Self-Justification October 12, 2022



vs Justification-by-Faith

Resources: Books, Articles, Posts, Videos

with Ted Peters

Our topic is self-justification coupled with scapegoating. This is the answer. What’s the question?

Why is it that human sin is so confounding, so difficult to grasp? The answer: because we lie to ourselves.

Book: “Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society.” To buy, just click.

What makes sin so ungodly is that we daily draw a line between good and evil. In our imaginations, we place ourselves on the good side of the line. I call this, self-justification. We justify ourselves in our imaginations.

Whom do we place on the other side of that line? I refer to him, her, or they as the scapegoat. We scapegoat others in order to justify ourselves. This is a lie, to be sure. But, it’s an everyday lie. It’s so normal that we hardly even recognize the everyday practice of self-deception.

Self-Justification in Adam and Eve

In the case of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3, our first ancestors scapegoated God. They drew a line between good and evil. They placed themselves on the good side. And, eventually, they placed God on the evil side. Adam and Eve set the model we all imitate. Atheism today typically glorifies the atheist and denigrates the divine scapegoat. Poor God.

In the wake of Adam and Eve

Believers as well as unbelievers scapegoat God. The gospel tells us that God accepts being placed on the evil side of the lines we draw. God became present when Jesus Christ on the cross became the scapegoat for the self-justifying crucifiers. God works for our salvation not from the good side of the line, but rather from the evil side where we place everyone other than ourselves.

Lutherans and other Reformation Christians emphasize that we are justified by God’s grace through our faith. The problem that God’s grace must overcome is our resistance. We resist, because we are perpetually trying to justify ourselves. Can God’s grace penetrate our resistance?

Below is a list of articles and resources to expand on loci such as sin, evil, self-justification, scapegoating, and worse.

Here’s a video on theological anthropology.

Unbecoming Evil

Here’s a bunch of articles pertinent to self-justification vs justification-by-faith.

The Spirituality of Justification

The Resistance of Self-Justification to God’s Grace (Inaugural Mannermaa Lecture)

Justice, Justification, and Self-Justification

Covenant, Blood, and Violence: America at War with Itself and Others

Entheocaric Freedom: Clarifying Confusions

Grace, Doubt, and Evil: The Constructive Task of Reformation Theology

Here’s an 8 part series of posts on Sin.

SIN 1 Sin? Really?

SIN 2 Self-Justification

SIN 3 The Visible Scapegoat

SIN 4 The Invisible Scapegoat

If you would like more about this book, just click.

SIN 5 Sin Boldly!

SIN 6 Sin and Grace

SIN 7 The true story of Satanic Panic

SIN 8 How can Satan cast out Satan?

SIN 9 Ted’s Tips on Satan and Demons

Here’s an 7 part series of posts on Atonement: How does Jesus Save?

How does Jesus save? Part One

How does Jesus save? Part Two Teacher & Moral Influence

How does Jesus save? Part Three Christus Victor

How does Jesus save? Part Four Satisfaction

How does Jesus save? Part Five Penal Substitution

How does Jesus save? Part Six Happy Exchange

How does Jesus save? Part Seven: Final Scapegoat

Six Ways of Salvation: How Does Jesus Save?

Forthcoming: a 3 part series of posts on Resentment & Compassion



About Ted Peters
▓ Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor, teaching theology and ethics. He is author of Short Prayers and The Cosmic Self. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). His book, God in Cosmic History, traces the rise of the Axial religions 2500 years ago. He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Christian Public Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: Ted Peters’ fictional series of espionage thrillers features Leona Foxx, a hybrid woman who is both a spy and a parish pastor. You can read more about the author here.

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