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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Grace V - The Future of the Church

We Christians today, and especially evangelical Protestants, have gathered like vulture around the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ. It is true that we have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honors unparalleled in Christendom, and in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself. Everywhere we have repeated the formula of the Reformation, but we have allowed its truth to be perverted into self-deception. So long as our Church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there will be no doubt that she is a justified we thought, thinking we must vindicate our Protestant heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms. To be evangelicals must mean that we leave the following of Christ to legalists, Calvinists and enthusiasts - and all this for the sake of grace. We justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to actually follow Christ. The result was the Christianization of an empire (British) and a nation (U.S.), but at the price of true discipleship. The price they were called upon to pay was all too cheap. Cheap grace had won the day.

But do we not realize that this cheap grace has turned back upon us like a boomerang? The price we are paying today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole culture unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace - but the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard. What had happened to all the warnings of the Reformers against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? This poisoning of grace may have been worse than the embrace of Christianity by Constantine's empire. Cheap grace has turned out to be utterly merciless to our evangelical Church.

Indeed, it has been no less merciless to us as individuals in our spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow him, and had at this command even taken the first few steps along the path of discipleship in the discipline of obedience, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace. Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, and seduce us to the mediocre level of the world, quenching the joy of discipleship by telling us that we were following a path of our own choosing, that we were spending our strength and disciplining ourselves in vain - all of which was not merely useless, but extremely dangerous! After all, we were told, our salvation had already been accomplished by the grace of God.

While the word is true in itself, the message attached to it mercilessly extinguished the smoking flax. It was unkind to speak to men like this, for such a cheap offer could only leave them bewildered and tempt them from the way in which they had been called by Christ. Having laid hold upon cheap grace, they were barred from the knowledge of costly grace. Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace - whereas they had lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.

Christendom is populated with many who are troubled by this problem, that for them the word of grace has been emptied of all its meaning. This message must be spoken to all for the sake of truth, for those among us confess that through cheap grace they have lost the following of Christ, and further, with the following of Christ, have lost the understanding of costly grace. We must help our brethren understand that we as a Church no longer stand in the path of true discipleship. We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned (at least, in its freedom), we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord. This must be attended to, and the issue can no longer be evaded. We must answer the question: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?

Happy are those who have reached the end of this road, and who are astonished to discover the by no means self-evident truth that grace is costly just because it is the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Happy are the simple followers of Jesus who have been overcome by his grace and are able to sing the praises of the all-sufficient grace of Christ with humbleness of heart. Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world. Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy.

Let us bring this word to all.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Theology Matters

A number of my blog friends find theology - doctrinal discourse and the testing of ideas of faith - unimportant. Not unimportant in the sense of an utter waste of time, but unimportant compared to other things of faith - works of mercy, spirituality, church polity, unity, tolerance, etc. However, I have discovered an idea that I felt needed to be presented.

All theology is also spirituality, in the sense that it has an influence, good or bad, positive or negative, on its recipients' relationship or lack of relationship to God. If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride.

It is far from useless. Those who find it such have deceived themselves, and are likely listening to bad theology already. Those who theologize in public, whether formally in the pulpit, podium, or in print, or informally from the armchair, must think hard about the effects those thoughts will have on people - God's people and other people.

It is because I recognize the link between theology and spirituality - and indeed, the rest of life - that I spend much more time composing, checking, and praying over my theological posts. It means something like the current Grace series (which I merely need to finish typing) takes a while. However, it also means that I am certain I have not dispensed a product that will pollute the spiritual waters of truth.

I trust you all would do the same. Sometimes, though, I think we are far more likely to type now and pray, check, and even think, later.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Rise of Anti-Religious Hysteria

I stumbled upon this excellent essay on the intolerance of those who claim to be the most tolerant, and how this intolerance is, um, tolerated. It's worth at least a cursory look.

via UK John.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Theology of Toddlers

Case 1: I smelled a messy diaper as my toddler ran by the other day. I said to him, "Corin, are you poopy?" He looked me straight in the face and said, "No."

Case 2: I spot Corin running from the bedroom with an eyeliner pencil in his hand. I stop him and say, "What is that in your hand?" He responds by hiding it behind his back and acting like he has no idea what I am saying.

After Case 2, I ask Mrs. Hammer, "He lies and steals! Where did he learn that?!"

She replies, "He learned it from Adam."

I look at her quizzically, rushing through all of his little friends in my head, none of whom are named Adam. "Who?"

She answers, "It's called sin, honey."

Add "theologically solid" to the list of Mrs. Hammer's admirable qualities of intelligence, charm, wit, beauty, grace, a heart for others, and a heart for God. John Piper has nothing on her!

Toddler Theology

I am ever thankful that, despite my stupid schedule, I am able to sit down with the entire family every night for a dinner with us all together. We can and do talk about all sorts of things - tempered, of course, by screaming from the under three-years-old crowd and some barking.

So, we're sitting at the dinner table one night, and I notice my older boy (11) picking his nose. Like any Dad, I hassle him for it. Then I immediately view our two-year-old, Corin, doing the same.

I say, "Some little brothers learn to play football from their older brother. Others learn math. Some learn to build models."

I continue, "What does Corin learn from his big brother? To pick his nose."

Corin immediately pipes in:



Sunday, January 15, 2006

Duty. Honor. Country.

In a previous post, I mentioned the call of my heart and soul to duty, even when the cause seems lost, mentioning some things that made me think of it.

Teresa expressed a sense of frustration at it. She put it clearly, and it read as such:

"Anyway, it does move me but not in that way. It does however make me angry. I understand the way you feel, but I see it from a different perspective. My husband is a cop and a marine. When you are a wifeand have 4 children--valor is not a reason to die. I just don't see a reason to die FOR nothing. If there is a reason, that is different. To save the life of another...but it still chokes me why a person in charge of their family would want to sacrifice himself and hurt them. I just have a real problem there. My husband told me recently that he had the oportunity to go to Iraq recently and train the Iraqi police. He had "planned" to go. But he was disqualifed because of his back. I did not speak to him for weeks. Another: his friend was killed in the line of duty, just minutes after he left shift--in fact the deputy who was killed even took his gun. I know that someone has to do the job--but, now I'm going to cry."

I promised an answer to Teresa, but have strained to find the words. Now I have them, words that (a portion) were burned into my mind for eternity 15 years ago, that I can recite to this day. It's a long answer - but worth the time of most.


Duty. Honor. Country.

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.
They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.
However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.
Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.
I bid you farewell.

-General Douglas MacArthur's Final Speech to the United States Military Academy Corps of Cadets, May 12, 1962


I watched High Noon with my son last night. Kane exemplifies Duty, Honor, Country. When no one else would stand with him, when his wife sought to save him, with a town that abandoned him, and friends that proved to be anything but, he stood when no one else would stand, when no one else would even say he had to stand, in a cause that seemed lost and would not even benefit him personally. Why? Duty. Honor. Country.

Women are not given a sense of duty in this fashion. They have a more practical duty, which preserves our families and to a large degree, our civilizations. Otherwise, the men of honor in our societies would be throwing themselves upon the dragons of evil, leaving no one left to fight. Indeed, few men are given this sense of duty.

As MacArthur said, much more eloquently than I, we owe our great civilization to men who gave all they had, for those who would not, as the instruments of God.

Like Teresa said in a follow up comment, it's a man thing. Not a male thing - a man thing. The two are worlds apart.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Grace IV - Cheap Grace's Return

Yet…the outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther’s perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price. All that was needed was a subtle and almost imperceptible change of emphasis, and the damage was done. Luther had taught that man cannot stand before God, however religious his works and ways may be, because at the bottom he is always seeking his own interests. In the depths of his misery, Luther grasped by faith the free and unconditional forgiveness of all his sins. That experience taught him that this grace had cost him his very life, and must continue to cost him the same price day after day. So far from dispensing him from discipleship, this grace only made him a more earnest disciple. When he spoke of grace, Luther always implied that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ. Only so could he speak of grace. Luther had said that grace alone can save; his followers took up his doctrine and repeated it word for word. But – they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation of discipleship. There was no need for Luther always to mention that corollary explicitly for he always spoke as one who had been led by grace to the strictest following of Christ. Judged by the standard of Luther’s doctrine, that of his followers was unassailable, and yet their orthodoxy spelled the end and destruction of the Reformation as the revelation on earth of the costly grace of God. The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.

Luther had said that all we can do is of no avail, however a good a life we live. He had said that nothing can avail us in the sight of God but “the grace and favor which confers the forgiveness of sin.” But he spoke as one who, at the very moment of his crisis, he was called to leave all that he had a second time and follow Jesus. The problem became when followers took a message that, like Faust’s “I now do see that we can nothing know”, is only truly applicable at the end of a long experience of attempting it ,and yet foolishly applied it to the beginning. Instead, from the mouths of those who had not given all, it is a piece of self-deception. The only man who has the right to say he is justified by grace alone is he who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is the gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace. But those who use this grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.

Some may ask, “But wasn’t Luther proclaiming cheap grace with his pecca fortiter (Sin boldly, but rejoice and believe in Christ more boldly still)? Isn’t this a blasphemous encouragement to sin boldly and rely upon grace? Is there a more diabolical abuse of grace than to sin and then rely upon the grace which God has given? Is not the Roman Catechism quite right in denouncing this as a sin against the Holy Ghost?

Again, pecca fortiter it is to be taken as the sum, not the data or the premise. For Luther, “sin boldly” could only be his very last refuge, the consolation for one whose attempts to follow Christ had taught him that he can never become sinless, who in his fear of sin despairs of the grace of God. As Luther saw it, “Sin boldly” did not happen to be a fundamental acknowledgement of the disobedient life; it was the gospel of the grace of God before which we are always and in every circumstance sinners. Yet that grace seeks us and justifies us, sinners though we are. Take courage and confess your sin, Luther says, do not try to run away from it, but believe more boldly still. Who can hear these words without endangering his faith but he who hears their consolation as a renewed summons to Christ? Interpreted in this way, these words of Luther become a testimony to the costliness of grace, the only genuine kind of grace there is.

Unfortunately, that is not the grace which many have heard...

(to be concluded - for real, this time)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's Your Theological Worldview II

I took Sven's quiz a few months ago, and came up with results that can be seen here.

In the preceding 7 months, I have read many of the early church fathers: Augustine, Anselm, Origen, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Irenaeus, and have been more diligent in my Scripture reading and prayer life. So, I thought I'd see if I had changed from these events...

You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical




Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox




Roman Catholic




Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

One might think that reading all of those early "Catholic" theologians would make me more Catholic, but it really didn't at all. What it led me to was a greater appreciation for grace without merit, and grace that costs us everything. How about you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Grace III - The Return of Costly Grace

[Aside: UK John had pointed out in an earlier thread that he thought that it was untrue that the gospel of the kingdom of God was lost in the mid-third century, and only revived in the Reformation. I agree, as I have been writing. However, it was nearly that momentous.]


When the Reformation came, the providence of God raised Martin Luther to restore the gospel of pure, costly grace. Luther passed through the cloister; he was a monk, and all this was part of the divine plan. Luther had left all to follow Christ on the path to absolute obedience. He had renounced the world in order to live the Christian life. He had learned obedience to Christ and to his Church, because only he who is obedient can believe. The call to the cloister demanded of Luther the complete surrender of his life…but God shattered all his hopes. He showed him through the Scriptures that the following of Christ is not the achievement or merit of a select few, but the divine command to all Christians without distinction. Monasticism had transformed the humble work of discipleship into the meritorious activity of the saints, and the self-renunciation of discipleship into the flagrant spiritual self-assertion of the “religious”. The world has crept into the very heart of the monastic life, and was once more making havoc. The monk’s attempt to flee from the world turned out to be a subtle form of love for the world. The bottom having thus been knocked out of the religious life, Luther laid hold upon grace. Just as the whole world of monasticism was crashing about him in ruins, he saw God in Christ stretching forth his hand to save. He grasped that hand in faith, believing that “after all, nothing we can do is of any avail, however good a life we live.” The grace which gave itself to him was a costly grace, and it shattered his whole existence. Once more he must leave his nets and follow. The first time was when he entered the monastery, when he had left everything behind except his pious self. This time even that was taken from him. He obeyed the call, not through any merit of his own, but simply through the grace of God. It is humorous to see Luther’s detractors accuse him of various issues while he was a monk. They missed the entire point. For Luther claimed no special regard for himself – indeed, the grace of God declares that none have any merit. But, Luther did not hear the word: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” No, Luther had to leave the cloister and go back to the world, not because the world in itself was good and holy, but because even the cloister was only a part of the world.

Luther’s return from the cloister to the world was the worst blow the world had suffered since the days of early Christianity. The renunciation he made when he became a monk was child’s play compared with that he had to make when he returned to the world. Now came the frontal assault. The only way to follow Jesus was to live in the world. Hitherto the Christian life had been the achievement of a few choice spirits under the exceptionally favorable conditions of monasticism; now it is a duty laid upon every Christian living in the world. The commandment of Jesus must be accorded perfect obedience in one’s daily vocation of life. The conflict between the life of the Christian and the life of the world was thus thrown into the sharpest possible relief. It was a hand-to-hand conflict between the Christian and the world.

It is a fatal misunderstanding of Luther’s action to suppose that his rediscovery of the gospel of pure grace offered a general dispensation from obedience to the command of Jesus, or that it was the great discovery of the Reformation that God’s forgiving grace automatically conferred upon the world both righteousness and holiness. On the contrary, for Luther the Christian’s worldly calling is sanctified only in so far as that calling registers the final, radical protest against the world. Only in so far as the Christian’s secular calling is exercised in the following of Jesus does it receive from the gospel new sanction and justification. It was not the justification of sin, but the justification of the sinner that drove Luther from the cloister back to the world. The grace he had received was costly grace. It was grace, for it was like water on parched ground, comfort in tribulation, freedom from the bondage of a self-chosen way, and forgiveness of all his sins. And it was costly, for, so far from dispensing him to good works, it meant he must take the call to discipleship more seriously than ever before. It was grace because it cost so much, and it cost so much because it was grace. That was the secret of the gospel of the Reformation – the justification of the sinner.

To be continued, one last time...

Monday, January 09, 2006

The View I Love the Most

(with apologies to Lonestar - our great view of farmland is out the back deck)

The only ground I ever owned was sticking to my shoes
Now I look at my back deck and this panoramic view
I can sit and watch the fields fill up
With rays of glowing sun
Or watch the moon lay on the fences
Like that's where it was hung
My blessings are in front of me
It's not about the land
I'll never beat the view
From my back deck looking in

There's a carrot top who can barely walk
With a sippy cup of milk
A little brown-haired boy with shoes on wrong
'Cause he likes to dress himself
And the most beautiful girl holding both of them
And the view I love the most
Is my back deck looking in, yeah

I've traveled here and everywhere
Following my job
I've seen the paintings from the air
Brushed by the hand of God
The mountains and the canyons reach from sea to shining sea
But I can't wait to get back home
To the one he made for me
It's anywhere I'll ever go and everywhere I've been
Nothing takes my breath away
Like my back deck looking in

There's a carrot top who can barely walk
With a sippy cup of milk
A little brown-haired boy with shoes on wrong
'Cause he likes to dress himself
And the most beautiful girl holding both of them
Yeah the view I love the most
Is my back deck looking in

I see what beautiful is about
When I'm looking in
Not when I'm looking out

There's a carrot top that can barely walk
with a sippy cup of milk,
A little brown-haired boy with his shoes on wrong
'cause he likes to dress himself,
And the most beautiful girl, holding both of them -
The view I love the most is from my back deck, looking in.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Grace II - Costly Grace Kept and Yet Lost

Costly grace is the sanctuary of God: it has to be protected from the world, not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

On two separate occasions Peter received the call, "Follow me." It was the first and the last word Jesus spoke to his disciple (Mark 1:17 & John 21:22). A whole life lies between these two calls. The first occasion was by the lake of Gennesareth, when Peter left his nets and his craft and followed Jesus at his word. The second occasion is when the Risen Lord finds him back again at his old trade. One again it is by the lake of Gennesareth, and once again the call is : "Follow me." Between the two calls lies a whole life of discipleship in the following of Christ. Half-way between them comes Peter's confession, when he acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God. Three times Peter hears the same proclamation that Christ is his Lord and God - at the beginning, at the end, and at Caesarea Phillipi. Each time it is the same grace of Christ which calls him to "Follow me" and which reveals itself to him in his confession of the Son of God. Three times on Peter's way did grace arrest him, the one grace proclaimed in three different ways.

This grace was certainly not self-bestowed. It was the grace of Christ himself, now prevailing upon the disciple to leave all and follow him, now working in him that confession which to the world must sound like the ultimate blasphemy, now inviting Peter to the supreme fellowship of martyrdom for the Lord he had denied, and thereby forgiving him all his sins. In the life of Peter grace and discipleship are inseparable. He had received the grace which costs.

As Christianity spread, and the Church became more secularized, this realization of the costliness of grace gradually faded. The world was Christianized, and grace became common property. It was to be had at low cost. Yet the Church of Rome did not altogether lose the earlier vision. It is highly significant that the Church was astute enough to find room for the monastic movement, and to prevent it from lapsing into schism. Here on the outer fringe of the church was a place where the older vision was kept alive. Here men remembered that grace costs, that grace means following Christ. Here they left all they had for Christ's sake, and endeavored daily to practise his rigorous commands. Thus monasticism became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace. But the church was wise to tolerate this protest, and to prevent it from developing to its logical conclusion. It thus succeeded in relativizing it, even using it to justify the secularization of its own life. Monasticism was represented as an individual achievement which the mass of the laity could not be expected to emulate. By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception of the double standard - a maximum and a minimum standard of Christian obedience. Whenever the Church was accused of being to secularized, it could always point to monasticism as an opportunity of living a higher life within the fold, and thus justify the other possibility of a lower standard of life for others. And so we get the paradoxical result that monasticism, whose mission was to preserve in the Church of Rome the primitive Christian realization of the costliness of grace, afforded conclusive justification for the secularization of the Church. By and large, the fatal error of monasticism lay not so much in its rigorism (though even here there was a good deal of misunderstanding of the precise content of the will of Jesus) as in the extent to which it departed from genuine Christianity by setting up itself as the individual achievement of a select few, and so claiming a special merit on its own.

Thus true grace, costly grace, was preserved in monasticism, yet it was lost to the masses of humanity and those seeking Christ, who were instead presented with a grace that cost little more than apparent conformation to the sacramental rules.

To be continued...

Are You A Heretic?

You might be, but, thankfully, I am not.

At least, not according to Sven's quiz:

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

However, despite being Chalcedon Compliant, I am fully anathema according to the Magesterium. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it!

Via UK John.


Last Friday was a sad day, as I, along with any other listeners at the time, learned that my favorite radio show host, Dennis Prager, is going through a divorce of his 17-year marriage. Dennis and his wife have three children.

It is sad because divorce is sad. It is more so because Dennis actively promotes the importance of the family, and values such as loyalty, trust, honesty and integrity.

However, in his touching admission, Dennis lied to us. He said, "There are no bad guys in this."

Dennis surely wishes to keep the details of the proceedings under wraps, no matter who is at fault in the divorce. However, even though he did his best to insist otherwise, someone is at fault in this.

With a divorce that invovles children, there are basically two possible scenarios - one person is at fault, or both are at fault. Children always suffer from divorce, no matter what Dennis may say or liberal counselors may try to insist. The quintessential book on divorce and children is Judith Wallerstein's "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study." The results are clear - children of divorce are always worse off than the children of parents who stay together.

As with any study of human behavior, there is no 100% predictive result. However, the recognition that children of divorce almost always suffer - combined with the surprising (well, surprising to some) information that when parents who are unhappy choose to divorce, they are four times less like to consider themselves happy five years later than unhappy parents who choose to stay together -

I don't agree with Dennis on serious points concerning relationships and divorce. However, his positions lead me to beleive that this is not a man who has been cheating on his wife or beating her. Furthermore, I am certain he is not divorcing her because they 'just don't get along'. Thus, despite his assertions that his wife has done nothing wrong, I am forced to consider her the 'bad guy' in this affair. Most honorable men would similarly not smear (with the truth) their wife in such a case.