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Saturday, May 09, 2015

More Thoughts

Following up on some things I said regarding Piper and holiness, let me reiterate that I don't see an outbreak of antinomianism in the Reformed ranks; at least people aren't talking that way. I think most people I know have really good practical theology; I never ran with people who enjoy grieving the Holy Spirit.

That said, the tensions are real, and there will be a manifestation of tendencies--either antinomianism or scrupulosity--precisely because there is no theological necessity to pursue holiness, given the assertion of imputed righteousness. Either your own awareness of continuing sin will cause you to doubt whether the legal transaction has taken place, or, as the obvious consequence of believing the  Protestant dogma concerning the work of Christ, you will in good faith ignore your own subjective awareness of sin. If the Father doesn't see my sin, why should I?

God can't justly punish the same sins twice. He either punished them and cancelled them once for all at the cross of Christ, or he didn't. If he did, then repentance--a turning away from, and renunciation of sin--may be desirable in some way, but it isn't theologically necessary. The innocent have no need to curse themselves. If he didn't, you might as well be Catholic. In fact, repentance is a kind of satisfaction for sin. The Westminster divines had been on to something in the Confession, chapter 15: God does see everything. No one will be tricking God with hidden things.

I never have met any Christian who denied the objective fact of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice. Thus, the debate between the Reformers and the Catholic Church was about how the work of Christ is appropriated and applied to us. The 5 "Solas" of the Protestant Reformation say in effect say one thing: We don't need the Church's ministrations to be right with God. It's a liturgical point, more than anything else. Here's the million-dollar question: Is that really true? (No, it isn't.)

I became free to consider that intellectual question when I became (more) fully convinced of God's love for me. I knew that I could seek the truth--and discern it from error--when I stopped associating my experience of God's love with questionable dogmatic assertions. Quite frankly, I think most people today have as much critical reflection on "Sola Fide" as they do on, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so," which is to say, none at all. You don't think about the latter; you just believe it, and rightly so. That's no way to find the truth, though. Luther and Calvin could be wrong, and my world will not collapse. What a beautiful and terrible moment! When I re-tell the story of what it was like to preach during this time, I get pretty emotional, but saying, "Don't ask me about justification, because I don't know. I only know God loves us" is another way of saying that I had learned not to beg the question. Polemics seems pretty easy, when you turn your opponents into stupid, godless, oppressive trolls. If one choice is beyond the pale because of this, you're not really discerning anything; you are reinforcing a tribal and personal identity.

A few thoughts to ponder.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Dear Amos,

The dilemma is formed by accepting articles III and V, and reading all of this with Chapter XI. I do not intend to say that it represents "true truth," but there are these nuggets here, which are remnants from the Catholic past.