Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

From The Catholic League (via Father Z of "What Does the Prayer Really Say?") comes this interesting insight:

"Progressives Celebrate Ash Wednesday

We thought you’d like to know how progressives view penance. Here is what Roger Ray had to say about the issue in today’s edition of the News-Leader, a Springfield, Missouri newspaper:

"As a member of a progressive Christian church, I am more likely than most to encounter folks who angrily reject all penitence and prayers of confession as being associated with the neurotic guilt and neo-puritanical judgment of their past church experiences. One friend recently told me, ‘I just don’t believe in sin.’"

Thanks, Roger, for providing this insight. It explains a lot.

We attended an Ash Wednesday service today at Tyndale Unversity College & Seminary Chapel. It was a stark and healthy reminder of our sin, our mortality and our need to remember that it is only by grace that we are saved.

I am writing a review of a book right now that argues against the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement in favor of, well . . . any other kind of theory anyone can come up with. But this kind of liberalism strikes at the heart of the Gospel. It denies that we are sinners, it denies that we are under the wrath of a just and holy God, it denies that Christ took our place to save us, actually effected our salvation, it denies that we need to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel in order to be saved.

Ash Wednesday is a no-nonsense reminder of our true nature and why we need God's grace. No wonder the liberals dislike it. It gets right to the heart of the issue and forces us to face the uncomfortable truth about ourselves. The basic issue of substitution is not that Christ took our place; before we even get to that glorious truth we must first see that we deserved the death he died.

In 1153 Bernard of Clairvaux wrote these lines, which have become a great hymn O Sacred Head Now Wounded. Note particularly the second line of the second stanza:

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! 'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.