New Here?
     
Reformation


What Plato and Aristotle Did Not Know (But Luther Did)

Two more remarkable passages from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians:

51N4yVb4VNL._SY445_Faith in Christ’s promise, not works of the law, alone saves. But we will have to be very careful, since the word “faith” is one of the most abused words in our vocabulary. It does not mean for Luther “accepting,” or “deciding for,” or “committing oneself for Christ,” or any of the misuses this word has received. Faith is perfect passivity for Luther–being done unto by God, or simply suffering God. It is literally being put to death as a sinner and raised as a saint, which is decidedly God’s own act through preached words. This is a teaching that Plato and Aristotle did not know… (pg. 51-52)

Salvation is not the progress of a spiritual athlete for whom practice in the law makes perfect. It is not even like a sick person getting well on the medicine of grace, for those pictures of Christian living leave Christ on the sidelines while human free will takes center stage. Such notions leave Christ idle, displacing him by the star of that drama, the free will that dreams of becoming ever more holy under the law. Why then the cross? Did Christ come simply to remind people of the law that Moses already gave, or even to give an improved version of the tablets of stone? Is Christ to be patient while you try to solve the puzzle of God’s law? The story of scripture, Luther begins to understand, is not how we make our way up the mountain by getting grace and then topping it off with love and works. Scripture is the story of how God came down to meet us–while we were yet sinners. Christ is the mover and the shaker, the active subject, the star of the show. And when Christ comes the law ends. Luther coined a phrase–crux sola nostra theologia (the cross alone is our theology)–and put it in capital letters to stand out boldly as the chief truth he found while lecturing on Psalms for the first time. (pg. 62-63)

Silencing the Messy Conscience

Silencing the Messy Conscience

This post originally appeared on LaurenRELarkin.com.

Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.

― Martin Luther “The Life…

Read More > > >

Two Notes, Not One

Another quote from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians:

“When a tone-deaf person sings, it can be painful to hear. But if you have to listen to theologians who know only the one note of the law, it is not only painful but deadly. They like to describe the big picture of God’s plan as a test to see whether you will pass. They explain God’s mind or the order of God’s plan for salvation and how you can fit in if you follow the rules of the game that God plays. Then the church and its leaders act as referees deciding who is in and who is out of salvation by passing some test. Thinking this way makes it impossible to grasp what Luther is saying when he distinguishes law and gospel as what is old and done for and what is newly arriving with Jesus Christ…[Law and Gospel are] two notes, not one.”

The Tune Stuck in Luther’s Head

A great passage from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians

Luther said “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. “Bound by the Scriptures” with a conscience “captive to the Word of God” hardly sounds like freedom. But scripture’s freedom has never been an isolated, individualistic, lonely and ultimately death-dealing notion like the ones that capture our imagination today. True freedom is being captivated by Christ’s promise for forgiveness of sins. It is like getting a tune stuck in your head that you can’t get rid of, only this time instead of a legal refrain, “Have you done enough?” it repeats a promise: “God is pleased with you, on account of Christ.”

Reformation Wives and Friday Night Lights: On Being a Clergy Wife

Reformation Wives and Friday Night Lights: On Being a Clergy Wife

Since Reformation Day is kind of a big deal around here, I’d like to take a moment to remember those largely unsung heroes of the time: clergy wives. It is a role that many of us take for granted. History tells us that these women were treated horribly. Among other “fun facts,” they were called harlots and were often denied midwives in childbirth. An archbishop of the time recorded a visitation to a church by writing: “all the married priests in England are knaves and their wives are very whores.” As a priest wife myself, I am hoping no one…

Read More > > >

Happy Reformation Day From Philip Melanchthon!

This one comes from Melanchthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, 164A, 172B, ht SMZ:

Philipp_Melanchthon_monument“[I]f we had to believe that after our renewal we must become acceptable not by faith on account of Christ but on account of our keeping of the law, our conscience would never find rest. Instead, it would be driven to despair. For the law always accuses since we never satisfy the law… For who loves or fears God enough? Who endures patiently the afflictions imposed by God? Who does not often doubt whether human affairs are ruled by the counsel of God? Who does not often doubt whether one is heard by God? Who is not often angry that the wicked enjoy a better lot than the pious and that the godly are oppressed by the wicked? Who is not often enraged by the judgment of God when he seems to abandon us? How many live up to their calling? How many love their neighbor as themselves? Who is not incited by concupiscence? About these sins the psalms says [Ps. 32:6], ‘Therefore let all who are the saints offer prayer to you.’ Here he says that the saints pray for the forgiveness of sins.’ … Only faith brings [peace to consciences] – faith which is confident that on account of Christ the high priest we have a gracious God… Faith justifies in this way: that it simultaneously makes alive, that is, it cheers and consoles consciences and produces eternal life and joy in the heart.”

Martin Luther Opens the Book (and Finds the Gift)

In honor of Reformation Day, another quote from the Great Reformer’s “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1521):

IMG_6341“When you open the book containing the Gospels and read or hear how Christ comes here or there, or how someone is brought to him, you should therein perceive the sermon or the Gospel through which he is coming to you, or you are being brought to him. When you see how he works, however, and how he helps everyone to whom he comes or who is brought to him, then rest assured that faith is accomplishing this in you and that he is offering your soul exactly the same sort of help and favor through the gospel. If you pause here and let him do you good, that is, if you believe he benefits and helps you, then you really have it. Then Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift.”

Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Allen Tate, an admired Southern poet (friend of Robert Penn Warren and teacher of Robert Lowell), published an essay in 1930 diagnosing the complexities of Southern and, by extension, American religion. It appears in a work by defenders of the agrarian way of life, titled I’ll Take My Stand, a book with some high points of wisdom which are neglected, now, as a result of its significant/egregious low points of racism and Southern revanchism. Tate finds American religion to be pragmatic in a bad way, focused on an abstract ability to work rather than a view of the whole human. You can…

Read More > > >

The Theological Mis-Commitment Behind Our Exhaustion

The Theological Mis-Commitment Behind Our Exhaustion

Some salient thoughts on rest and restlessness from Walter Brueggemann’s new booklet, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. He may skirt what we might call an overly gracious view of the Law, putting an uncomfortable amount of onus for current restlessness on external circumstances (rather than locating the roots within), but still, the core diagnosis strikes me as a valid one:

The alternative on offer [in the Sabbath] is the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God. To be so situated is a staggering option,…

Read More > > >

All The Things David Foster Wallace’s Parents Said to Him

All The Things David Foster Wallace’s Parents Said to Him

I’ve been making my way through Conversations with David Foster Wallace, and as expected, it’s chock-full of interesting exchanges. You also get to witness a certain evolution in his thought. Anyway, three favorite quotes thus far would be the following. The first comes from an interview with Salon in 1996, post-Infinite Jest:

“It seems to me that the intellectualization and aestheticizing of principles and values in this country is one of the things that’s gutted our generation. All the things that my parents said to me, like ‘It’s really important not to lie.’ OK, check, got it. I nod at that…

Read More > > >

Everything New Is Moralism Again – Jacob Smith

Our video coverage of the NYC Conference rolls on with a killer breakout from the one and only Jacob Smith:

Everything New Is Moralism Again ~ Jacob Smith from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Reviewing The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography

Reviewing The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography

I was honored a few months ago to be asked to review Alan Jacobs’ new biography of The Book of Common Prayer for Modern Reformation magazine, one of my/our favorite periodicals. Seeing as the issue in which it appears just hit stands (May-June), here’s a generous portion of the article. Be sure to head over to Mod Ref and subscribe to read the whole thing:

To borrow a phrase from faux fashion icon Mugatu in Ben Stiller’s film Zoolander, liturgy is so hot right now. A minister at an evangelical Congregational church in Massachusetts uses The Book of Common Prayer at every…

Read More > > >