By Linda C. Hoops
The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) adopted at its April 4-6 meeting a report titled “The Natural Knowledge of God in Christian Confession and Christian Witness.”
The report, which examines what Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions teach about both the legitimacy and the limitations of humanity’s natural knowledge of God, will be published on the CTCR’s website and available in booklet form from Concordia Publishing House in late June or early July.
It was requested by the Synod’s 2007 national convention, which asked the CTCR, in consultation with the seminary faculties, to prepare a study of the natural knowledge of God and its implications for public witness, noting that “all people have a natural knowledge of God but such knowledge is not saving knowledge.”
“Natural knowledge is that knowledge of God, however dim or incomplete, to which humanity has access apart from God’s special revelation in Jesus Christ and in the Bible,” said the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR executive director. “This is what St. Paul is talking about, for example, in Romans 1:20, when he says that God’s ‘invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.’”
The report surveys various historical and contemporary perspectives regarding the natural knowledge of God, addresses ways that this concept can be misunderstood or misused, and gives attention to how Christians can make use of this concept faithfully and fruitfully in bearing public witness to Christ and His saving Gospel.
In other action, the commission adopted a Bible study to be used together with the CTCR’s 2011 report titled “Theology and Practice of Prayer: A Lutheran View.” The Bible study will be available soon on the CTCR website.
Commission members also began initial planning for a second international conference on confessional Lutheran leadership. A conference last fall in Atlanta drew some 125 Lutheran leaders from around the world and received positive feedback. The CTCR has initial approval for a block grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to sponsor the next conference, together with the Synod president’s office, most likely in the spring of 2015.
The commission also renewed Lehenbauer’s call as executive director for a second five-year term, in keeping with the provisions of the Synod Bylaws. Lehenbauer has served in the position since 2008.
The next meeting of the CTCR is set for Sept. 12-14.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lakeside Lutheran Church, Venice, Fla.