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Paul F. M Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life – Part 5: On why the world and religious people have​ a hard time with grace

2 min read

It is not only the world that detests grace. The Christian world also finds the absolution of grace to be a bitter pill. Every time you preach or embody grace, some Christians will accuse you of “antinomianism,” the idea that you are against the law.

At the root of the finger pointing is the fear that if grace is given to a sinner, the sinner is going to take advantage of the amnesty and do a bad thing. This is the fear of antinomianism, the conviction that grace equals permissiveness. On this view, grace is against the law.

Why do religious people have a hard time with grace?

Why do religious people have a hard time with grace? People come to faith during times of trouble. Even if they grew up in church or had a religious experience as a teenager, they usually come to faith during a period of trouble. A specific problem in life leads them to question or to look at God in a new way. Sometimes it prompts them to read something or go to church or talk to somebody they respect. A time of trouble leads them toward the grace of God. But right after they receive this grace, they get punished with the law again. The church punishes them with the law. Here lies the problem, an unburied one. You could put it this way: The law, the stress of life driving you to a breakdown, reduces you to a walking question mark. The question is answered, amazingly, by God’s one-way love. Grace changes everything. 

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Paul F. M Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life – Part 4: On original sin and imputation

1 min read

Original sin is the idea that every woman and every man who has ever been born is infected in their DNA with a tendency to think the wrong and do the wrong. Original sin is the universal tendency in people to look out solely for themselves to such an extent that when they are on the defensive they become violent and libidinal. 

Grace is listening to another person without bringing the conversation back to you. Original sin is listening to the other and compulsively, unconsciously bringing it back to you. You can’t help yourself. Perhaps you have never even thought about it this way. This taking turns talking is an automatic-pilot response. The fact that it is unconscious makes it a prime example of original sin.

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Paul F. M Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life – Part 3: On Justification and Substitutionary atonement

5 min read

…human beings need to be justified, which means that human beings need to live a non-accused life. They need to have the certainty that before God they are innocent. 

By raising this perfectly innocent man, whom we understand to be the perfect expression of God, and by putting that man between us and our irrefutable accusation, God “justifies” us. Thus Jesus our Lord … was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25)

What this theology of everyday life seeks to emphasize is the grace of the first Easter, by which our helpless need as pathetic, predatory human beings is given a remedy.

Grace justification preaches! It preaches to the abandoned and those who pant for mercy. It preaches to criminals and perpetrators. It preaches to victims and to women. It preaches to children and to the oppressed pressed poor. It preaches to oppressors and abusers. It preaches to people caught in the act. It is thoroughly non-partisan, non-sectarian, and nonethnic. It tears down denial. It is thus a threat to walls and veils of excuse.

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Paul F. M Zahl’s, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life – Part 2: On grace and the love of God

3 min 25 sec read

What is grace? Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of loveable. The cliche definition of grace is “unconditional love.”

Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures.

It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold.

Grace is one-way love.

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Paul F. M Zahl’s, Grace in Practice: A Theology​ of Everyday Life – Part one: On the Law

3 min read

In 2018, I stumbled on Paul Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, and read the book for the whole year. It was the only book I read besides my bible. 

Paul’s views on grace and the gospel are weighty. Many times I had to wrestle with his views on grace because they are otherworldly – too good to be true and impractical. The adage “Too heavenly minded, No earthly good” kept on ringing in my head. And yet, I kept on reading. 

Paul Zahl gives us a lofty view of what grace is, and yes, he gives you a heavenly view if you will be of any earthly good. Grace is lofty, heavenly and otherworldly. And grace helps you live in this base, restless, and evil world. Grace is in this world but not of this world. 

I thought I should share quotes from his book. 

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Bring out treasures new and old

5 min read

Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.

Matthew 13:52 (NKJV)

Matthew 13 introduces us for the first time to the Greek word parabole. In Matthew 13, Jesus for the first time speaks in parables to his audience. Why not speak in plain language to them? It was an invitation to them to find out more—to go on a journey of discovery—to go deeper in search of meaning. His disciples got the cue card and did exactly that. They pulled him to the side and asked what the parables meant. The parables prompted the enquiry. 

The point of this post is not to unearth what the parables mean but rather to point out how teaching in the New Covenant should look like.

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Will a loving God send people to hell?

4 min 11 sec read

Inevitably as a Christian, this question will be posed to you—will a loving God send people to hell?

The assumption beneath this question is that because God is love, God cannot possibly send people to hell—that love and judgment are incompatible.

Let’s examine this question in view of grace.

Yes, the Christian faith agrees with this question, somewhat partly. Yes, the Christian faith acknowledges that God is love. In the Christian faith, love is the essence of God and God is the essence of love. (1 John 4:8,16 NLT) God and love are not mutually exclusive things. They are the same.

But the Christian faith disagrees with the view that God sends people to hell. The unpalatable truth is this – people send themselves to hell. There is nowhere in the Christian scriptures to show that God sends people to hell. God will not shovel human beings in a wheelbarrow to hell. Human beings send themselves to hell. 

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Grace and religious liberty

3 min read

This is my short response to an issue that a Christian brother raised on whether Christian ministers in Zambia should pass a government-sanctioned exam to authenticate their callings and ministries.  After all, other areas of expertise have to pass exams to qualify to work in a particular area.

My response was as follows

Exams are not the issue; the issue is state control.

I know with the rise of charlatans and heretics our governments want to protect its citizens from abuse and manipulation. Such is the case with the Bushiri’s here in South Africa. Unfortunately, because religion is inherently personal, such noble ideas by our governments are usually futile. What the Minister of Religious Affairs is doing is an overreaction and overreach. He or she will soon be challenged in the Supreme Court hoping that your courts are impartial, and not loaded with the religious right. 

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Grace that shamelessly persists

3 min Read

And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; or a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

Luke 11:5-8 (NKJV) 

The first time I listened to this narrative, the premise of it was on persistent prayer. This story comes after Jesus had taught his disciples how to pray because they had requested him to teach them how to pray. Therefore, it is a logical progression for bible commentators and teachers to follow, assuming that Jesus was keen to have his disciples persist in prayer. Even the NLT added this line to make the connection… Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story… 

But is this story really about persistent prayer? Did Jesus mean that if you persisted in prayer, what we commonly have known as the Lord’s Prayer, God will eventually cave in and answer your prayers? The Lord’s prayer is merely ten lines long. You mean if you pray these ten lines persistently, God will move on your behalf? Notice how ludicrous and illogical it sounds?

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Is the KonMari method a new form of the Ten Commandments?

3 min, 50 sec read

So Marie Kondo or The KonMari Method is the new fad – the view you can declutter your life, keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. This concept has taken the world by storm. Marie Kondo has a Netflix show, Tyding up with Marie Kondo and has a #1 New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She is highly rated by various news outlets and listed as Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. That’s how far-reaching her influence is.

I also stumbled on this term “cleanfluencers.” It’s a term attributed to personalities on Instagram who share tips and ideas on how to clean your personal space. The power and reach of social media, coupled with Marie Kondo’s ideas have enabled the cleanfluencers movement to become so popular in recent months. In an interview on Mail Online, psychologist Emmanuella Murray explained that there is a perfectly good reason as to why people find looking at people’s clean homes satisfying. ‘We don’t like mess, it can actually make us feel quite stressed and overwhelmed,’ she said. 

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