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My Romans Riff

02 October 2012 by Frank Turk

Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Yesterday, my dear friend and writing partner Tom Chantry had a great post about the flaws in a lesser catechism, and I enjoyed it immensely until I ran into this part:

Scripturally, no man is morally blank: each soul has been covered in writing, either that of wickedness or that of righteousness.

The fallen soul is clogged with wickedness. It does not need erasure - subjection to some sort of moral degaussing - rather it must be overwritten with righteousness.

I agree with what comes before the colon.  I really am crazy about the theological metaphor he creates after the colon.  I agree without any qualification with the next sentence.  I am not sure what to do with that last sentence.

According to Romans 1, every person ever knows all the moral decrees of God.  According to Romans 2, what's worse is that our very consciences tell us about these things -- so when we do the wrong thing, it's not for lack of information or even a lack of understanding.  It's from a profusion of disobedience.  Indeed, Rom 3 goes on to say that just because the Jews have the actual written moral law, it doesn't do them one bit of good.

So, first things first: on the one hand, I like Tom's gold-star effort to make a theological metaphor, and in that I gave a lot of grace for his attempt to seal the deal by transposing the act of justification into his metaphor.  In that grace, what I think he means here is that root cause of sin doesn't need to be merely corrected: it needs to be utterly changed out because, frankly, it's the kind of thing that can't be left blank.

Sticking to my Romans riff here, it says at the end of Romans 3 that what happens is "[we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  So if I was to re-write what Tom wrote, here's how I would say it:

Scripturally, no man is morally blank: each soul has been covered in writing, either that of wickedness or that of righteousness.

The fallen soul is defaced with wickedness, graffiti'ed with all manner of vulgar mottos. It does not need erasure: it needs to be utterly reissued, reprinted by the publisher Himself, printed and bound on stuff purchased by the blood of Christ Himself.

Still, Tom's post has so much independent verve, I ran it as-is. Consider this my meditation on what he said so well.