Well, that’s not a headline I ever expected to write…
This really is a ridiculous story. Over at the Economist Johnson (like me, no theologian) offers up some linguistic clarification:
This is Johnson and not a religion blog, so what’s the angle? It’s that anti- is usually understood in English as “hostile to”: anti-American, anti-woman, etc. But in Greek its meaning included “opposite, counterpart”. An antistrategos was your counterpart general on the other side. And as a free-standing preposition, the meaning of anti also included “instead of”. This is the meaning that Luther had, and WELS [Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod] has, in mind. The antichristos was someone who tried to rival Christ by taking his place, not simply his enemy, red pointy ears and all.
Even the original Atlantic article (written, doubtless, to create a spot of bother for Rep. Bachmann, who has, the article reveals, had to deal with this issue before and did not do so as well as she might have done) includes this quotation from a WELS spokesman:
Some people have this vision of a little devil running around with horns and red pointy ears. Luther was clear that by ‘Antichrist’ [he meant] anybody who puts himself up in place of Christ. Luther never bought the idea of the Pope being God’s voice in today’s world. He believed Scripture is God’s word.
Roman Catholics will not see eye to eye with Lutherans about this (and vice versa), but that should not be breaking news.
Alex Massie notes this:
At some fundamental serious adherents to any sect must believe in the righteousness of their interpretation of the scriptures and, consequently, that alternative beliefs lack substance.
Indeed they should, and as long as they can agree to differ peacefully with those who see things a different way, that’s just fine.
FWIW, I touched on this in something I wrote for NRO a decade ago (good grief…). Here’s an extract:
True religious tolerance is the acceptance of the right of others to follow a different creed. In our ersatz, contemporary version, however, it is denied that there are any different creeds. Instead, we are encouraged to think that all religions are basically the same, just different routes to the same transcendental Truth.
In the name of “diversity,” we try to erase difference. When it comes to religious belief, this is a country chary of controversy and anxious about argument. In the interest of fraudulent civility and soi-disant “respect” we have removed the right of the religious to disagree with each other.
And that’s not a good thing.