Here is a drastic parting of the ways with a theology of glory. The Christ of the Cross takes away the possibility of doing something. The theologian of glory might be able to follow to the point of accepting the truth that Christ has fulfilled all things, but then that will have to be used as a motivational tool to make sure the law gets its due. The point is precisely that the power to do good comes only out of this wild claim that everything has already been done. The language has to break out into preaching. Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and our anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ! He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the Old Adam and Eve to do. The old can only be killed by the law, not given artificial respiration by recourse to it… To the theologian of the cross the language of grace and faith must be pushed absolutely to this length – until it kills the old and raises the new.
-Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross
I was a bit surprised, reading Bulfinch’s Mythology yesterday, to discover an interesting ‘allegorizing’ move in the Greek myth of a river-god, Achelous, losing his horn. Hercules and Achelous, the story goes, were wrestling for the right to wed Dejanira, a beautiful woman. Achelous transforms into various creatures, including a snake, in his attempt to best Hercules, and Hercules subdues them all. Finally, Achelous transforms into his last remaining form, a bull, and Hercules rips off one of his horns, which becomes ‘Cornucopia’, the horn of plenty. Then things get interesting – as Bulfinch notes,
The ancients were fond of finding a…
From the brilliant Gerhard Forde’s sermon on Galatians 6, found in his work on the Captivation of the Will:
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
One is quite obvious. It is the problem designated by ‘uncircumcision,’ or the problem of our lawlessness, our existence among the lesser breeds without the law, our immorality and waywardness and heedlessness, even our temptation to boast in it. We are all aware enough of such things to acknowledge the problem and to recognize that it destroys faith and trust.
But the other problem is more subtle, and mostly hidden from us, especially at this place. It is really the main one that Paul wrestles with in his letters. It is the problem of the ‘circumcision,’ the problem of our lawfulness, our morality, our holiness, our so-called sanctification, our do-it-yourself religions, and all of that. What we don’t see is that the ‘circumcision’ destroys the relationship of faith and trust as surely as the ‘uncircumcision.’
So now God has acted finally in this very proclamation by his apostles to have his way with us. God has taken the whole business out of our hands. Neither your lawlessness nor your lawfulness, you immorality nor your morality, your unholiness nor your holiness – none of it matters a bit now, but a new creation. Indeed, in most radical fashion, Paul announces not only that it no longer matters but that it is now exposed as sin! ‘The scripture consigned all things – good and bad! – to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.’ ‘Whatever is not of faith is sin’ (Gal 3:22; Rom 14:23). All escape routes shut down. There is nothing to be done now but just listen. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule.”
From pages 31-32 of his unforgettable contribution to Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification:
“But if we are saved and sanctified only by the unconditional grace of God, we ought to be able to become more truthful and lucid about the way things really are with us. Am I making progress? If I am really honest, it seems to me that the question is odd, even a little ridiculous. As I get older and death draws nearer, it doesn’t seem to get any easier. I get a little more impatient, a little more anxious about having perhaps missed what this life…
It’s hard to talk about millennials without feeling the same confusion as Whit Stillman’s post-college prep, Des McGrath, over the term “yuppie”, ht DZ:
Des McGrath: Do yuppies even exist? No one says, “I am a yuppie,” it’s always the other guy who’s a yuppie. I think for a group to exist, somebody has to admit to be part of it.
Dan Powers: Of course yuppies exist. Most people would say you two are prime specimens.
Someone asked me the other day what the term ‘millennials’ means, and though I seem to check most of the boxes (20-something, anxious, on a misguided quest…
From Gerhard Forde’s Where God Meets Man, one of the most grace-packed bits of Lutheran theology out there, despite the retro cover design:
“It is in this theology of old versus new that we can see, finally, the reason for Luther’s formulation of the problem of bondage and freedom. The old Adam is totally bound. No compromise is possible with him. To allow him a ‘little bit’ of freedom is to open the doors to the whole sticky attempt to combine grace with his fraudulent spiritual ambitions. It is to bind man to his self-imposed legalisms and reduce God to his helper. It is to reintroduce the insipid piety of the ‘little bit.’ There is absolutely no way to cure this old Adam, no way to allow him into the picture. He is ‘totally depraved.’ He must die. And that is just what the Gospel means. The cross and resurrection sounds his death knell. Almighty God moves onto the scene to reclaim his own.
And so the gospel is the announcement and realization of total freedom. It is not a matter of little bits. God moves in Christ to raise up a new man – a completely free man – not just to do a partial repair job. When the old Adam is put to death one is set free from bondage to spiritual ambition, legalism, and tyranny. And Luther, for one, meant this quite literally. One is absolutely free. It is a total state.”
“A theologian of the cross says what a thing is. In modern parlance: a theologian of the cross calls a spade a spade. One who ‘looks on all things through suffering and the cross’ is constrained to speak the truth…it will see precisely that the cross and the resurrection itself is the only answer to that problem, not erasure or neglect.” – Gerhard O. Forde
I admit: I am frontin’ when I talk hip-hop. I was raised on 90s country and Neil Diamond. I didn’t hear my first sample until high school when a friend of mine popped N.W.A.’s Straight Outta…
An amazing portion from one of Gerhard Forde’s ‘responses’ in the Five Views of Sanctification book:
I think that most of our talk about [sanctification] represents the bad conscience of the old (moral or immoral!) being who has not really been put to death and so is worried because salvation as a free gift seems too easy and cheap. Since the old being has not died, the law is still in some sense in effect, and so sanctification becomes merely a repair job on the old, a progress according to the law, a transition from vice to virtue for the continuously…
Perhaps you know the story: Adrian Peterson, who suffered from an injury that was to alter his career (tearing his ACL), returned the next year and had such a good season that he was named the NFL’s most valuable player. Players who tear their ACL usually don’t bounce back very well or very quickly, let alone win MVP awards. But Peterson is now on track to break Emmit Smith’s all-time rushing record. This is remarkable, and Peterson’s recognition is extremely well-deserved.
Anytime a star athlete overcomes adversity and succeeds, the sports world basks in the celebratory glory along with the triumphant…
Tiger Woods’ new ad campaign (or, more accurately, Nike’s new ad campaign featuring Tiger Woods) is making the rounds. Featuring Woods staring down a put, the tagline is “Winning Takes Care of Everything,” a quote attributed to “Tiger Woods, World #1.” There has been much debate about the taste level of this ad, seeing as how Tiger Woods remains a divorcee with less than full custody of his children. Has “everything” really been taken care of? Is this an appropriate message to be sending to children?
The great Gerhard Forde (via the greater Martin Luther) talked about…
Continuing with our series of previews of our recent publication Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody, here’s a section from the chapter having to do with Step 7, i.e. “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.”
An important part of parenting comes when the parent makes a mistake. Perhaps tempers flare in a regrettable way. Or maybe a crucial decision turns out to have been a misstep. Maybe the parents move their child into a new school that proves to be a poor match, and the child has to switch back later. God’s grace is…
Alrighty kids, time for another dynamite portion of Gerhard Forde’s dynamite essay in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. I assure you that the 35th anniversary of Rumours this week is purely coincidental:
Justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law, is a mighty breakup of the ordinary schemes of morality and religions; a mighty attack, we should say, on the theology of the old being. The fact that we are justified before God–the eternal Judge, Creator and Preserver of all life–unconditionally for Jesus’ sake and by faith alone, simply shatters the old being’s entire system of values and…