Veith, Gene Edward Jr., & A. Trevor Sutton. Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. Chapter 8. “Sanctification and the Christian Life” pp. 197-218.
Veith and Sutton recognize that our culture tends to value speed to the exclusion of all else. However, they note a movement which self-consciously tries to slow things down, “the Slow Movement” (Veith & Sutton 2017, 197). They compare this to the way sanctification of the Christian works. While justification is instantaneous, the process of growing in Christ can be very slow, though not always so steady (Veith & Sutton 2017, 198).
Lutheran doctrine, characterized by freedom from a bound spirit, has often been perceived as rather libertine compared to the more serious of American Protestants (Veith & Sutton 2017, 119). Veith and Sutton recognize these historic tensions and misunderstandings, but say the actions of the Lutherans are bound up with the doctrine of vocation and of the two kingdoms, which show that the “secular” is not necessarily secular, but may be indwelt by the od who hides himself in the world. Good works, important for our neighbor, are performed from the freedom of the Gospel, not the constraint of the Law. This idea is easily misunderstood. “Today, freedom is often associated with sin. And bondage is often associated with virtue” (Veith & Sutton 2017, 200). But Luther sees sin as enslaving and virtue as liberating (Veith & Sutton 2017, 201). People who deal with addictions or various vices are not freed, but are in bondage to them. The true freedom is found in the virtue, not the vice. “When we are justified not by our works but by faith in Christ, we are freed from the bondage of the will to sin. This means we are free, finally, to do what is right (Veith & Sutton 2017, 201). This does not mean that we never fail or fall into sin. In fact, Lutherans confess that “a Christian is simultaneously a saint and a sinner” (Veith & Sutton 2017, 203). We realize that for the godly person in us to thrive, we need to worship the Lord regularly. This builds our faith.
Veith and Sutton point out that, to Luther, the Christian life is a life of freedom. Even as God commands us to love and serve, we are free to share the riches of Christ with all (Veith & Sutton 2017, 206). The way we share God’s riches with others is through our vocations, which keep us very busy, because “what Christ has done for the Christian, the Christian should do for the neighbor” (Veith & Sutton 2017, 207). Our work in our vocations also leads to our sanctification, as we learn the ways our vocations can be means to love and serve our neighbors and deny ourselves for the sake of Christ (Veith & Sutton 2017, 209). The troubles and struggles we face in our vocations are opportunities to grow in Christ. Especially the people in vocations which are not glamorous or interesting have a tendency to help their neighbors in very practical ways. The purpose of the vocation is to serve the neighbor freely (Veith & Sutton 2017, 211). Veith and Sutton spend several pages illustrating the ways vocation operates, showing finally that it is crucial to our understanding of our relevance in the world.