Woe To You Sad and Uninspired

Be happy:

The church has not always been successful in communicating the Bible’s uplifting and inspiring message. Overinfluenced by our culture, we have drifted into such a default normality of negativity that anyone calling for a more biblical balance is often viewed with grave suspicion.

Except when reading the Bible:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
(Matthew 23 ESV)


91 thoughts on “Woe To You Sad and Uninspired

  1. Feeling gloomy?  There’s an app for that.  This whole thing seems to belittle suffering in this age.  Will he be handing out these books in the cancer ward?  How about death row?

    1. Remember: we are what we think. If our minds constantly feed on all this negativity, our moods will inevitably darken, taking everything else—our words, actions, health, relationships, and so forth—down with them into the abyss. We become what we think. (xv)

    We become what we think?  Frankly, that’s more reminiscent of the Word of Faith teachings than anything.  Sometimes, we have to get our head out of the sand and deal with reality.  The reality of suffering in this age can’t be fixed by a book or app until the age to come is reality.

    3. On the other hand, if we starve ourselves of mental junk and replace it with what is true, admirable, right, pure, beautiful, and attractive, peace will stand as a sentinel all around our feelings and thoughts, creating an impregnable fortress of calm and tranquility. The “peace of God” and the “God of peace will be with you. (27)

    Where’s the gospel here for delivering to us the “peace of God”?  Does this mean we cannot watch The Wire?  Seriously, does the gospel come to us and rescue us and give us the “peace of God” because that’s what Jesus accomplished in his atoning work?  Or is it all about us starving ourselves of those things out there that are harmful and replacing that junk with something better?  I thought the problem was inside of us.

    This might all be good and well for those that are fairly successful and just need a pinch of “happy”.  But I suspect this is not really going to be helpful for those that are broken and know their sin and suffering in this age.

    Have we not been here before?





  2. I’ve already heard private criticism of this post — not surprising. Some theologians dabble in a concept far more interesting than happiness strategies for man — the happiness of God. If I’m convinced that God is happy with me in Christ, that he is happy with his plan, that he will be happy on the last day — then I can deal with the suck and muck. I may not look happy about it, but it’s OK — eternally OK.


  3. This time of year, it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Dark Providences (to steal a term from your esteemed colleague Dr. Gamble, D. Hart), take your pick. You can try to read Scripture for comfort, but the Good Book isn’t usually sensitive to your Dark Night of the Soul.

    Much better to head to church and have the reverend pick the verses.


  4. Why does everyone feel they have the right to be easily offended? Why are you so special? Get in there and give and be gotten. Cry Cry Cry


  5. Seth,


    Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
    A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.


  6. But David Murray’s puritans are at their best in warning against presumption and reminding Christians that their happiness depends on them.

    Rutherford —“Let a sinner, if possible, lie in hell for ever. If God makes him truly holy, and lets him stay there burning in love to God, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, hanging on to Christ by faith and hope, then that is Heaven to that saint in the bottom of hell.”



  7. From the Department of Suck Embracement — Rutherford, Jones, et al won’t like it, but this is more like it.

    Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
    Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
    Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
    There let me live forlorn.

    Down vain lights, shine you no more!
    No nights are dark enough for those
    That in despair their lost fortunes deplore.
    Light doth but shame disclose.

    Never may my woes be relieved,
    Since pity is fled;
    And tears and sighs and groans my weary days
    Of all joys have deprived.

    From the highest spire of contentment
    My fortune is thrown;
    And fear and grief and pain for my deserts
    Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

    Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
    Learn to condemn light
    Happy, happy they that in hell
    Feel not the world’s despite.


  8. Since God really wants to save everybody, then of course the happiness of your children does not depend on God, but on their parents not having a “warped Calvinism”.


    David Murray explains how the public book talks about election, but since you don’t know whose names are in the private book, you should assure your children that they are –for now—Christians. Since we don’t know what the private book says, it would be just as well if the public book did not mention the private book, because all we need to know is that God WANTS TO save our children….

    Now, ask yourselves this—does God want you to obey the law? Since knowing God wants you to obey is the gospel good news, then why don’t you start obeying God so you can be happy?


  9. A more contemporary take, Chortles: http://tinyurl.com/lrxnx2d

    I just woke up
    Coffee in my cup
    Such a warm and sunny day
    Find out what the papers say
    Message from the President
    No more tax for residents
    Go, USA

    I’m so happy, feeling snappy
    My life is rosy, I’m feeling comfy cozy.

    Free, limo ride
    Free food inside
    Getting paid triple time
    Gotta go to Anaheim
    Grabbed my briefcase, left my house
    Got a meeting with the mouse
    Flying in first class.

    I’m so happy
    Feeling snappy
    My life is rosy’ I’m feeling comfy cozy
    Keeps getting better
    Good times forever
    And this is one great day

    Playing guitar in a band
    Just got back from Disney Land
    Driving my new four by four
    Ed McMan is at my door

    Stocks I bought just went up
    Canucks won the Stanley cup
    Bill Gates put me in his will
    Someone paid my visa bill.

    I’m so happy
    Feeling snappy
    My life is rosy
    I’m feeling comfy cozy
    I’m so happy
    Feeling snappy
    Will there be sorrow
    When I wake up tomorrow?


  10. And while the John Dowland song has hyperbolic, bad theology in the last line it’s not worth than Rutherford’s hypothetical redeemed person burning in hell. Creepy.


  11. convicting.

    When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:41-42

    the kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom 14:17


  12. I knew I had struck gold with the Heidelberg when it described this life as a “vale of tears” and talked about God bringing evil upon us. Now that’s religion I can get behind.


  13. Erik: I knew I had struck gold with the Heidelberg when it described this life as a “vale of tears” and talked about God bringing evil upon us. Now that’s religion I can get behind.

    But how do you have a razzle dazzle rock n roll show on Sunday morning, and a second church service that is more “non-traditional” right after it?


  14. and
    as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand- preach the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matt10: 7 ;24: 14 ; Acts 28:31

    righteousness based on faith speaks and what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Roman 10


  15. a. Are you saying that “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed…” means in this life? What if that is directed to the life to come instead of simply suck it up and be happy now? For many, this life is a vale of tears. While we embrace Christ by faith, it seems we must also embrace the suck trusting that a better day comes.


  16. Brad: While we embrace Christ by faith, it seems we must also embrace the suck trusting that a better day comes.

    That isn’t going to bring in the people looking for a groovy time, sure won’t hold them in the sheep pen more than 2 months.


  17. means in this life?

    the mocked ‘more and more’,I think, is what we are being taught (as we yield more and more to the Lord by His power) and then one day perfectly

    sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich, having nothing yet possessing all things. 2 Cor 6:10

    the joy of the LORD is our strength; the kingdom of God (now) is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom 14:17


  18. If “’WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’ Roman 10″ refers to this life, then I guess most of the Apostles didn’t get the memo. Nothing is quite as disappointing as being beheaded or crucified or marooned on a desolate island.


  19. Get on all Biblely here:

    “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 7:2-6


  20. When the world is giddy, believers are too morose; when the world is in despair, they’re pissed at believers who are “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.

    Trust (all about) me, I’m a manic-depressive person by nature; I wish many times I was even-keeled. But the above comment is not about “Christian personality,” as if there was such a thing. It’s an observation about seeing things as they really are. It’s about eschatology.

    How much grief does it take to do this:? Ps.84:6 As they go through the Valley of Tears they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

    Eccl.3:4 …a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

    Lk.6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

    Hab.3:16,18 My body trembles; my lips quiver…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

    Rev.7:17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (and 21:4)

    Heb.13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.


  21. I’ve always thought Christianity is the best thing going precisely because it has the explanation for the suck, expects the suck (even from Christians), is not disillusioned by the suck, presents a God who is sovereign over the suck, and offers the hope of eternal rescue from the suck.


  22. mboss,

    You must not read enough stuff from Father Dwight. The world may suck but the Church doesn’t and won’t. Even if you think it does suck, you’re wrong. It’s all good in the ‘hood.


  23. Mboss :and as you say, since there is suck anyway for everyone, at least the ones who know the only true provision and comfort for enduring in and for gaining from the suck today


  24. gotta go
    …but I do love the l Lord addressing ‘disappointment’ various places since that seems such a unbelief propensity

    and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5


  25. a. The ESV uses the phrase “… and hope does not put us to shame…” Again, the overall context includes a forward looking hope in an eternal state. There we will not be disappointed nor put to shame if we are in Christ. While in our suffering there is certainly a sense of rejoicing – it’s only because of the forward looking hope. That “rejoicing” is never disconnected from that future hope that is in Christ. Just because we confess the reality of the “suck” this side of the eschaton, does not mean that is absorbed into unbelief.


  26. Erik: A church that is mostly about preparing for death is a turn off for those seeking their best life now

    At my age I’m reading the obits section of my hometown paper and seeing listed those who gave their time to teach Sunday School or do other voluntary work for the church as part of my formative years.

    I see on almost every page of the NT the warning to be alert because the day of death or Grand Judgment is going to be here faster than you can imagine.

    When a church promises everyone will be rich and all of them are basically losers, does the light never go on?


  27. Remember when Christian contentment was the ideal? Christian happiness reaks of first-world comfort and self-centeredness.


  28. Without trying to idealize the past, it strikes me (as a 30-something) that my grandparents and great-grandparents did a better job than subsequent generations handling the disappointments and frustrations of life because they believed in the otherworldliness of Christianity – immigrating from Holland to the U.S. and living through the World Wars and a Depression probably had something to do with that. The extent to which prosperity gospel thinking has seeped even into the R&P world is vastly underappreciated.


  29. Michael: Remember when Christian contentment was the ideal? Christian happiness reaks of first-world comfort and self-centeredness.

    Brad: Exactly. But “Happy” sells. We long for “happy” and we’ll pay for happy. I want my food and I want it now. And I’ll take Happy in a large to-go bag. What about writing books with titles like “Broken” or “Weak” that give real existential hope grounded in Christ for the broken or weak?


  30. Without trying to idealize the past, it strikes me (as a 30-something) that my grandparents and great-grandparents did a better job

    From your fellow early 30’s man yours truly, greetings:

    Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
    (Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV)

    Golf if you can find the time.

    This thread got much better, good job fellas. I’m out.


  31. complaint to the sovereign is faith in the sovereign

    Psalm 142:1–2, With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
    I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.”

    Psalm 64: 1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

    Psalm 55:2 hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

    Psalm 13: 1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?


  32. Kent – When a church promises everyone will be rich and all of them are basically losers, does the light never go on?

    Erik – LOL

    I’m with the Buddhists or the Hindus or whatever eastern religion that says that most of the things we think we see in this life are basically illusions.

    People wear themselves out over all kinds of things that don’t really matter and ignore the things that do.


  33. Chortles,

    That is nature’s version of Uber.

    If I was that woodpecker I would take that little sucker up to about 1,000 feet and see if he’s still hungry.


  34. Memories of the night at the megachurch where 10 recent immigrants stood at the front of the church and proved that God is good because they had all cashed bonus cheques over $100,000 from real estate and other commission-based jobs.


  35. “Andrew Buckingham: And here I thought I was OLTS’ token neo-puritan.”

    I use to devour Purtian Paperbacks during my undergrad years (thanks John Piper!). Lucky for me, I accidently came across some lectures on Kline’s KP and have never been the same. Unlucky for me, though, my introspective scars remain (I blame Piper and the Puritans).


  36. Michael, my work here is finished for several months, at least. I’m slinking back to the “AB” handle. We should share Owen notes sometime, but I have a TV show that I need to catch up on. The host knows of what I speak, he’s a good guy. Just ask his cats (and hair dresser).



  37. Genesis 18: but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.


  38. Kent, speaking of church anecdotes, a young lady at my friend’s church shared during “community group” that God was “calling” her to marry a rich man. No one there corrected her.


  39. I wonder about that John Owen guy’s mother. He seems a little depressed—

    “Let us carefully remember the faith of them who went before us in the profession of the last age. I am apt to think there was not a more glorious profession for a thousand years upon the face of the earth, than was among the professors of the last age. And pray, what faith were they of.? Were they half Armenian and half Socinian; half Papist and half I know not what? Remember how zealous they were for the truth how little their holy souls would have borne with those public defections from the doctrine of truth which we see, and do not mourn over, but make nothing of, in the days wherein we live. God was with them; and they lived to His glory, and died in peace: “whose faith follow,” and example pursue. And remember the faith they lived and died in: look round about, and see whether any of the new creeds have produced a new holiness to exceed theirs.”



  40. Michael – I use to devour Purtian Paperbacks during my undergrad years (thanks John Piper!). Lucky for me, I accidently came across some lectures on Kline’s KP and have never been the same. Unlucky for me, though, my introspective scars remain (I blame Piper and the Puritans).

    Erik – You got clean without your parents having to hire a deprogrammer to kidnap you and take you to a safe house?



  41. Why not purchase several copies of David Murray’s happy book for your local hospice?

    Mike Horton—–“Jesus wept.” Jesus here overthrows the various pagan conceptions of life and death that are as prevalent in our day: stoicism and sentimentalism. Some influences are more Stoic in orientation. Famous for the stiff upper lip, the ancient Stoics believed that the best people were those who were completely free of emotion. Stirred neither by friendship nor treachery, the Stoic aimed at perfect rest. If one depended on others, he or she would soon be disappointed. In order to avoid disappointment, one should resolve never to develop attachments, except to oneself. Utter freedom from desire would make the soul a fortress against distress. For them, as for Greek thought generally, death was a liberation from the body, which was after all the seat of emotion-that weak part of human nature that would drag the soul down into the messiness of the world. By contrast, Westerners such as myself are often astonished to the point of embarrassment to witness Jews and Palestinians mourning their dead with wails and desperate gestures, but this is the culture from which Jesus came and he was not embarrassed by it.

    Far from resisting emotional expression, sentimentalism celebrates it. Ironically, although sentimentalism seems like the opposite of stoicism, they share some intriguing parallels. They both seem intent on avoiding the messiness of life-particularly, the tragic aspect. They want to ignore the bad news, although their solution is different. While the Stoic realizes that to abandon negative emotions one must banish all emotions, the sentimentalist believes in admitting only the good emotions, always looking on the bright side of life

    Singing the Blues with Jesus, http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=150&var3=main


  42. Then in the 80s all we had were groups like this cashing in on the Ska craze, they were almost as good as The Specials, right?


  43. Forde (On Being a Theologian of the Cross, p 16) : A theology of glory … operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a boost in our desire to do 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 even 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 human will and power (enabled by grace)…

    Augustine—command what you will, give us to do what you command….


  44. “Erik – You got clean without your parents having to hire a deprogrammer to kidnap you and take you to a safe house?”

    My parents are relieved I’ve stopped harping about glory-this and glory-that. But my former friends think I’ve fallen off the wagon.

    Sometimes this:

    “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work” (Chuck Close, painter).

    just makes more sense than this:

    “Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion” (Piper, from Don’t Waste Your Life).


  45. “Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion” (Piper, from Don’t Waste Your Life).

    Yeah yeah !!!! I’ll burn my body I’m so hyped up over this speech!!!

    And then the alarm goes off at 7am and I have to go to work…

    How can we join the two situations without embracing the suck?


  46. Kent – How can we join the two situations without embracing the suck?

    I don’t think we can. Embrace the suck.

    “Life is slow dying” (Philip Larkin).


  47. “Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion” (Piper, from Don’t Waste Your Life).

    My experience is that pastors who have had real life experiences in the 8-5 working world before entering vocational ministry understand how burdensome this type of rhetoric can be on the laity whereas pastors that moved directly from undergrad to seminary to ministry are more apt to not have a clue.


  48. Agreed Michael, but I can accept that those who are still in school and a bit naive can scoff at embracing the suck.


  49. Dunno about the fine folks congregated here at this interweb site, but for me, it comes back to sin:

    So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

    (Genesis 3:6-7 ESV)

    But maybe that’s reductionist. We all welcome the views of others (even that Penelope character, what a hoot!), as always!


  50. mboss – not sure what kind of distinction you are trying to make ? isn’t it the same for all?

    the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love; and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. And in the spirit of this Matt 23 blog post – let (this) love be without hypocrisy; also follow-up to the Eccl. comment-the conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
    Gal 5: 6; Rom 12:9; Heb 11:6; Eccl 12:13


  51. The ideal ministerial background would be 15 years repairing appliances for Sears followed by theological training.

    Everything would be a piece of cake from there.

    Funniest line I ever heard was from a Vietnam vet who once had to hide in a hooker’s closet over there while VC came through the house. Said it was nothing compared to his tenure repairing appliances for Sears.


  52. Mc Mark: are you thinking that Augustine is a “theologian of glory”? It’s not ”give us to do what you command.” It’s simply “give us what you command.”


  53. I am thinking that Augustine conflated justification with a Christian being able to obey God’s commands, and also that he made the water of “the church” (enforced by “the magistrate”) to be instrumental in regeneration. Thus he located glory in sacerdotalism and in the “Christian” sinner. The Roman Catholic system is not simply a product of Augustine’s ecclesiology but also of Augustine’s soteriology.

    The soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is simply wrong if it’s understood to say that Christians now CAN obey the law. It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands us to do. Justified sinners do not keep the law in order to continue to be justified.

    Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law. Those who are not yet saints are commanded to obey the law. Even those who are non-elect are commanded to obey the law. Duty does not depend on ability. Being anti-Pelagian is necessary but not sufficient for telling the truth of the gospel.

    Only in Christ’s satisfaction of the law by Christ’s death will anyone find no condemnation.

    “Command what you will, give what you command”?

    Calvin: “Furthermore, we believe that it is impossible to keep the law of God, but that the law simply reveals our duty; it is for each one to read his condemnation therein.

    Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology, p 754—-The Protestant doctrine calls into question the salvation of millions of Christians throughout history. This group would include, we are informed, such church fathers as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas who as sacerdotalists believed in baptismal regeneration and, because they confused justification and sanctification, believed also in the necessity of deeds of penance for salvation.

    Reymond: This argument however is aimed not so much at Protestantism’s “rigidity” as it is against Paul’s insistence that there is only one gospel, and that any other “gospel” is not the gospel, that those who teach any other “gospel” stand under God’s anathema (Galatians 1:8-9), and that those who rely to any degree on their works for salvation nullify the grace of God (Romans 11:5-6), make void the cross work of Christ (Galatians 2:21, 5:2), and become debtors to keep the entire law and are under the curse of the law.

    Reymond: It is neither my nor their defenders’ place to assure the Christian world that surely God justified them by faith alone even though they themselves did not hold to a faith alone view of justification. I will not speculate but I will say that our attitude should, with Paul, ever be: “Let God’s truth be inviolate, though EVERY man becomes thereby a liar. ” (Romans 3:4) The clear teaching of the Word should be upheld and we should not look for reasons to avoid it, even if the alternative would force us to conclude that these fathers–and all others like them—were not saved.

    mcmark—but wouldn’t that disturb the narrative in which conservative supernaturalists have one “worldview” on this side and on the other side are the Pelagians who don’t take seriously the evil in the world?


  54. McMark: “The soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is simply wrong if it’s understood to say that Christians now CAN obey the law. It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands us to do. Justified sinners do not keep the law in order to continue to be justified.”

    I agree, and am saying this is not A’s position. God doesn’t give us the doing of those things. He gives us those things themselves by imputation. Had A just been saying God gives us the doing of those things, Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum would not have disagreed. That is essentially their position. Grace in their system is necessary for us to fulfill the law. A’s position is that Christ keeps the law in our stead as surrogate, not exemplar.

    As for his sacerdotalism, I need references. He wrote more than 5 million words in his life, and retracted not a few of them. To consider him Protestant is anachronistic. But the truth is complicated. He regretted, for example, summoning the magistrate in the Donatist controversy after the Council of Carthage in 411. He regretted his misinterpretation of Luke’s coge intrare (compel them to come in). In Peter Brown’s biography, the revision, you can read translations of sermons discovered in more recent years. He argued against memorials at tombs of the saints not because of the sexual license that took place there, as had always been thought, but because he considered such veneration idolatrous. The extent of his iconoclasm there and in N. Africa generally is remarkable.

    I don’t know about Reymond. The world before Trent and that after are different. It seems akin to blaming Lactantuis for having a less-than-developed pneumatology before Constantinople (381). As Calvin said in his preface to Francis I: Augustinus totus noster est.


  55. Philip Cary is on Augustine’s side–“it is helpful to recognize the distinctively Calvinist setting of the problem. Other traditions, with other assumptions, end up with different anxieties and a different set of pastoral problems. Catholics, for instance, have traditionally worried about being in a state of mortal sin—a problem addressed by the practice of sacramental confession. And Luther urged people in times of trial and doubt to stay away from all thought of predestination, returning instead to the promise of Christ in their baptism.”

    Cary– “The price for going all the way with Luther is dropping the notion that you can know in advance that your faith will persevere, and joining Luther (as well as Augustine) in believing that salvation is not complete until our faith actually does persevere to the end. What you get, for that price, is the freedom for faith to continue to “look outside itself” at Christ alone and not “back onto itself,” not even for the sake of telling the difference between temporary and saving faith. What you lose is eternal security, the assurance that you are already saved for eternity.”



  56. David,

    Your song this morning that you posted was awesome.

    Grace and peace, you are an OP minister, is what I have gleaned thus far.


  57. David Noe—This is not A’s position. God doesn’t give us the doing of those things. He gives us those things themselves by imputation. Had Augustine just been saying God gives us the doing of those things, Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum would not have disagreed. That is essentially their position. Grace in their system is necessary for us to fulfill the law. A’s position is that Christ keeps the law in our stead as surrogate,

    mark: 1. Pelagius did not think that grace was necessary for humans to do the right thing. Pelagius denied both original guilt and original corruption.
    2. For the idea that Christ’s death satisfied the law for the elect and merited justification for all for whom He died, you need to find some references for that in Augustine. If you can show me where Augustine says that the sins of the elect have been imputed to Christ, please do so.


    Philip Cary—-“To ask about Augustine’s view of justification is already something of an anachronism. To begin with, Augustine does not make a distinction between justification and sanctification. He speaks a great deal about righteousness and holiness but these terms are not related to each other the way the later Protestant tradition relates justification and sanctification….Still less does Augustine distinguish between an event of justification and a process of sanctification. In fact for Augustine justification, so far as he discusses it at all, is not a particular event but the activity of God throughout our lives.”

    mcmark–When Mark Jones and Richard Gaffin warn us of the “not yet aspect” of justification and the necessity of grace enabling our works, they get close to Augustine’s “catholic” view of justification.


  58. “The linking of justification with a one-time event of conversion is often read back into the famous “conversion” narrative in Confessions 8. But Augustine is clear that he already had a personal faith in Christ as savior at that point (Conf. 7:5.7, end, and 7:7.11, beginning). The outcome of this narrative is not faith in Christ, which he already had, but the decision to get baptized, which he had been resisting for many years. And Augustine is abundantly clear that his sins are forgiven and he is born again, not because of the change of heart he narrates in book 8 but because of his baptism, which he narrates in book 9.”

    Philip Cary—https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/st-augustine-on-justification-by-grace/

    John Calvin, Institutes 3:11.15: “Augustine’s view, or at any rate his manner of stating it, we must not entirely accept. For even though he admirably deprives man of all credit for righteousness and transfers it to God’s grace, he still subsumes grace under sanctification, by which we are reborn in newness of life through the Spirit. But Scripture, when it speaks of faith righteousness leads us to something far different: namely, to turn aside from the contemplation of our own works and look solely upon God’s mercy and Christ’s perfection.”

    mcmark–The narrative of conservative good guys against the “other” is the fiction here…along with the silly idea that the antitchrist which never repents is different after Trent.


  59. A bit more from Philip Cary—-Some time in the middle ages the term “justification” came to be used to describe the outcome of sacramental penance (cf. e.g. Aquinas, Summa Theologica III 85.6 ad 3 and I-II 113.1). This means justification is an event that recurs many times in life, beginning with baptism and repeated every time we truly repent of our sins and are forgiven—in contrast to the classic Protestant doctrine of a single event of justification that is closely connected with, if not identical to, a once-in-a-lifetime conversion.

    Luther is with Aquinas on this score. For him justification is the repeated event in which the righteousness of God “is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant” (from his famous sermon “On Two Kinds of Righteousness,” LW 31:297).

    For both Luther and Aquinas, the first time one is justified is in baptism and then all subsequent events of justification are also results of repentance—which for Luther consists of nothing other than a “return to baptism.”

    So when someone asks whether justification is an event or a process, the first thing to notice is what the question implicitly leaves out. Typically the hidden assumption is that “event” means a once-in-a-lifetime conversion, not repeated events of repentance and forgiveness. Indeed, typically the default position is assumed to be that justification is a one-time event, and the person asking the question wants to know whether justification might also involve a process stretching beyond the one-time event.

    So the first thing to say to such a question is that it takes for granted the novel Protestant view that justification is a one-time event, which is not even shared by Luther, much less by Aquinas or Augustine or any previous Christian theologian. Having clarified that point, you can say: yes, justification is an event, but one that happens many times in life, just like Aquinas and Luther teach.



  60. AB, thanks for the kind words of last night.

    Mark, I’m preparing a response. Also, do you regard other experts on Augustine besides Cary? That’s not a facetious or loaded question.


  61. David, Sure thing.

    As for what you guys are discussing, it’s the OPC report on Justificaiton and JV Fesko who I usually turn to in such times (when I’m not at my desk doing my “calling” that is..).

    I’m out.


  62. Back to evangelicals.

    It’s interesting to note that the things that they are rigid on and the things that they are flabby on.

    Our local Baptist megachurch – rigid on sexuality, rigid on male pastors & elders, flabby on Calvinism.

    Basically they want to affirm both election and man has a role in choosing at the same time.


    This is like saying we affirm that homosexuality is wrong and it’s o.k at the same time or affirming that only men should be pastors and having a woman preach a sermon at the same time. It makes no sense.

    What it comes down to is that you need critical mass to make a megachurch work and any divisive doctrine that you can’t build critical mass around is out — Calvinism is divisive and is a minority view in American evangelicalism — so it’s out, but we have enough integrity in interpreting the Bible that we somewhat have to acknowledge it.

    So when American society completely turns against the notion that homosexuality is wrong and that any sort of discrimination against women is wrong and you lose critical mass, even amongst Christians, what then?


  63. Erik,

    Good podcast from rap master T, connection is your point about evangellyfish and babdists.

    only 27 mintues, as opposed to the drunks (that was over 100 this time, ouch, although Kenneth Winsmann is discussed in the last 5 or 10 minutes, if you want to hear what Jason and Christian have to say).

    I’m out.


  64. AB – if you want to hear what Jason and Christian have to say

    Erik – I want to hear what Jason & Christian have to say about Kenneth about as much as I want to go take a naked plunge in the detention pond next door right now.

    It’s March in Iowa. I don’t.


  65. Erik, then we are united.

    I won’t be listening next week. That stuff is brutal, man.

    NOW i’m done. Peace.


  66. Alister McGrath—“The medieval theological tradition was unanimous in its understanding of justification as both an act and a process, by which both the status of humans coram Deo and their essential nature underwent alteration. Although Luther regarded justification as an essentially unitary process, he nevertheless introduced a decisive break with the western theological tradition as a whole by insisting that, through their justification, humans are intrinsically sinful yet extrinsically righteous. … The significance of the Protestant distinction between iustificatio and regeneratio is that a fundamental intellectual discontinuity has been introduced into the western theological tradition through the recognition of a difference, where none had previously been acknowledged to exist. … Despite the astonishing theological diversity of the late medieval period, a consensus relating to the nature of justification was maintained throughout. The Protestant understanding of the nature of justification thus represents a theological novum, whereas its understanding of its mode does not. (Iustita Dei, 3rd ed., pp. 213, 215)

    mcmark—It sounds so cool to say that “the church” cannot stand without the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But the coolness fades when we claim continuity with a church “catholic” in which there was no such doctrine. Maybe some of those anabaptists Zwingli killed had begun to believe in “faith alone” in the external righteousness of Christ alone —before they got killed. But I see no evidence of that fact.

    I see some evidence that those anabaptist martyrs were not like those at Munster and Geneva who ruled religious dissent as “civil crime” and killed heretics. But I don’t see that they ever believed in justification by faith alone in Christ’s death for imputed sins. And I don’t see that gospel taught in Augustine either (or in the Donatists he had killed)

    If we need a gospel which avoids calling into question the Christianity of the wrong people, maybe we better stick to the Trinity, and to water in the name of the Trinity.


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