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Yeah, WORD on what Brian said. So when did you guys figure this out? It hit me about two years ago. I think it's the prevenient grace of Wesleyan theology taken to its logical conclusion plus the fact that justification by faith can't be justification by faith if "faith" is a work that God is evaluating. Plus the subordinationism of dividing God the (angry) Father from Jesus the (merciful) Son. Plus the problem with God changing his mind. Etc. I really didn't know that anybody else thought like this, so I kind of kept it to myself. Are we living through the second reformation or something?
I think I'm on the pessimistic end of category # 5. I believe that hell is the prison of self-justification that is an inherent inertia we fall into as rational creatures who have eaten the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. We need to make sense to ourselves so we try to rationalize the things we do that hurt other people. This keeps us in a permanently dissonant state of being that can only be resolved if we're given the space to admit we're wrong which is opened up by Christ's atonement. Romans 11:32 says that "God has imprisoned us all to disobedience so that He might show mercy to all." Allow yourself a moment to absorb the implications of this verse. God deliberately keeps us from being perfect so that we will not fall into the trap of thinking that we're gods who don't need His mercy. It's important to recognize that God's mercy is not just blanket forgiveness and the fawning acceptance of a pushover, but a paternalistic gesture that puts us in our place which will be extremely painful and humiliating to us unless we have recognize our utter dependence on Him as creatures who can do nothing without Him. To recognize God's sovereignty over every ounce of goodness that we have ever received or performed is about as counterintuitive as it could possibly be in our context of free market values where we're conditioned to be self-sufficient meritocrats. After a lifetime of being socialized under capitalism into thinking of reality in terms of rights that we have earned and rewards we deserve, I'm not sure that we will be capable of entering God's merciful presence without hating His aristocratic magnanimity unless we have put our trust in Christ's atonement and have thus been liberated from the need to beam with pride and claim as our own accomplishments the goodness that God has had the mercy to let us participate in. The doctrinal loyalty tests of contemporary evangelicalism are the modern-day analogue of what circumcision meant to the Galatians. Paul would write us a blistering letter if he were around to see the mess we've created using his very words to undermine the point that he was trying to make. We cannot be saved until we stop trying to prove our worth to God whether it's through helping old ladies across the street, taking communion faithfully at mass each week, or having a perfectly orthodox doctrine. All these things are works; just because doctrinal correctness is intellectual doesn't mean it's not a work; it is our damnation to cling to doctrinal correctness if we do so in lieu of trusting in Christ's justification. We are saved FROM trying to prove our worth to God because doing that perpetuates our imprisonment to self-justification. We are not saved by agreeing with the right doctrines about Jesus; we are saved FROM thinking that we have to do that BY trusting that Jesus has atoned for our ignorance, confusion, arrogance, and whatever else stands between us and God.
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May 11, 2011