Christian complaint

Job’s Lament – versified Job 3 raises the question of the role of complaint in the prayer life of the Christian.

Complaint, as opposed to apathetic resignation on one hand and unbelief on the other, comes from the apparent contradiction between the evil experienced and the promises of Christ. In complaint, the theologian of the cross clings to those promises until the attack abates (Psalm 119), not letting his opponent go until receiving the promised blessing.

Further reading: Living by Faith: Justfication and Sanctification by Oswald Bayer

Living by faith, not by sight

Living by Faith: Justification and SanctificationLiving by Faith: Justification and Sanctification by Oswald Bayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This explanation of the centrality of justification in Luther's theology makes timely contact with atheistic thought.

Some highlights (numbers are approximate Kindle locations):

* Those with God's passive righteousness need not concern themselves with the judgments of others as if they were the final judgment (342).

* The power of God's word can be seen in even the smallest parts of his creation (382).

* God's actions are his words to us (588).

* Believers now have eternal life by promise, not yet by something that is felt (450).

* Make your plans as if God does not exist in order to let him work secretly through the mask of means (484, 487).

* Your justification depends in no way and your success (496).

* "Ethical progress is only possible by returning to Baptism" (779).

* In lament, the believer questions God regarding the apparent contradiction between his promise and the suffering, injustice, and other evil observed in the world (808).

* Judging on the basis of that evil, human reason always comes to the conclusion that either God does not exist or, if he exists, then he is not just (901).

* According to St. Paul's letter to the Romans, if God's righteousness could be judged by the standard of human righteousness, then his righteousness would not really be divine, but merely human (970, 973).

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The nature of God revealed in the cross

Appendix to What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God? Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31 in the Contexts of the Sermon on the Mount and the Lucan Parables:

Promises of the Creator’s provision for people’s needs in this age abound throughout the canonical writings. Are such promises exceptions to the rule that all Scripture confers hope (Romans 15:4), or do they imply that the hopefulness of Scripture regards not only hope in Christ seated above at the right hand of the Father, but also hope in having an improved life in this world?

Jesus dealt specifically with the relationship between eschatological hope and the needs of this life in his discourse on anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-34), the clarity of which has been clouded by reading preconceived ideas into the text. North American evangelicals naturally see in Matthew 6:33 a blessing only for the few who commit themselves to achievement in a purpose-driven life…

Making God’s gift of “all you need from day to day” conditional on “serving the kingdom of God” would challenge the hopefulness of Scripture. Applied consistently, this interpretation leaves the believer asking, “Am I committed enough that I can depend on God to give me that rare blessing — or even to meet my needs?”

Jesus, however, did not tell his disciples to seek the kingdom, much less to serve the kingdom, in order to secure earthly blessings. (Warren’s changing seeking the kingdom to “serving the kingdom” accommodates the doctrine of eternal security, which makes literally seeking the kingdom unnecessary for believers.) Rather, Jesus relieved the disciples’ anxiety about the needs of this life with the argument that since the Father feeds and clothes even the birds and lilies, he will much more feed and clothe those of much more value. Had he taught that only the disciples have greater value than the lilies and birds, the disciples would have worried about whether they truly seek the kingdom. The thought behind the argument is instead that according to the Father’s love, a man is of much more value than the lower creation (Matthew 12:12). Indeed, the Father’s provision for people’s needs in this age does not depend on their seeking the kingdom, for his love extends to the unjust as well as the just (Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35-36; Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-27). Thus, Jesus gave the discourse on anxiety not to motivate the disciples to committed service driven by the prospect of a rare blessing, but to instill in those “of little faith” (Matthew 6:30…) a firm confidence in their Father’s love displayed in his care even for the birds, which “neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,” and for the lilies, which “neither toil nor spin.”

For only with such trust in his love can the disciples seek the kingdom (i.e., eternal life) by faith in the words of Jesus rather than by goal fulfillment or other human efforts (Luke 10:38-42). Since the Father who is pleased to give them the kingdom will also continue to provide everything they need in this age even without their anxious toil, they have nothing to fear and are freed from bondage to money…

This exhortation to seek good things, both of this age and of the age to come, by faith in the loving Father is also found in the address to “Our Father” that precedes all petitions of Lord’s Prayer…

In conclusion, the promises that the Father lovingly satisfies the temporal needs of all sinners are hopeful, but not in the sense of turning disciples’ hope to earthly things. They were instead written to impart strong confidence that he is so benevolent that he valued the whole world enough to give his Son to purchase eternal life for it in spite of its unworthiness. How can I believe God’s love for all people (and thus for me) moved him to sacrifice his Son for us if I do not believe it moves him to meet our needs in this age?

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Modern Reformation

The article “If God exists, why doesn’t he prove it?” appeared today on the web site of Modern Reformation with its New Atheism issue.

With contributors “from Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches,” Modern Reformation describes itself as “the leading voice for confessing evangelicals across the Reformation spectrum.” Should the Lutheran Reformation and the Zwinglian Reformation be considered together as one Protestant Reformation?