Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Christ have Mercy 6

Let's go with the full title of the book:  "Christ have Mercy.  How to Put Your Faith in Action".

Now that I've typed it, I notice is says "in Action" not "into Action".  That could mean several things.  One that faith is not something that we "try" to put "into" action, but it is faith that is ready to propel action, just like "splanchnon" causes action.  Or else it could mean that  our systematic theology will also have something to do with action.

We have had several caveats in laying the groundwork for this theology.  One was that we are not prescribing an ethic, another that the action should be supplied in conjunction with the local congregation and its proper Gospel ministry of word and sacrament.  The example was the Lutheran congregation in Othoro, where the housemother and the pastor care for the orphans who also belong to the church.

In chapter 4, we have other caveats.  The chapter is entitled:  "The Heart of Mercy's Heart. Justification."  Two quotes set the theme.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing;  it is the gift of God.... For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.  Ephesians 2, 8-9.

You are white as snow [Isa. 1:18], pure from all sins.  But you must wear this red dress and color now, and remember to love your neighbor.  Moreover it should be a fervent love, not a pale red love.... For this is the way sins are covered, even a multitude, a heap, a sea, a forest of sins.  Martin Luther. (p.51)

What will be discussed is that  we are not on one hand denying anything of the historic Christian faith and its heart of actual justification through Christ, who actually is faithfully witnessed to by scripture and its eye-witnesses.  On the contrary, this justification by God's grace and "mercy" is via the "faith" that puts itself into action.  This justification is the heart of the heart.

In the beginning of the chapter we get a run down of what "enlightenment", "modernism" and "post-modernism" has done with our faith by trying to divorce it from history, and making it a mere "mythology".

We know a good deal of this sad story and I have recently had a conversation with someone from the "United Church of Canada", who could not say anything about faith and religion without using the word "myth".   He liked the "god-myth" of the Christian story, the best, but now he is trying other ones.  Blabla.  All the United Church people talk something like this:  the Bible is not reliable, the Bible is not reliable.  It is like a mantra throughout all the ranks.

Matt Harrison has this little illustration on page 51.

"And I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was
not conceived by the Holy Spirit,
not born of the virgin Mary,
probably suffered under Pontius Pilate,
perhaps was crucified, died and buried,
but certainly did not descend into hell,
did not rise again on the third day,
did not ascend into heaven, and
will by no means come again to judge the living and the dead." (p. 51)

If it were not a travesty, it would be quite funny.

And another very sad one:

Deconstructionists pull trigger after trigger in a game of Russian roulette with Western Christian culture. (p.53)

Anyhow, we are not like this.  We believe what we confess as a Church, and justification is at the heart of everything.  Social gospel is not enough; deconstruction is hugely damaging; we're not about ethics.

From then on we get into subheadings:  "Can justification mean anything today" and "the universal need for self-justification."  and "by grace for Christ's sake through faith".

I don't have anything underlined there, yet.  So I'll quit for now.

I'll just say, in terms of this deconstruction and the other threats from Islam, etc, which are mentioned, I think one way to put your faith in action is to say something about all this.  Luther describes good works in quite a wide way;  he includes things like admonishing, teaching, praying, etc. (though this is not "action" per se.)  I think those of us who spend time thinking of an apologetic for a historic faith and engaging in conversation are also doing good work.  There is really no dichotomy between all these things.  The historic faith is to be preached, also defended in the trenches, and received and lived in mercy.  This all goes hand in hand and that's what's being said.

Once, I attended a talk by the well known apologist Scott Klusendorff.  He bemoaned the fact that Christians don't think enough.  "Why are we sending Christian kids to build houses in Mexico?  They should learn how to think and argue the faith, pro-life stance, defend the unborn, the elderly in the public sphere, media, etc."

Well, yes, we are not the most intellectual society these days.  We can use good Christian apologetics.  But we noticed already that a merciful act requires only that you know God's mercy and you can pass on the love of Jesus in very simple, humble and not necessarily intellectual ways.  This is good.  We all have something to do and everyone has different roles in the same mission.  That really is one of the beauties of it.

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