22 October 2009

Oden: Self-Justification

Thomas Oden's The Justification Reader argues that the doctrine of justification by grace through faith was manifestly upheld by the church fathers and therefore provides a solid doctrinal core around which all Christians--Eastern, Roman, Protestant--can unite. His brief section 'Why Do We So Fiercely Resist Hearing this Good News?' was particularly clarifying.

We in our self-assertiveness would much prefer to justify ourselves rather than receive God's free gift. So it is characteristic of the fallen, pride-driven human condition that we continue to seek to justify ourselves by our own individual works and righteousness, instead of receiving it as a gift.

Sex role assumptions play heavily into modern forms of works-righteousness. Women often try to justify themselves by their beauty or attractiveness or nurturing abilities. Men more often justify their existence by their prowess or productivity, their athletic ability or wealth.

The message of justification is difficult to accept because it seems too good to be true. It says: Stop trying to justify yourself. You do not need to. There is no way to buy or deserve God's love or acceptance. You are already being offered God's love on the cross without having to jump through hoops or pass tests. You are already there, where you think you are not.

--Thomas C. Oden, The Justification Reader (Eerdmans 2002), 51-52

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