Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alister McGrath on William Temple:

"Temple basically made the following statement (paraphrase): 'If you educate a bastard, all you get is an educated bastard.'"


Anonymous said...


Hmmm, interesting. Perhaps Temple didn't appreciate Christ's preferential love for the widows and the fatherless. No one chooses to be a bastard. But, I guess he is right - once a bastard, always a bastard (unless adopted). Still, I would imagine that being an educated bastard is qualitatively better than being an uneducated one. Or maybe not. Remember the words of the teacher: "to increase wisdom is to increase sorrow" ecc 1:18. And who wants that? I guess there's not much to say for the bastards among us.

Temple's material point must be something like: don't expect learning to make you better. I agree. And I think, because it feigns truth-searching, but mostly avoids it, academia often only breeds monsters and harlots. Pray for God's grace for students. We need it!


John Zahl said...

I think further that the point was that "self-knowledge" and insight are not the things that transform the heart.

bonnie said...

Yeah - it was Adam and Eve's self-awareness about their nakedness and about the wide gap between "them" and God that started it all...

(Hi Simeon. I failed this morning, haha.)

Dylan Potter said...

Hmmm...not sure if this is relevant, but it seems that the Pharisees knew Torah, but searching the Scriptures for eternal life, they missed the fact that they testified about Christ, the author and finisher of the Faith. Funny, but didn't they accuse Christ of being a bastard? "WE are not illegitimate children..." At least it appears to carry the insinuation.

cjdm said...

sometimes i'm a bit of bastard.


Joshua Corrigan said...

This has nothing to do with this post but I have a nagging question in my mind. I have heard the term "emerging/emergent church" bandied about a lot but I have no idea what it really is. Can someone give me an example of this emerging church movement and distinguish it from its counterparts?
-Clueless in Calcutta

Anonymous said...

Josh -
From what i understand, the "emergent church" refers more to a liturgical movement than an actual denomination. There's a heavy emphasis on "post-modernity" as it applies to church and evangelism, on combining ancient modes of worship with technology. So they draw from a really wide variety of traditions. A guy named Brian McLaren is their cheif spokesman/theologian, and his most well-known book is called A New Kind of Christian.

Reformed types tend not to like the emergent church because it purposefully de-emphasizes doctrine in favor of things like mystery and "community". Having gone to a bunch of emergent church services myself, i've found them to be refreshing, exciting even, but ocassionally a tad on the flakey side. I would also say the emergent church is self-consciously in reaction to evangelicalism, probably their greatest strength and weakness.

Do a search on google for "emergent church" and you'll come up with some interesting results. I'd love to hear what others think.

Dave Zahl

Tom Becker said...

Josh - Modern Reformation has an entire issue last year devoted to the emergent church. If you goto you can pull up the articles. Very informative. The White Horse Inn ( ran a series the same time as the Modern Ref. articles. DZ's synposis is great. The weakness of these guys in on theology - ie they don't really have any doctrine - think elevation of form over substance.


Joshua Corrigan said...

Many thanks to my orange brethren. Your clarifications have been most helpful. Tom, I look up to you as an example. Dave, I just wish I "got it" like you. Remember the Boyne...

Art said...


When I gained self knowledge I found out I really need Jesus, my moment of “self awareness” clarity was a picture of me trying to nail myself to the cross. The fruitless venture brought me to the one true realization that has had any real lasting profound effect in my life, the gospel is not about what we do, but it is about what the Lord has done and what he is doing.
The law gives us a certain amount of self realization however, that we are sinful, and that we are incapable of achieving the standard of absolute perfection that only the Lord has done. So, if there was any room for self knowledge, self knowledge only serves us as far as "I can not do it, I need Jesus". The law serves this purpose coupled with our own experience. The law sets the mark, and our experience will show us, when we are honest, that we miss the mark again and again.
So, John (and Company), I agree and I want to go a little further here. Just an easy question I am sure ;) If we agree that we are flawed and helpless within our own means, what does it look like to fully walk in the spirit and not in the flesh? Must we wait until the resurrection? What is going on here? Why is it, in my completely saved position, that “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do?”



CEW said...


The problem with our life on earth is that it is confused. Yes, you're right: we are completely in a saved position. Simultaneously, we are sinners. This dynamic is one that doesn't change and is one that I don't think we can fully comprehend. As hard as we may both try and _want_ to escape our flesh, it is impossible. It is the message of the gospel, Christ on the cross, that frees us not of the confines of our flesh but, rather, of the consequences of the flesh. Because of Jesus, the requirement is not a perfect life, which, for all intensive purposes, would look like walking in the spirit fully and completely.

PZ's recent point is great on this:
"The salvation message of Christianity stuck out again, as the sole deliver'rer. It really is so that when you have a presenting symptom such as pain (any way you wish to fill in the blank on pain), nothing else will do. Either ours is a saving religion or it is a head trip. Head trips and concepts do nothing for sufferers – or not more than for about three seconds. We need a Savior, that is fer sher. Would you honestly dispute that, at least at the level of catastrophe and impact? So the saving side of it speaks uniquely to pain, and even physical pain."

mattie said...

hi all -

i'm hoping to formulate a longer post later today, but i have a couple (quick?) question about an implied idea present in both art & cate's posts:

is there a particular scriptural reference Luther used to formulate "simil justus et peccator"? i can't really find one. on that, since my latin is super-lame, can anyone clarify precisely what that statement means? does it mean "simultaneously a JUST ONE and a SINNER" or "simultaneously JUSTIFIED and SINFUL"? it might sound like a small point, but i think it is imperative.

second, art, you refer to a "completely saved position" and i'm curious what you mean by that. is your perspective is being "saved" an ontological change that happens to a person (through either/both baptism or assent)? in turn, can salvation be lost once gained?

thanks for clarifying,


Art said...

Mattie and Cate,

Completely saved to me means we are changed spiritually and our place is with the Lord for all eternity. I do not believe that salvation can be lost. I think that to loose it would imply control over the situation, and that control would negate any need for the cross in the first place. In fact, I don’t know about coming to the Lord, I think He comes to us. Basically, I don’t see our part in anything at all. However, Paul seemingly speaks to our part directly in the Epistles. My view of no control can leave me a little confused at times, where we are asked to exercise self control and yet we hold a position as “slaves to sin”.
Paul says: “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” I do not base my salvation on my actions, but I do wonder why Paul describes this position of slavery to righteousness. I believe we are spiritually what we are not physically and things are not as they appear. We are spiritually full in Christ and therefore fully perfect in him, yet we are physically in the world. So, while I accept that the Lord has taken care of all for all time (“It is finished”- from the cross), I still see the force of sin working in my life. Paul says “thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.”(Rom) I see the form of teaching as this: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Eph).
I agree with Cate: “Because of Jesus, the requirement is not a perfect life, which, for all intensive purposes, would look like walking in the spirit fully and completely.” I posted a comment quite sometime ago where I explained my thoughts: basically I believe the Lord does it all and any morally right actions are a result of the works of the Lord through us (See my response to "Some thoughts on action/consequence" for more clarification).
But, what about when Paul says things like: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the [people committing a list of sins] will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.”(Cor) Does this not apply to believers? Does this mean that once we were these things (sinful) but now in Christ we no longer are, even if the behavior is still exhibited? Is it that something more fundamental has changed, but if it has why do we not see it coming out from the core of our being and flowing into our behavior? I know we are covered by the blood, but shouldn’t the power of the Holy Spirit be enough to work this sin out of our lives in the here and now? This is where the gospel gets tricky. To me the big question of Christianity is: We are saved- what now?


rka said...

What helps me is knowing that what I do matters to God, that what I am has been covered by Christ, making me able to let my guard down and see how much I fail, which I didn’t see before. Repentance is the gateway to new life, even as the besetting sins continue to beset; the Holy Spirit is there to point things out and to give me the courage to admit them; and because I am telling the truth in Jesus’ presence, love is what is given back from the confession. (John 16:8)
Growing in holiness may be a side effect, it is not central; rather, growing in love and faith is what we are given, and spiritual gifts, and always failing a lot, needing Christ at every moment. Not to say that the relief is instant, but even then God’s timing is perfect, as I say gritting my teeth. And then it always is, the realization of being right with him and that being all that matters is given, and one is in a new place. “What new troubles lie around the bend now?” Plenty, but the comfortable words still hold us.
This is simul justus et peccator atque penitens, that is, beloved, all right, ok, fine, at peace, and then some, while at the same time tainted in every thought and action with sinful desires and mistrust, and therefore, because of being justified, knowing how much I am loved, I am not afraid to repent, I don’t have to hide or disguise myself. And what then – the knowledge that whatever my mood, whatever my circumstance, God is using me, this minor character, for amazing things in his purpose though I may never know what.
The Scriptural backing for simul justus et peccator are the people such as David, and in particular, Peter. Are there any faithful people in the Bible for whom it is not their story?
How does this tie in with the original quote, about the educated bastard?
Maybe that our hearts are not changed by education, but by the love that changed everything on Calvary. Education is a nice gift, though, and the Holy Spirit is a good tutor.

John Zahl said...

Mattie, the very short answer to your question regarding Scripture and Simul iustus et peccator is: Romans 7:25, where Paul summarizes: "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." Hope this helps. JAZ

mattie said...

thanks john -

i figured that was the closest scripture came to that popular phrase.

now what about the precise translation? anyone? justified or just one? sinful or sinner? the anthropological question intrigues me.


John Zahl said...


I think Christian people have been so taken with that simple latin phrase because they have found it so deeply explanatory of their day-to-day experience of the Christian life. Christians (i.e., people that know they exist on new footing in light of the Cross's significance for them) find the term relevant when the discover peculiarly that their awareness of sin grows greater from day-to-day, that it is cumulative and recidivistic, rather than marked by concrete improvement in the sense they had both hoped for and anticipated in wake of their conversion.

It is this sensational phenomena that simul iustus et paccator accounts for totally, and with increasing, rather than lessening profundity with each passing day. I come back to it, not by some kind of allegiance, but as a kind of reflex. In this sense, the term is mind-boggling perceptive in its overwhelmingly descriptive accuity, and ever-present rellevance. The phrase ultimately draws out the total sufficiency of the Gospel as it applies to Christian sinners, who, despite their continuously rebellious and dissappointing attempts to live righteously in a comprehensive sense, can still appeal to the fact that God loves them, what with all the frustrating givens of human frailty.

Hope this helps to explain the matter a bit. Best, JAZ

John Zahl said...

Here's a quote from Moltmann that relates the experience I described:

"the more he tried, the more he is tried."

simeon said...


According to the "Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms", the correct translation of simul iustus et peccator is "at once righteous and a sinner". In terms of your specific question, the answer is neither, or rather, both: "iustus" is an adjective, and "peccator" is a noun. So you could even translate it "capable of being described as righteous, and at the same time a sinful person". Hope that helps.

mattie said...

Hi Zahls -

Simeon - Thanks! That was the clarification I was looking for.

John - I guess what I was trying to get at is that I think the phrase can be a useful understanding of the struggle between sin & sanctity, but only if the phrase refers to our actions rather than our identity. We do have occasion to "act" or "behave" both in holy ways and in sinful ways. However, in my tradition, we are not equally saint & sinner. our identity (human nature, anthropology) in Christ is not as a sinner, but as a saved, redeemed, beloved child (who sometimes does bad things, but isn't defined by them).

I think it is easy to say that Paul in Romans hints at "simul iustus et peccator" but in my reading of the entire book it is a stretch to say that he ascribes identity as sinner to those saved by faith. If anything it is the opposite. See, for example (all Romans, NRSV):

5:19 (many will be MADE righteous)

6:14 (sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law, but under grace)

6:22 (freed from sin and enslaved to God)

8:9-17 (Christ is in you... children of God)

12:2 (be transformed)

15:14 (full of goodness).

So, "simul iustus et peccator" is more than a cute tag-line; it really does constitute the core of our departure. Not suprisingly it is the first clarification offered by Rome in response to the Catholic-Lutheran joint declaration on justification: "According, indeed, to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in baptism everything that is really sin is taken away, and so, in those who are born anew there is nothing that is hateful to God. It follows that the concupiscence that remains in the baptised is not, properly speaking, sin. For Catholics, therefore, the formula "at the same time righteous and sinner"... is not acceptable."

(Available at


simeon said...

I can't swallow the sin/ concupiscence distinction. What is the difference, in practice? When a non-Christian kills someone, it is sin, but when a Christian does, it is not sin, but just concupiscence?

Is concupiscence judged by God at the eschaton? If so, how is that different from sin-- is it merely judged less severely? As in, "you are still going to heaven, but you should feel bad about yourself for a while first"? If not, then how is it not antinomianism?

Please explain what "concupiscence" means, if it is not just sin with a different name! This is the kind of thing Protestants, as you know, find very confusing.

Thanks Mattie!

mattie said...

our "bad" acts are always sins, christian or not.

our nature, however is one mired in concupiesence, not sin.

it's a small point, granted, but a valuable way of understanding how baptism removes original sin and imparts grace yet leaves us still with the need for constant forgiveness.

does that help?


Eric Cadin said...

Simeon, here is a brief attempt to unravel your confusion “I can't swallow the sin/ concupiscence distinction. What is the difference, in practice? When a non-Christian kills someone, it is sin, but when a Christian does, it is not sin, but just concupiscence?”

Two quotations are relevant: the first taken from the Catechism #1426 and the second from Veritatis Splendor #1

Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us "holy and without blemish," just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is "holy and without blemish." Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.


Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22). This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.

The distinction is crucial. All SIN is removed through Baptism which causes an ontological change. Our nature, through the will, can still fail to “correctly” recognize the good and instead pursues the perceived good. It is the distortion of perception that concupiscence affects.

John Zahl said...

yeah, that's a pretty big divergance...but, at least, the distinction is clear to me now. Thanks you two (M & E),JZ

Jeff Dean said...

Mattie and Eric,

How awesome that you two are so familiar with the writings of the Roman Catholic Church as to bring such relevant passages to our attention! The explanations are so very helpful!

I think a key distinction we are missing regards the Catholc and Protestant understanding of human nature.

Thomas Aquinas argued that death was part of human nature, such that Adam would have died had he not sinned.

Luther and Calvin, among others, argued the contrary point: death is not "natural," but rather the punishment (or "consequence," as I prefer to think) of sin. Such a distinction is closer to an Eastern Orthodox understanding than a Roman Catholic.

The results in the following distinction: Roman Catholic theology must insist that salvation *adds* something to the human situation, whereas classical Protestant theology claims instead that salvation *removes* something from the human condition situation.

Thus, a Roman Catholic theology would consider the term "sinner" to represent the lack of God's grace, because a "sinner" is one to whom saving grace has not been added. Grace in the Roman Catholic equation, then, is something added to expand the nature of a person, not necessarily to combat "sin."

A Protestant theology, however, would consider "sinner" to be the apt description of a person as such. Grace in the Protestant sense, then, is not something added, but rather the willingness of the Father to overlook our sins because of the sacrifice of the Son.

We might say, then, that "grace" is best understood as a noun for Roman Catholics: something that God gives. Protestants, however, are apt to understand "grace" more as an adverb: the manner in which God acts.

Eric Cadin said...

jeff, I must admit I have never heard your articulation of the distinction. That being said, I don't think you are incorrect, I'd have to look at it further, that is to say the Catholic perspective

I will say, however, that I have always heard and to some degree been taught that before the Fall death was NOT a reality. Though in a different context Jesus utters, "in the beginning it was not so." However, after the fall sin and its accompanyment death enters the world. (to this end, I believe that the Church maintains that had she not been assumed bodily into Heaven the Blessed Virgin Mary would have indeed died)

This reality I think you are drawing from when you remark that the RC Church holds that death is part of human nature. I do believe that its true meaning is different however from that which you elaborated. The Church, I know, does hold that somehow, again I am not certain of the details exactly, human nature is BETTER off for having a savior, i.e. Redeemed man is better than pre fall Adam. Such is her proclamation in the beautiful Exsultet of the Easter Vigil "O Felix Culpa" "Oh Happy Fault", "which merited to have so great a savior!"

To this point I think

Anonymous said...

(With apologies to Moltmann) "...and the more he tries, the more he tires..."