Keep your mind on earth — not in heaven!

I mentioned earlier that Luther and Melanchthon have this disconcerting tendency of flipping much of the ancient order on its head.

You can find another particularly stunning example at the very beginning of Melanchthon’s Loci Communes (1521; for more on this work, see here).

Melanchthon begins the Loci — which is meant to be a new systematic theology — by pretty much dismissing all the standard preliminary topics for this type a work: the nature of God, unity, trinity, the incarnation, and creation. He notes, famously, that “…this is to know Christ, to wit, to know his benefits, and not as they [the scholastics] teach, to perceive his nature and the mode of his incarnation.”1

In other words: forget contemplating the Trinity and pondering Christology and the like. Attend instead to sin, grace, redemption — broadly the whole story of what Christ has done, and not who he is.

This is itself quite significant, and we’ll return to it in later posts.

But what really caught my eye is this little nugget, slipped in as part of his explanation for why we shouldn’t spend time with these traditional subjects:

…the most High God clothed his son with flesh, in order to incite us from the contemplation of his majesty to the contemplation of the flesh and indeed our own frailty.”2 [Emphasis mine.]

Wow.

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  1. Philipp Melanchthon, The Loci Communes, trans. Charles L. Hill (Meador 1944), p. 68. []
  2. ibid. p. 67. []

He Will Not Go Away

He came to be with us. That’s the long and the short of it.

He’s like an annoying lover. He can’t live without you. He knows you don’t want him. He knows you will reject him – again, and again, and again. He knows you would really prefer it if he just cleared out of your life. But he won’t.

He’s like an annoying brother. He sees that you’ve gotten yourself into a mess. He knows that you don’t see it that way. And you’re stubborn. And you have your dignity. And you will hate him for meddling. But the mess is too big. So he just picks up the pieces anyway.

He doesn’t want anything in return. He doesn’t want your faith, or your obedience, or your love, or your good deeds, or your gratitude. He knows he won’t get them from you. Still, he won’t go away.

There is really nothing we can do about this. In fact, we’ve already tried everything. We’ve ignored him, laughed at him, shrugged our shoulders, rejected him, killed him. We’ve believed him, understood him, praised him, built churches in his honor, performed feats of asceticism and loads of good works, got pretty proud of him, killed in his name. We’ve lost our delusions, grew up, and finally almost forgot him. Still, he won’t go away.

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Why We All Hate God

About the Author
David Wagschal

“When there is no sense of the mercy of God, there is either contempt of God or hate.” 1

Now there’s a penetrating thought.  It is from the Loci Communes (1521) of Philipp Melanchthon.

The Loci Communes – now rather neglected, but in its day an important work – was essentially the first Lutheran systematic theology. Melanchthon was trying to sum up the core Lutheran message that Christianity is about nothing other than the mercy of God: the completely free gift of salvation, given to us all, through Jesus, with no strings attached, no demands, no “works” on our part.

In this specific passage Melanchthon is working out what happens when we don’t approach God in this way – when we approach God as most of us actually do, as a strict and demanding task-master, a merciless judge setting forth rules and laws for us to obey “or else”.

What happens when we think this way? We hate God.

Of course we hate him.

Why?

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  1. Philipp Melanchthon, The Loci Communes, trans. Charles L. Hill (Meador 1944), p. 177. []

Jesus Is A Failure

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Nice phrase, right?

We, Christians, usually assume that it means something like this. If you, Jews and Gentiles, think that Christ is a failure and a fraud, you’re wrong. He really is powerful, wise, and successful, only he’s chosen to hide it for the time being. Those “in the know” (i.e., us) understand this. And, at some point, you’ll discover that we’re right – only it might be too little, too late.

Except that the ancient Jews and Gentiles – and the modern non-Christians and atheists – have got it right. Think about it. As a man or as a god, this Christ of ours is a failure and a fraud.

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