At the same time, I have been persuaded by a variety of theologians that this Lutheran understanding of vocation may itself be the product of Christendom. In post-Christendom, are we in a new position vis-a-vis our culture so that the church, and our own participation in it, should be markedly peculiar?
So, I came across these two quotes today that I'm going to pair up for the sake of reflection.
First, from a review of Robert Benne's book A Christian Approach to Social, Economic and Political Concerns in Lutheran Forum:
While [Benne] is drawn to it-- radical orthodoxy is 'attractive and compelling' with a 'confidence in and clarity about orthodox Christianity' that is 'highly persuasive' (p. 114), Benne cannot in the end embrace it. What causes the drawing back? Put briefly, it is his belief that, since God, in his two-fold rule of the world through providence and grace, Law and Gospel, has not abandoned this fallen world, neither should the Christian. It is not for us to construct a redemptive 'parallel culture' but to struggle in the ongoing culture war for civility, decency, justice, and peace under God's providential 'Left Hand' rule. Rather than turning our back on post-modern culture, we are called to witness to its under-God accountability, what an earlier generations of Lutherans called its 'sacred secularity.'.. So we must continue in 'critical solidarity' with the fallen world and its structure of responsibility (58).
The second quote is from Walter Bruegemann's engaging collection of essays, The Word that Redescribes the World:
Jacob Neusner, in his study of Jewish ritual practice, judges that the stylized gestures and words of ritual are aids in the daily work of being 'Jews through the power of our imagination.' Indeed, Neusner opines that Jewishness is hazardous and venturesome enough that it requires a daily[!!!] act of imagination, without which there would not be Jews.
[W.B.] propose[s] that in Christendom Christians needed no such effort, for identity simply came with the territory, as it always does for dominant faith. The depositioning of Christian faith in the west, however, makes the community of the baptized a community more fully dependent upon daily acts of imagination for the maintenance of identity. The daily acts evoking Christian identity are likely to be ethical as well as liturgical. The beginning point is the recognition that clear identity is not a cultural given, as it might have been in former times of domination, but is now an oddness that requires courageous intentionality (152-153).
These two conceptions stand in tension with each other, at least in my mind, and I have been continuing to work out how they might be reconciled.