Justification (4 of 4) Outlaw - Connie W.

This post is from Connie W he can be found on twitter @conniejoh2o and she blogs at http://conniejoh2o.wordpress.com/ 
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay
Trying to Understand Justification

Near the end of the Love chapter ( 1 Corinthians 13) Verse 12 we are given, I think, a lens through which we have to view most of our attempts to be assured that we “understand” the Bible, it says, “ For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was known fully.”  If Paul could admit that he couldn’t fully grasp the enormity of God’s essence (love) then it isn’t reaching for us to assume that there is no one human answer that is perfect on the topic of justification, but that our faith and belief in Christ Jesus is not in jeopardy if we question in a prayerful way, the specifics of how justification works.

I appreciated Jay asking me to present my understanding of Justification and to also speak, if I could to the “Outlaw Preachers” understanding of Justification.  His request sent me on a quest by way of several conversations to find out just what Outlaw Preachers believe when it comes to the topic of Justification.  As all good 21th century folks do, my first stop was Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_(theology) to get an overview of various understandings of justification. Next I had conversations with several Outlaws across the country whom I knew came from varied traditions and understandings.

Justification is not a foreign subject to me, having received my MDiv while a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist tradition justification was a topic at many DCOM meetings and in many of my seminary classes.  I am familiar with the understanding of grace of which justifying grace is an important step.  Justifying grace is the time in one’s faith journey in which you recognize the presence of God and begin your personal  relationship with God as you accept for yourself the action that God has already taken through Jesus Christ. Then begins Sanctifying Grace, you begin to display your growth in the Spirit by becoming each day more like the image of Christ, hopefully traveling on to perfection.  It wasn’t talked about much, but there was a brief mention in Seminary about “back sliding” or leaving the way and losing your salvation or the possibility that one wasn’t justified at all having never “really” accepted God in the first place because the actions never reflected the acts of someone moving on to perfection.  It made sense to me, but I always understood that our understanding of justification is unique to the United Methodist tradition.

As I began to speak with other Outlaws about how they were taught to understand Justification, it became apparent that there was great diversity (which I completely anticipated seeing).  Outlaw Preachers come from many traditions, and no traditions, some run away from the understandings of their youth, some cling to them, and some didn’t even know that “justification” was a big deal.  See, when you are part of a group that spans the gambit of theological understanding from Episcopalian to Assemblies of God, “Recovering Conservative Evangelicals” to Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Disciples of Christ and various other traditions and complete lack of tradition diversity is a given, finding common ground is the trick.  This bunch of rapscallions seem to be linked not by any academically defined doctrine, but a simple (not simplistic) belief that the Grace of God restores  ALL. There seems to be an understanding that God’s grace and God’s love are not contingent on our becoming someone else but that by the unconditional love and grace of God we become confident in whom we already are. 

Once God’s grace and love are seen in this way, the focus becomes not on “how God did it” but “what is our response to what God already did”.  Grace and love can never be seen as simply between God and the individual, while there is no doubt that each of us in important to and beloved by God, grace is extended to all humankind, making our response not one of deep relief because we are “saved” but gratitude for inclusion into the “body of Christ” and we then become part of the grace and love of God.
In conclusion, if you ask me now about my understanding of justification,  I would be most inclined to call myself a hopeful Universalist.  While I cannot see through the dark mirror clearly enough  to tell you that I know for sure that everyone, everywhere will get “in” in the end, I can say this, the God that I see in scripture, the God that most Christian traditions proclaim, the God I have observed in my life, and all that my logically mind has learned about God all point to the belief that God has done everything within God’s power, including giving that power up to walk among us, and die as one of us, to prove to us the lengths God will take to reconcile with God’s creation and extend God’s love and grace to that creation.  I hope that God does bring everyone home for eternity, nothing would make me happier than for everyone, everywhere to be perfected in the grace and love of God.  I don’t believe this understanding varies far from where I started, the idea of prevenient grace tells us that God is always seeking us, looking for a way to be a part of our lives and I don’t believe God ever gives up.  I long for the day in which I know fully the how’s of justification, but for now, I am content to live in the grace and love of God trusting that it is indeed for all of our good and not our demise, that is indeed good news that I can share with everyone, everywhere.



Rev. Steven Altman said...

Frankly sir, your answer absolutely terrifies me. I really do not want to pick the whole thing apart point by point because I think the problem here with your theological understanding of justification is that there is no theology in it. It is all sociology at best, which is undoubtedly why you feel no compulsion to include a single Scripture reference to uphold your argument. Do you really believe that Paul of all people was vague on justification? Read the epistles he penned to the churches! Do you think that Paul thought that this doctrine was unimportant, open to everyones feelings and private interpretation? Justification should be everything to the one who hopes to be saved solely by the grace of almighty God. Scripture never says that we are good and getting better but that we are DEAD in our trespasses and sins! Unless by the grace of God our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit to the depths of our depravity (as seen clearly in our continual law breaking) we will not see the need for a perfect savior such as Jesus Christ! But by the grace of God alone through the gift of faith alone the Spirit turns our eyes from our sin and misery to the glory of Jesus Christ crucified and the amazing redemption wrought for us on Calvary! Sinners like you and I are saved, not because of what we are by nature, but in spite of what we are by nature! This "outlaw" version isn't new its just old school liberal universalism with a trendy soul patch.I do not have a problem friend with your having your own ideas, just do the lost a favor and do not claim it is found in the pages of Scripture, or even remotely glorifying to the one who gave His life to reconcile His people to Almighty God! Anyone wanting a great concise explanation of this doctrine please read the Heidelberg Catechism Questions and answers numbers 60-61. I have a link to it on my churches sight www,peacercus.com. Thanks Jay!

Jay Miklovic said...

First let me again thank Connie for the post. I would encourage Rev. Steve and others from the twitterverse to engage the content of the post specifically. Ad hominem is said to be the last gasp of a dying argument. Connie was gracious enough to articulate her position in a venue she knew was antagonistic to her ideas, but it ought not be hostile to her, this goes for twitter comments and blog comments alike.

With that said, and I plan to comment on each of the for posts, my biggest struggle with how justification has been articulated here is the initial premise that seems to state, b/c we see though a glass dimly we cannot say anything about justification with certainty. That notion seems like Gnosticism to me. Paul was quite the logician and fought with all his intellect to make doctrine known, to subvert all his dogma with one verse out of 1 cor 13 seems to miss the mark.

It think that presupposition that is born out of 1 cor 13:12 carried to it's logical conclusion can produce nothing but gnosticism.

Thoughts? Again, thanks Connie for the post.