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Posts tagged "Steven Paulson"


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)

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.”

Gerhard Forde on What Matters

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.

-Galatians 6:15-16

Captivation-of-the-Will-Forde-Gerhard-O-9780802829061“The God of all grace and mercy whose intention it is to relate to us through faith and trust has (you might say) two big problems with us – both of which destroy the relationship God purposes.

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.”

Killer-Maker Spirit: From Steven Paulson's Lutheran Theology

Killer-Maker Spirit: From Steven Paulson’s Lutheran Theology

From Steven Paulson’s mighty recent work on the Lutheran tradition, Chapter 9, “Freedom from Death” looks into the Lutheran doctrine of Spiritus Exstinctor et Creator–the simultaneous killing and reviving power of the Holy Spirit.

How does Christ free us from death? The same way he was freed–by the Holy Spirit. When and enemy ensnares us, that enemy must be put to death in order for us to be freed, and so the Holy Spirit must kill death. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Of course, the death of death sounds mythical or excruciatingly obscure, especially to…

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What "Faith Alone" Really Means: A Word from Steven Paulson's Lutheran Theology

What “Faith Alone” Really Means: A Word from Steven Paulson’s Lutheran Theology

From Steven Paulson’s tremendous overview of the roots of the Lutheran faith, Lutheran Theology, in which he talks about the radicality of Luther’s understanding of “faith alone,” and its perpetual endangerment before the human yearning to earn.

The key problem with mixing up grace and some capacity of the soul…is that we fail to understand how the Gospel justifies by faith alone…Possession (of righteousness) nullified utterly by law in death, and does not return when we are made alive again. Instead, what faith grasps is a promise, but a promise is not legal property; it is a word that engenders hope…

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Top Theology Books of 2011

Top Theology Books of 2011

The following is a list (in no particular order) of some of the most interesting theological books published in 2011. Needless to say it’s been a banner year.

Lutheran Theology by Steven Paulson

What is Lutheranism? Rather than answering this question by outlining the history and development of Lutheranism, Paulson goes back to Luther himself to rediscover its long-lost soul, using Luther against Lutheranism and its many failed representatives throughout history. By far, this book is Lutheran theology at its best. Positively, this Lutheran theology is a theology that must be preached and therefore it is the message of the justification by…

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Steven Paulson on Christian Freedom

Steven Paulson on Christian Freedom

A seasonally appropriate quote, from our 2009 conference speaker’s brand-new (as in this week) and highly recommended book Lutheran Theology, ht TB:

“[It is a mistake] to think that true freedom meant “autonomy”–being a law unto oneself, which means not having any authority that could impose itself heteronomously. Instead, Christian freedom is the freedom to call upon the almighty name of God in time of trouble, so we cry, “Abba Father!”– since we know we are speaking to a beloved Father whose favor we have, not an impersonal, spiritual force who stands outside and is …

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O Lost, And By The Winds Grieved

O Lost, And By The Winds Grieved

Human suffering is an important touchstone for much of what is discussed here at Mockingbird. And as a native Pensacolian watching oil wash up on our shores every day, I am seeing suffering in my own life and in the lives of my family and friends on a scale that I had never before imagined.

As a result of this daily assault, my mind keeps turning back to some points that Steven Paulson made at the 2009 Mockingbird Conference which touch on the source of human suffering.

Dr. Paulson pointed out that long ago, Saint Augustine observed that we are more where…

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Kanye West Meets the Left Hand of God

Kanye West Meets the Left Hand of God

I’m still reeling from Gil Kracke’s excellent breakout session at the recent Pensacola Mini-Conference, “Like A Rolling Stone: The Law of Inertia and Human Psychology.” If you haven’t listened to it, do yourself a favor. I can assure you that it will not disappoint!

One of Gil’s primary illustrations of incurvatus in se – St. Augustine’s conception of “man curved in on himself” – had to do with the Kanye West incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, in which Kanye showed himself to be the very height of self absorption, a kind of incurvatus in se run amok. In…

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The Gospel

The Gospel

Do you remember the Pearl Jam song “Wishlist” from the album Yield? Well, it’s one of my personal faves, and in it Eddie Vedder sings a very profound line, I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good. I don’t know about you, but in the past I used to find myself in complete agreement with Eddie. I wished I had good news to share. Most of the time, I felt like what I had to say about Christianity was not very good news at all. I thought the Gospel was actually about exhorting people to improve…

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Hope for Today

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that Steven Paulson said at the Mockingbird Conference a few weeks back. Referring to a correction that Martin Luther made to one of St. Augustine’s teachings, he said, “We don’t live where we love. We live where we hope.” The more I thought about it the more I discovered it was true; I cling to hope.

It is a matter of survival it seems. I cannot get through my day without some thought of what I

have to hope in. Often times I think my hope lies with…

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