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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Subverting people’s need to constantly justify themselves

In the discussion of Michael Lockwood’s new book The Unholy Trinity:  Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I, the author himself joined in.  He explained what he was getting at in his book in words that demonstrate what I said about his insights.

In case you don’t read the comments, I didn’t want you to miss what he said about the way people today try to evade God’s Law in a futile attempt to justify themselves.  As opposed to being justified by Christ.  Read what he says after the jump. Then buy this book. [Read more…]

The Pope’s preacher says Luther was right

British religion reporter Christopher Howse tells about a sermon from Pope Benedict XVI ‘s preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa, that basically concedes that Luther was right on justification.  Well, sort of.

This was in the context of the Joint Declaration on Justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.  We confessional Lutherans deny that this accord was a true agreement, but this sermon–published in the book Remember Jesus Christ–faults Catholics for neglecting justification.  Howse’s discussion, however, also shows the differences that remain.

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Note on the “justifying” series

I’ve been doing a series of posts about what I am getting from a book I am reading:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. (For earlier posts on the subject, see this and this. and this.)  He makes the point that the term “justification” is not just a theological term.  Rather, it is a word and a concept that we use all the time, and that, in fact, is a major preoccupation, going deep into the human psychology:  We keep being accused and condemned,  so we continually have to “justify” ourselves, proving that we are right, insisting how good we are, getting defensive, accusing and condemning our critics in retaliation.  We want approval.  We want to be accepted.  We want to be considered good, including when we aren’t.

I think the comments have showed some misunderstanding.  I wanted to draw your attention to a comment I just made to that first post:  “It isn’t that this is a bad thing. We HAVE to do it, given who and what we are. The point is that this necessity of justifying points to our underlying need for what Christ does: Justify us freely.” [Read more…]

From justifying God to justifying existence

More (see my last post on the subject) from Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. . .

Not only are we always judging, condemning/justifying ourselves and each other, we also judge, condemn/justify God.  Bayer has some interesting reflections on “theodicy,” the question of how or why God allows evil,  drawing on sources that I wasn’t familiar with.  But what most struck me was Bayer’s observation that when the idea of God fades away in some people’s minds, the problem of theodicy remains.  He describes a “secular theodicy.”  No longer, “why does God allow evil and suffering,” but “why does existence allow evil and suffering.”  In many ways, that latter question is harder to answer.  I am seeing that this is why so many people today believe that life is meaningless, absurd, pointless, and (in a tragic number of cases) not worth living.

I’m thinking that, as I read on, Bayer will show that justification by Christ on the Cross justifies God (in this sense) and justifies existence itself.

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Justifying ourselves

I am reading a book that is blowing me away:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer, the contemporary German theologian who is sort of the Lutheran answer to radical orthodoxy.  Instead of reading it all, then writing a formal review, I am so excited by this book that I thought I would write posts about what I am finding so interesting as I am reading through it.

Bayer begins by showing that the concept of “justification” is not an arcane theological concept.  Rather, it’s something we are preoccupied with all the time.  We are always engaged in trying to justify ourselves.  We are always maintaining that we are right, particularly when other people say that we are wrong.  At work, in our casual conversations, in our relationships with others, we are always defending ourselves, making excuses, scoring points, and seeking approval.  I mean, you see it in the comments on this and other blogs. [Read more…]