Email a copy of 'Fighting Fire with Fire' to a friend

* Required Field

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

E-Mail Image Verification

Loading ... Loading ...    Send article as PDF   

11 Responses to “Fighting Fire with Fire”

  1. David Mark says:

    Just a minor point the article did not explain that Tim Keller is the Pastor at Redemmer Presbyterian – for those outside US this context is useful.

    Great article

  2. Wendel Thompson says:

    Isn’t what the Sisters of St. Francis are doing a response to our prayer “thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?” Reforming present institutions to make them more compassionate is our work to bring the kingdom into being, or do we just wait for the second coming?

  3. Tim Ferrell says:

    REFORM on!

  4. Fr. Jonathan Smith says:

    It keeps getting better. Interesting observation that Keller wasn’t present at the table.

  5. Jeff Weaver says:

    [Luther] said he would not renounce them “unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils).”

    Should he/would he be convinced of the explanations you and others have offered citing Genesis 1 and Jeremiah 29?

    What would you say to those who make hold the same quote as Luther above? How have they missed the institutional mandate in scripture?

  6. Mike Metzger says:


    Good question. Luther was not wrong regarding scripture and reason. My point is that they are necessary but insufficient. I am not entirely clear as to your reference to Genesis 1 and Jeremiah 29 – Jeremiah 17 however comes to mind: the heart (i.e., conscience) is deceitful and desperately wicked. A corrective is a community and a community is most rigorous when it is institutionalized, not periodic or episodic. Luther’s stance, understood as necessary and completely sufficient for discerning truth, tends to undercut the importance of institutions.

  7. Jeff Weaver says:


    Thanks for your response – agreed about heart target through enculturated means.

    My question is more about what appears to be Luther’s and others’, objection to institutional engagement and building. Are the examples of cultural mandate from Genesis 1 and flourishing community from Jeremiah 29 clear and significant enough to convince? Would he want more evidence? Is there more?

  8. Mike Metzger says:

    James Hunter’s “To Change the World” is resplendent with examples of the faith community assisting, creating, or enhancing institutions far and wide for centuries.

  9. Gerard Weldele says:

    Is it possible that Martin’s response is taken out of context by those who infer that he was against institutions? The pope and the councils of his immediate circumstance were both corrupt and not trust-worthy.

    Are there other writings of Luther’s that establish a general disdain for institutions at all times and not limited to corrupt instituions of his present circumstance?

  10. Mark Elson says:

    Gerard makes a good point, the pope and council also represent certain ethics, political and religious ideologies, social and culture norms; the question that Luther seems to have implied is can theses institutions and their ideas be worthy of determining reality?
    I don’t disagree that institutional thinking is necessary for promoting and expressing a worldview /ideology but your article seems to indicate more so that if the individual with sound ideas can utilize institutional structures, that would have larger sufficient cultural changes. Do you think that all institutions start from individual effort?

  11. Mike Metzger says:

    Mark: Of course they do. Mitt Romney was right – corporations are people. Institutions start with individuals. When Luther decreed that he relied solely on scripture and reason, he left out institutions. The point is not whether institutions are inherently trustworthy – they aren’t anymore than people – but that institutions are like aircraft carriers. They are less easily buffeted by wind and rain and carry a great deal more weight. Granted, they are more expensive to build and slower to turn around, but this was the genius of the founding fathers. In creating the institution of Congress, they included a more deliberative arm called the Senate (“the saucer to cool passions”). Independent churches are, by nature, more vulnerable to individual passions than are institutions. Furthermore, as I try to point out in the story of the Roman Catholic nuns, institutions generally have more gravitas than individuals.

Leave a Reply