Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Catholic, Reformed, Anabaptist?


At the intersection of Catholic, Reformed, and Anabaptist thought is not just the issue of works righteousness, but of how faith and obedience intersect.

Tozer's thoughts in chapter 35 of  "The Size of the Soul: Principles of Revival and Spiritual Growth" address this very issue.  While Tozer has some clear and unfortunate anti-catholic prejudices, so too he discounts the nonsense of reformed thought which, based on "faith alone," has led to a casting aside of the works of faith which are a direct implication of faith.  And he seems to avoid the anabaptist tendency toward legalism in behavior. (While Tozer does not mention the issue of legalism in this week's chapter, we will do well to keep Christian legalism in mind as we reflect on the next two week's writings on superstition.)

Tozer focuses on the quintessential question - for anyone bold enough and honest enough to take that proverbial good, hard look in the mirror.  "Are we students of Christianity or are we Christians?" The student may know scripture well.  The student may be theologically conversant. The student may have occupied a pew their entire lives, have taught Sunday School, served on the church board, and may even know well the history of their particular "brand" of Christian faith. But they are related to the dog in Proverbs 26:11 which returns to its vomit, the fool who repeats his folly?" 2 Peter 2 describes these "springs without water and mists driven by a storm":  

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, 
“A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

These are difficult words to hear, much less to apply to ourselves. Yet if we do not see a turning from sin, if we cannot observe a growth in our obedience we dare not assume we love the One who said:

If you love me, keep my commands. [John 14:15]
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. [John 14:21]
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  [John 14:23]
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Ephesians 2:10]

We are saved through the faith which declares that Christ died to atone for our sins. Faith is the means of appropriating our salvation. And this faith is evidenced in the works of righteousness which we are thereby empowered to do. 

In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that "without faith it is impossible to please God". And what then follows is a list of actions taken by the saints which demonstrated their faith - Abel's provision of a better offering than Cain's, Noah's building of the Ark, Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Rahab's helping the spies... and so many more to which Scripture testifies, that it was this faith that allowed them to suffer the torture, the martyrdom, the accusations, and the persecution. Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame of those who faithfully executed the office of believer.  You can't be a person of faith who doesn't perform faithful acts. Period.

Works of faith, endurance in times of trial, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow are all an indication of our faith.  Christians aren't woe is me, doom and gloom, passive little creatures that experience all the ravages of the world and sit around commiserating with other pessimists. They are go getters. They are the embodiment of meekness (inner strength), the truth tellers, the do-gooders of the Word. They are eternally optimistic, giving thanks in all circumstances,  risk taking, praise giving, good works producing, God serving people.

So, as we near the end of this book, we must ask ourselves, how has Christ so been at work in me that I have been able to do all things?  How is He who is in me greater than he who is in the world? Are we merely hearers of the word or are we doers of the word?  Time for a serious spiritual check up! 




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