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Posts tagged "Justification"


The Reformation Today: A Conference Breakout Preview

This preview comes to us from the host of this coming weekend’s festivities in NYC, The Rev. Jacob Smith himself.

This breakout is entitled “The Reformation Today” because “Is the Reformation Over?” has already been taken by everyone writing at First Things or The Gospel Coalition. Also, because at Mockingbird we believe the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”

In order to make my pitch, I believe the shake up at the burger chain Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s has a lot to to say. For seventeen years, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s defined their business not by amazing fast food burgers (when it comes to fast-food burgers they are the best) but instead by sexy models eating the burgers. Interestingly enough, this actually led to a drop in sales over time. A new ad campaign is throwing all that to the wind, with Carl Sr. coming back to office and taking Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s back to its roots: really, really good burgers and amazing customer service. Is the Reformation Over? It is–if the Reformation has to do with smoke machines or sermons on sex and community development.

As in life, the present is never understood by looking to the future (Carl Jr.).  We understand the present by looking to and understanding the past (Carl Sr.). In this breakout, we will take a trip back to our roots as Reformational Christians, and look briefly at some of the overlap between the English and German Reformations, which all came together in the person of Dr. Robert Barnes. Then using “The Reformation Essays of Dr. Robert Barnes,” we will define and answer the big question at the heart of the Reformation: “How is a person justified before God?” That is the question.  That question will help the church get out of the realm of trying to be cool and get back to the “Carl Sr. of Christianity.” With this question answered, we will examine some important pastoral implication in the midst of real pastoral ministry because when this question of justification is not answered correctly the real power and strength of Christianity is lost. This breakout is for anyone, especially those who are interested in pastoral care and practicing it from a perspective of “by grace alone!”

Paul Tillich Is Simul Justus Et Peccator

Perhaps not quite as salacious as Tillich fans or foes might infer from the title, but here, one of our ‘top three’ favorite heretics (Bultmann and Kuyper – just kidding), contributes this gem on justification from his Systematic Theology:

Justification in the objective sense is the eternal act of God by which he accepts as not estranged those who are indeed estranged from him by guilt and the act by which he takes them into unity with him which is manifest in the New Being of Christ. Justification literally means “making just,” namely, making man that which he essentially is and from which he is estranged. If used in this sense, the word would be identical with Sanctification. But the Pauline doctrine of Justification by grace through faith has given the word a meaning which makes it the opposite pole of Sanctification. It is an act of God which is in no way dependent on man, an act in which he accepts him who is unacceptable. In the paradoxical formula, simul peccator, simul justus, which is the core of the Lutheran revolution, the in-spite-of character is decisive for the whole Christian message as the salvation from despair about one’s guilt. It is actually the only way to overcome the anxiety of guilt; it enables man to look away from himself and his state of estrangement and self-destruction to the justifying act of God. He who looks at himself and tries to measure his relation to God by his achievements increases his estrangement and the anxiety of guilt and despair.

Reading the Signs of Love: Hans Urs von Balthasar on Forgiveness

From his short meditation on love, titled Love Alone Is Credible:

murillo (1)“The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about the Christian’s faith is that it obviously presumes far too much. It is too good to be true: the mystery of being, revealed as absolute love, condescending to wash his creatures’ feet, and even their souls, taking upon himself all the confusion of guilt, all the God-directed hatred, all the accusations showered upon him with cudgels, all the disbelief that arrogantly covers up what he has revealed, all the mocking hostility that once and for all nailed down his inconceivable moment of self-abasement – in order to pardon his creature, before himself and the world…

“Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, love leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love. If the prodigal son had not believed that the father’s love was already there waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home – even if his father’s love welcomes him in a way he never would have dreamed of. The decisive thing is that the sinner has heard of a love that could be, and really is, there for him; he is not the one who has to bring himself in line with God; God has always already seen in him, the loveless sinner, the loveless sinner, a beloved child and has looked upon him and conferred dignity upon him in the light of this love.

“No one can resolve this mystery into dry concepts and explain how it is that God no longer sees my guilt in me, but only in his beloved Son, who bears it for me; or how God sees this guilt transformed through the suffering of love and loves me because I am the one for whom his Son has suffered in love. But the way God, the lover, sees us is in fact the way we are in reality – for God, this is the absolute and irrevocable truth.”

A New Bo Giertz Must Have Resource: Then Fell the Lord's Fire

A New Bo Giertz Must Have Resource: Then Fell the Lord’s Fire

In his post “The Whole Debt is Paid,” Tullian Tchividjian–our opening speaker at MBird 2013!–recounts a phenomenon that has changed the way he views ministry. He writes:

I have a long way to go (bad habits die slowly, for sure). But a Copernican revolution of sorts has taken place in my own heart regarding the need to preach the law then the gospel without going back to the law as a means of keeping God’s favor. May God raise up a generation of preachers who storm the gates of worldliness with “It is finished.””

In this account, he is not only describing an experience that…

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The Duality of Lance Armstrong: Simul Jerk et Humanitarian

The Duality of Lance Armstrong: Simul Jerk et Humanitarian

I have been in mourning over the revelation of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s guilt for several months now since the preponderance of evidence seemed to point toward his having indeed doped (using banned performance enhancing substances) during his seven-year Tour de France reign. Of course, the man himself finally confirmed his guilt last week during a highly publicized two-part interview/confession with Oprah Winfrey. Now I find myself at a new place with the story since I am finally viewing Armstrong (and the many other cyclists allegedly guilty of doping) through a theological lens. In fact, I found Armstrong’s confession to be…

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The Art of Getting Used to Justification

The Art of Getting Used to Justification

Perusing our archives the other day, I was surprised to discover that we’ve never quoted from Gerhard Forde’s crystal clear, absolute must-read essay on sanctification from the somewhat lazily titled Five Views of Sanctification. Well, today is the day we rectify that oversight:

Sanctification, if it is to spoken of as something other than justification, is perhaps best defined as the art of getting used to the unconditional justification wrought by the grace of God for Jesus’ sake. It is what happens when we are grasped by the fact that God alone justifies. Is is being made holy, and as such,…

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Previously on Parenthood: I Thought I Could Do It All, but I Can’t ...

Previously on Parenthood: I Thought I Could Do It All, but I Can’t …

This is a little tardy since the most recent episode of Parenthood (“There’s Something I Need to Tell You …”) aired over a week ago, but I—perhaps like many of you—typically watch shows online several days later. Nevertheless, this is a follow up to a recent post regarding new developments in the Braverman clan. I am really enjoying season 4 for all its insight into human nature (and relationships, and suffering, and grace…), and this time I want to highlight what is happening with the Julia Braverman-Graham, the hard charging lawyer in the family played by Erika Christensen.

Spoiler alert: Don’t…

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Raylan's Short Road to Harlan: Why We Are (and Aren't) Justified

Raylan’s Short Road to Harlan: Why We Are (and Aren’t) Justified

Despite FX’s tremendously thorough removal of all things Justified on YouTube, there is still some information in this post about the show’s plot, though nothing substantial, and nothing beyond season two. And though this is really a character profile, I feel obliged…spoiler alert!

One of the more frequent complaints about the FX television show Justified is the incoherent play between the two worlds of Harlan and Lexington, a three-hour drive made confusingly effortless between scenes and commercial breaks. During the first season it was hard to tell where Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens was hanging his hat each night; same woodpaneled…

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How Do I Love Jonathan Haidt? Let Me Count the Ways...

How Do I Love Jonathan Haidt? Let Me Count the Ways…

1. The main premise of his new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, is that the human mind is wired for “righteousness.” Need I say more?! He talks at length about “inner lawyers” and our primal drive to justify ourselves (and all the trouble it creates), which jives not only with experience but with the biblical account(s). In this light, Justification by Faith is (much) more than a quaint 16th century phrase; it speaks to the absolute core of human existence. At least as Jonathan Haidt describes it.

2. Haidt subordinates reason to emotion,…

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The Law and Gospel (of Lent) according to Chocolat

The Law and Gospel (of Lent) according to Chocolat

Much like the nation of Greece, the season of Lent is characterized by “austerity measures.” And while such devotion can be beautiful, Lenten observance can also border on piety for piety’s sake, or what we might call works righteousness. Please do not misunderstand me: I enjoy and value the season. Who of us wouldn’t benefit from setting aside time to reflect on the grace and mercy of God (and our need to repent)?

The tension between the need for mercy that defines Lent (in theory) and the works righteousness with which it has all too often become synonymous is the theme…

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Righteous Minds, Moral Matrices, and the Real (Non-)Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

Righteous Minds, Moral Matrices, and the Real (Non-)Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

Are our brains fundamentally wired to experience and filter reality according to standards of moral righteousness? And if so, what’s the emotional and relational cost? We know how the Apostle Paul would respond, and we now know how cutting-edge UVA social psychologist Jonathan Haidt would. In an interview over at The Scientific American, Haidt talks about some fascinating recent research into moral psychology which cuts to the heart of the religious impulse, as well as the deep ideological divides we’re experiencing in this country at the moment. Namely, that we all look for evidence to confirm our moral intuitions rather…

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You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Esp a False One)

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Esp a False One)

Another worthy addendum to our series on self-justification, and the role that memory plays, from Wired, “How Friends Ruin Memory: The Social Conformity Effect.” Where Tavris and Aronson chalk false memories primarily up to internal factors – the reducing of cognitive dissonance and reinforcing of our pre-existing self-image – the article highlights a few recent experiments that suggest that we revise our memories to appease social pressures. I see no reason why we can’t embrace both as motivators. That is, while the internal stuff may ultimately provide the foothold, clearly the Law takes external forms as well, from stone tablets…

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