Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Textbooks, Theology, and the Last Days of Summer

Mia and I hung out together on the front porch for a while this afternoon. Quiet. Warm. Peaceful. I was reading a textbook. She asked me to read it out loud. So we learned about tissue damage and healing and the possible negative systemic effects of different types of burns. And we played with play mobile.  

I can get so sidetracked on the internet reading theology blogs. This is my recent favorite. Here's a part of Tullian's recent interview with Mike Horton that pushes me to think. In my next life I want to come back as a theologian. This stuff is so cool. (Did you get it? The joke about reincarnation and being a theologian? It really was just a joke.)

Law is everything in the Scriptures that commands and gospel is everything in the Scriptures that promises God’s favor in Christ. If we confuse these, we’ll weaken the law, lowering the bar to something that we can (or think we can) actually clear, and we’ll make the gospel anything but good news.
The Triune God directs us by his law, but delivers us by his gospel. This distinction was not only crucial to Luther and Lutheranism but to Calvin and Calvinism. The gospel is never an exhortation for us to do something, but an announcement of something that God has done for us.  We are called to obey the gospel—that is, to embrace it, but the gospel itself is the good news about what God has done for us in Christ.  Beza said that “confusion of law and gospel is one of the principal sources of the corruptions in the church.”  Ursinus, primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, said the same. So did the great Elizabethan Puritan William Perkins, as well as John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and Charles Hodge.  On and on we could go. So when some say that that this is merely a Lutheran distinctive, it is ill-informed. It’s routine in our standard theological works and, as I said, it’s woven deeply throughout our whole Reformed system in the covenant of works-grace scheme.
It’s easy to see when law and gospel are being confused when Rome says, “Do penance and you will be saved,” or Charles Finney says, “Perfect obedience to the law is the necessary condition of present justification.”  It’s more difficult to recognize that the gentle, affirming, smiling stream of exhortations and life coaching in our day is also a form of law (not necessarily biblical) that is often presented as if it were the gospel.

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