This spirit [of Lutheran freedom] should above all give one a certain distance from one’s cultural context and thus protection against becoming captive to it. But in the current American situation, it seems to me that the two central ideas of Lutheranism could provide guidance . . . both for a critique of the current situation and for a constructive stance.
1. A conviction that salvation occurs sola fide and the much-maligned doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which of course rests on the distinction of law and gospel. Those are two core Lutheran ideas, and I think they are tremendously important if there is to be a Lutheran identity and Lutheran witness in this socio-cultural context, and political context. Now in this perspective, I think, all . . . sectors of the current cultural and religious scene can be subsumed under the category of works righteousness, as a violation of the anthropological understanding that the Christian as simul justus et peccator. How so?
Well . . . against the tepid moralism and the utilitarian psychologism of mainline Protestantism, the Lutheran witness would reiterate the core of the gospel, which is not a new law, however tolerant or relaxed, but the triumphant breaking in of redemption into the world. The gospel does not provide a new moral code or a therapeutic spirituality. . . .
[I]n Arabic, the same word din (deen) applies both to religion and to law . . . so if an Arab asks you, “What is your religion?” in fact he is asking, “What is your law?” And I think the Christian answer is, “I don’t have a law.” This is not what the gospel is. The gospel does not provide a new law or a therapeutic spirituality of some sort. Rather it testifies to a cosmic transformation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ and moving toward its ultimate realization in his coming again. . . . Of course, this does not imply an antinomianism in which everything is permitted. Let me refer here to another Lutheran idea, that of the Three Uses of the Law. But it sharply relativizes the moral codes of any society or any age.
Berger self-identifies as a Lutheran, but also as a theological liberal (and politically mildly conservative), so you may not be able to embrace his entire argument. I dare say, the use of historical criticism in studying the Scriptures may have been an act of intellectual or academic freedom (certainly Luther would have found it strange to attach his name to it); but it also brought with it certain presuppositions that did as much harm as good in understanding how the Scriptures were intended to be read by their human authors, to the extent such an investigation could prove fruitful or even possible. It is one thing to say that the gospel writers were rooted in a certain cultural context; it’s quite another to reduce them to it.
Found on the Gnesio Lectures & Sermons page.