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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolation of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be in itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of the sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone", goes the hymn. The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners, "even in the best life" as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world's standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin - that was the heresy of the enthusiasts, the Anabaptists and their kind. Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavoring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ! The world has been justified by grace - the Christian knows that, and takes it seriously. He knows he must not strive against this indispensable grace.

Therefore - let him live like the rest of the world! Of course he would like to go and do something extraordinary, and it does demand a good deal of self-restraint to refrain from the attempt and content himself to living as the world lives. Yet it is imperative for the Christian to achieve renunciation, to practice self-effacement, to distinguish his life from the life of the world. He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world's faith in the free gift of grace. Let the Christian rest content with his worldliness and with this renunciation of any higher standard than the world. He is doing it for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace - for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace that amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin; cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God so much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

To be continued...


Such was the cry of my two-year-old upon exiting his room Christmas morning and seeing the gifts beneath the tree for the first time. He doesn't get how they appeared, but he knows that opening them is fun!

His favorite gifts were a counting toy, (like this, but not in pastels), and one of our older boy's toys that he received about 7 years ago - a matchbox car garage too simple to find a similar picture these days. He puts each car on the top level and watches them roll down to the bottom with great delight. If you want to find some more joy in Christmas, get a two-year-old.

Hammertime received some great reading: Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Bonhoeffer, Nettles, and a new release this year, Total Truth.

I am alreadly 1/4 of the way through Nettles' book, and plan on ordering his "Ready for Reformation" after I've read the ones in the docket.

Books rock. My two-year old agrees, as he had one of us read to him for 70% of his waking hours on Monday. His interests are more of the Max the Bunny or Elmo type.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Talk Worth Hearing

I've wanted for a while to make a plug for the talk radio hosts I listen to.

I used to be a Rush/Hannity kind of guy. I still consider them to be two of the very bet in the business, but they are the two most popular shows because they aim first to entertain, and relate to listeners as if their desire is to be entertained first, educated second. I also think that they have been doing it for so long that they expect fight, and sometimes start one with a caller who is on their side!

I have found, as a guy who thinks himself a thinker, that I like ot be treated as such by the shows I listen to. Thus, an entertainer is often not what I want to spend my time listening to. There are two shows beside these two that are good at entertainment, though - Laura Ingraham and Michael Medved. Ingraham (pronounced Ingram) is much more of a satrist than other hosts, and focuses almost exclusively upon politics. She also allows the least time to callers. Medved entertains by spending most of his time crushing counter-argument. He asks almost exclusively for callers who disagree with him, and he is an excellent argument presenter, who does not allow his ooponent to proceed in an argument when a faulty premise is presented.

However, my two favorite hosts are Bill Bennett and Dennis Prager. Bennett I have mentioned before - he is always respectful, courteous, and seems as if he really is interested when his caller veers off into a description of a casserole. However, it is Prager that I enjoy the most. Bennett isn't much of an argument guy, but Prager seems to be the best in the business at dissecting liberal claptrap. He maintains Bennett's demeanor and avoids the shrill vein that can erupt in the other four. Furthermore, he talk about the broadest range of issues of any of them - he's not just a politics guy.

If you have never read or listened to Dennis Prager, I highly recommend it. You can listen online from 12-2pm Eastern here. His website also has links to many of the columns he has written, and his writing is as smart as his show. Check it out!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Total Depravity

***Warning! Clear allusion to adult language follows***

I was trying to figure out what to write about next: The Call of Duty in men, some praise for my favorite radio talk show hosts, a discourse on the differences between Mormon and orthodox Christian beliefs, or a celebration of the Iraqi election. Instead, Mrs. Hammer walked into the office with the subject for today:

A friend of ours has children in public school in Bardstown, KY. A 3rd grade child in that school has checked out a book called, "America".

This book is recommended for school libraries by the American Library Association, which names the book as a "Best Book for Young Adults" and has it on its "Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers" list. The book is also a "New York Times Notable Book" and a School Library Journal "Best Book".

The book has been rated by the Accelerated Reader program on the list of books that should be used for reading comprehension tests. The number of points a student can score for reading this book is 70 points.The readability level is 3.6 - which indicates it is rated at a third-grade reading level.

All of these seem to indicate that there should not be an issue with this book being checked out from the Bardstown Elementary School library by a third-grader...until you consider that the book is also rated as "UG" for Upper Grade (high school) interest level. The following details explain some of why we should be very angry that school librarians have placed this book in the hands of a third grader:

"I have to keep count of s***." pg 192

"She presses up against me, and she has ti** now, and they're soft. She lets me put my hands on them, and it feels good." pg 192

"I hate you, motherf*****, I hate you." pg 198

"she lets me get in her pants, and she's got a d***, and at first it's cool, it's normal, and it's hot" pg 193

"when I get my hands in her pants, there's no d***, either." pg 220

"The way this little guy says f*** off" pg 230

"sometimes we end up not being s*** at the fountain at five o'clock in the f****** A.M." pg 193.

Consider this: This book was ordered by an elementary school librarian for an elementary school library, had the reading level and interest level sticker placed in it and/or noted by an elementary school librarian, and checked out to a third grader by an elementary school librarian.

Writing books like this is part of the downside of freedom, and thus I support the right of the author to write it, the company to print it, and distributors to sell it. However, there is no excuse for it to be in an elementary school library.

I'm going to write a couple of bloggers and talk-show hosts about this. I recommend that you check your own school library for this book. Make this reason #42 that I work my tail off so that my kids do not go to public schools.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Catching Up

I acknowledge the following responsibilities, which are ones I relish, not dread, that I have yet to take care of:

Answering all of the below on their blogs or in email. Teresa, I haven't commented but am praying for your family.

Following up on my Catholicism post.

Changing the blog header. Notes from the CPF still read, "Hey, Yu-gi-oh!"

I don't blog on weekends, and the Missus just called, so I'm off to the house. I'll hop on them Monday!


Group Blog Idea

I am interested in starting a group blog with the regular visitors here, primarily concerned with faith.

There are three reasons I am proposing this:

1) I have a diversity of faith traditions that read and comment here. Most, if not all , of them, are smarter than I am. Everyone can benefit from greater understanding of our faith.

2) A group blog with these subscribers is an open forum in which others not in the group would feel free to comment. Team Hammer is a fairly right-wing, evangelical site, and while I think I do well at keeping the discourse free and open, some may not feel comfortable contributing in this environment.

3) I have become notoriously unrelable in posting and responding to comments. A group blog would allow maximum opportunity for visitors to get answers to their questions or field us with ideas.

I would like to invite the following bloggers (I have put their faith tradition - as perceived by me - next to them to show the diversity we have):

UK John (Anglican, Citizen of the British Empire)
CPF John (Roman Catholic, Member of the Fighting Irish Nation)
David (PC USA w/RC background, Contrarian)
Teresa (Emergent Church)
Mark (Agnostic, Physicist)
TF & Mrs. TF (LDS, Former Orthodox Christian)
Robert (Christian Libertarian)

Let me know what you think!