09 February 2009

Disobedient Obedience

Two illuminating, convicting, and related quotes from this week's reading.

It is inexpressible, and almost inconceivable, how strong a self-righteous, self-exalting disposition is naturally in man. What will he not do and suffer, to feed and gratify it? . . . Some are abundant in talking against [legalism], who do but little understand the thing they talk against. A [legalistic] spirit is a more subtle thing than they imagine, it is too subtle for them. It lurks, and operates, and prevails in their hearts, and they are most notoriously guilty of it, at the same time, when they are inveighing against it. --Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 295-96 (Hendrickson edition)

The guilt of the Jews, as the apostle understands it, does not by any means appear to be guilt: hence it has been called "mysterious." "For this guilt is actually of a totally different kind that that which the natural man was able to comprehend. When we uncover the guilt of both common humanity as well as the covenant people, so it is usually a 'moral' guilt, a failure in the ethical duty. But precisely here is the paradox of an excessive ethical effort as the essence of guilt" (Gaugler 2:79). It is a guilt . . . that is exactly their zeal for God, as the pious Jew understands and practices it . . . it is not only not able to create salvation, but is punishable resistance against the very salvation-accomplishing deeds of God. --Otto Kuss, Der Romerbrief, 3:750, commenting on Rom 10:2 ("they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge"); Kuss had earlier explained that this is not a Jewish problem but one which was "true of the life of mankind everywhere"

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