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Volume 17, Issue 2: Meander

Clam Jamfry

Douglas Wilson

Christ the Healer: As we make applications of biblical principles, one of the primary places we should make application is in the realm of health. In Scripture, the word for savior and healer are the same word. A central part of Christ's ministry was that of healing, and to this day concerns about health are the most natural subjects of prayer. By His stripes we are healed, and this is not just a verse for our charismatic brethren. When we are sick, or ailing, or dying, it is not only very natural to cry out to God for deliverance (salvation and healing), but it is also scriptural. It is a false spirituality that consigns the task of forgiving sins to Jesus and the task of healing our bodies to the AMA, the chiropractor, or any other volunteers. The gospel of Christ's death and resurrection occurred so that everything that is crooked might be made straight. This will be finally complete in the resurrection, but the Bible is plain that the consequences of sin (including disease) will be ameliorated through the gospel's progress.

But as we undertake to understand what this means, we have to think like adults, and not like children. The fallen state of man does not just cause us to have problems like sickness and disease. It also causes us to be confronted by a pandemonium of suggested treatments and remedies, many of them fundamentally contradictory. Now what? We know that the progress of the gospel, and the gospel's influence, is gradual, and so we ought not to expect any instantaneous fixes. But at the same time, we should expect real progress through history, along with the means to measure whether or not we are making actual progress.

Sun Dogs: Driving north through brittle air, bright sun behind us. Snow on the ground, as cold as it gets here. Crystal motes float everywhere, an infinite number suspended, cold children of Abraham.

Behind my wife and me, and rising straight up, ascending to glory, a straight rainbow, a rainbow unbowed—a rainbow unbent, and three times too thick. A bow unstrung in heaven's armory, propped in a celestial corner. Awaiting a battle, who knows what battle? No adequate words. No idea what to call it, no description that fits. No poem to describe it. Monumental and momentary glory, just south of Spokane, a place with zip codes. As though the equivalent of the Grand Canyon just appeared in the sky for just a few moments. No time for a tourist industry to develop. No postcards.
Driving north with my father, a year or so later, we came near that spot in the road. I try to describe it, no name describes it. "Oh, sun dogs," he said. That's what his father called them, long ago back in flatland Nebraska, with one on each side of the sun.

Me and St. Peter: "There follows from this a vital and liberating point, which I first met in the works of the great Anglican divine Richard Hooker, and for which I shall always be grateful. One is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. One is justified by faith by believing in Jesus" (N.T. Wright, What St. Paul Really Said, p. 159). This is a glorious point, really, and is one of the reasons why those who differ with Wright on other important points should still be able to read him with profit. This is a point, incidentally, where Wright understands the gospel far better than Robbins does.

Mr. Robbins is on my mind because I just finished reading "A Guide for the Perplexed" by him, in which he essays to provide a set of directions for people wanting to sort through the Federal Vision stuff. Robbins can crank out articles like this because he only deals with propositions, and the ninth commandment, being an imperative, is not a proposition. No sense carrying around all that heavy stuff that slows you down in making your connections.
A statement from Wright like the above will be met with howls of protest. And because I quoted it approvingly, it will no doubt be said that I think that belief in justification by faith alone is "not important" and so on. But of course belief in justification by faith alone is crucial, and anyone who cannot clearly define it, articulate it, and defend it from Scripture ought not to be ordained. But if anyone says that defining it, articulating it, and defending it is essential to salvation, he has in effect denied the doctrine itself in the name of defending it. What score must you get on the theology quiz, justification section, before the pearly gates swing open? And who grades the quizzes anyway?
St. Peter: "Halt! Who goes there?"
Me: "Me!"
St. Peter: "Why should I let you into this place?"
Me: "Because my answer to the next question will be perfect!"
St. Peter: "Okay. Why should I let you into this place?"
Me: "Because I unequivocally affirm sola fide!"
St. Peter: "Sorry. I don't know Latin."
Me: "Huh. I would have thought . . . Because I unequivocally affirm faith alone!"
St. Peter: "Wrong."
Me: "What do you mean wrong? I was told that was the stinking password. Did you change the codes on me?"
St. Peter (rolling his eyes): "There have been a lot of you guys recently. Well, here is the good news, at least as far as you are concerned. I am letting you in because your answers were wrong." And the gates opened. I didn't even push.

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