Friday, May 1, 2009

Two Roads... but Only One Truth!

There are two roads that claim to lead to all truth.

The first road--the wide and beautiful road--is the false teaching that ultimately says, "Man serves god." This well-traveled avenue was constructed by Satan and his demons using lies for stone and human arrogance for mortar. Along this road you can find every kind of man-made religion imaginable. These teachings of men come in all kinds of varieties. Every belief on this road comes from the invention of man. They have all kinds of philosophies that build on the simple idea that "Man serves god". There are lots of churches on this road, too. They are right next to mosques, temples, prayer circles, and the homes of various spiritual gurus. Crosses and 'Christian' bumper stickers abound on this road. If you are an atheist, you can even go to the false religion that says "Man serves god... and god is you!"

The buildings may look different and may seem to offer all kinds of various teachings and trappings, but if you look at the foundations of those buildings you will find that they all sit along the same road where Man must work. This is the road of failure and disappointment because (as you have already figured out by the example of your own life) the fact is that Man cannot work. He is never good enough, never true enough, never perfect enough to reach an infinite truth or please an infinite being.

You can foolishly pick whatever you like, but it is all built on the same, demonic road... the road that leads to destruction. This is the road to eternal torment and isolation in hell; not because the people on it failed to believe in what they were doing, not because they failed to try their best, but because this is simply not the way to reach God.

That is why our loving God did not build this road. That is why man, in his sinful pride and rebellion, had to construct it for himself at the behest of God's sworn enemy, Satan, who is the father of lies. He designed this road in the Garden of Eden and whispered its plans into the ears of Adam and Eve. This road serves a secret purpose. It does the exact opposite of what it promises. It promises truth but serves lies. It promises life but ends in death. It promises heaven but earns you hell. It promises to find the divine but reveals the devil. It promises hope but curses you with dispair and torment.

The second road--the narrow and difficult road--is the only true teaching. This divine Word says, "God serves man." This is the only teaching that comes from the very mouth of God and is demonstrated on the cross of Christ. This road does not merely claim to lead to God. It literally comes out from God and leads straight to you so that you can be picked up and brought to where God is.

The second road is not like the first road where you sojurn and wander to find God, but never succeed. It is quite the opposite. It is a road of collection where God comes and gets you and brings you back home by merciful grace. This road returns to Eden where God and man walked together in fellowship and where man did not toil because his every need was provided for by his loving Creator. Now, outside of Eden, our God the Father works through Word and Sacrament where the true religion exists in a system in which God constantly lifts up man, refreshes him, and brings him to everlasting life by faith alone in God the Son, Jesus Christ.

In this one and true faith, God also serves man through his fellow man as God the Holy Spirit fills us with faith, brings us to the righteousness of faith, and by faith performs true good works in us that bless our neighbor. This is the road that leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus which follows in the shadow of the cross where God draws poor sinners to Himself. This is the way to life everlasting.

There is no middle road.


Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...

How about saying that the first road is: "Man serves God and in exchange for that, man receives some benefit," and the second road is: "God gives man salvation and life, and as a result of that, man serves the true God."

Let us never deny that man was created to love the Lord with all his heart, etc., and to love his neighbor as himself. "Serve the Lord with gladness."

See Rom. 1:9, 25; 7:6, 25; 14:18, etc.

Mike Baker said...

I guess we could say that... if we wanted to be perfectly clear and articulate. :P

Thanks for this addition, Pr. Mayes.

I would like to point out that what you say about man's created ability to love and serve was true at creation. Because of the fall and the disease of sin, the nature of man cannot observe the Law of God and cannot love God. That is the state in which the modern world remains.

We should never deny that man was created to love God and his neighbor. We should also not deny that the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of the faithful with new passions to perform truly good works. These works are not truly our works but rather the works of/through Christ who lives within us.

The fallen condition of man apart from the gift of faith remains hoplessly corrupted and enslaved to sin. Apart from God we can do nothing and in that condition we are incapable of God-pleasing works. We must be careful to be clear in this so that no one presumes too much of man's abilities in his fallen state.

Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...


prayeramedic said...

I must say, this struck a dissonant chord when I first read it. All of the mental conditioning from years of evangelical cliche's kicked in and said, "No, that's wrong! Man serves God, God isn't our servant!" That must have been my prosperity gospel radar detector kicking in. But I know this isn't what you are saying. You seem to be speaking specifically in the realm of salvation/justification, but this also bleeds into the realm of sanctification as well.

In a theology course I took recently, we learned that all systematic theologies have what is called an integrative motif, that is, a central theme around which one's theology is centered and from which all of their thinking comes. I wasn't aware of how much my thinking had been molded from the same motif that Martin Luther developed: salvation by grace through faith. Calvinists argue that Luther's motif makes the Christian faith all about man, rather than all about God. Christianity becomes focused on God's salvation for mankind with man being the true central focus of the story, rather than the God who saves.

Most Calvinists center their systematic theology around the glory and sovereignty of God. This worldview essentially relegates man to a puppet with no free will whose only purpose in life is to worship God and glorify Him by telling others about Him. But this really is a less-than-attractive view of God. It makes him out to be a big puppet-master who sends some people to heaven and some to hell at His whim. It makes Him seem self-serving because all the nice things He does for man are only so we will do something for Him: give Him our worship. At the same time, it is ENTIRELY focused on God, man is nothing.

Then a third integrative motif is the kingdom of God. This motif creates an aura of mystery since the Christian life is centered on the kingdom, which Jesus constantly spoke about but never really defined. The motif places God's will as the supreme focus, into which He is pleased to incorporate us. Life becomes a gigantic adventure story that we are swept up into as God chooses us to partner with Him in His kingdom. This motif has been my preferred view point, since it seems to be the central focus of all Christ's teachings, but I'm still not 100% convinced that any one of the three offers a completely perfect worldview of Scripture. Maybe all three contain elements of truth but don't capture the big picture. Or maybe they just need to be kept in balance.

Or perhaps I have improperly understood Luther's motif and the point of your post. . . .

Mike Baker said...

Luther's motif is all about the "Theology of the Cross". It consumes his theology from salvation, to sanctification, to even topics like the Lord's Supper and Vocation. One must not make so much of God's soveriengty that he denies the Son's humility. The Son, who works in humility and weakness, came down and was made man so that He may serve--not be served; so that He may wash--not be washed. It is this Paschal Victim, Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, who suffered and died on the cross to save man. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

The Apostles and Jews were looking for the same Mighty King that many Christians are looking for today. Christ challenged these human opinions again and again by pointing to His own suffering and death. Christ's response to Peter's rebuke over the coming crucifixion was, "get behind me, Satan."

Your Calvinist read of Luther's theology (that it is "all about man") is not only incorrect it is the exact opposite of his writings and preaching. It is "all about Christ crucified." Now man figures into the discussion a great deal because he is the object of Christ's redemptive work... but one should not confuse subjects and predicates here. The operative power of the whole of Christian doctrine is not man... it is Christ Alone.

To quote Luther: "That person deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visibile and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross." -Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 20


"Rightly speaking, therefore, the work of Christ should be called the operative power, and our work, the operation; so our operation is pleasing to God by the grace of the operative power." -Heidelberg Dispuatation, Thesis 27