A Jagged Contention: What People Need to Hear

“You can judge what people need to hear by what they’re most afraid of hearing. And what people seem to be most afraid of hearing is the notion of unqualified forgiveness–grace. When I preach a sermon on grace I see the people in the congregation smiling and nodding their heads. It is like 200 proof whiskey to people to understand that they are forgiven and loved and the fuss is all over. But by the time the service is over and they arrive at coffee hour, the smiles are gone and the people are full of qualifying questions. People want to hear the Good News but they dread the Good News. I don’t know why they dread it so much but they do. We are afraid of it. We are afraid of really being forgiven and being free. It’s very strange.”

– Robert Farrar Capon in an interview with the Wittenberg Door in 1983 posted this past week on Mockingbird’s website.


Why do we desire grace, forgiveness, and freedom and yet fear them so much? Why do so many people feel the need to qualify the gospel? Read the whole fascinating interview with Capon here.

Share your thoughts in the comments below


2 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: What People Need to Hear

  1. The underlying suspicion that it is, in fact, too good to be true. Corresponds with absolutely nothing in our experience.


  2. One word: unbelief.

    The Bible is clear that when God gives faith, He also gives regeneration. If you believe that regeneration accompanies justification, then you can preach the Good News free of contingencies. If you feel the need to qualify the Good News, then you do not really believe that (a) the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and that (b) regeneration is an integral part of the salvation that God gives.

    This is not to deny the third function of the Law. Listening to Pr. Wolfmueller read Luther’s sermons on podcast, Luther clearly believed in exhorting from the pulpit. However, these exhortations are never to be mingled with the gospel as a necessary condition. We don’t need to do that, because if a person truly believes the gospel, they will afterwards have an inborn desire to do good works. The Law then becomes a delightful guide, rather than burdensome taskmaster.

    The Christian is the freest lord of all and subject to none. The Christian is the most dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.


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