Bad Church Signs or Why we still need Luther

May 17, 2012 at 9:55 am 4 comments

Church sign I saw on a BRETHREN IN CHRIST church in our area…

‘Do your best, and Jesus will do the rest.’

Sounds a lot like ‘facere quod in se est,’ which is the phrase that medieval Catholics used, ‘Do what is in you,’ to ‘console’ consciences worried about salvation.

Luther would have had at least a few things to say about the modern variant.

1. How can I be sure I’m doing my best?
2. I know I haven’t done my best, which means Christ can’t do the rest.
3. If I have indeed done my best, I have effectively saved myself, which brings no honor to Christ and begs the question why Christ needed to come for my salvation.

I don’t want my salvation to hang on whether I’ve done my best or not. Indeed, if it does, I know I’m in trouble.

The Veggie Tales had a catchy song in the movie ‘Jonah,’ ‘God is a God of second chances.’ Theologically, though, it’s problematic. I don’t want a second chance, I know what I did with my first. God better change me, or I’m not going to be changed.

The accusation leveled at Lutherans is that they don’t think they need to do anything to be saved. That’s rather a one-sided argument. Lutherans (at least the sane ones) know they have to be personally involved in the life of Christ. They just want the Spirit to be the one inspiring that life of daily death and resurrection.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to (from my point of view) do my best, believing that it is Christ who is the source of anything good in my life and me that’s the source of everything bad. With reference to my salvation, God better do it all.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. prfrontz  |  May 17, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Just so everyone knows, the contemporary Roman Catholic position on justification is far closer to the Bible and the tradition of the Fathers, so that in 2001 the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church issued the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. While it is not satisfactory to many Lutherans, and there are still long-standing Catholic practices that seem to contradict the document, it was and remains a giant step. And many Lutherans still can be accused of saying ‘Let us sin, so that grace may abound,’ the accusation leveled against St Paul’s teaching (Romans).

  • 2. Karen Sause  |  August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Historian Correction – the original Joint Declaration of Justification by Faith was signed on 10-31-1999, not 2001.

  • 3. prfrontz  |  August 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Well, I feel sheepish.

    • 4. Karen Sause  |  August 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Don’t feel “sheepish”, my intention wasn’t to make you feel Baaaad! 😉


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