by Robert W. Jenson
No discourse that goes on for any length of time, particularly if it becomes an argument, can do without slogans– those shorthand phrases that are placeholders for a whole complex of concepts, metaphors, practices and understandings to which they point. They make it possible for a speaker or writer with just a few words to call to the minds of the participants in a discussion a great deal that has been said before in considerable detail, rather than going over it all again.
“The problem with slogans,” Robert W. Jenson writes, “is that as over time they become increasingly necessary, they just so tend to acquire lives of their own, and then can become untethered from the complex of ideas and practices which they once evoked. In that free-floating currency they are then available to be wielded to various ends, often antithetically to their original service and without awareness that this is happening.”
Lutherans use many slogans like “Justification by Faith Apart from Works” and” the Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel” and “Sola Scriptura”, most of which arose in the context of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation. In this small book, Jenson, a Lutheran and one of the United States’ most eminent theologians, takes up 10 of these slogans and examines what they originally called to mind and how they are used and abused today.