Friday, November 16, 2007

The lynchpin of theology

So last night in the History Study we talked about the Augsburg Confession - and what was the unique twist was it was the end of the chapter - and I had be thinking about where I would go next. The next chapter will deal with the other branches of the reformation - the anabaptists, the reformed, the English, Calvin. . .

And so it was with a direct eye on other wacky religions that we discussed Article IV. We say that Article IV, that Justification, is the article upon which the Church stands or falls. The image I got was this - Justification - Justification by grace through faith in Christ Jesus is the Lynchpin of Lutheranism (and I would argue the point that Scripture makes itself).

Every point of doctrine ought to tie into this lynchpin. What is the Supper? Christ's Body and Blood given to us for the forgiveness of sins. What is Baptism. A Washing of regeneration, uniting us to Christ and His death and resurrection, so that we are forgiven. Eschatology - what will happen when Christ comes back? Um. . . take those who believe to heaven because they are forgiven.

Now, let's substitute. What if you think the point of being a Christian is to show your devotion to God by following His Law (you know, you're Reformed). What is the Supper? A meal where we remember Jesus and do His command to remember Him. What is Baptism? A rite of dedication where we sumbit to Christ's command to be baptized. What will happen at the end - Christ will return, but there will be a 1000 year reign where He shows everyone on earth that you really did obey Him.

Everything ties, everything in good theology would rest on Justification. If you don't rest there - you miss the point. Rome misses the point by substituting our works (hence the whole purgatory thing - plenty of time to do more works if you need to). The Reformed miss the point by making it about our obedience. Calvin misses the point by making it about how God is powerful (O God, You are so big, really, really big. . .) Even the East misses the point by focusing on Union with Christ - the effect rather than the cause.

One thing to note - all these other lynchpins are true. We ought to do works and obey God. We are united to Christ. But these are all results of Justification. Focusing on an effect rather than the cause gives wonky theology. Calvin's focus is something that is true - God is powerful - but that doesn't say anything about who God is. Muslims say Allah is powerful - but that statement doesn't lead to good, accurate theology. In fact, having that be your overarching focus leads to bad theology.

You have to have a focus on Justification, or you slide on off into strange places.

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