Hanging Together
Monica, Mother of Augustine
27 August 2019
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, John Hancock made a comment that the signatories had better hang together. In reply, Benjamin Franklin famously quipped "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." How right Franklin was. He knew that the fathers of the American republic would have to make their stand together or the British would hang them separately for sedition and rebellion. They were irretrievably co-dependent. If they could be separated they would all come to a terrible and brutal end. We know, of course, that they did hang together and avoided that terrible end.
The same thing could be said for the topics of Christian theology. They hang together or they will assuredly hang separately. There is a theological co-dependence among the articles of faith. Great damage could be done to the body of doctrine by thoughtlessly perverting any topic of theology. Sometimes we have trouble seeing that theological interdependence, but that doesn't mean the interdependence doesn't exist. Perhaps such lack of seeing is merely indicative of our spiritual weakness. We really need the spectacles of Christ set upon our mind's eye, so that we see everything in and through Christ. He is the One who causes all theology to hang together and about whom every topic of theology speaks. He is both the content and the author of our faith.
In the twentieth century some so-called theological experts argued that the gospel alone could shape every aspect of theology; everything could be reduced to the gospel or not-the-gospel. On one level this was correct because all theology could be considered from the perspective of the law and gospel distinction. But of course, this is not what the experts meant. They thought that any biblical teaching could undergo criticism if it could be identified as "not-the-gospel." Under this critical treatment, even the divinity of Christ was called into question. The experts no longer desired to confess that the Christian religion depended on the person of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, embarrassed as they were by the theological exclusiveness of the Christian religion (Jn 14:6). So in higher critical studies the divinity of Christ could be discounted and even outright rejected. The problem with this fragmented and fragmenting approach to theology is that it allows all topics of theology to be hanged separately. If Christ is not fully God by nature, then He could never have withstood the murderous onslaught of the law. If He does not win the war with the law, then we still owe our whole debt to the law, the war is still on, and we are completely deprived of peace with God. When we start slicing and dicing Christian theology according to our own predilections the damage might be the loss of Christ and the peace that He alone could bring.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Now since Christ has conquered the law in His own person, it necessarily follows that He is God by nature. Except for God no one, neither a man nor an angel, is above the law. But Christ is above the law, because He has conquered and strangled it. Therefore He is the Son of God and therefore God by nature. If you grasp Christ as He is depicted by Paul here (Gal 4:6), you will neither err nor be put to shame. Then you will be in a position to judge about every kind of life and about the religion and worship of the whole world. But if this true picture of Christ is taken away or even obscured, there follows a sure confusion of everything; for the unspiritual man cannot judge about the law of God. Here the skill of the philosophers, the jurists, and of all men is deficient. For the law rules man; therefore it judges man, and man does not judge the law.
"Only the Christian holds a proper judgment about the law. How? To say that it does not justify. Then what is it for, if it does not justify? The final cause of the obedience of the law by the righteous is not righteousness in the sight of God, which is received by faith alone, but the peace of the world, gratitude toward God, and a good example by which others are invited to believe the gospel. The pope confused ceremonial matters, moral matters, and faith in such a way that he did not discriminate among them at all, except that eventually he preferred ceremonial matters to moral matters, and moral matters to faith." 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.4-5
1 Timothy 4:1-16

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)
Almighty God, in Your wisdom You have given us the fullness of the truth in Your Word. Help us to read it, learn it, and take it to heart, so that we might have Christ in His fullness among us. Amen.
For Bob Turner, that he would recover swiftly and fully from knee replacement surgery
For President Trump, his cabinet and advisers, that he would make choices that are wise and of benefit to a free people
For the abundance of the fruits of the earth, that the harvest may be reaped to the benefit of people everywhere
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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