Are you addicted to sin?

 Superficial optimism ultimately breeds despair. A theology of glory works like that. It operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem.
Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not 
seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to good works. Of course our theologian of glory may well grant that we need the help of grace. The only dispute, usually, will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are a ‘liberal’, we 
will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual  encouragement. If we are more ‘conservative’ and speak of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed to the utmost. But the hallmark of a theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to 
whatever is left of human will and power. It will always, in the end, hold out for some free will.
Theology then becomes the business of making theological explanations attractive
to the will. Sooner or later a disastrous erosion of the language sets in. It must constantly
be adjusted to be made appealing. Gradually it sinks to the level of maudlin sentimentality.
     

Theologians of the cross, however, operate quite differently. 
They operate on the assumption that there must be, to use the language of treatment for addicts,  a 
“bottoming out” or an “intervention”. That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his 
own. In theological terms, we must confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self,  in whatever form that may take, pious or impious. So theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic
appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth… because those things
are themselves the problem. The truth must be spoken. To repeat Luther again, the thirst for glory
or power or wisdom is never satisfied even by the acquisition of it. 
We always want more…precisely so that we can declare independence from God. The thirst 
for the absolute independence of the self… and that is sin. Thus, Luther’s 
statement of the radical cure in his proof for thesis 22: ” The remedy for curing desire does not 
lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it.” The cross is the “intervention.” The addict/sinner  is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that a new life can begin. The  theologian of the cross
:says what a thing is”. The theologian of the cross preaches to convict of sin. The addict
is not deceived by theological marshmallows but is told the truth so 
that he might at last learn to confess… to say, ” I am an addict… I am an alcoholic”,
and never stop saying it.
Theologically, and more universally, all must learn to say,”I am a 
sinner “… and likewise never stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true.
                                                                         
                                                                             – Gerhard Forde
 

 

 

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10 Responses

  1. “there is no cure for the addict on his
    own. In theological terms, we must confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self, in whatever form that may take, pious or impious”.

    So totally right, Steve.
    Thanks be to God that ‘when we were without strength, Christ died for us’. We are only ever saved, ever able to live, ever able to be more than the prodigal, hungry and alone in a foreign land, because He is the one searching us out to enfold us in pure grace and a mercy.

    What a redeemer!

  2. Howard,

    “Thanks be to God that ‘when we were without strength, Christ died for us’. We are only ever saved, ever able to live, ever able to be more than the prodigal, hungry and alone in a foreign land, because He is the one searching us out to enfold us in pure grace and a mercy.

    What a redeemer! ”

    What else needs be said?

    Thanks, Howard!

    – Steve

  3. I kicked that habit last week 🙂
    Hey is your computer still running? How are things going.
    You might post something in response to imonk’s podcast 112.

  4. I’m not an addict! **twitches nervously while rocking back and forth and shivering** I can stop ANY time I want!

  5. Steve asked me to write a comment regarding some jerk who can’t respond to comments, or update his blog. Seems this jerk is moving so he can have some awesome view of the ocean from his new swanky apartment on the beach. But when that jerk can respond, Steve will update the blog.

  6. Beware the lure of beach front apartments!
    Recall the fall of James Belushi’s character in ‘Wild Palms’
    (Sinister Chord)…

    Seriously, a place by the beach sounds excellent!

    I look forward to hearing more when you’ve settled, Steve.

  7. Moving, ocean views… thank goodness… I thought a shark may have ate Steve for lunch! 😉

    We miss you and God’s Word, Steve. †

  8. Since Steve’s computer is down, here is an update. Steve and Pat were with us in worship yesterday, their moving ordeal having come to an end. He was wearing a back brace but remains as cheerful as ever! He will be back on the blog soon.

  9. Wow
    Just came across your blog and stopped at the name Gerhard Forde. You have struck gold in your reading.
    Forde understood, very well, the subtle and deep effects of sin. He had a gut level sense that we are and always will be (until we are resurrected in Christ) sinners. I give thanks that he was my teacher and challenged me to see the difference between glory and the cross. The truth is we always need a cross. Period.
    thanks for reminding us
    pax
    John Heille aka Heille Unlikely
    Luther Sem class of 1999

  10. John,

    You are so right about Forde. You are also very blessed to have studied under him.
    My pastor was a student of Forde’s in seminary as well. I’m getting a goodly dose of Forde much of the time, and I hope that it sometimes makes itself evident on this blog.
    ” The truth is we always need a cross.”
    Amen, John!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    – Steve M.

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