The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more…]

Pope Francis on intercommunion with Lutherans

Pope Francis met with a congregation of Lutherans in Rome, giving them a chalice and kind words.  Then a woman asked when she might be able to share Holy Communion with her Catholic husband.  Read what the Pope said after the jump. [Read more…]

“Conscience,” “calling,” and the new pastoral counseling

More from Terry Mattingly’s column about the new Protestant-like role of “conscience” in liberal Catholicism:   He quotes Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago, on how he counsels the divorced and remarried, gays, and others in what the Church officially considers to be a sinful lifestyle. [Read more…]

The Communion of the Saints

The body consists of innumerable cells.  Each of these has its own distinct life–its own systems of nutrition, reproduction, and protection–and yet these cells group together to form highly specialized organs that, in turn, make up a single body.  The whole scheme, with its incredibly complex relationship of the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, is astonishing to contemplate.  And the makeup of the body is the Bible’s explanation for the Church and for the relationship each Christian has with the others. This is the “Communion of the Saints” that we celebrated yesterday on All Saints Day. [Read more…]

The Reformation of the church

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences.  I keep reading online about how tragic the Reformation was, how unneeded it is now, and how it’s wrong to celebrate the breaking up of the church.

But does anyone think that the medieval church did not need to be reformed?  Can anyone say that the sale of indulgences was a good thing?  Can anyone defend the corruption of the Renaissance popes–their selling of church offices, their bribes, their mistresses, their illegitimate children whom they made cardinals, their inquisitions, their wars?  The great medieval authors–Dante, Chaucer, Langland, and many others–all criticized these abuses in the church.

Even the Roman Catholic Church came to admit these evils.  Luther’s Reformation provoked the Counter-Reformation, which finally the moral and financial corruption.  It also set in stone some theological issues that were not all that clear when Luther first proposed his reforms.  [Read more…]

God always begins with NOTHING

“It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing; hence one who is not yet nothing, out of him God cannot make anything. . . .Therefore God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise.  In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace.”

–Martin Luther, “Commentary on Psalm 38,” Luther’s Works 14:163. [Read more…]