A Jagged Contention: Taking Our Temperature

“Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real sate of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been give to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together. Pg. 30


Question:

What are the dangers that arise when the Christian and the church spend their time taking their spiritual temperature? How does thanksgiving for the gifts God gives keep us from taking our spiritual pulse?

4 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Taking Our Temperature

  1. Why does the Apostle Paul often exhort us to take our spiritual temperature? If some people refuse to do it, should they be surprised when others emphasize it in ways not to their liking?

    +Nathan

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  2. Oh, and its not a bad idea to be taking the temperature out there as well: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-ontario-passes-totalitarian-bill-allowing-govt-to-take-kids-from-c …..and thinking about what this means.

    It’s not that confessional Lutherans who want to talk about how the church’s faith is weak, how we are increasingly antinomian, or how we must speak of progressive sanctification are “keeping track” of their sanctification. As I have noted before, it is rather that “they want to, by the grace of God, to be faithful witnesses to Christ – even unto death. It’s about being ready for the slaughter at any time, even as we are ready to share God’s mercy – in its manifold forms – with our enemies. It is about being those whose trust is increasingly not in one’s self and one’s own strength, but in Christ. For the sake of our neighbor. Like Paul, in Christ, we become less concerned about ourselves (see Rom. 9:1-5)”

    +Nathan

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  3. Thanks, Nathan. Interesting stuff. I would be curious as to what you think Bonehoeffer means by “taking your spiritual temperature.” It would be strange indeed to suggest he was a man who held to this conviction and was thus not “ready for the slaughter.”

    Perhaps, to put a good construction on his words, he is not suggesting we cease to examine ourselves (2Cor 13, Luthers Catechisms), but rather, he is talking about things like enumerating sins in confession. Such words are helpful in light of much popular evangelical teaching that almost exclusively gauges the temperature. This is a helpful corrective to guys like John MacArthur or Francis Chan who have the tendency to turn the Christian life into a boot camp where everyone wonders if they are good enough to be there. Such temperature gauging only leads to pride or despair.

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  4. As is very often the case, I have no idea what Bonhoeffer means. He is surely an engaging writer — and I can’t not say “Amen” to much of what he writes — but he also wrote things that were, frankly, bizarre. I don’t consider him a reliable guy or somone we should really look to for much. I like what you say about the Small Catechism though. I haven’t listened to enough of MacArthur or Chan to really intelligently comment about them, but I don’t doubt that you are right. I think there are evangelicals who do better here, but without a good theology of the sacraments, they, generally speaking, are going to be thrown back on themselves.

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