A Dialogue on Works

October 13, 2016

Sarah and I talk about a lot of things, most of that dialogue doesn’t make it into the public sphere (you’re welcome.), but some of it does. Typically, what you hear in our podcasts is the fruit of our good discussions; but sometimes some of our good discussion don’t end up as podcasts about gender and theology and the Bible. Sometimes those discussions just stay between us. But when a specific topic consistently occupies our dialogues, we take note; and most recently that topic was the place of works in the life of the believer. As two individuals who ascribe to the Law/Gospel hermeneutic, we are cautious to discuss this topic openly. We are both sensitive to the fact that there are legitimate visceral responses to the discussion of works in the life of the believer for those who are coming out of fundamentalism. When you’ve been beaten severely by the Command and you encounter the freedom that is inherent in the word of the Promise, sometimes the right reaction is a pendulum swing to the other side and you can’t hear anything whatsoever about works. As someone who hasn’t come out of fundamentalism, I (Lauren) have never had a bad reaction to discussing works, ethics, or the law in the life of the believer. I (Sarah) have come from fundamentalism and needed significant time away from this discussion, allowing my previous framework of justification through works to completely crumble. I needed time to heal from what I would consider spiritual trauma, while also understanding that the gospel does not hinge upon my “doing”. I spent some time testing the “bounds of grace” much like an adopted child tests the love of her new parents. I needed to see that the gospel would remain true even if I pushed against it at every turn or stopped lifting a finger altogether. God is faithful, the gospel will always hold no matter what, and Christ’s union with me is permanent. Now that I do not have to worry about my vertical righteousness before God (coram Deo) I am now freed to consider my righteousness before the world, ie: love to my neighbor (coram mundo). While I am re-entering the discussion on works, even now I do so with great timidity, refusing to take my gaze from the gospel. So, sometimes the pendulum has to swing and there’s freedom for that swing. Lauren has been a friend and a guide, waiting for the Spirit to do it’s work, and for me to be ready to step into these waters with her. Her friendship, alongside a few others, has been a safe space for me to question, wrestle, and learn again. My posture with Ezer has always been lady laity, and so it brings me joy to bring this particular conversation to the surface alongside our podcast content. I am learning and she is patient.

So when dialogues with Sarah repeatedly turned to the topic of works, I was more than ready and willing to have those discussions. And these were really great discussions; discussions we noticed were lacking from our general public discourse. So we decided to rectify that lack by initiating the discussion. Sarah told me about a post she had written about the joy of work returning to her; I offered that I could theologically explain why that’s happened. I asked her to wait to publish her post so I could write mine. (Sarah, your patience is unyielding and thank you for the room to suffer under writer’s block for so long.) And last night we published our posts in tandem and linked—this may explain why some of our tweets today look like unwieldy, double-decker buses. Sarah’s post is titled, “The Joy of Work Restored” and mine is “The End of Toil; Work Restored”. They work together and are meant to be read together, though no specific order is required; feel free to read Sarah’s first and mine second or vice-versa.  Together we’ve combined the personal with the doctrinal; something we’ve always aimed to do in all that we are as Ezer Uncaged. We do really believe that works have a vital and vibrant place in the life of the believer and we are looking forward to more discussions about it.

So, below are the links to the post; we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them:

Sarah: The Joy of Work Restored

Lauren RE Larkin: The End of Toil; Work Restored

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