Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do You Fear, Dread, or Hate God? You are in some famous company

Before they were "Protestants",  two of the most influential Catholics either hated or feared God with all of their being. I'll let you read of their trepidations from their own respective pens:

Martin Luther:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also fount in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. Later I read Augustine's The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God's righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when he justifies us (Augustine passage included below). Although this was heretofore said imperfectly and he did not explain all things concerning imputation clearly, it nevertheless was pleasing that God's righteousness with which we are justified was taught.

John Calvin:

"O Lord as I had been educated from a boy, always professed the Christian faith. But at first I had no other reason for my faith than that which then everywhere prevailed. Thy Word, which ought to have shone on all thy people like a lamp  was taken away, or at least suppressed as to us. And lest anyone should long for greater light, an idea had been instilled into the minds of all, that the investigation of that hidden celestial philosophy was delegated to a few, whom the others might might consult as oracles- that the highest knowledge befitting plebian minds was to subdue themselves into obedience to the Church. Then the rudiments in which I had been instructed were of a kind which could neither properly train me to legitimate worship of the Deity, nor pave the way for me to a sure hope of salvation, nor train me aright for the duties of the Christian life. I had learned, indeed, to worship Thee as my God, but as the true method of worshiping was altogether unknown by me, I stumbled at the very threshold. I believed as I had been taught, that I was redeemed by the death of thy Son from the liability to eternal death, but the redemption was one whose virtue could never reach me. I anticipated a future resurrection, but hated the thought of it, as being an event most dreadful. And this feeling not only had dominion  over me in private, but was derived from the doctrine which was then uniformly delivered to the people by their Christian teachers. They, indeed, preached clemency towards men,
but confined it t those who should show themselves deserving of it. They, moreover, place this desert in the righteousness of works, so that he only was received into thy favor to Thee by works....When, however I had performed all of these things, though I had some intervals of quiet, I was still far off from true peace of conscience; for whenever I descended into myself, or raised my mind to thee, extreme terror seized me- terror which no expiations nor satisfactions could cure. "

It is a very good thing to be in the place where one is terrified of God and his judgment. First, it implies that one believes there is a god with "whom we have to do." Secondly it means that the Word of God is doing it's first job- which is to bring everyone into dismay over his or her own condition. This is the most emotionally painful place one can ever be - to believe that God's perfection and justice hangs over him like a hammer. There is not a moments rest in that place. Now what Luther and Calvin discovered is the key to any Reformed teaching and that is that ALL of the commands of God are there to lead us to Christ. This is where we find the love of God, when we realize that His "rules" are there as a set-up to bring us to Christ for forgiveness. "The Law (of Moses) was added so that trespasses might increase." (Rom.6:20) The Church at the time had replaced God's plan of offering Christ's free forgiveness to those of heavy mind with even more rules and "merited grace" -an oxymoron of the highest order, and a term still used today. They wanted to control any grace that was being handed out- hence the indulgences and other means of winning approval of the official Church. 

How could anyone not fear and hate a God that provided a bar too high with no relief offered. Once Luther and Calvin, after being released from their horrific bondage by discovering Christ's forgiveness in the word was total and free could not stop themselves from changing the world. Say no to the bondage instituted by men and claim the freedom offered in Christ...."It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery." Gal. 5 

More Reading= All of Romans and Galatians....!!

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