Living under the law

3619878820_a375c3f2ca_mMore from David Zahl., who distinguishes between the big-L “Law” (of God) and the little-l “law” that people today try, futilely, to live by. . . .

The latter too is a sign of how people today are obsessed with justifying themselves, even though they can’t.   We need to point them to the justification they can have, freely, through Christ.

I would add that those of us who have that justification should remember it more and should apply it when we ourselves fall into these syndromes of perfectionism and the busyness that Zahl analyzes.

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Justification and contemporary culture

15692653361_7e7cf1101b_zLuther-influenced Anglican David Zahl has a brilliant article in the latest Christianity Today about Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel and his understanding of justification by faith.  These teachings, Zahl shows, go to the very heart of what people are most struggling with today in contemporary culture:  perfectionism, the need for approval, and the futility of self-justification.

These are all symptoms of living under the law–if not God’s law, the other laws that we try to replace it with–and the new high-tech information environment only makes the symptoms worse.  (Zahl quotes a friend saying, “The internet is like the real world, only with all the forgiveness vacuumed out.”)

Luther’s breakthrough, that we do not have to justify ourselves–that is, attain perfection, or try to convince ourselves and other people that we are right and good–but that Christ justifies us, is as liberating today as it was 500 years ago.

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Spiritual anguish

grief-927099_640Contrary to the “prosperity gospel” and other theologies of glory, negative experiences can also have a positive spiritual significance.  Many of us go through depression, blue moods, black moods, and other sufferings, whether physical or emotional.  These are not signs that you have lost your faith or that God has abandoned you.

Luther, who knew these states of mind well, considered them important for the Christian life.  In fact, he considered them necessary for anyone who presumed to be a theologian, the three attributes for that office being meditation, prayer, and tentatio–struggle, trial, assault–the closest he could come in Latin to the untranslatable German word Anfechtung.

In looking for a good description of Anfechtung for that Bach post I wrote recently, I came across “A Primer on Anfechtung” by LCMS pastor Paul R. Harris.  It’s worth looking at for its own sake and for what it discloses about a state of anguish that can seem devastating–especially since Christians seldom talk about it today–but which can draw us closer to Christ. [Read more…]

Simulated relationships 

11103892_f57d05a21e_oWhy do we often take celebrity deaths so hard?  According to Rev. Travis Berg, citing various experts, it’s because we form “simulated relationships.”  Our impulse to form friendships is displaced onto people we don’t really know, except from the characters they play or their personalities projected by the media.

In our high-tech, low-interaction culture, those kinds of “para-social relationships” are all some people have!  In contrast, God wants us to love actual people and to be part of actual communities in the family, church, and society. [Read more…]

Our attention span drops to below that of a goldfish

goldfish-bowl-clipart-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-7ooBw5-clipartAmericans have a very high literacy rate.  The problem is, though people can read, many of them don’t read.  At least not anything longer than a tweet or a blog post.  One-quarter of Americans haven’t read a single book all year.  That can be said of  one-third of American men.

One problem, reports Eric Metaxas, is that our attention span keeps dropping.  In the year 2000, our average attention span was an already unimpressive 12 seconds.  Now it’s 8 seconds.  One journalist observed that this is less than that of a goldfish. [Read more…]

Now that men can become pregnant. . .

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain2Now that gender has been disassociated from biology and is a matter of personal self-identification, a man can become pregnant.  (That is, someone born with female organs but who self-identifies as a man has to be considered as a man.  If “he” hasn’t had sex-reassignment surgery and has sex with a biological man–I suppose we would have to call “him” gay–then “he” could have a baby.)

Carl Trueman studies a military manual instructing officers how to handle transgender issues, including a male soldier who gets pregnant.

So the body is thought to have nothing to do with gender, with sex, with parenting, with personal identity.  Now Gnosticism has become our new civil religion.

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