14 July 2010

Forde on Why Grace is Not a License to Sin

When the old Adam is put to death one is set free forever from bondage to spiritual ambition, legalism, and tyranny. And Luther for one meant this quite literally. One is absolutely free. It is a total state.

'But,' we immediately ask, 'is this not dangerous? Can we really say that man is absolutely free?'

Even to ask the question is to betray the presence of the old Adam in us. It is the fear of moral chaos, the threat to our spiritual pretensions that prompts us to ask. The implied answer, of course, is that we really can't allow that much freedom, and so we retreat--and remain bound.

But the point is not to retreat, but to push on, to allow the old Adam to die and to arise to newness of life. Look at it this way: if the old Adam has been put to death, if what is selfish, fraudulent, and deceitful has perished what is there to fear in freedom? Can a new man possibly do evil? Luther's theology is often criticized for two things: on the one hand for too much bondage--for saying that man's will is absolutely bound--and on the other hand for too much freedom--for saying that the Christian man is absolutely free. The criticism arises, of course, from old Adam theology. Mix together a little bit of bondage and a little bit of freedom and all will be safe and sound.
--Gerhard Forde, Where God Meets Man: Luther's Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel (Augsburg 1972), 60

The danger of being safe and sound!

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