Entries tagged with “Law”.

Why do we need to be commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves? Because it doesn’t come naturally. That, and more in my reflections at First Things entitled “Love my neighbour as myself? I don’t think so.”

Of course, this selfless love for neighbor does not come naturally to us. Rather the opposite is true, as we see in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. There help does not come from those from whom we would have every right to expect it; it is not the Priest or the Levite who care for the wounded man. Either could do something for him, and yet no one does—no one, that is, except a foreigner, and a social pariah at that. The others “pass by on the other side.” The thought-process at work seems clear: If I don’t get too close—if I leave enough space between us—then his problem can’t be said to be my responsibility.

It is not without reason that Christ tells us to emulate the Samaritan here. By that, I don’t just mean that the Samaritan had the right response to the situation and that we should imitate him, though of course that is true also. Instead, I mean to say that we need the command to act like the Samaritan precisely because it is so unnatural to us. We do not, of our own accord, set our neighbor’s needs on the same level as our own. We do not love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to be commanded to do so.

How different is God’s response to us! He looks down and sees us beaten down by sin, dying on the side of the road. There is no health in us. And though we have disobeyed him, mocked him, even hated him, he sends his Son to be our Good Samaritan. In humility, this Great High Priest does not pass by on the other side of the road. No, he stoops down to lift us up. And what is more, he does not simply care for our sufferings; he transfers them to himself, and by his wounds we are healed.

Read the rest at First Things.

My latest at First Thoughts has caused a bit of a ruckus. Check it out here: “Why Lutheran Predestination isn’t Calvinist Predestination.”

The disparity between the identification of Calvinists with predestinarian doctrine vis à vis Lutherans is precisely because the concept of predestination that exists in the public mind is Calvinist, not Lutheran. People hear the word “predestination” and think of the Calvinist doctrine of double-predestination—the idea that God has chosen some to be saved and chosen others to be damned (or, put in less inflammatory language, that God has chosen some to be saved and others he has not so chosen). Either way it amounts to the same thing: those who are damned are damned because of God’s (lack of) choice. Calvin himself writes, “We assert that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined both whom he would admit to salvation and whom he would condemn to destruction” (Institutes 3.21.7).

Such a doctrine is abhorrent to Lutherans. And, indeed, contemplation of such a doctrine was abhorrent also to Luther.


Oh Justice, be not blind
Nor be deceived with twisted scales unholy.

Ulysses tricked the wise and did them wrong.
Son of Tantalus, illegitimate child,
Outwitted gods and men,
Two-eyed, one-eyed.
How much more facile the eyeless to outwit?
Take care thou, in some such moment’s short-sight,
Do not declare No Man guilty.

Yet eyes alone do not insight impart.
Old Argus, hundred-visioned, Panoptes
Was deceived by Hermes’ flute,
So much like Syren’s song.
What treachery may pleasant words conceal?
To what foul men may horse’s womb give birth?

Scripture taught it long ago
That he who grasped the stone did justice break.
Let No Man covet what his brother earns,
Nor red of brother soak the ground again.
Oh, the Furies’ wrath when Justice sleeps
And from appointed work herself would keep.

Oh Justice, be not blind
But see the case with eyes alert, discerning.
And as thou open up thy sight,
Unstop thy ears to victim’s supplication.
Last of all, thy lips now break
To speak the traitor’s guilt and condemnation.

January 28, 2008