Gratitude and Motivation

The good (loaded term?) folks over at Gospel Reformation Network state the following:

We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.

I am not sure how many critics of neonomianism or flattening insist that gratitude is the exclusive motivation for good works. But if you think about better and worse ways to seek holiness, why do you have to warn about gratitude?

For instance, if you sought to follow a program of good works according to the Confession of Faith (16.2), would you be in danger of becoming self-righteous?

These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

If I set out to prove (we are in the realm of evidence here — is this a courtroom, a science lab?) that my faith is alive by doing good works, don’t I wind up drawing attention to me, myself, and I? I am not saying that this is what the Confession is teaching. This paragraph is not necessarily prescribing motives for godly living. It is describing the reality of good works and how to understand them in relation to affirmations about justification by faith alone. But if you were to look at this paragraph for a motivation for sanctification, it could certainly lead to the kind of Protestant work ethic that Max Weber made famous: Protestants do good works to prove that they are elect, as if Protestants don’t already have assurance of salvation from resting in the righteousness of Christ.

What then is the problem with describing the Christian life, as Heidelberg (86) does, as one of thankfulness?

Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

It seems to (all about) me that whenever I say thank you for a gift, a serving of a meal, a gesture of kindness, or a routine act of service (even one for which I am paying), I take on a spirit of humility. By saying thanks, I am recognizing that someone has helped me, that I am in debt to someone, and that I need assistance. That sounds like a pretty good way to pursue holiness. Conversely, if I am trying to prove my goodness, do I say thank you to the waiter, Comcast serviceman, or bank teller? If I am trying to show evidence of righteousness, don’t I have less of a reason to say “thanks”?

Inquiring minds want the Obedience Boys to think this one through.

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(All about) My Sanctity

What if I wrote a post or two about my good works? Say I commented on a trip from Hillsdale to Ann Arbor in which I slowed down to allow a slow truck to merge on to I-94 in front of me instead of gunning it to pass on the right a car in the middle lane that happened to be annoying me (but less than the driver stuck obliviously in the passing lane)? Would that count as a sign of sanctification?

What if I blogged about the check I wrote yesterday and placed in the offering? If I happened to note that I might have been able to buy a new set of golf clubs with that money but instead decided to support the ministry of the word in the local church, would I get credit for holiness with those folks who like to observe how much they love the law?

Or what if I posted something on the hospitality my wife and I extended to an OPC family who dropped their son off for the fall semester? Would this gain me credit in the sanctification spread sheet?

Or perhaps, could it be that talking out loud about our good works is a tad unbecoming and may be an indication of not making great strides in the pursuit of holiness?

So then if I write a lot about sanctification instead of my good works does that make my reflections about me any better? Or would I be open, like the fellow who talks a lot about how to have a godly marriage even while constantly belittling his wife, to the potential challenge of hypocrisy? After all, just because I blog about the importance of sanctification doesn’t mean that I am any more sanctified than the next blogger. Nor does my pointing out the import of sanctification come any closer to helping me myself to be holy.

In which case, are some subjects better left unmentioned given the distance between the topic that the person mentioning it?