Friday, March 17, 2006

Two Thieves

Here’s a powerful metaphor from the thought of Tertullian, through the message of Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church as reported in a blog archive by J. V. Moore:

The early Christian theologian Tertullian once said that just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so the Gospel (the message of Christ) is crucified between two opposite errors. These two “thieves” can be understood as moralism (usually conservative) and relativism (usually liberal.)

Moralists tend to stress truth without grace, for they say we must obey the truth in order to be saved. As Tim Keller once said: “This view will lead either to a) self-hatred (because you can't live up to the standards), or b) self-inflation (because you think you have lived up to the standards). Moralistic people can be deeply religious--but there is no transforming joy or power.”

Relativists on the other hand tend to stress grace without truth, for they say we are all acceptable to God (if there is a god) and we have to decide what is true for ourselves. Relativists tend to prefer “liberal” religion. They may talk a lot about God’s love, but since they do not see themselves as morally deficient (“sinners”) God’s love costs him nothing.

The Bible describes Jesus as being “full of grace and truth” which is why he never seems to fit comfortably into either the conservative or liberal stereotypes.

The ironic thing about moralism and relativism is that they are both ways of avoiding Jesus as Savior and keeping control of our lives. And the result is either pride (because we have lived up to our rules) or despair (because we have failed to keep them.)

How different the biblical Gospel, which cannot be co-opted by either conservatives or liberals, for on the one hand it tells us we are far more sinful than we ever dared imagine, but on the other hand we are far more loved than we ever dared hope. It will surrender neither truth nor grace, but unites them both in the person of Jesus.
(Emphasis added and edited for brevity.)

Be sure to weigh in on the Three Gospels.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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