Category Archives: Theology Quotes

T. F. Torrance on Subjective Justification

[232-3] It is illuminating to recognize that subjective Justification, as well as objective Justification, has already taken place in Jesus Christ. Not only was the great divine act of righteousness fulfilled in the flesh of Jesus, in His Life and Death, but throughout His Life and Death Jesus stood in our place as our Substitute and Representative who appropriated the divine Act of saving Righteousness for us. He responded to it, yielded to it, accepted it and actively made it His own, for what He was and did in His human nature was not for His own sake but for our sakes. That is true of all that He did. He was the Word of God brought to bear upon man, but He was also man hearing that Word, answering it, trusting it, living by it—by faith. He was the great Believer—vicariously believing in our place and in our name. He was not only the Will of God enacted in our flesh, but He was the will of man united to that divine Will. In becoming one with us He laid hold upon our wayward human will, made it His very own, and bent it back into obedience to, and in oneness with, the holy Will of God. Likewise in Justification, Jesus Christ was not only the embodiment of God’s justifying act but the embodiment of our human appropriation of it. In that unity of the divine and the human, Justification was fulfilled in Christ from both sides, from the side of the justifying God and from the side of justified man—’He was justified in the Spirit’, as St. Paul put it. Justification as objective act of the redeeming God and Justification as subjective actualization of it in our estranged human existence have once and for all taken place—in Jesus.

[235-6] Jesus Christ was not only the fulfillment and embodiment of God’s righteous and holy Act…, but also the embodiment of our act of faith and trust and obedience toward God, He stood in our place, taking our cause upon Him, also as Believer, as the Obedient One who was Himself justified before God as His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. He offered to God a perfect confidence and trust, a perfect faith and response which we are unable to offer, and He appropriated all God’s blessings which we are unable to appropriate. Through union with Him we share in His faith, in His obedience, in His trust and His appropriation of the Father’s blessing; we share in His justification before God. Therefore when we are justified by faith, this does not mean that it is our faith that justifies us, far from it—it is the faith of Christ alone that justifies us, but we in faith flee from our own acts even of repentance, confession, trust and response, and take refuge in the obedience and faithfulness of Christ—’Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.’ That is what it means to be justified by faith.

from “Justification: Its Radical Nature and Place in Reformed Doctrine and Life,” Scottish Journal of Theology, 13 no 3 (1960).

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Kevin Vanhoozer on a shortcoming of analytic theology

…the rationality of arguments is not always a matter of deductive or logical inference. The narrative form of the Fourth Gospel is a kind of courtroom drama where readers are presented with various kinds of evidence or testimony in word and deed. …(John 20:31). To do justice to this kind of biblical discourse, we require both analytic skills and poetic sensibilities: the ability conceptually to elaborate what is said and the ability imaginatively to feel the particular force with which it is said. Even the demons can do analytic theology.

from The Task of Dogmatics, eds. Crisp and Sanders (Zonderan, 2017), 42.

John Witvliet on Sincerity in Worship

  • Why do some people associate sincerity with raising hands or hand clapping, while others associate it with kneeling or pregnant silence?

  • Why do so many churches resist confessing sin or lamenting brokenness “because sincerity on these matters can’t be forced,” while singing demanding songs of extravagant praise without a similar concern? …

  • Why do so many of churches resist pre-written prayers unless they come in the form of song texts?

…Patient engagement with these cross-currents reveals all sorts of internal contradictions and implicit biases, as well as promising discoveries which strengthen our capacity for empathy. Ultimately, these discussions create space not simply to deconstruct constricting approaches to sincerity, but also to reconstruct a capacious alternative.

…I have discovered the value of six “corrective lenses” to common astigmatisms in our more-or-less free-church Protestant way of viewing the world, which I offer here as a work in progress, inviting further ecumenical discussion.

First, a lens of outside-in sincerity corrects the temptation to treat as normative an expressivist approach to liturgical experience, which posits that the concordance of internal experience and external actions happens “inside out” when we pray out of the overflow of what we already think or feel. Jesus’ command to “pray in this way” (Matt. 6:9) offers an alternative, inviting us to apprentice ourselves to a text, rhythm, or gesture originating from outside us. Indeed, to engage in public worship often involves having the boundaries of our small ego-centric selves enlarged by expressions and emotions we never would have imagined on our own.

Second, a lens of vicarious sincerity corrects for the individualistic assumption that all that counts is isolated personal experience. On any given day, my experience aligns with only a small portion of the vast range of human experience compressed into the Bible’s Psalms or a given historic liturgy. But this need not mean that engaging these sentiments is insincere for me. When I may not be able to sincerely sing or pray a given text, I can, nevertheless, ponder who else may be praying that text, and pray it on their behalf. In so doing, I begin to experience freedom from the bondage of the modern, solipsistic self. I taste the joy of ecclesial solidarity.

The complete essay, “The Mysteries of Liturgical Sincerity,” (Apr 26, 2018), is available on the blog Pray Tell — HERE

Bernard Lonergan on Community

A community is not just a number of men within a geographical frontier. It is an achievement of common meaning, and there are kinds and degrees of achievement. Common meaning is potential when there is a common field of experience, and to withdraw from that common field is to get out of touch. Common meaning is formal when there is common understanding, and one withdraws from that common understanding by misunderstanding, by incomprehension, by mutual incomprehension. Common meaning is actual inasmuch as there are common judgments, areas in which all affirm and deny in the same manner; and one withdraws from that common judgment when one disagrees, when one considers true what others hold false and false what they think true. Common meaning is realized by decisions and choices, especially by permanent dedication, in the love that makes families, in the loyalty that makes states, in the faith that makes religions. Community coheres or divides, begins or ends, just where the common field of experience, common understanding, common judgment, common commitments begin and end.

from Method in Theology (Univ. of Toronto Pr, 1990 [Originally 1972]), 79. [emphases added]

Know Thyself…

Am I right to catch a pattern or convergence of logic between these three comments?

  • Theologian

Someone rightly said, “A person either has character or he invents a method.” I believe that and have been trying for years to trade method for character.

from Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology, Eds. Hunsinger and Placher (Yale Univ. Pr, 1994), 19.

  • Church Leader

It [this study] will encourage leaders to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than on techniques for manipulating or motivating others.

from Ed Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Rev. Ed. (Church Publishing, 2017), 14.

  • Preacher

This book suggests that one answer to the question of what is wrong with preaching is that preachers are working with inadequate metaphors of identity, what we will call “homiletic identities,” that fail to encourage a more faithful preaching in the image and practice of Christ. Identity shapes practice; if you know who you are, you know what to do. If you do not know who you are as a preacher, then your preaching suffers.

This book asks not what is the right technique to master, but rather what is the right homiletic identity to be mastered by.

from Trygve Johnson, The Preacher as Liturgical Artist (Cascade, 2014), xii. The metaphors of identity Johnson proceeds to unpack are those of the preacher as teacher, herald, and liturgical artist — for those wondering.

Darren Sarisky on Webster-style theological theology

…operating theologically entails that the discipline cannot frame an account of its own procedures without direct recourse to theological categories…

This requires, first, that theologians grant God priority in their study, rather than allowing a philosophical account of the subjective conditions of the enquirer to determine their method. The problem with a transcendental anthropology is that it grants only the slightest formative role to theology in conceiving of the nature of the human knower, and, among other things, this obscures the way in which theological reason is caught in the dynamics of the fall and regeneration. Taking one’s cue from a theological ontology, by contrast, sets the discussion of theological inquiry into an entirely different register. In this case, who the human inquirer is is spelled out by recourse to a theological anthropology; the proximate objects of study, written texts, are understood as part of the deposit of ecclesial tradition; and the practice of intellectual reflection can be unpacked as an episode in the history of the reconciliation of God and human beings, one in which inquirers together form the company of the saints. What makes the crucial difference is that each of these topics is viewed sub specie divnitatis.

from Theological Theology: Essays in Honor of John Webster, Eds. Nelson, Sarisky, and Stratis (Bloomsbury, 2015), 3.

Gilbert Meilaender on when curiosity can be vicious

Many possibilities may pique my curiosity — I may wonder how … human beings respond to experiments harmful to their bodies, or even to suffering; how the development of a fertilized egg could be stimulated to produce a monster rather than a normal human being; how to preserve a human being alive forever. I may wonder, but it would be wrong to seek to know. Not, in every case, because I cannot know, but because I cannot possess such knowledge while willing what is good. … To love the good and to possess what we love are, in this life, not always compatible. Hence, to seek always to love the good is to commit ourselves to a life that seeks to receive, not to possess.

Although Augustine does not outline for us any general principle by which we can always distinguish a proper desire for knowledge from the vice of curiosity, we can learn from him the attitude which may at least make virtue possible — an attitude characterized by a reverent desire to understand creation rather than a longing to possess the experience of knowing.

from The Theory and Practice of Virtue (Univ. Notre Dame Pr., 1984), 140.