Grand Larseny

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Faith Outside Ourselves

Faith is nonexistent if you don’t act like you have it, but how do you act when your faith is in your own inaction?

The circles I travel in are tangentially related to theology, and this pleases me. I really do have a love for theology, and every time I get to talk about God with folk I end up feeling better. So, when the name of a book kept coming up again and again and again I thought, ok God, I’ll pick it up. The book is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. He also gave the speech at this year’s congressional prayer breakfast. Guy’s quickly becoming a big muckity-muck.

So I’ve made it through the introduction. Yeah, super speed-reader over here and just as quick to judge. One thing it’s brought to my mind, though, is the importance of the faith that saves us from our sin. The introduction lays out Christian responses to the gospel in a continuum ranging from cheap grace to costly grace to legalism. I’ll explain.

Cheap grace is the belief that God will always happily cover all our sins so there’s no need to change anything about how we live. In a sense, sin is free. Costly grace believes that Jesus paid a very heavy toll for our sins, so we owe it to him to live our lives worthy of him. Well, I’m not 100% sure that’s what costly grace is, but that’s how it is in my head right now. Then legalism is legalism. We earn our salvation by being right before God. This is stupid.

Costly grace as a concept confuses me. What does it mean that costly grace necessitates life change? How does costly grace work without having to perform the faith that saves us? And if we have to prove our faith how is there any hope for anyone?

Example: If I have faith in electricity and local government and my home maintenance I have no second thoughts about flipping on the light switch to turn the light on. If, however, I try to hit the lightbulb with a broom or consult with expert electricians how to make light appear or even worry each time before I turn the switch on I demonstrate that I do not, in fact, have faith in the light switch to do its function. Moving then to the faith that saves us from our sins, how can we demonstrate our faith when the very thing we have faith in is our own inaction (our total depravity deprives us of any opportunity for action) and instead in the Christ’s actions. How can that be acted?

I do hope the book will have its own answer, but since I’m coming at the book with my own agenda it probably won’t be answered. It’s really not fair to the book, but still I can’t help but be a bit frustrated.

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