"The other thing is the whole business of “transformation.” I notice how often that word comes up—our lives can be transformed, our churches can be transformed, our culture can be transformed. We imagine if we do everything right according to what the New Testament teaches us, that things will be completely changed. And if they aren’t completely changed, I’ve either bet my life on something that’s not true, or the Gospel itself is not true. I just keep on coming back to Luther’s truth that we are simultaneously justified and sinners. I keep on looking at my own life, and at church history, and I realize that when the Gospel talks about transformation, it can’t possibly mean an actual, literal change in this life of a dramatic nature, except in a few instances. It must be primarily eschatological; it must be referring to the fact that we will in fact be changed. The essential thing to make change possible has occurred—Christ died and rose again. (And in this life we will see flashes of that, just like in Jesus’ ministry there were moments when the Kingdom broke in and we see a miracle. And these moments tell us there is something better awaiting for us and God is gracious enough at times to allow a person or a church or a community to experience transformation at some level.) But we can’t get into the habit of thinking that this dramatic change is normal, this side of the Kingdom. What’s normal this side of the Kingdom is falling into sin (in big or small ways), and then appropriating the grace of God and looking forward to the transformation to come."Mark Galli, Senior Editor, Christianity Today magazine [italics mine].
Click on post title to read the full interview at the Mockingbird blog.
HT New Reformation Press blog (link in blogroll, right-hand column)
The obsession with personal and societal transformation in Evangelicalism seems to stem from two disparate sources: the Pietistic tradition of retreat from the evils of the world to cultivate holiness on the one hand, and from the opposite end of the spectrum the Theonomistic "let's take this world for Christ" world-view. Combine them, as in my experience Baptists especially tend to do, and you've got a mighty force which also hits the ground with an equally mighty thump when it inevitably runs into the cold, hard reality of this recalcitrant world.
Curiously, both approaches have their counter-parts in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, in both of which the desires to either retreat from or take-over the world have had a formative role, shaping the ethos of each communion. The common denominator behind these tendencies in both Evangelicalism on the one hand, and Eastern and Western Catholicism on the other is, I think, an underestimation of the radical nature of sin, along with a confusion of Law & Gospel and a consequent misunderstanding of how God works in this world.
So, praise the Lord for Mark Galli, who through his writing is hopefully helping at least some Evangelicals to "get it". After all, if we can't realistically hope to turn all Evangelicals into "Evangelical Lutherans", we can at least hope that some become "Lutheran Evangelicals".
John Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace, Spirituality For Today (Concordia,2008)
Carter Lindberg, Modern Fanatici and the Lutheran Confessions, CTQ July 1995
Harold Senkbeil, Sanctification (Northwestern, 1989)
CFW Walther, Law & Gospel, A Reader's Edition (Concordia, 2010)
Francis Pieper, 'Man After the Fall' in Christian Dogmatics I: 526ff (Concordia)