17 February, 2007

Righteous Anger

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the nature of modern Christianity. I spent part of yesterday taking my mind off my petty problems by debating the nature of Christian response to abortion with various people. I realised that the core themes of that debate were LAW versus GRACE. That sounds a lot like the paralel and duelling themes in the modern church. Do we demand the right of the Law or do we extend the hand of grace?

I grew up in a house of lawyers--both existant and nascent. I learned how to argue, discuss and speak. I learned to honour the Rule of Law as the force by which all men remain free from earthly tyranny and to honour the Gift of Grace as it frees us from eternal tyranny.

It's starting to seem to me, though, that many of us Christians who've been in the life for a long time start to confuse ourselves with God. In one forum of this lenghty debate my opponant asked me a good question.

Where is the righteous anger?

I've been thinking about it. A lot. I'm starting to wonder if we as Christians have overclaimed our access to Righteous Anger.
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4

The rest of that passage in Romans talks about righteousness through faith. To my thinking any righteousness to which we can lay claim is ours through faith in the saving grace of Christ. So we have no righteousness apart from God.

Since our righteousness is ours solely through Grace, it would seem to me hypocritical to claim that gracious righteousness as a cudgel with which we condemn others. It seems like the Christian version of 'I've got mine, so screw you'. Is it right to whitewash our human anger in a cloak of righteousness? Or is it hubris?

I know that the song says we are joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, but frankly I don't believe that being Joint Heirs with Jesus gives us the right to assume God's role of excercising condemnation on man. I think that's what Christ was trying to tell us with the parable of the unforgiving servant. We've been ourselves forgiven of a great debt. Is it our role, then, to assess the debts of others and levy a price? I don't think so.

I'm still mulling all this over, and probably will be for a few days. It's a matter that takes some thought, I think.

14 Comments:

At 5:08 PM, February 17, 2007, Anonymous sbk said...

Is "Righteous Anger" an oxymoron?

 
At 6:10 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger John said...

That sounds a lot like the parallel and dueling themes in the modern church. Do we demand the right of the Law or do we extend the hand of grace?

Actually, the qualifier "modern" is probably unnecessary. This has been a tension in the faith since Day One.

 
At 6:35 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger Ginger said...

Kat, not to point to my own post today, but what you have written here perfectly sums up where my heart is in contemplating the whole death penalty/judgement/condemnation thing from what I experienced by visiting death row. I, like you, are pondering all of this in my heart and truly praying about it.

Excellent post, Kat. You rock.

 
At 6:59 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger Chance said...

Hey Kat,
Just to be clear, many pro-choicers say pro-lifers are trying to condemn them by trying to outlaw abortion. Is that what you are saying here, or are you really talking about the overall attitude Christians should have towards abortion, or those who have them?

 
At 9:04 PM, February 17, 2007, Anonymous john h said...

"It's starting to seem to me, though, that many of us Christians who've been in the life for a long time start to confuse ourselves with God"

Profound, and sadly true for Christians of all stripes.

Kat, you have cut through a lot of noise with this post. Thanks.

 
At 9:32 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger grandefille said...

Ms. C., would that all of us were like you -- thoughtful and open-minded and willing to hear and consider other's viewpoints and then try to balance them with our understandings and beliefs.

Of course, the war machine would go bankrupt, but hey, we could live with that.

Thank you.

 
At 10:43 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger Ned Williams said...

Good things to think about, Kat. I think it is beside the point of this controversy (isn't this related to the Campfield bill thread over at VV?), however.

That question/comment (from Nate, I'm guessing?) isn't the rationale for or against your stated position--that a Christian ought to more or less support a woman who makes the choice of getting an abortion.

Like Nate, I disagree with your position, however, I don't perceive that I have the level of "righteous anger" that Nate has, nor do I consider whether or not you have "righteous anger" to be pertinent.

That being said, I agree with you inasmuch as you are saying that anger that is "righteous" is exceptional, and that Nate could be "right" about this issue and still be sinning in how he engages with others about it.

I always am glad that you've weighed in on a subject.

 
At 11:14 PM, February 17, 2007, Blogger MCO said...

Law and grace are not presented in Scripture is mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed, without the law, there would be no need for grace, nor would there be a practical understanding of righteousness. Much of the problem lies in the fact that many Christians have not understood either the terms "law" and "grace," nor have they understood the relationship between them. Katherine's post also confuses the concept of "righteousness," in that she conflates distinct biblical concepts of righteousness as a forensic and as a practical reality.

Various Christian groups through the years have ventured off into errors of legalism (law as a means of attaining righteousness and a stick to beat people over the head with) and antinomianism (literally "no law," meaning that the law has no significance for the believer or society).

The question is not one of law or grace, it is one of how law and grace fit together in understanding the believer's relationship with God and with others. Most churches have badly failed to comprehend those concepts

 
At 1:03 AM, February 18, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Actually, the qualifier "modern" is probably unnecessary.

I know...I just was trying to write on my own experience, which has-of course--only been of the modern variet.

Kat, not to point to my own post today, but what you have written here perfectly sums up where my heart is in contemplating the whole death penalty/judgement/condemnation thing from what I experienced by visiting death row.

I actually read that, and it has fed into some of my own ponderings. ;-p I guess it's a season of reflection, if nothing else.

are you really talking about the overall attitude Christians should have towards abortion, or those who have them?

Yes. That's exactly what I'm talking about. The larger context is whether or not it's appropriate to call women who have abortions 'babykillers'. I tend to think that it is not.

Ms. C., would that all of us were like you

Thanks. I really don't mean any of this to be prideful. I just feel like they're really difficult questions. What IS a Christ-modeled response to these things? Is my interpretation the right one? Is my head listening or my heart or my spirit?

Kat. I think it is beside the point of this controversy

It's only tangentially related to the initial discussion, which is why I didn't link any of the fora where the discussion was/is taking place.

that a Christian ought to more or less support a woman who makes the choice of getting an abortion.

See, that's the argument right there. I think a Christian should be supporting a woman. Period. That last clause...'who makes the choice' etc. isn't necessary.

that Nate could be "right" about this issue and still be sinning in how he engages with others about it.

I need to be absolutely clear. Whether or not Nate is sinning isn't for me to say AT ALL. That's not what I'm going for here. I'm really trying to decide solely what my own responses should be. It's my own framework I'm bouncing around here.

Law and grace are not presented in Scripture is mutually exclusive concepts.

Agreed. Christ is the fulfillment of the law.

Katherine's post also confuses the concept of "righteousness," in that she conflates distinct biblical concepts of righteousness as a forensic and as a practical reality.


What do yu mean here? I'm not talking about the legality of abortion at all. I'm talking about a Christian response to women who have abortions. The forensic aspect isn't of a great concern to me at this juncture.

The question is not one of law or grace, it is one of how law and grace fit together in understanding the believer's relationship with God and with others.

Yes. That is what I'm working on, and that's the direction I mean for this post to go. I'm not saying one trumps the other. I'm just pondering how much we should let the Law guide our response versus Grace.

 
At 9:39 AM, February 18, 2007, Blogger Newscoma said...

I cannot add anymore than has already been written here.
But I thank you for this post.
It's reflective and thoughtful and it made a lot of sense to me.
I love reading you Kat. Even when I disagree you give me something to take a hold of think through.

 
At 11:36 PM, February 18, 2007, Anonymous Nicole said...

I have to echo newscoma's comment above. This was an incredibly thoughtful post, and I find myself reading here more often thinking, "wow, I never framed it that way" even when I disagree.

 
At 8:09 AM, February 19, 2007, Anonymous grandefille said...

I really don't mean any of this to be prideful. I just feel like they're really difficult questions. What IS a Christ-modeled response to these things? Is my interpretation the right one? Is my head listening or my heart or my spirit?

I doubt anyone who read it thought you intended to be prideful, ma'am. It came across clearly as questioning and searching and more than a little frustrated with folks who forget that they ain't 'sposed to judge lest they be judged. While the guidelines are written down for us, implementing and understanding them is an extremely personal and individual experience, and too many folks seem to forget that.

Again, thank you for reminding us to think.

 
At 12:56 PM, February 19, 2007, Anonymous Lu said...

Good, good stuff. I've been struggling with all this myself lately - just within a different context.

 
At 10:19 AM, February 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with this excellent as usual post. I would just point out that Christians can and should "support women" no matter what. Nevertheless, supporting a woman could include lovingly helping her to fully understand the consequences of abortion and the alternatives to it. Many women are unaware of the full extent of the physical and emotional trauma abortion carries.

 

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