Forde on “Post-Reformation Lutheranism” (and I would add Christianity in General)

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared anything from my favorite Lutheran Theologian Gerhard Forde.  Here’s a doozy:

The tragedy of post-Reformation Lutheranism and the theological root of its identity crisis is to be found in the persistent attempt to combine the radical gospel of justification by faith alone with an anthropology that cannot tolerate it…

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Luther on Psalm 51:9

This same petition proves that the doctrine of justification is the kind of thing that can never be learned completely.  Therefore it is true that those who have persuaded themselves that they know it fully have not even begun to learn.

Because every day new struggles arise from Satan and our flesh or the world or our conscience, prompting us to despair, wrath, lust, and other vices, how is it possible for this weakness of ours not to keep falling or breaking?  Then, too, how many concerns arise in this life that gradually make us forget this gladness?  Hence it is supremely necessary that we ask God to pour or sprinkle upon us this hearing of joy so that we are not covered with the sadness that the feeling of sin brings on.”

Luther on Psalm 51:2

Psalm 51:2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

“Once a Christian is righteous by faith and has accepted the forgiveness of sins, he should not be so smug, as though he were pure of all sins.  For only then does he face the constant battle with the remnants of sin, from which the prophet here wants to be cleansed.

He is righteous and holy by an alien or foreign holiness

that is, he is righteous by the mercy and grace of God.  This mercy and grace is not something human; it is not some sort of disposition or quality of the heart.  It is a divine blessing, given us through the true knowledge of the Gospel, when we know or believe that our sin has been forgiven us through the grace and merit of Christ and when we hope for steadfast love and abundant mercy for Christ’s sake…

It consists completely in the indulgence of another and is a pure gift of God, who shows mercy and favor for Christ’s sake…

Therefore, the Christian is not formally righteous, he is not righteous according to substance or quality…  He is righteous according to his relationship to something: namely, only in respect to divine grace and the free forgiveness of sins…”

LW Vol. 12 

Keller on Idolatry and Gospel Preaching

“So if the root of every sin is idolatry, and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation and justification, then the root of every sin is a failure to believe the gospel message that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our justification, righteousness, and redemption…

Our failures in actual righteousness… generally come from a failure to rejoice in our legal righteousness in Christ.  Our failures in sanctification come mainly from a lack of orientation to our justification.  We will never change unless we come to grips with the particular, characteristic ways our hearts resist the gospel and continue their self-salvation projects through idolatry. Continue reading

Horton on the Constant Need of the Gospel Message

“The church is called not to ‘work for a second blessing,’ but to ‘feed on the first blessing, the forgiveness of sins…  The struggle of the church… is not to envelope Christ in our faithfulness, but to be enveloped by Christ’s faithfulness…’

“The preaching of the gospel that gave us new birth… in the first place continues to sustain our pilgrimage.  We never move beyond justification, never beyond faith and the forgiveness of sins.  On the contrary, as we grow in holiness, we become more acutely aware of our sin, and the struggle against it becomes increasingly intense.”

Michael Horton “Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ

Gehard Forde on the Charge of “Cheap Grace”

“The mistake is to think that we can remedy the charge of ‘cheap grace’ by making it expensive, by inflating the rhetoric, piling up the adverbs, reimposing the law, until the enterprise takes on the aspect of a great balloon which rises on the strength of its own hot air…

One would rather be called upon to make talk about grace as radical, as unconditional, as free and as pure as possible…  The gospel grants the ultimate possibility, not the law

It’s not ‘cheap grace’?  No!  It’s not cheap, it’s free!  ‘Cheap grace,’ you see, is not improved by making it expensive, a ‘bargain basement’ special.  It’s free.”

Gerhard Forde “Justification by Faith: a matter of death and life.”‘


Paul Zahl on the Future of Evangelicalism

“I believe the answer to our (evangelicalism’s) problems is a return to the core of God’s grace, the ‘Old, Old Story of Jesus and His Love,” deepend by the Reformation insight of grace in relation to law…  We need people again who are allergic to law as the preached word and go, rather, to the enabling word of Christ’s grace, and not just to outsiders but especially to the law-burdened Christian communities that have failed to strengthen and sustain.  If I have a ‘recipe’ for these times, it is the gospel of Christ’s grace for Christians

The word “evangelical” is still a good one, if it means justification by grace through faith.  It is still a good word if by it is meant the love of God for sinners…  I still seek, still seek, to tell the Old, Old Story, which means in practice this: judgement kills, love makes alive.  I realize that such a formula is quite ‘reduced’ and could use a lot of enhancement; but we are going to have to begin again… by putting the core of Christ in simple, simple epigrams.  Let’s sponsor an evangelical Haiku contest!  The prize?: A complete set of the Weimar Edition of works of Luther”

Paul Zahl “The Future of Evangelicalism