Which put life into perspective.
There are certain things which make you really, really think about the faith which you purport to have.
I really should stay away from internet message boards. I really should.
You see, I suffer from an interminable desire to be right. I suffer from an interminable desire to get the last word in. I suffer from an interminable belief that I have the rhetorical skills and debate ability to sway anyone and everyone to my particular perspective. I suffer an interminable belief that if everyone just listened to what I had to say, then everything would turn out for the better.
In face to face conversation, these desires and beliefs get beaten back into submission. I am rather able to handle myself.
But when I get into an internet discussion...it's not necessarily pretty.
And if I engage someone who is just like me...it's downright nasty.
Such a thing happened recently as I engaged a particular person on a Lutheran message board run by Thrivent.
The guy was just like me: arrogant, brash, thinking he had all the answers, thinking he knew exactly what was Lutheran and what wasn't. Any wonder why we ended up clashing?
We met head on in a discussion (read argument, fight) on the Third Use of the Law. If you are really kind of sadistic and enjoy delving into Lutheran theology which evolved out of the Reformation, you can read all about it in the Book of Concord.
Basically, the argument boiled down to whether or not a Christian has any free will in following the commands God/Jesus give to us or whether or not we are mere "puppets."
There are some purists who believe every good work is done exclusively by God and humans have absolutely no say so in whether or not we can even do a good work.
The logic is pretty straight forward:
If we are capable of doing good works (following the Law), then we could do enough good works to save ourselves. If we are capable of saving ourselves, we have no need of Jesus. Not needing Jesus nullifies grace and God's action on the cross and renders it needless. Therefore, we cannot do any good works ourselves and everything that is good is done exclusively by God and not by ourselves. We have no control over the good works we do and no free will.
If you actually took time to read the Book of Concord piece, you will see that orthodox Lutherans reject this thought. They (and I) believe there is no good work we can accomplish which will attain salvation. In fact, when confronted with the good works necessary to live the life God demands--i.e. the Law, we recognize our sin and our need for the Gospel (the second use of the Law). The first use of the Law is a curb on sin--if I break the Law, then I will be punished.
The Third use of the Law comes after one knows one is saved by grace. One then engages following the Law not because one wants to obtain salvation or fears punishment--such a thing is no longer necessary--however, one follows the Law out of obedience to Christ in joyful thanksgiving for what He has done.
Boiling it down in other words (hopefully understandable and not too heady):
We have no free will as to whether or not God saves us. We cannot influence Him with any sort of goodness. God takes care of our salvation. Period.
We do have free will to reject that salvation AND to engage in doing good works for God's sake and not for our own.
A full reading of Martin Luther's writings exposes this, and he summed it up in his work "Concerning Christian Liberty."
"Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith working by love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fullness and riches of his own faith."
We are no mere puppets when it comes to the acting out of our faith. We can choose good. We can choose evil. We can reject God's grace and walk away from Him.
I know I'm right about this.
But a lot of good it did trying to actually discuss (read: argue/fight) it.
Not too many people actually change their minds because of a discussion on an internet discussion board.
It's pretty stupid to continue to try.
I should probably stop posting.
Like the moth to the candle....