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Filling the void: on Luther and a new Reformation, part 2 of 2
This is the second part of a series of posts on Ephesians 2. Paul is trying to help the Ephesians bring heaven to earth. He wants Christians to create New Humanity on Earth that not only points to the Kingdom of God but is an active representation of it. There is good theology that comes from this passage, and also theology that I find to be rather disheartening and not applicable to our age. I think we need to try something new. The basic concept of sola fide is, I think, a good one. It’s rooted in the reformed tradition, and it basically states that we are saved by faith alone. It is a good idea, but the way it has morphed is important.
1) The language that Paul uses in Ephesians 2:1 (as well as other epistles) had led people to believe that human beings are totally depraved; in other words, without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, human beings can do no good whatsoever. We are inherently evil.
2) This inherent evil is completely in tolerant to God, and so His wrath needed to be quenched. Paul says our nature caused us to be “deserving of wrath. (2:3)” The complication that comes with this is that this wrath is of course assumed to be God’s and assumed to be unquenched. And so according to what I think is theology that is incredibly hard to adapt in our contemporary context, God is seen as a wrathful and rageful (and possibly abusive) father, who pours out his anger and rage on his Son, who took our place on the cross.
3) The final part of the sola fide doctrine has morphed into this idea based on another verse in Ephesians 2. Paul says it right in verse 8, right? It is by grace alone that you have been saved through faith—not by works, so that no one can boast. So why should we do anything at all?
The theological narrative that follows isn’t a good one; or at least a sustainable one. Individuals end up thinking that they are worthless k; that God hated them; and even when we are saved, works that better the world are arrogant; we should all just humbly submit to God because only faith has saved us. You can see how a small degree of self-awareness, or teenage rebellion can completely cause our faith, which is based on good, but perverted, theological concepts, to crumble. I actually came close to losing my whole faith because of these ideas--I'm glad I didn't. Here's another take: Jesus cures our death. The idea that we are “dead (2:1),” is a feeling that many of us feel day-in and day-out. This death is something that Jesus cures. He doesn’t just cure us of eternal death, but the death of our regular life—of our broken relationships, of our depression, our materialism, our anxiety, our wage slavery. He redeems us and gives us life. The death that we regularly experience was subverted by God’s great love (2:4) for us! In some sense, the purpose of our wholes lives is know that we are loved—and I don’t know if the dominant theology narrative encourages us to believe that. I want us to offer an alternative to it. Our life in Christ then compels us to do much. Paul calls us “God’s handiwork (2:10).” We are actually created in God’s image and his grace makes us more alive than our sins have killed us. We are God’s created, redeemed in Jesus, to do good works on earth (which we are capable of doing), which God has actually created us to do. You are alive in Christ, and you are bringing a piece of heaven right now to earth. We are creating a community and a culture that expressed the Kingdom of God in a tangible way and you are part of that project. Let’s keep doing it together.