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ischafp001p1Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon; without science and learning He shed more light on things human and divine than all the philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of the school, He spoke words of life such as were never spoken before nor since and produced eff ects that lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, works of art, learned volumes, and sweet songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

— Philip Schaff (1819-1893)

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lutherEmma’s just written a stonking post on combating the lies which threaten to overwhelm us. She quotes an example from Luther’s Galatians commentary:

“Sir Devil,” we may say, “I am not afraid of you. I have a Friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe. He has abolished the Law, condemned sin, vanquished death, and destroyed hell for me. He is bigger than you, Satan. He has licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurt me.” This is the faith that overcomes the devil’.

Here are some other brilliant moves from the same Kung-Fu Master – let’s learn how to comfort ourselves, and each other, with gospel hope:

You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a personal application of the pronoun “our,” and we refuse to have anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds. (1:4)…

…Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for trifling and imaginary transgressions, but for  mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained. Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. (1:4)…

…If he says, “Thou shalt be damned,” you tell him: “No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.” With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil’s craft and put from us the memory of sin. (1:4)…

…When you see a person squirming in the clutches of the Law, say to him: “Brother, get things straight. You let the Law talk to your conscience. Make it talk to your flesh. Wake up, and believe in Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of Law and sin. Faith in Christ will lift you high above the Law into the heaven of grace. Though Law and sin remain, they no longer concern you, because you are dead to the Law and dead to sin.” Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of distress. He can talk. He can say: “Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as much as you like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh. Belabor that, but don’t talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady and a queen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my conscience lives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the law of grace.” (2:17)…

…True Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone. If we lose sight of Christ and begin to consider our past, we simply go to pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazen serpent, Christ crucified, and believe with all our heart that He is our righteousness and our life. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live, who lives in us, is Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil. (2:20)…

…When we look at ourselves we find plenty of sin. But when we look at Christ, we have no sin. Whenever we separate the person of Christ from our own person, we live under the Law and not in Christ; we are condemned by the Law, dead before God. Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: “I am now one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.” On the other hand, Christ may say: “I am that big sinner. His sins and his death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him.” (2:20)…

…Read the words “me” and “for me” [in Galatians 2:20] with great emphasis. Print this “me” with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of those who are meant by this “me.” Christ did not only love Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins. (2:20…)

…We comfort the afflicted sinner in this manner: Brother, you can never be perfect in this life, but you can be holy. He will say: “How can I be holy when I feel my sins?” I answer: You feel sin? That is a good sign. To realize that one is ill is a step, and a very necessary step, toward recovery. “But how will I get rid of my sin?” he will ask.  I answer: See the heavenly Physician, Christ, who heals the broken-hearted. Do not consult that Quackdoctor, Reason. Believe in Christ and your sins will be pardoned. His righteousness will become your righteousness, and your sins will become His sins. (3:6)…

…Let us become expert in the art of transferring our sins, our death, and every evil from ourselves to Christ; and Christ’s righteousness and blessing from Christ to ourselves. (3:14)…

…We ought to feel sure that we stand in the grace of God, not in view of our own worthiness, but through the good services of Christ. As certain as we are that Christ pleases God, so sure ought we to be that we also please God, because Christ is in us. And although we daily offend God by our sins, yet as often as we sin, God’s mercy bends over us. Therefore sin cannot get us to doubt the grace of God. Our certainty is of Christ, that mighty Hero who overcame the Law, sin, death, and all evils. So long as He sits at the right hand of God to intercede for us, we have nothing to fear from the anger of God. (4:5)…

…Train your conscience to believe that God approves of you. Fight it out with doubt. Gain assurance through the Word of God. Say: “I am all right with God. I have the Holy Ghost. Christ, in whom I do believe, makes me worthy. I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of Him. I would like nothing better than that Christ’s Gospel be known throughout the world and that many, many be brought to faith in Him.” (4:5)…

…This is sweet comfort for us (5:5) . And we are to make use of it in comforting the afflicted. We are to say to them: “Brother, you would like to feel God’s favor as you feel your sin. But you are asking too much. Your righteousness rests on something much better than feelings. Wait and hope until it will be revealed to you in the Lord’s own time. Don’t go by your feelings, but go by the doctrine of faith, which pledges Christ to you.” (5:5)…

…Defy Satan in times of despair. Say: “O cursed Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and working when you know very well that I am in trouble over my sins. I will not listen to you. I will listen to Christ, who says that He came into the world to save sinners.  This is the true Christ and there is none other. I can find plenty of examples for a holy life in Abraham, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints. But they cannot forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for me everlasting life. Therefore I will not have you for my teacher, O Satan.” (5:8)…

…When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: “You have permitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” If at that time I had understood this passage, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” I could have spared myself many a day of self-torment. I would have said to myself: “Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh.” (5:17)…

…When the flesh begins to cut up the only remedy is to take the sword of the Spirit, the word of salvation, and fight against the flesh. If you set the Word out of sight, you are helpless against the flesh. I know this to be a fact. I have been assailed by many violent passions, but as soon as I took hold of some Scripture passage, my temptations left me. Without the Word I could not have helped myself against the flesh. (5:18)

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From Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

From Philip Roth The Human Stain:

“It is in everyone…Inherent. Defining. The stain is there before its mark. Without the sign it is there. The stain so intrinsic that it doesn’t require a mark. The stain that precedes disobedience, that encompasses disobedience and perplexes all explanation and understanding. It’s why all the cleansing is a joke. A barbaric joke at that. The fantasy purity is appalling. It’s insane. What is the quest to purify, if not more impurity?”
From the Minnesota Crime Commission, 1926:

“Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it — his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these wants, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous, were he not so helpless. He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.”

Miroslav Volf, from Exclusion and Embrace:

‎”Forgiveness flounders when we exclude our enemies from the community of humans and when we exclude ourselves from the community of sinners.”

Russell Brand (thanks Simon)

“All addictions comes from the same root – an inability to cope with some sense of longing and yearning – whether chocolate, sex or drugs… I would say ultimately all addiction comes from the same root… We all have a yearning… All desire is the inappropriate substitute for the ultimate desire to be at one with God.”

Do you have some quotes? Share the wealth in the comments…

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Today is definitely the day to dust off Alan Lewis’s wonderful Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Easter Saturday.  As he meditates on Eberhard Jungel’s theology, Lewis writes

[Jungel] in effect identifies Easter Saturday, the day of the burial of God, as theology’s foundational, defining moment.  For it is this occurrence, as recorded in the Christian narrative, which maximizes the dispute between faith and non-faith.  While the flesh of God’s Son lies immured in death, the sharpest controversy divides those who see only that God is gone and finished and those who know that in this palpable absence nonetheless God is yet more present, with life-giving resurrecting power.  Even so, the God who is present in this absence, whose creative power is at work through the powerlessness of this defeat and death, is no more recognizable to the theist than to the atheist.  Faith in God on the day when God is dead is faith of a very different order from the certainties expressed in metaphysics; and it is faith in another God then the distant, immutable, omnipotent deity of theism, that supreme stranger to suffering and death.

Not only, then, is Easter Saturday the day of mutual contradiction between those who believe in God and those who cannot; it is also the day of shared contradiction for those who believe in the absolute God and those who cannot, by the theology of the Crucified One: faith in the life and power of the God who is dead.  To the extent that both of these conflicts are occurring now, with great intensity, at the end of the modern era, means that today is a cultural “Easter Saturday.”  And that is the context, where faith hears and opposes both partners in the disputation between theism and atheism, in which theology must work today, and to which the gospel is to be addressed.

We have much in common with atheists.  We too proclaim the death of God.  We too take a long hard look at the world  and conclude there is no magical hope within the created order, nor any comfort in a power that remains outside it.  There is no help from the god who is shut out of the tomb – the god who is defined in opposition to our suffering and death; some power imprisoned by his own majesty.  Our only hope comes from the God who shuts Himself in the tomb.

Happy Saturday.

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“A universe with a god would look very different to a universe without one.” Richard Dawkins.

It’s one of the wisest things Dawkins has ever said. Believers and unbelievers alike should take heed.

Let’s tease out some implications of it.

1) Dawkins clearly has a doctrine of “god” in mind as he makes the statement.  The flying spaghetti monster wouldn’t affect the kind of universe we inhabit.  But Thor might.  Allah in a different way.  And the triune God, different again.  Therefore it’s not a straight binary choice.

2)  I would look different depending on the existence of God or not.  Dawkins seems to imagine two states (a theistic and an atheistic universe) as alternatives lying before him.  And who is the great unmoved mover in this scenario?  Who is the neutral observer, the one enthroned above all worlds?  The scientist!  But no, Dawkins’ thought experiment – if it takes the word “God” with any seriousness – is one in which everything must be re-imagined.  If I am a creature, made by the Father’s Word, intended for life in communion with God, then everything changes for me.

3) I would look differently depending on the existence of God or not.  If I was a creature of the Word, and if the world  is a creature of the same Word, I would look through the lens of His Word.  I would see all things in relationship to Christ the Creator.  That would simply be good science if the Christian God existed.

But here’s something strange…

4) Dawkins ridicules Christian scientists who do actually deliver a different vision of the universe to his own.  Yet how could they do otherwise, if “a universe with a god will look very different”?

Which only makes me think…

5) Dawkins has not entered into his own thought-experiment for even a minute.  Has he really considered the revolution involved in actually reconceiving Self and World and God according to the Christian vision?  Of course not.  To do so would mean repenting of his position as all-seeing Arbiter.  Or in other words:

“Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

 

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Melancthon wrote to a guy called Brenz to clarify the difference between the Protestant position on justification and Augustine’s.  The difference is vital!

Luther being Luther, he couldn’t help adding a P.S. to Melancthon’s letter:

And I, dear Brenz, in order to get a better grip on this issue frequently imagine it this way: as if in my heart there is no quality that is called faith or charity, but instead of them I put Christ himself and say: this is my righteousness; He is the quality and my formal righteousness, as they call it. In this way I free myself from the perception of the law and works, and even from the perception of this object, Christ, who is understood as a teacher or a giver; but I want Him to be my gift and teaching in Himself, so that I may have all things in Him.  So he says: I am the way, the truth and the life. He does not say: I give you the way, the truth and the life, as if He worked in me while being placed outside of me. He must be such things in me, remain in me, live in me, speak not through me but into me, 2 Cor. 5; so that we may be righteousness in Him, not in love or in gifts that follow.

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Reason and will would ascend and seek above, but if you would have joy, bend yourself down to this place. There you will find that boy given for you who is your Creator lying in a manger. I will stay with that boy as He sucks, is washed, and dies . . . There is no joy but in this boy. Take Him away and you face the Majesty which terrifies . . . I know of no God but this one in the manger.

— Martin Luther, Christmas Sermon 1527.

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