It’s a matter of EmPhaSis

Which is correct…emphasis…or emPhaSis?

You could say that they both are. They both use th e same letters, and they both are the same word.

But they do sound different. And if someone spoke that way, putting stronger emPhaSis on certain sylLaBles…it might be tough trying to make out what they were really saying.

Because the Bible is not self-evident, it must be interpreted. The interpretive grid, or prism, that one decides to use will determine the emphasis of the interpretation.

When one uses the grid of “free will” , “decision theology“…one will emphasize the self  much more prominently than an interpreter who uses the interpretive grid of a “bound will“, where God has to make the choice for the sinner.

The words may be the same but the emPhaSis will defintely skew the understanding of those words.

 When Christian traditions (or non-traditions) emphasize the start of the Christian life with the sinner (even unwittingly) they will get a Christianity that is self- focused.

You can often end up with a Christianity that places a large emphasis on personal Christian growth, personal spirituality (however you would define that), moral living (biblical principles for living), and trying to get others to do the same.

This is a formula for self-righteousness, phoniness, and or uncertainty and despair.

This is why many of us are so interested in attempting to get others to change their grid of interpretation to one that asserts the centrality of Christ..and His work for us,  rather than shifting Christ to the edges a little more and empasizing the things that we should, ought, or must be doing.

If you have a proBlem with this…pLease let me know.

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48 Responses

  1. “rather than shifting Christ to the edges a little more and empasizing the things that we should, ought, or must be doing.” (Steve)

    But I wonder if that is what is happening – and maybe this is also a normal interpretive shift to have happen? The greatness of faith is we can know what it is we are doing – and little about what God is doing (a lot of speculation on this front). It makes sense to develop a theology that deals from this perspective.

    I think an honest theology has to be based on free will – since this is the position we deal from (on a personal level concerning decision making). Any sincere and honest faith will freely admit they make choices to follow God – as much as we feel we were ‘drawn’ to God – we still chose to ‘follow’. Now whether God predestines a damn thing is of no concern to me – since I cannot think outside the present – so predestination is really an argument no one can win – because no one knows how that works. We could pre-determine the decisions of our children – but in the end – they will still become independent and do what they ‘want’.

    So, one has to begin with a theology that has decision based processes in it – because that is what we all do each and every day. I think we give God too much credit sometimes – when we need to take responsibility for our actions also – and in this case – good actions (following Jesus). Drawn or not – we chose to follow God and that means a lot more to me than being pre-destined. Think about it…if your wife was not chosen (pre-destined) but you chose (free will) to be with her – there is a difference in the way you will value that marriage.

    I think the question for me is finding an ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’ faith that I feel is at the heart of all of Jesus teachings. I read arguments on Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, or Wesley and it all loses it’s sway and meaning – I want the stories of Steve, Bruced, Ian, etc…and their quest for the great faith and how that looks and feels to them. Luther is dead – he cannot speak for a single soul here – and his journey was his journey – it is not anyone else’s…we cannot live vicariously through the actions and discoveries of another can we?

    I want that real and living faith – it’s here and it’s now – it’s 21st century and it’s elaborating on its environment – from Japan to Africa to London to Chicago…unique specimens of faith in unique environments in time. These stories should be similar but speak uniquely in the same voice (faith) about how they impact their worlds. The Muslims have a term for this – this oneness of the people of faith – but even they cannot conceive of a God so vast that creates 7 billion people to see with different eyes. The only connection we have is…we are all human.

  2. Hmmm…why DO we DO what we DO? This IS the question! Can we enjoy what the Father has given in this life and share that joy with our neighbors? Or, are we too focused on the Christian “to do” list? And just what if we miss part of the list…or, even if we don’t accomplish any of the items? Have we failed…will we miss out on the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Just where is the balancing point between being who God wants us to be and doing what God wants us to do? Are good works a problem? Who decides when and how we get involved these works?

    Was Mother Teresa simply a do gooder who wasted her life obviously trying to earn her place in eternity? Or, was she following a call placed in her heart by the Holy Spirit of God…Hmmm…Me thinks that will be between Teresa and God.

  3. My thoughts are drifting toward the example of the Gentile lady whose daughter was demon possessed (Matthew 17).

    26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

    27″Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

    28Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

    In the story of the Prodigal Son, does the father not wait for the son to return to him? His loving imprint is left on the son and, when separation from the father’s love is proven a horrible thing, the son voluntarily returns. He could have stayed in the trough, but he saw more clearly the Father’s love for even hired servants and recognized that it was good…so he chose to return.

    Clearly we find no element of personal merit involved, for to come to the Lord in humility and recognition of unworthiness is not meritorious in the sense that “I’m so great.” But neither is it accomplished outside of our will. We choose to return to Him with the recognition that we are not worthy, but neither are we bound.

  4. societyvs writes:
    “I want the stories of Steve, Bruced, Ian, etc…and their quest for the great faith and how that looks and feels to them. Luther is dead – he cannot speak for a single soul here.”

    –You might as well throw out all the books, then, societyvs, and the Bible, too, since David can’t speak for me and you either. Luther is dead, or is he? We read in our house last night: Mark 12:26-27: “Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

    Luther and others cannot speak “for your soul” but they can speak “to” it.

  5. Thumbs up to you Brigitte!

  6. God has indued the will of man, by nature, with liberty and the power to choose and to act upon his choice. This free will is neither forced, nor destined by any necessity of nature to do good or evil.

    Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but he was unstable, so that he might fall from this condition.

    Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation. As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good, and dead in sin. He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.

    When God converts a sinner, and translates him into a state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage to sin, and by grace alone He enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good. But because of his remaining corruptions he does not only (or perfectly) will that which is good, but also wills that which is evil.

    The will of man will only be made perfectly and immutably free to will good alone in the state of glory.

  7. Ike,

    When Jesus says, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted,” does His statement assume that the image of God in her has been destroyed? When the prodigal son returns to the father, why did the father not yank him out of the trough and implant affection in his cold, dead heart? In both cases the people involved either sought God or came back to Him.

    Pax,
    Adam

  8. Hi Ike, Yes thats the Arminian side of things. I have read many Armininian authors that are very Christ-Centered and to the degree they are Christ-Centered I love reading them. One of my favorites is Greg Boyd and I love his book “repenting of religion”. However, for me Free Will is too grandiose of a term to base an entire system of theology on.

    The other side of the coin… the reformers, believe that both and their justification and their sanctification come from one source and that source is not their will. The fact that we are free to choose is not being negated in this kind of thinkology…. its just not the main thing.

    The main thing is God working in man. Some like to see free will as synergism (Man cooperating with God) but I still tend to lean toward monergism…. God working in and through man.

    Once again free will is not negated completely … because mans naturally contradicts God…. its just not the main thing.

    There may be others that can put better words around it than me.

  9. Adam wrote:
    “In the story of the Prodigal Son, does the father not wait for the son to return to him? His loving imprint is left on the son and, when separation from the father’s love is proven a horrible thing, the son voluntarily returns. He could have stayed in the trough, but he saw more clearly the Father’s love for even hired servants and recognized that it was good…”

    The Father in the story is clearly yearning for His son’s return, but I think the key phrase is that the son ‘came to his senses’.
    As C S Lewis so aptly put it:
    “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on playing in the mud of a slum because it cannot imagine what is gained in a holiday by the ocean… we are too easily pleased”.

    If we awaken from the slum, it is because HE amplifies the call of eternity in our hearts.

    Brigitte wrote:
    “Luther and others cannot speak “for your soul” but they can speak “to” it”.

    So very true. There are times when I have read the good doctor and his words have truly been like lightning, rooting itself to the earth – medicine indeed for an age carried by every wind of doctrine.

  10. I think its erroneous thinking to believe once you are saved, baptismal or not, that now you have the ability to choose right from wrong and this is clearly in Romans. Paul is talking to a fairly mature Church and many followers of Christ in Romans.

    The first few Chapters of Romans basically reminds us of our complete and utter inability to please God based on our efforts. These Chapters of Romans tell us to continue to live in a faith, trust relationship with God.

    The process many follow as they mature in Christ is to transition from irreligious, worldy idolatry to religious idolatry and then they label it as being mature in Christ. I have struggled with what it means to be a “mature” follower of Christ.

    I have come to the conclusion that there is no clear definition I can put on what it means to be a mature follower of Christ because Jesus tells us the last will be first and the first will be last.

    Only in view of the Cross and in view of Gods Mercy and in view of our complete brokenness can we start to have Godly obedience. God working in man…. not man choosing for God.

    JS

  11. Jon…..you must be reading this wrong. I quoted the Baptist Confession of Faith (1680). The third paragraph explains that we are “DEAD” in our sins and we have lost all ability of will to perform any spiritual good which accompanies salvation.

    Adam…….There is no need to solve all tensions, especially when the solution comes at the expense of one’s interpretive integrity. There are many tensions in Scripture. There are many things that, while not irrational, just don’t make sense. The doctrine of the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, creation out of nothing all fit this category. So does human responsibility and unconditional election. God’s sovereign unconditional election can stand side-by-side with man’s responsibility without creating a formal contradiction. We may not know how to reconcile these two issues, but that does not mean God does not know how. Their co-existence does not take away from their collective truthfulness.

  12. Sorry Ike, I re-read it.

  13. Howard,

    Where I have never been clear is why it must be assumed the the image of God is utterly destroyed in man, thereby forcing (it seemed to me) a reading of the text that concludes people have no ability to cooperate with grace; an assumption I could not make based on the text itself. Why does Jesus not say something to the effect of, “you were completely dead and had no free will but you have been awakened and responded in faith by the work the Holy Spirit did in you?” I understand the dogmatic answer, but I don’t UNDERSTAND the answer.

    Pax,
    Adam

  14. Ike,

    God’s sovereign unconditional election can stand side-by-side with man’s responsibility without creating a formal contradiction.

    On the flip side, can man’s freedom stand side-by-side with God’s unchageable essence? This seemed to be an acceptable solution for most of the history of Christian thought.

    Pax,
    Adam

  15. Interesting, thought provoking words Steve!

  16. societyvs wrote:

    “I think the question for me is finding an ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’ faith that I feel is at the heart of all of Jesus teachings. ”

    -Hi, I’m still occupied by your post.

    The way it is written about, Faith is juxtaposed to Merit. “Free will” implies a Merit, the way “free will” it is written about in the middle ages. Hence Faith is incompatible with “Free Will”.

    I myself, still have trouble with the fact that when I say: ” I believe”, that I have not made a kind of decision or used my will somehow. But I really, really want to have Nothing to do with merit. There is no merit with me. (It would be the supreme source of worry, if it were necessary) . I can only say: “I believe” because there is something to believe in, which is Christ’s merit and invitation. So it is all from without. Nothing of myself. ” Extra nos” all the way.

    Yet, faith is there inside myself, and it got there via the word of promise. In my current reading Luther comments on the promise of the Lord’s Supper (“Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me…. Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”)

    What we should hear here is the promise of the promising God, and the response should be faith.

    “For where there is the Word of the promising God, there must necessarily be the faith of the accepting man. It is plain therefore, that the beginning of our salvation is a faith which clings to the Word of the promising God, who, without any effort on our part, in free and unmerited mercy takes the initiative and offers us the word of his promise.”
    (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther, 1520).

    If “clinging” is a good word then, let’s just “cling” to the words and grace of the promising God.

    He is our hope and his promises were there for Adam, and Abraham, and David, and Paul, and Luther and Calvin, and Tom, Dick and Harry, (not to mention the women, as well), and all the people you know today.

  17. Adam wrote:
    “Where I have never been clear is why it must be assumed the the image of God is utterly destroyed in man”

    Therein lies a discussion! What is ‘the image of God’ within us?
    Irenaeus, for example, spoke of the image (similitude) being in terms of ‘man’s rational and free being’ – certainly somewhat akin to the understanding of the Greeks Whilst I would agree that passages such as Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 clearly convey that we still retain, in some sense, this image, it can only be truly be restored through the nature and work of the ‘proper man’, Jesus Christ (Chapter 5 of Hoekema’s ‘Created in God’s Image’ provides a very helpful theological survey by way of introduction to the subject).

    “Why does Jesus not say something to the effect of, “you were completely dead and had no free will but you have been awakened and responded in faith by the work the Holy Spirit did in you?”
    I think that is said, in essence, in the New Testament, but the intent of this story, I believe, is primarily to show the grace of the Father – that though we, like the prodigal, squander His astonishing provision given entirely because of His love, He still welcomes us back, still has unmerited mercy upon us.
    The prodigal’s life had clearly been a mess from the moment he chooses to leave (of his free will?) His Father far behind and assert himself (something which pretty quickly becomes empty – is that what hell is ‘life’ without true meaning and value?). By going, as it were, full circle, he understands his ruin, yes, but he profoundly comes to know the overwhelming love of His Father. That has to be one of the central intents of our Lord at the heart of creation – “that we might know, through experience for ourselves, the love of God”.

    Hope that helps.

  18. a faith that starts with me will never go any further.

  19. Here are the facts: The phrase “free will” is not only missing from the original New Testament text, it is conspicuously absent from any passage addressing salvation. While the words “foreknowledge,” “predestination,” and “according to His will” are all firmly embedded in the language and context of salvation, “free will” is glaring in its absence.
    If anyone wants to argue that free will is the agency of salvation, they must demonstrate that Paul’s language clearly states such a premise (which they cannot do) and they must give us meaningful exegesis of the terminology Paul did choose to use and show us how it cumulatively means “we choose.” Unfortunately for them, it’s a losing proposition. So, they will ignore the language and insist on their tradition

  20. To bring my questions/inquiries full circle…what if I don’t believe I’ve merited anything but still believe the image of God is not destroyed? Certainly I didn’t merit the gift of life, but God gave me life anyway. It doesn’t therefore violate God’s sovereignty to say that I breathe oxygen into my lungs, feeble and affected by the fall as they are. It seems to me there is a fear that accepting human freedom will necessarily destroy God’s grace. Such is not the case, unless the person advocating freedom does so from the perspective of having merited something. I can tell you without batting an eye that I merit nothing…but to say that I do not freely cooperate with God does not seem to me, or the Church for the better part of 1500 years, to be an accurate way of speaking.

  21. It used to be thought that the earth was the center of the universe. The sun obviously moved around the earth,according to observation. Then man discovered that we are not at the center of the cosmos. The earth was discovered to orbit the sun over the course of a year. The Bible clearly tells us that we are not the center of our existence. But we still persist in believing that we are.

  22. Ike,

    Do “Foreknowledge,” “predestination,” and “according to His will” necessitate the destruction of freedom? This would seem to be the case only if one assumes monergism.

    Pax,
    Adam

  23. “To bring my questions/inquiries full circle…what if I don’t believe I’ve merited anything but still believe the image of God is not destroyed?”

    Adam,
    to go back where I started (the Lewis quote), I think the problem is that we are now far, far less than what we should be – indeed, all of creation is now marked by that plight (in bondage). I don’t think it’s as straight forward as God’s image being erased (Paul makes a very different argument in Romans 1 concerning our awareness of His truth) or that we have totally lost our God-given faculties, but that everything we now know has been tainted or ‘bent’ by our (Adam’s) action and therefore our propensity to follow suit – to love darkness rather than light. That’s what makes us less than those true ‘image bearers’ which God created us to be.

  24. Howard,

    I completely agree with that assessment. Thank you for the explanation.

    Pax,
    Adam

  25. Adams’ comments are a straw man fallacy. No one (that I am aware of) is suggesting that the image of God is “destroyed”. I’m not teaching this, the Westminster Confession does not teach this, the Reformers did not teach this, and the doctrine of radical depravity does not teach this….

    However, the bible is unmistakably clear that no one can come unto Jesus unless drawn and enabled by the Father (John 6:44, 65). Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:31-34). The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, because Satan blinds the mind of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:3-4). And the natural man cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor.2:14-15). And mankind is unable to change himself (Jer.13:23). These passages (an many others) speak of an actual inability of mankind, who find themselves dead in their trespasses and sins.

    Now, If we allow the full weight and testimony of these Scripture passages, then we see that the bible describes mankind after the fall as being blinded, dead, enslaved, unable to understand spiritual things (the gospel being at the forefront of spiritual things), does not seek after God (Rom.3:10-18) and is unable to change himself (Jer.13:23)

    So if mankind is able to respond to the gospel, he is going to need a work of grace in his heart. Like the Prophet Ezekiel wrote:

    I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness’s, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek 36:25-27)

    Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-9)

    Sinners need God’s enabling grace (regeneration) to renew our fallen human heart. The process of Christian conversion, where God effectually calls men out of darkness and into the light involves transforming the will of man. God calls men to faith (Rom. 1:6, 8:28-30, 9:24; 1Cor.1:9, 24-26; Gal. 1:15). In other words, God gives life to the dead by His free grace. When God frees us from the shackles of sin, we respond to Him in love. God creates life, opens blind eyes, and sets the captives free.

    The women with great faith and the prodigal son are no exception. They too, were dead and enslaved to their sin, for all men sin and fall short of the glory of God. But God, by His amazing grace frees us from this bondage and enables us to respond to Him.

  26. Ike,

    We are agreed on one point. No man can come to God without grace. There’s nothing I (or Orthodoxy, so far as I know) disagree with in that view.

    As for my strawman, my Lutheran pastor once stated that man is no longer made in the image of God, but in the image of Adam. He used Genesis 5:1-3 to explain why this is so. Perhaps he was not correct, but I’m left with the sense that such a view must have some role in the argument that man has no free will. If the image is not destroyed, there is no reason to believe that man retains free will in non-spiritual things but has lost it entirely in spiritual things. Marred, yes. Lost entirely, no. Why be selective about how and when it’s acceptable?

    As for the verses you cite, I’m reminded that everyone had access to them prior to the Reformation yet nobody was reaching the conclusion that man has no free will in salvation. There’s a reason for this. Nobody I’m aware of, prior to the Reformation, was teaching that the life of faith was sliced up between justification and sanctification. The Church viewed salvation as something that we live in (or not, according to our will), and exercise every moment of every day. As such, people weren’t approaching the Scriptures from the perspective that the will was lost in salvation, for it must remain active at all times as we work out our salvation “in fear and trembling.” Scripture is clear on this being the early view, as we read very serious exhortations in Hebrews about turning away from God, most specifically Hebrews 3:12.

    So, yes, free will to choose salvation is always contingent upon grace, but because the life of faith is not divided up between justification and sanctification for the first 1500 years, free will is assumed in salvation. This would explain why Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustine in his early writings, heck, everyone, upheld the idea that man has a free will.

    The conundrum one is left with is this…the clear teaching of Scripture on the matter of a dead will was apparently not accepted or clear until the 16th century. The views of Luther and Calvin hinge on the justification/sanctification model and penal substitution; neither of which were expressed prior to the Reformation. Everyone prior to that point agreed that man cannot come to God apart from His grace, but they all also agreed that salvation is a grace filled, Trinitarian-centered lifelong process.

    Pax,
    Adam

  27. Ike,

    When stating “The views of Luther and Calvin hinge on the justification/sanctification model and penal substitution…” I want to be clear that I recognize there is legal language used by The Church Fathers and the Scriptures. The point I hope I got across is that however this language was used, it was not used as a model by which to deny that salvation exists primarily as a lifelong working out of one’s salvation. Salvation was always viewed as personal, ongoing, and involving the will.

    Pax,
    Adam

  28. Well I have a problem with this. I did not chose God. He chose me. I wanted no part of Him. He won. I feel god can be a Calvinist or not, He is God you know.

    “When Christian traditions (or non-traditions) emphasize the start of the Christian life with the sinner (even unwittingly) they will get a Christianity that is self- focused.” I can Amen that. Even those of you who “chose” God must admit faith is a gift, and whatever was in you that made you desire God was of God Himself. Please admit that or you will have a self focused faith.

    “You can often end up with a Christianity that places a large emphasis on personal Christian growth, personal spirituality (however you would define that), moral living (biblical principles for living), and trying to get others to do the same.” STEVE, I hope so! Sanctification is important! Oh, to grow in the Lord, that is my quest! To be less fleshy and more Spiritual, Yes I strive for that! I have no other principles for living than what He gave me in scripture! And to not share the bliss of this life with others by evangelizing would truly be a sin!
    A Christ centered life is one that that places a large emphasis on personal Christian growth, personal spirituality (however you would define that), moral living (biblical principles for living), and trying to get others to do the same.
    This is NOT a formula for self-righteousness, phoniness, and or uncertainty and despair, it is what we are called to do.

  29. Will,

    I disagree with you.

    I think the quest for more “spirituality”, greater holiness, and self-sanctification DOES lead to self-righteousness and phoniness and despair.

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

    We you are focused on the self, and where you are in your Christian life, you are no longer free. Now you are a slave to your “religious performance”.

    Then you start to compare yourself to others.

    “Well, Larry and Joe have been here for awhile now, but hey sure don’t act very much like Christians. They aren’t displaying the typical normative behavior for ones that have been saved.”

    Subtle pressure is out on them to conform. They either do…and fit in…or they quit and go elsewhwere…or nowhere…or they hang out awhile and fake it.

    This is where “free will” Christianity logically goes.

    I think it stinks, and it is totally not necessary.

  30. Will and Steve,

    Any person who is looking at the progress of others as a measuring stick for righteousness is misguided and a legalist. You’ll get no argument from me on that. To say, however, that there is no cooperation involved in sanctification is clearly false. For example, if a man lusts after a woman who is not his wife he has two choices. Follow the life that has been created in Him by God, or follow his passions. Following passions leads to death. Can anyone deny that the man who follows his lust and commits adultery has fallen spiritually; that Christ does not reign within him? Now, if the same man turns to Christ rather than commiting his sin, we see clearly that the man is not in himself righteous, but he is involved in the relationship of holiness the God creates and perfects. Everything good in me comes from God, but there is struggle (free will) involved in turning toward God when the flesh desires something else.

    Pax,
    Adam

  31. Adam,

    The trouble here is “sight”.

    We cannot with any accuracy state what a Christian ‘good work” is and what it is not.

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

    What there speaks of your cooperation?

    This is pretty good and says it a lot better than I ever could:
    http://www.god-centered.com/a-lutheran-view-of-sanctification/

    .

  32. Steve,

    Again, I’m not talking about merit. There is no merit in man, but there is a freedom to remain within or reject the communion we have with God. Sin alters that relationship. Lutherans implicitly confess this by agreeing that people can reject Christ and fall away. What is choosing sin if not just such a rejection?

    Thank you for the link. I’ve read Forde’s On Being a Theologian of the Cross and appreciate much of what he has written.

    Pax,
    Adam

  33. Adam,

    You must have been talking about effort then. Or sincerity?

    How do you know that you are cooperarting properly? Or that you are cooperating enough? Or that your cooperation has the proper motive and not some self advancement motivation?

  34. Steve,

    How do I know anything? Does everything that affects me exist outside of me? I know that to be validated Lutheranism absolutely needs to find a sense of merit in me, but it’s just not there in most of the Orthodox Christians I know. We’re not Roman Catholic. No storehouse of merits…no indulgences…just the relationship in Christ’s Body and being made Holy. That a person can choose to respond to live in the active grace God extends or turn to sin is plain and has always been a central teaching of the faith. Choosing to live in the grace we’ve been given by its very nature requires humility; not a sense of merit. We cannot live in Christ and be proud.

    I have found, Steve, that if you take away Rome and evangelical pelagianism, the Lutheran framework just doesn’t work. If you’re interested, enclosed is a link to an article that helped me see this a bit more clearly as I was starting to move toward Orthodoxy:

    http://www.archangelsbooks.com/articles/east_west/WesternConfessions_Khomiakov.asp

    Pax,
    Adam

  35. Our code of conduct is not the basis for or the method by which we obtain salvation or stay free from sin…That was settled by the Blood of Jesus! The atonement was a once and for all time event…We partake of it daily…in sacramental repentance urged by the Holy Spirit of God to come once again and wash our feet that we might remain in Him.

  36. Adam,

    “I know that to be validated Lutheranism absolutely needs to find a sense of merit in me,…”

    How so?

    The only merit that Lutheranism looks to is the merit of Christ and Him alone.

    We actually trust that the Word does everything necessary.

    If there is just one little tiny thing left for us to do, either for justification or sanctification…then that cross was in vain and He might just as well have sent down another Moses with a longer list…instead of our Savior.

    I’ll check out your link, Adam.

    Thanks!

    – Steve

  37. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and His Word…will result in a change in us…this is a natural as well as spiritual law…what we set our eyes and heart upon will eventually change us…

  38. Aww Nancy…you’re just one of those trusting in God types.

    You actually believe that His spirit will complete in you that which He has begun.

    You trust in that word without needing any prescribtions or benchmarks of “progress”.

    God bless you, Nancy.

  39. Steve,

    I think we’re starting to speak in circles now, so I’m going to disengage. Please know that even as we disagree, you are still a dear friend. And, by the way, that granchild is a cutie! Congratulations. 🙂

    Pax,
    Adam

  40. Adam,

    Ok, my friend.

    You know how much I think of you, so please come back soon and share with us your thoughts on these great matters of faith.

    Thanks for the congrats!

    We’re getting a re-taste of that joy that comes from the little ones. A joy that you know very well with your kids.

    Talk to you soon, Adam!

    – Steve

  41. Steve you site is blowing – 130+ comments on the one – and now this one growing in fast numbers- congrats on putting it down on a ‘keyboard and screen’ and facilitating a conversation!

    “Luther and others cannot speak “for your soul” but they can speak “to” it.” (Brigitte)

    Agreed – can be inspired (or taught) by the things he said and did. However, we cannot live vicariously through who and what he was – no person is actually Luther-again – what he taught was his experience – we need our also – our own words, poetry, and music of our interactions with God here and now (and for me and many others – this may include blogging?).

    “The way it is written about, Faith is juxtaposed to Merit. “Free will” implies a Merit, the way “free will” it is written about in the middle ages. Hence Faith is incompatible with “Free Will”. ” (Brigitte)

    Then I would have to say – why keep an idea from the middle ages that obviously is flawed? As much as those writers wanted to give God credit (noble of them) and downplay the humaness of faith – I believe they failed miserably (not accounting for reality).

    Free will is the most simple fact of life I cannot find a single way around it – it just is. God created us this way – so merit to God for the creation of us this way I guess? God created us with the ability to reason and decision make – I think if anyone has a problem with that – they should raise that point to their Creator (not the created).

    Decisions are in everything we do – from something as simple as editing this little piece of writing to avoid errors in its appearance. Decisions can include firing a gun, buying a home, getting married, re-focusing our lives, taking a trip, drawing a picture, writing a blog, etc. As humans we make so many decisions in a day I think it is impossible for a single soul to count the amount they make in one day – nevermind one hour.

    Yes we may be ‘drawn’ to God – I can agree with the supposition about God (not knowing if this is actually true or not – no one could prove it) – by faith. But I choose to have faith – as much as I am drawn to the concepts and teachings of God – it’s equal if anything. I put my existence in with God’s – and decide to share this experience with God. If you remove yourself from the equation of faith – then you have no faith to speak of.

    The saying is ‘the just will live by faith’ – if faith is from God and not of our choosing – then we are also not just (since the faith is not ours – neither is the reward – in this case – being/becoming ‘just’). I do not believe in vicarious righteousness – made just by the actions of another – and neither does Paul’s sentence. It packed with things called ‘verbs’ (and in this case we are asked to ‘live’ (action) by faith).

    What is so bad about merit? We deserve no credit for doing good? Is God not smiling at our actions of kindness and love? I personally like a thank you now and then – and some recognition of my actions *namely from my wife*. As humans, we also cannot truly ‘live’ without recognition…thus a nod to Steve on his excellent work!

    As for predestination – it’s a fallacy – a myth – an unknown. Even if it were true – even if God lined it all up and watched the show – what’s our role in predestination? We have none.

  42. Jason,

    Thanks my friend, for the compliment!

    ok…back to business 😀

    “What is so bad about merit? We deserve no credit for doing good?”

    In the Old Testament (Isaiah 64:6), the text tells us that “…all our righteous deeds are as a polluted garment.”

    Sin has corrupted the whole enterprise so that nothing we do is not corrupted.

    God is a perfect being that demands perfection in His realm and nothing short of that is a worthy offering.

    Enter Jesus. He is our perfection.

    Romans 9 seems to contradict your statements on predestination.

    Thanks, Jason!

    – Steve

  43. Steve wrote:
    “Jesus. He is our perfection”

    Succinct and spot on.
    “But for us fights the Proper Man, whom God Himself hath bidden”.

  44. societyvs: you must be Jason, right? Hi again.

    Steve’s answer is short and sweet, or rather not “sweet” but hard on our egos. And he is right on with his quotes.

    But to expand:

    (Jason)–Luther-again – what he taught was his experience – we need ours also – our own words, poetry, and music of our interactions with God here and now (and for me and many others – this may include blogging?).”

    Luther really, truly did not teach his experiences. He would hate to have that said of him. He was a Bible scholar and what he taught was the Bible. He’d rather have you read the Bible and no word of his. He translated it so everyone could read it for themselves. That was a huge concern of his. On the other point, you are quite welcome to your own experiences, music, poetry and blogging. Nobody is stopping you, but if you want to be Christian is should be Biblical not heretical. It’s not our own whims.

    (Jason)–“Then I would have to say – why keep an idea from the middle ages that obviously is flawed? As much as those writers wanted to give God credit (noble of them) and downplay the humanness of faith – I believe they failed miserably (not accounting for reality).”

    It is a strange thing about faith. I don’t totally get it. I just quoted some thing on my blog that tells us to ask the Holy Spirit for the right faith at life’s end, and we are supposed to have a firm faith that our prayer is answered. So am I now supposed to ask for faith, so I can have faith that my prayer for the right faith is answered? … Well, I think the piece was written for someone who was really worried that at the time of death’s he might not have faith. And, truly, when we are in the throes of death, or any other difficulty, really, will we be able to “chose” to have faith?

    In any case, as much as faith is a response, it is also a gift, and inspired by the one in whom the faith is put.

    (Jason)– Free will is the most simple fact of life I cannot find a single way around it – it just is. God created us this way – so merit to God for the creation of us this way I guess? God created us with the ability to reason and decision make – I think if anyone has a problem with that – they should raise that point to their Creator (not the created).

    “Free Will” needs to be taken in context. “The Bondage of the Will” was written in response to Erasmus’ Diatribe, and someday I think I need to read Erasmus’ writing to really see exactly what they are getting at.

    When we talk about not having “free will”, it does not mean you cannot chose your socks in the morning, or any of these daily type rational choices. That’s NOT what’s being talked about.

    Not having “free will” means that no human has ever thought of this crazy plan that by faith in the God incarnate crucified for you, you should be saved. Nobody would have thought of it or chosen it. It all came from above. Now that the gospel has come to you, you may say: “Yes, Amen, I believe.” But it did did not originate with you. And it is not a matter or rationality. It is not irrational, but it is outside reason.

    In the “Bondage of the Will”, Luther outdoes himself giving examples and arguments to explain for some several hundred pages. It is quite overpowering. Try reading it. Here are two examples (Sorry if this comment is getting too long):

    Beginning of quotes from “The Bondage of the Will”:

    “From this example it is clear enough that grace comes so freely that no thought of it, let alone any endeavor or striving after it, precedes its coming. It was the same also with Paul when he was Saul. What did he do with his wonderful power of free choice? He certainly gave his mind to very good and virtuous things from the point of view of reason. But observe by what endeavor he finds grace! Not only does he not seek it, but he receives it even while raging furiously against it. On the other hand, he says concerning the Jews in chapter 9 (Rom. 9:30): “Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law.” What murmur can any defender of free choice raise against this? The Gentiles, just when they are full of ungodliness and every kind of vice, receive righteousness freely by the mercy of God, while the Jews, who devoted themselves to righteousness with the utmost zeal and endeavor, are frustrated. Does not this simply mean that the endeavoring of free choice is in vain, even when it strives after the best, and that of itself it rather ‘speeds toward the worse, and backward borne glides from us?’ ”

    And the example of Nicodemus:

    “Let us look also at an example of free choice. Nicodemus (John 3:1, ff.) surely is a man who leaves nothing to be desired as regards the capabilities of free choice; for what is there that he fails to do in the way of effort or endeavor? He confesses that Christ is true and has come from God; he praises his signs, he comes by night to hear him and converse with him. Does he not seem to have sought by the power of free choice the things that belong to godliness and salvation? Yet see how he comes to grief. When he hears the true way of salvation by means of a new birth as taught by Christ, does he recognize it or profess that it is what he himself has been seeking?– On the contrary, he is so shocked and perturbed that he not only says he cannot understand it, but he rejects it as impossible. “How,” he says, “can this be?”. Nor indeed is it surprising, for whoever heard that a man must be born anew of water and he spirit in order to be saved? Whoever thought that the Son of Man would have to be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life? Did the greatest and most discerning philosophers ever make mention of this? Did the princes of this world ever possess this knowledge? Did any man’s free choice ever strive toward this? does not Paul confess it to be “wisdom hidden in a mystery? (1 Cor. 2;7) which though foretold by the prophets and revealed by the gospel, has yet from eternity been kept secret and unknown to the world (Rom. 16:25)… The whole world, human reason itself, indeed free choice itself, is obliged to confess that it never know Christ nor heard of him before the gospel came into the world. and if it did not know him, much less did it seek after him, or even could seek after him or make any endeavor to come to him.”

    end of quotes

    So much for that. Thanks for reading.
    Yours, Brigitte.

  45. I like it when scripture tells us that Jesus IS the author and perfector of our faith.

    The centralty of the Gospel and the Cross needs to be in place to not raise ourselves in glory in some sort of self-serving pride. This can be irreligious pride or religious pride. Does not matter its still man placing himself where Jesus belongs.

  46. Whats up with this.. theoldadam is not adam?

    8-).

  47. a Christianity that places a large emphasis on personal Christian growth, personal spirituality (however you would define that), moral living (biblical principles for living), and trying to get others to do the same.

    All the work of the Holy Spirit. Thank God.

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