Posts Tagged ‘Bo Giertz’


The novel, The Hammer of God is about three distinct time periods in the life of a congregation in a small rural town in Sweden,  In the scene quoted below, Pr. Gosta Torvik, has been quite zealous for God’s Word…that is His Word of Law with a heavy dose of obedience and spiritual experience.  Torvik’s congregation can no longer have a rector, a chief pastor, so a neighboring one is chosen,  Pr. Olle Bengsten to come for as a visiting rector.  Pr. Bengsten, a confessional Lutheran, has noted that Pr. Torvik has become quite legalistic.in his espousal of  revivalism   He encourages Pr. Torvik to…

“Read the Bible, of course. “

“I read the Bible every day.”

“I believe that. But how do you read?”

“You mustn’t be so critical, Olle, of everything a poor fellow does. I try to read devotionally and for edification, so that I take to heart that which I feel is meant for me.”

“Feel, feel! That is just what is wrong. Don’t you believe the Bible is God’s Word just as truly, no matter how you may feel? Don’t you see, Brother, that this won’t do?…Because you make your feelings your barometer, you pass by the gospel and are held fast in the law. Look in your Bible and see if the passages you have especially marked are not just those that speak of what you shall do. But you have not given half the attention to that which tells what Christ has done through his atonement.”

With Pastor Torvik, reading the Bible according my feelings  that this or that verse is “meant for me”, it would leave out a whole lot of the Bible that is disagreeable to me, especially those parts in which salvation is sheer gift and so I am not in control.  The result of choosing how I feel about Scripture results in I am judge and jury over God’s Word for “us and our salvation”!  Pr. Bengsten correctly diagnoses “feelings as barometer” as being “held fast by the law”, that is the Law of God to save oneself and one’s congregation.  Feelings will result in one of two feelings:  spiritual pride, or Pharisaism, that we are obedient and holy by our works and so better than a ‘sinner’ (see  Luke 18:  9-14) or spiritual despair.  Feelings centers us on ourselves, not the Lord Who by His atonement made us His own when we were on our own.  

We live in an age of “feelings”.  As an experiment with yourself and others, count how many times  in a discussion, sentences begin with, “I feel…”.  Just count how many people speak about the emotional “uplift” their congregation gives them:  this is the stuff of “mega-congregations”. If faith is based upon my feelings then I am in for wild ride of “spiritual experiences” and I like it!  In the movie Wise Blood, based upon Flannery O’Connor’s novel of the same name, a character states, “I have a religion of my heart where Jesus is king”, as she tries to seduce Hazel Motes who has declared the “church of truth without Christ”.  In Robert Bellah’s sociological study of religion in America, Habits of the Heart, one of his interviewees is “Sheila” and she states that her spiritual belief is in herself, which Bellah dubbed, “Sheilaism”.  Faith is based upon God’s objective Word: Law and Gospel and this runs contrary to the post-Enlightenment, post-modern that man is the measure of all things. People won’t like it. Satan does not like the preaching of the crucified at all, just too much holy love, and he rages against it and the rage is all about us .  The one cure is Christ’s Cross and love of God in and through His Cross poured out for all who believe through the Holy Spirit. It is a radical cure and has been the only one available for 2,000 years and we need it more than ever.  We need the “for you” of His atoning Sacrifice preached, taught, prayed, sung and administered day by day into our ears and into our lives and into our world as salt and light (Matthew 5:13  Matthew 5:13-15) Like our Lord said to His apostles goes for us:  

 But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9 (emphasis my own)

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