More on Conference on “The Morally Divided Body: Ethical Disagreement and the Disunity of the Church”

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The titles for the presentations at this summer’s conference on “The Morally Divided Body: Ethical Disagreement and the Disunity of the Church” are now set. They are (in order of presentation):

Robert Jenson, Can Ethical Disagreement Break Church Fellowship?
Beth Barton Schweiger, Race, Slavery, and Shattered Churches in Early America
Frederick Bauerschmidt,“Doctrine: Knowing and Doing.
Joseph Small, Internal Injuries: Moral Division Within the Churches
Susan Wood, Unity in the Sacraments and Unity in Life
David Yeago, The Gospel and the Good Life: Why the Gracious God Cares About the Way We Live
James J. Buckley, Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Christian Doctrine, Ethics, or Politics?

The conference is sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and will be at Loyola University, Baltimore, MD, June 14-16, 2010. More information is at the Center’s website and online registration is here.

I think this will be an interesting and highly relevant conference.

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22 Responses to “More on Conference on “The Morally Divided Body: Ethical Disagreement and the Disunity of the Church””

  1. vindicating elert Says:

    RE: Robert Jenson, Can Ethical Disagreement Break Church Fellowship?
    Subscription to both Scripture and Lutheran Confessions are operative only in the soteriological conversation. Ethics is management of sinners within history. Soteriology ought not drive ethics as ethics is life ambiguously measured and sustained by sinners among sinners. The presupposition by most is that ethics entails managing life as one who wishes to claim something as one’s own that was given to them as a gift in the first place. The problem with any ethics, Aristotelian or Kantian based, is that the assertion is made that life can be managed on one’s own outside of God’s judgment or even worse by ascribing divine value as well as acceptance to one’s model for measuring right and wrong.. God has made it clear in Genesis following the eating of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil that management of life among others is not salvific nor responsible…ever! Yes, instead, this maintenance before God is judged as unrighteous by God because it is fundamentally not driven by the Christ’s benefits but by God’s Law.

    Our unity is not disturbed by ethics because ethics drives managment of sinners as sinners which comes under the jurisdiction of God’s Law. Contrast this in opposition to the mutually exclusive content which is the Gospel and sacraments which are the basis of Christian unity.

    • Michael Says:

      Hi Elert,

      I wonder if you might clarify your statement for me. I really do not have the background to understand most of what you wrote.

      Here’s where I am coming from: Biblical ethics seem, to me anyway, a rather simple proposition. When we establish rules and relationships that express God’s moral values, we have …. ethics!

      And, to further focus the discussion, here’s an oversimplified example. God values life (cf Genesis) and, to express and solidify this value, He develops a set of ethics (Exodus, Deut, etc.,) that govern when and under what circumstances human life can be taken (and when not).

      If one sees Church fellowship as an ethical relationship (whose constraints on behavior serve God’s moral values), then I find it hard to imagine the Church encompassing those who desire a relationship that is not thusly based.

      It breaks Her heart to be sure. And members of the Church must reach out to those who do not accept God’s ordering of human relationships. But, at the end of the day, the Church is not called to accept un-Godly relationships.

      Having said all this, I probably better go read Prof. Jenson again. I think he had a article published in the ELCA’s Journal of Lutheran Ethics on this very topic (in which case I’ve probably irretrievable embarrassed my self… sigh).

      Blessings,

      Michael

      • Jim Wagner Says:

        Dr. Root –

        Couldn’t find the Jenson article in ELCA’s Journal. Is that where it is? If not, where?

      • Michael Root Says:

        It was a different Michael further back the comment stream who mentioned an essay by Jenson in the online Journal of Lutheran Ethics. I am not sure what article he was referring to.
        Michael Root

      • Michael Says:

        How embarassing. I’ve been searching for what I had remembered as an article by Robert W. Jenson on this topic. Alas, I must have been confused because I can find the reference nowhere. I’m convinced that it never existed and is a figment of my imagination.

        However, had he written such an article I’m sure I would have agreed with him [:-)

        I’m sorry for the mistake.

        Blessings,

  2. Robet Jenson Says:

    Poor Elert!

  3. Pr. Rafe Allison Says:

    I’m sorry, but my understanding of distinguishing between Law and Gospel or rightly dividing the Word of God between Law and Gospel, (and therefore the proper and faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word), does not mean distinguishing or dividing the two for the purpose of lifting-up the latter while tossing aside and disregarding the former. They are in fact, not “mutually exclusive” of one another but are both gifts of God to God’s people. A Christian ethic, properly defined, is not an effort to “manage” life “on one’s own outside of God’s judgment” or “ascribing divine value as well as acceptance to one’s model for measuring right and wrong.” Both of these would be anathema to a Christian ethic. A truly Christian ethic can never be “outside of God’s judgment” and it is precisely not “one’s own model for measuring right and wrong.” If it were, it would not be a Christian ethic. All human behavior, including not only the accidental but also intentional human behaviors, (and therefore ethics), stand underneath the judgment of God. How can we read Scripture and say otherwise? Furthermore, a Christian ethic cannot be derived from “one’s own model for measuring right and wrong” but must be based upon the Word of God, (God’s “model” FOR us!), else it ceases to be Christian and it could be debated whether or not it is even an “ethic” but merely another instance of relativism. True, salvation is not from the Law. But is Christian discipleship not the good fruit produced by the faith of salvation springing forth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who have heard and believe the Word of God? What, pray tell, is to guide the faithful in their behavior other than a Christian ethic based upon nothing else than the Word of God?

    John the Baptist prepared the people to see and receive the Christ by preaching repentance. (Did they all repent?) What is repentance except the believer’s reaction to seeing that we are, (each in our own ways), “off the mark” then praying for God’s hand in “turning around?” And what is the benchmark? Just a vacuous relativism that says “Well, I’m baptized so that’s all that matters? Whatever I do is OK or of no consequence? After all we all sin and all sin is the same in the eyes of God?” St. Paul would ask the famous question concerning God’s grace saying: “Well, what then does all of this mean? Should we sin all the more just so God will pour out grace all the more abundantly upon us?” The answer of course was “No!” Also, why did Jesus waste(?) time teaching parables concerning faithfulness to the faith community? (The foolish servants and virgins in Mt. 24 were NOT waiting on a master or bridegroom that they DIDN’T believe in!) We seem to have lost the concept of repentance… of “turning” daily from the things that lure us away from God, including our own, too acutely felt desires. Luther would remind us to recall daily that we are baptized Christians. Obviously this meant that he felt it had some import on how we are to conduct ourselves in our daily lives of discipleship… responding to the gift of God’s salvation. There is a difference that must be distinguished between a sinner standing before God (Yes! In Judgment!) asking repentantly for the gift of grace solely on the merits of Christ and the strength for life-changing “metanoia” AND the non-recalcitrant sinner who persists adamantly in arguing their own case of “Not Guilty.”

    I do not wish to contribute to this game of “My Favorite Professor” but, my Christian ethics professor would say to us that certain behaviors are not congruent with the life of the Christian community. Why? Because we are baptized into Christ, and all human behavior is NOT compatible with the Body of Christ. Some things are just NOT compatible with the life of a Christian disciple. Are we, in the end, left to decide these things for ourselves? If so why bother with the Holy Scriptures at all? Just toss them all out and gorge ourselves on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge so that we too can be “like God” and decide all things for ourselves? Absent a Christian ethic based upon the Word of God, (both Law and Gospel), where is our compass? Where then is the ‘voice’ of the Church? What is left to guide the life and behavior of the Christian struggling to be a faithful disciple of Christ albeit imperfectly? Or, is that at last what we’ve come to believe and promulgate? That Christian discipleship really doesn’t demand much of a commitment from me at all? That our behavior doesn’t really matter? But instead, an “I’m OK, you’re OK” social gospel promoting our own “issues” with little, if any, basis in scripture but in reality founded only on our own wants, presuppositions, emotions, and experiences? A “non-ethic” that ascribes NOT to the Word of God as “the sole rule and norm for the life of the church,” but to the same repetitious and reverberating mantra of our surrounding culture… that there is no compass nor is there even a need for one… only what our own human brains and hormones tell us is “right” for me. (Is this not the epitome of idolatry? But then those Ten Commandments that Luther took so much time to elaborate on are just more of that nasty, oppressive Law aren’t they?)

    Christian discipleship demands a Christian ethic. And a church that cannot agree upon a common Christian ethic, (or apparently even the NEED for one!), has abrogated its own authority to guide the faithful in discipleship and its own ability to preach and teach God’s Word, Law & Gospel. Perhaps it is no longer a question of whether or not we are a church divided… but are we, in fact, a church?

    • Tom Pearson Says:

      I appreciate much of what Pr. Allison has written here, particularly his resistance to identifying “Christian ethics” with any of the various contemporary subjectivist claims about ethics. But if I’m reading his contribution here correctly, he is offering a species of good ol’ fashioned Divine Command Ethics: God issues moral commands, and if we obey them, then we are ethical. I’m not persuaded. There are multiple problems with the standard accounts of Divine Command Ethics, enough problems that in combination seem to disqualify it as a viable model for ethics. I suspect this extends to any version of a “sola scriptura ad ethica” approach. Indeed, the more I fuss over this stuff, the more I’m inclined to doubt the adequacy of any rule- (or command-) based morality, divine or otherwise.

      So let me pose an alternative model, in extremely sketchy form. If we start with divine creation, instead of divine commands, and focus on the structures of human functioning rather than speculate on the qualities of human nature, we likely will have a different point of departure for understanding ethics. I think such a methodological strategy is worth exploring, if only because most people craft their moral judgments and perform moral actions in the context of their various vocations in the world (nearly all of us, it seems, have multiple vocations). Vocations such as the professional, the parental, the spousal, the religious, the social, or the political are callings to which we are summoned as part of the dynamic of the created order. Each of these vocations is partially defined by a set of moral excellences and virtues that are inherent in the perfomance of the vocation itself — as we engage the vocation, we discover there are standards of good and bad, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate that are constitutive of the vocational practice. So, we might say that our vocational callings emerge out of God’s good creation, and that each vocation is uniquely constructed to embody moral excellence, such that in faithfully living out our vocatiions we acquire the moral goodness available only through our immersion in those vocations.

      One other thing: this model I propose (in all its unfinished brevity) does not do away with rules or commands. But rules or commands (even divine commands) by themselves are simply inadequate to give full expression to moral conduct — they are necessary but not sufficient. That’s why I think Christians may benefit from an alternate point of departure for ethical reflection and action.

      • Michael Says:

        Tom,

        The problem with any set of ethics based on something other than a transcendent standard of moral values, as I understand the issue anyway, is moral relativism. How does your formulation of ethics get around this problem?

        Peace to you,

        Michael

  4. Tom Pearson Says:

    Michael,

    By not accepting the initial premise. I see no reason to believe that resistance to the pernicious moral relativism we all deplore requires a transcendent set of moral values, if by “transcendent set of moral values,” you mean laws or commands or specific precepts. I also think that Lutherans should have little trouble viewing moral values as situated and made visible to us through their incarnation in various divinely-created vocational practices. It seems to me that doing so is just deploying a Christological model.

    • Michael Says:

      Tom,

      >if by “… moral
      >values,” you mean laws or commands
      >or specific precepts.

      That’s not what I mean. Values are distinct from ethics. In my understanding, ethics are rules the instantiate, and give life to, values. Biblical ethics, then, are rules that we are to follow in order to express Biblical (i.e., God’s) moral values.

      >if by “transcendent …” you mean…

      By transcendent I refer explicitly to values that are not governed by mankind. Quantum mechanics are an example of a set of rules over which man has no control. We can not truthfully claim that quantum mechanics in hereby invalid in Greece for the next 3 days. Thus, like the ethics of physics, the ethics of God, transcend mankind and may not be suspended or modified. They may only be misinterpreted.

      With respect to Prof. Jenson’s up-and-coming lecture, the issues surrounding sexual morality surely arise because some of us are (1) unclear as to what are God’s moral values, or (2) willfully obtuse as to God’s purpose in creating male and female as complementary sexual beings, or (3) truly believe that God’s values are to be construed as “guidelines” contingent on time and place and not fixed for all time.

      At the end of the day, if we are unable to agree on God’s purpose the consequence is something other than unity.

      Blessings, Tom,

      Michael

  5. Pr. Rafe Allison Says:

    To (hopefully) clarify. A Christian ethic can only be expressed as life lived, to the best of our God-given/inspired ability, in congruence with God’s will. Participating in the discipline of Christian life will hopefully lead the disciple to give expression to the will of God w/o having to follow (in rote fashion) a list of moral do’s and don’ts. But, there is a reason the 10 Commandments join the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in our catechetical instruction. God’s will, (as Michael points out above), is not governed by mankind but has been revealed (given) to us through God’s Word both written and incarnate. This then is that ultimate, final, and concrete authority that our sinful natures are so averse to. The only subjective element in the formula enters by our own efforts to interpret/re-interpret/or mis-interpret the given of God’s revelation. This, however, does not mean that God’s Word is a “dead letter” of divine commands. The whole point of Christian discipleship is to “in-corporate” the divine intentions for humanity in all the messiness, confusion, and imperfection of the Body of Christ on earth. In this regard I do not view Christian ethics as a head-game reflecting on divine commands. God’s will, salvation in Christ, participation in the Body of Christ, response to salvation through discipleship, faithful stewardship, Christian ethics… they all become a part of the whole of Christian Life. God knows this side of the Resurrection we in the church will never be able to agree on every detail of this Christian Life, however, when we cannot agree on some very basic concepts of what does and does not constitute faithful expressions of the Christian Life… or… when we begin to say that such agreement (or an agreed upon “ethic”) is no longer necessary I become very concerned about where we are as a church. And forging ahead with major policy changes absent anything approaching a consensus on the issues seems to me careless enthusiasm at the least.

  6. vindicating elert Says:

    Most of these recorded comments assume that ethics springs from divine value according to Scripture. But this value has been ascribed divine value by humanly designed prejudicial (Kantian) categories. I believe that what really is happening here is a presuppositional/pre-judicial use of Kantian categories and then going back to Scripture with those lenses upon which we then regard the meaning of Scripture. All we have of God’s Word is the Scriptures, ie.God’s Word. But unless we face the issue that our prejudicial lenses in terms of our hermeneutic are the result of God’s wrath over sinners, then we will presumptuously believe that we can discern right and wrong within some commonly used ethical system. Our hubris in terms of constructing ethical systems is blasphemy based on God’s total judgment upon sinners. (By the way, the question then becomes how important it is to apply the effectiveness of Christ and his own benefits from the cross (esp. forgiveness) which are offered at all times and places because death no longer has dominion over Christ)

    I am disheartened as many of my own colleagues are concerning the Lutheran church within this country (USA) who simply refuse to see that when we construct ethical systems, even from Scripture, that we construct them as sinners and therefore ought to be questioning at the basis of it all our methodologies as well as our motivations. Genesis 3/ the fall narrative, is operative right within our own constructs to which we then ascribe divine value as justification for what we believe is our faithfulness to God and Scripture! What blasphemy!

    Re: use of Scripture specificially…Some Scripture is directed to a specific historical community (Israel), some is directed to a wider group through the apostolic and prophetic writings of the OT and NT (see Formula of Concord). But Scripture cannot be applied willy-nilly without distinction in terms of the community it is focussed upon and directed to.

    Finally, Root is mistranslating Elert’s Morphologie and needs to read within the context of where he has pulled his quote. Again, this misrepresentation must end.

  7. vindicating elert Says:

    to clarify my previous post: God’s wrath over sinners is our poor excuses for ethical systems which assume that we can even propose what is right and what is wrong before God’s face. Ethical systems fail, even those which are supposedly based on Scripture. Even Aristotle’s ethics stands on the same ground for achieving relative quietude and security within the public sector. We can safely transfer our so-framed scripturally based ethic with Aristotle’s at many points along the way.

    If there is any thought that liberalism in the ELCA today is based on a skewed or weak view of God’s law, I propose that it is Elert who has the remedy in terms of his (following Luther) construct that the humanly created self-understandings which we sinners create and then ascribe soteriological significance simply call up God’s wrath and judgment upon us. This is directly related to and directly effective today in light of Genesis 3. Elert in his Glaube is clear about this in his section loosely translated from the German: The human being’s capacity for self-understanding in light of God’s hiddenness. It is here in this section that Elert takes seriously that humans must face the hidden God (again following Luther) and what that means in terms of life lived under God’s Law. Under God’s Law we are always sinners. God’s law makes no improvement on our life but simply drives us deeper either into our own presumptuous capacity to create our own salvation or despair. The only remedy is what the church offers and that is that the Gospel be preached to ears which have the potential of hearing in faith.

  8. Michael Says:

    I apologize at the outset, Alert, because I don’t think I fully understood what you wrote.

    Alert writes:
    >All we have of God’s Word is the
    >Scriptures, ie.God’s Word.

    Correct. As a matter of doctrine, we believe God’s [revealed] Word to be the absolute truth. That we struggle with the meaning of the Biblical text reflects on our abilities, not the truth of what God commands.

    >…presumptuously believe that we can discern
    >right and wrong within some commonly
    >used ethical system.

    Why is this presumptuous? How is it presumptuous to assume that a rightly ordered ethics conforms to God’s will (which is to say, His revealed word).

    Now, you are surely correct to observe that you and I can read the same Bible and construct ethical systems that differ in many ways. But that in no way is presumptuous. In point of fact, we are commanded to live by an ethical system based on God’s moral values. So, we do our best to understand Scripture. That you may interpret them differently than I is simply not presumptuous. Indeed, presumption only arises when I say “my ethics is better than God’s ethics”, as for example, when contemporary theologians read into Holy Scripture all sorts of rules that are manifestly counter to Biblical injunctions.

    >Our hubris in terms of constructing ethical
    >systems is blasphemy based on God’s total
    >judgment upon sinners.

    I am confused by this statement and can point to three areas: First, your use of the word ‘hubris’ seems to imply that we are not to construct ethical systems in order to avoid the problem of hubris. Second, I do not understand the use of the term ‘total judgment’ — as compared to what? Partial judgment? Third and finally, how do you see blasphemy enter into this discussion?

    >… that when we construct ethical systems,
    >even from Scripture, we construct
    >them as sinners and therefore ought to be
    >questioning [its] basis…

    Where in the Bible are sinners cautioned not to construct ethical systems? If not sinners, then who?

    Peace to you,

    • tom pearson Says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I know I’d find helpful the clarification of some terms in this discussion. The term “ethics,” for instance, seems to mean rather different things to the various correspondents here. It appears that some folks (including, perhaps, Michael) view ethics as consisting in commands from God retailed in scripture, and in order to be moral persons our response to these comamnds is to obey. Others seem to feel that “ethics” is a name given to certain human constructions that are infected with sin like all other human constructions, and so should not be taken too seriously. At least one other person finds the notion of ethics as derived from the commands of God to be a deeply problematic proposal, and thinks that situating ethics within the vocational structures of God’s creation is a more promising approach.

      Does any of this seem accurate? How do we arbitrate this melee? While it’s not the case that the gates of hell will prevail against the church if we don’t get our ethics right, nonetheless the building up of the people of God will likely suffer (as it already does) because we casually accept these differences in normative standards that infect the church. It seems to me that this infection, this largely uncontested tolerance of diversity in moral defintion and criteria, is sapping the strength of the body of the Christ.

      • Michael Says:

        I so appreciate the clarity of your response and its warning that “diversity in moral definition… is sapping the strength of the body of Christ.”

        Well explained.

        Blessings,

        Michael

  9. vindicating elert Says:

    Presumptuousness in terms of our ethics-making means that we will not face God’s judgment already implied in our self-imposed tasks for such constructing. Unless we get to the root of the problem to begin with, we in the ELCA will presumptuously assume that the arena for our discussions around ethics (ie. what is right and what is wrong) is blessed by God and somehow trusted to manage us with a view to ascribing ourselves right in our opinions. It is not. Genesis 3 continues to impact all of us in that we assume already within our ethical constructs that we know how to measure right and wrong. And once we believe we have built a solid foundation, the tower of Babel will come tumbling down.
    The supposed ability to create systems of trust in our own measurements of right and wrong was forfeited already when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s clear command to NOT eat of the the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did. To this day we in concert with Adam and Eve continue to believe in our right/wrong system-making and worst of all once constructed we ascribe God’s blessing upon our own creations. Read Feuerbach on how twisted human trust in their own creations have reached the point of pure atheism!

    Read the first real contentious article directed against the Roman
    Catholics in the Augsburg Confession (ie. the article on sin). For Lutherans the church at that time (and still even to this day) will not see that original sin specifically means (with St. Augustine) that it is not possible not to sin. Our constructs to minimize this tragedy are already God’s judgment upon us for even believing that we can manage a situation already out of our hands. Or does Jesus and his benefits from the cross offer no real alternative for the Christian church?

    Lutherans, particularly ELCA Lutherans, would do well if they took heed to the above critique.

    • Michael Says:

      Elert claimed that …
      Presumptuousness in terms of our ethics-making means that we will not face God’s judgment…

      I think we are communicating at cross-purposes and I believe I know why. Your understanding of ‘presumptuous’ is not the same as mine (I use Merriam-Webster). To be presumptive, correctly understood, is simply to take liberties with something one is given — God’s revealed will, for example. In the context of this discussion, to be presumptuous means as I said before, to take liberties with God’s will. One of the first examples of presumption in the Bible is Adam telling Eve that God told him not to touch the tree of life. God told Adam no such thing. Adam simply ‘presumed’ to know God’s will. You are completely correct to caution us not to presume, but you offer no alternative. At some point, we have to put a stake in the ground and say “I believe that God’s will is for us to do ”. This is not presumption. It is the establishment of doctrine. And when a doctrine is established by millennia of moral and theological reflection, to assert that such a doctrine is presumptive is, well, silly. It may be wrong, but it is not presumptive.

      Anyway, I think we have wandered off into the deep weeds and away from question to be discussed by Prof. Jenson – Can Ethical Disagreement Break Church Fellowship?

      I look forward to learning more of Prof. Jenson’s thoughts on this question because I do believe that when people can not agree on how to order their lives together disunity must follow. The function of ethics is simply to govern and express those relationships. Insofar as the Church is concerned, if we can not agree as to how the Church would have us relate to each other as children of God [i.e., Church doctrine] we are, according to the Augsburg Confession disunited.

      Peace to you, Elert

  10. vindicating elert Says:

    Allison says: “A Christian ethic can only be expressed as life lived, to the best of our God-given/inspired ability, in congruence with God’s will. ”

    I challenge the above and urge that Luther’s Bondage of the Will be resourced. It will be seen in light of the above that since the day of Genesis 3, there is no way that humans are in congruence with God’s will.
    That was forfeited the day that the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was eaten contrary to God’s command. Contrary to God’s command means judgment in all things not some search through self-made methods producing congruence with God’s will.

    Unless, you wish to take up partnership with Erasmus and thus begin the controversy all over again.

    • Rafe Allison Says:

      No, here we go again mixing-up salvation with discipleship. The controversy was over justification and what brings one to salvation. But, in the current debates it seems, every time we begin to discuss the community “ethic” or “sole rule and norm for the life” of the baptized (saved/justified) the language of justification is brought in to demand that there can be no commonly-held or agreed upon boundaries for behavioral norms for the life OF the saved, (NOT in order to BE saved/justified but to live as a disciple of Christ). Perhaps I am hearing the arguments wrong but I’m inferring that what’s being said is there cannot be any such commonly-held “community rule” for the life of the baptized simply because, “Well, gee… after all… we all sin and fall short.” Exactly, but that’s what confession, forgiveness, and repentance are all about! And what exactly does it mean that the churchwide, synodical, and congregational constitutions all have as a foundational element that the “sole rule and norm for the life of the church is the word of God, Old and New Testament?” The answer is not to overthrow the boundaries simply because no one can live-in to them perfectly. And yes… there does happen to be collective guilt as long as systematic sin exists in our world that is contributed to and participated in by groups… even unawares. That is one primary reason we have the order of Corporate Confession in our book of worship.

  11. vindicating elert Says:

    Any so-called systems of ethics produced outside of Scripture (ie. Aristotelian or Kantian) or even within the means of Scripture (such as moral imperatives for the Corinthian community, e.g.) may provide relative security and peace within human community, but always to the view of God’s judgment on sin, ie. the changes and chances of history in which the human community exists. Appeals made to the Body of Christ and so-called ethical behavior fall on deaf ears when the Body of Christ forgets that it has a HEAD: ie. Jesus Christ.
    Human community whether impacted or not by the Gospel does not operate differently than communities which are maintained within the natural order in which God’s law is operative.

    The Gospel is addressed to individual sinners. And forgiveness is found at that level alone. There is no such thing as collective binding forgiveness upon groups. The collective community is always thrust under the impact of God’s law with the view to God’s judgment of condemnation upon sinners.

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