions to drive them out, steal their books, and burn their synagogues. Yet Luther proves to be not unique but representative in his anti-Judaism, so we also address wider concerns such as the not-always-tenable difference between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, and to what extent the roots of Christian anti-Judaism lie in our Scripture, Old and New Testament alike. Romans chs. 9–11 guide us through this mare's nest of issues.

 

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Notes:

1. David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition

2. The chief texts of Luther relevant to his Janus-like relationship with the Jews are: “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew” (1523; Luther’s Works vol. 45), “Against the Sabbatarians” (1539; Luther’s Works vol. 47), and “On the Jews and Their Lies” (1543; Luther’s Works vol. 47)

3. The book that popularly made the case in America for the direct lineage between Hitler and Luther was William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Uwe Siemon-Netto wrote a rebuttal to this claim in his The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections and Other Modern Myths.

4. My choice for the best place to examine this issue is in Thomas Kaufmann’s Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism. Here's a review I wrote of it.

5. See Dad’s review of the excellent book by Peter Ochs, Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews in The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 13/2 (2014) and in his book Beloved Community the “Excursus: on Jewish perplexity as a principle internal to Christology” on pp. 416–428. Also, check out his book Before Auschwitz, which analyzes various Christian theological positions regarding Jews and Judaism and how they were able to resist Nazi ideology or, conversely, fell right in step with it.

6. A few things I’ve written dealing with these issues: “Still Reckoning with Luther” in The Christian Century; commentary on Mark 12:28–34 for Working Preacher; my chapter “Tradition: A Lutheran Perspective” in the collection The Idea of Tradition in the Late Modern World; and a chapter in my ebook Luther, Thrice, available by signing up for the Theology & a Recipe newsletter on my website.

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Romans

Following hot on the heels of our last episode about St. Paul among the Philosophers, in this episode we take up his magnum opus, the Epistle to the Romans. Positioned first in the New Testament, it is actually the last extant letter he wrote. Hugely influential, it is densely packed, tightly argued, and generally impenetrable to a casual reading. So with the excellent aid of the brilliant interpreter Ernst Käsemann we walk through most of Romans (leaving chs. 9–11 for next time) to discover the power of the gospel, the ungodliness of the godly, and God's justification of precisely those ungodly people by His Son and Spirit.

 

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Notes:

1. Käsemann, Commentary on Romans

2. Melanchthon, Loci Communes

3. Paulson, Lutheran Theology

4. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words

5. Dad talks about baptism extensively in Beloved Community

6. Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle; I wrote a review of it for the late great Books & Culture

 

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There we were, calmly recording our regularly scheduled episodes during our pandemic-imposed quiet, including a couple on holy communion for later this spring... when a good old-fashioned theological controversy erupted under our feet. We weigh in on the question of whether holy communion can be consecrated via the internet (spoiler alert: no) and why we think so; but we also lift up the great things that can be done to foster and uplift the Christian community by digital means during this time of distancing and eucharistic fasting. Just in time for Maundy Thursday 2020!
 
 
Notes:
 
 
 
3. Lange, "Digital Worship and Sacramental Life in a Time of Pandemic" on the Lutheran World Federation website
 
4. Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration 7
 
5. Kleinhans, Schroeder, and Peterson, "Concerning Online Communion"
 
 
7. Jorgenson, "Corona and Communion"
 
8. If you aren't already deluged with online options for worship and sermons, you can check out my YouTube sermon channel
 

The apostle Paul gets a bad rap as the repressive, restrictive jerk who turned the hippie religion of Jesus into a metaphysical mess of religion about Jesus. Strangely enough, Christians seem to be the primary exponents of this misleading interpretation. But across the way in the realms of secular and socialist philosophy, Paul is enjoying a revival of sorts; and in some cases is even the object of envious longing. What gives? In this episode we offer a brief introduction to Paul (apostle, not Dad) and then Paul (Dad, not apostle) walks us through three contemporary philosophers' takes on this figure so important to the Christian faith.

 

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Notes:

1. Nietzsche, The Antichrist

2. Stuhlmacher, Reconciliation, Law, Righteousness: Essays in Biblical Theology and Revisting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective

3. Bultmann’s existentalist interpretation of the resurrection is found in Theology of the New Testament and draws on Heidegger’s Being and Time

4. Käsemann, Commentary on Romans

5. Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles

6. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 65 (1983): 95–122

7. J. Louis Martyn, Galatians

8. N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology

9. Žižek and Millbank, The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?

10. Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism

11. Dad co-authored a book with Brent Adkins called Rethinking Theology and Philosophy with Deleuze which deals with some of these thinkers

12. Agamben, The Time That Remains

13. Benjamin and Agamben, Towards the Critique of Violence

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Once again Luther proves his surprising relevance with his treatise "Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague." In light of the metastasizing coronavirus pandemic, Dad and I talk about the treatise and then offer our own reflections on how believers can and should respond.

 

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Notes:

1. Luther's treatise is published in Luther's Works vol. 43 and you can also read it here.

2. Bonhoeffer discusses "natural life" in his Ethics

3. We refer in this episode to a previous episode we did on Faith to the Aid of Reason

4. I discussed at length what I learned about dealing with uncertainty and non-knowledge from the Book of Revelation in my latest issue of Theology & a Recipe (which includes recipes for Seven Bowls of Snacks)

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Following on our last two episodes exploring the Lutheran doctrine of the "two kingdoms," in this one we dive deeply into the life of two extraordinary Ethiopian Lutherans. Gudina Tumsa was a pastor and the General Secretary of the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus until his assassination by the communist Derg regime in 1979. His wife Tsehay Tolessa, an active evangelist, was arrested after his death, tortured, and imprisoned without trial or sentence for ten years. Only after the fall of the regime was Gudina's death confirmed and his body identified, exhumed, and given a Christian burial.

In addition to discussing their remarkable life stories and witness to Christ, we delve into Gudina's writings during his time of leadership in the ECMY, including his reflections on ecclesiology, wholistic mission, and the role of a Christian in public life, especially when faced with a hostile government. The parallels to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life and witness earned Gudina the moniker "the Ethiopian Bonhoeffer," and he and Tsehay alike deserve wider renown.

One other item: we hit a milestone in the life of every podcast with this episode, namely, the Technical Glitch. As a result, the sound quality is poorer than usual. We apologize and have exorcised the relevant demons from the equipment, and expect that from now on the sound will be up to its usual standards.

 

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Notes:

1. The book mentioned in the episode is The Life, Works, and Witness of Tsehay Tolessa and Gudina Tumsa, the Ethiopian Bonhoeffer, edited by me (Sarah) and my friend Samuel Yonas Deressa.

2. You can also read some of the papers of the Journal of the Gudina Tumsa Forum here and here (I have a paper in the latter).

3. Gudina Tumsa Foundation on Facebook and US branch of the Gudina Tumsa Foundation

4. Original English translation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship

5. Dad wrote an entry on "Martin Luther in Karl Marx" for The Oxford Encyclopedia of Martin Luther

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