Thursday, June 6, 2013

Section 18: God inside and Outside the Law

Sorry I haven't posted quotations from the book for a while. Here's today's.

The Self-Donation of God, chapter 6:

"In spite of this condemnation, God also speaks forth a second word, that is, the Word of the gospel. This countermove is possible because the law does not exhaust God's will. Although the law is God's holy will and God cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13), it is only one aspect of his will. God's being and will encompass and transcends the law and therefore the law does not exhaust it. God acts within creation, as we have seen, under different masks (larva Dei). Some masks are of law, and others are of the gospel. Although God binds himself to act according to the law and the gospel within these masks, he may "shuffle" them as he chooses in accordance with his hidden electing will. As Luther writes in The Bondage of the Will: "But God hidden in his majesty neither deplores nor takes away death, but works life, death and all in all. For there he has not bound himself by his word, but has kept himself free over all things." Indeed, that God is an electing and free God is shown in that his proper name is "I will be who I will be" (Exod 3:14, alternative translation). God more clearly explains this to Moses when he proclaims his name before him on Sinai: "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ ["I will be who I will be"] And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" (33:19, emphasis added).
Therefore, God’s wrathful and gracious activities in creation cannot be reduced to the structure of the law. God does not merely judge non-compliance with the law, but propagates the human species in such a way as to spread original sin to each and every person. Each person, without choosing to be so, is a sinner from their conception (Ps 53:5) and object of divine wrath. Furthermore, despite the universality of original sin, the law of wrath and judgment is not applied evenly. Jacob and Moses were attacked by God for no discernible reason. The generation of Israel that was exiled to Babylon can hardly be thought to be worse than the generation that entered Canaan. In a word, although all are fallen and wicked, and therefore deserving of death and eternal condemnation, some suffer condemnation and others do not. Within Scripture, this mysterious reality of election is particularly emphasized in the books of Job and Jonah.
In that human beings are bound to self-justification, they wish the law to exhaust God's will (opinio legis). They wish to control God with the law and thereby protect themselves from the fact that God is utterly free, unbound, and electing. They therefore invent false images of God wherein he is subordinate to the larger reality of the law. Such images of God seek to domesticate him. According to these ideas, the existence of God still allows for free will. He is not identical the terrible power of fate, but rather the overseer of a vast system of law. Within this clean and neat system, all humans are given the opportunity to pull themselves up by their moral bootstraps.
Nevertheless, this concept of God is a false idol. God hidden in his majesty is utterly free, unbound, and sovereign. Although from the perspective of fallen humans this fact is terrifying beyond comprehension, from the perspective of faith this is the greatest comfort. That God's will transcends the law also means that his choice to elect and save need not be based on the law and human obedience to it. Though in saving humanity he will have to deal with the problem of the law (in that it is his eternal will!), the law does not determine his purpose to save."

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