-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: "Every Action of the Triune God is a Promise that Gives and a Gift that Promises"

"In the particular divine service, we can hear, taste, and see, through the word, that what holds the world together in its inmost essence is the categorical gift rather than the categorical imperative (contra Kant). The particular divine service does not cultivate its own separate religious sphere, but it discloses the world as creation. In the light of his Reformation discovery that the Words of Institution spoken over the Lord's Supper are fundamentally performative words that give what they say, Luther developed his characteristic understanding of creation as God's gift. Luther has these gift-giving words of the Lord's Supper in his ears, before his eyes, and in his heart when he confesses that every action of the triune God is a promise that gives and a gift that promises.

"The universal character of the categorical gift finds its counterpart in the universality of the response, for which we are empowered by the gift and promise: "For all of this I am bound to thank and praise, serve and obey him." An ethos of giving and love is included in the response. It is included but not identical to it. Thus, it is a mistake to conclude from Romans 12:1-2 that "the doctrines of worship and Christian 'ethics' coincide." It is even less possible to understand this Magna Carta of the new obedience (Rom. 12:1f.) in the sense of the Roman Catholic idea of the sacrifice of the faithful together with Christ in the Eucharist. This proposal is no better than the claim that worship coincides with ethics. Neither proposal has any place for the indispensable distinction between faith as God's service to us, and love as the service of the faithful to their fellow creatures. This distinction is so necessary for salvation that we cannot do without it.

"In the overall context of the letter, the "sacrifice" and the "worship" that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1-2 explain the significance of Baptism, which Paul sums up as living a new life (Rom. 6:4). This not only has ethical implications but it goes beyond ethics and includes the whole physical perception of the world which needs to be worked out in a comprehensive aesthetics that looks at how our senses, emotions, memory, and imagination are all involved in our experience of reality. We can only view creation properly through that judgment and "death" which is enacted in Baptism; otherwise all talk about creation is idle chatter."

-Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way, trans. Jeffrey Silcock and Mark Mattes (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007), 86-87.

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