The Whole Christ and the Marrow of Modern Divinity
Two Sides of the Same Problem
Picture two boys about the same age, looking at themselves in a mirror. One boy gazes at his strong facial features, his wavy hair, and his starting-to-mature muscles. He flexes and smirks, thinking to himself how much better he looks than his classmates. The other boy parts his scruffy hair the best he can while trying to picture his face without the acne. He sighs after trying to suck in his stomach that hasn't shed its baby fat yet. "Who is ever gonna want to talk to someone like this?" Which one of these boys is vain?
The answer is actually both, but I wouldn't be surprised if your first thought was the boy who liked his appearance. But how could the second boy be guilty of vanity if he's insecure about his looks? This is the misconception about what vanity is, or at least, where it comes from. The issue is one of pride, which is to elevate oneself above what he or she really is. In this case it is elevating physical appearance above its proper place into the realm of identity. Both boys are taking looks and separating them from their place. Identity should be found in God and not physical appearance. You don't have to love your looks to be vain, just like you don't have to be rich to love money. Two ends of the spectrum find their origin in the same flawed view of identity apart from God.
The Whole Christ
For centuries we have seen a similar issue when it comes to the Law of God. In this short series I am going to be doing an analysis of Sinclair Ferguson's "The Whole Christ". The description is best summarized here:
"Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today?
By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works—Sinclair B. Ferguson sheds light on this central issue and why it still matters today. In doing so, he explains how our understanding of the relationship between law and gospel determines our approach to evangelism, our pursuit of sanctification, and even our understanding of God himself.
Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation."
"The Whole Christ" is written from a pastoral perspective, and can be a bit difficult to understand. It follows the story of "The Marrow of Modern Divinity", a Socratic dialogue that's even trickier to follow because of the older dialect, and shows the struggle of their day to be the same as Paul's and ours. I recommend reading both as they so accurately and thoroughly address an array of questions most of us didn't even know we had. To summarize, they cover the topic of viewing the Law apart from God, much like our two boys viewed their identity apart from God. They are not opposites as much as they are ends of a spectrum. There is so much in both that I could spend the next year on these themes alone, but the outline for the next few weeks should look something like this.
1. What is the Law of God?
2. Legalism and Antinomianism.
3. Paul's Struggle, Our Struggle.
This will probably change in the next few weeks as I try and convey the major themes the best I can. Hopefully this introduction is enough to spark your interest in these two books that will definitely shape your Christian walk.