The places grace empowers us
Thu May 23, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
Infusion vs. Imputation: A Nasty Case of Spiritual Navel-Gazing
Gnostic Bumper Sticker Wisdom
There’s a bumper sticker that frequently catches my eye when I go for a walk near my office. On the back of a white Geo Metro is plastered this nice tidbit of wisdom: “If what you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.”
Translated from Eastern guru hippie-speak, it says: “Gaze at your own belly button long enough, and maybe the answers to life’s most pressing issues will come to you out of thin air.”
"Curved In On Self"
Mining the depths of our innards for answers and wisdom is the default of the human heart. The Reformers referred to this phenomenon as Homo Incurvatus in Se: which is the fancy, Latin way of saying “the state of being curved in on self”—or, put another way, navel-gazing. We’re obsessed with our ability (or lack thereof). And in both cases, the common denominator is self-infatuation. The remedy is to be straightened out in order to see that hope comes from without, not from within.
Infusion = Good Advice
At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther had a real problem with the Catholic Church’s view of how sinners are justified before a holy God—or rather how a believer maintains their righteousness. This “process” of justification is called infusion. Per the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, grace is initially given to the believer through the work of Christ but “nevertheless he or she is formally justified and made holy by his or her own personal justice and holiness.”
To make this real practical: what happens at the end of a I’ve-been-a-naughty-Christian day and you get hit by a car? This version of justification sounds like good advice, not good news...
Imputation = Good News
On the other hand, Martin Luther taught that the Christian’s righteousness is alien. As in, righteousness comes from outside of ourselves and is imputed (given) to us. Our righteousness is not our own—we wear it like a robe (Colossians 3). In light of Romans 3:6, how can God be both just and The Justifier for those who believe? When we are united to Christ at conversion, we’re adopted into the family of God, and Jesus our elder brother represents us as our covenant head. When God sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ and we’re given the inheritance of the family name! As opposed to the good advice of imputation, this is Good News!
The Contingencies of Advice vs the Objectivity of News
Advice is not comforting to people in trouble. Advice is shrouded in a thick fog of mere possibilities. Suppose, for whatever reason, you’re counseling a hurting person. But what if they’re unable to take your advice? What if they don’t have resources, money, opportunity, willpower, or mind function enough to fix their situation? What if they try the advice but fail? See, giving advice to hurting people is not helpful. Infusion says that in the end, good standing with God is ultimately dependent on effort to maintain justification. This is no great comfort.
Good advice-laden Infusion keeps us stuck in a morass of potentiality that curves us in on ourselves. By the grace of God, may our spines be straightened out so we’re able to see beyond our toes to behold what is already accomplished for us and outside of us. One afternoon, Jesus went to the cross, bore our sin, and proclaimed that it is finished. This is historical, objective fact. This is to be believed and received. This is a comfort. This is the best news there is!