Saturday, July 08, 2006

Theology Lesson From a German Dunghill

You could learn alot from a German dunghill in Winter. So could I.

Martin Luther thought so at least.

Last week, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine (who, much like Luther, speaks a great deal about his bowels). I will spare you the details of the conversation, (it had much to do with beans); but I WILL tell you of an interesting analogy it brought to mind.

In the religion of Christianity, there are two closely related concepts I'm going to speak about. These two concepts are "imputation," and "justification."

Imputation simply means, "to put to the account of another." In Christianity, imputation serves a dual purpose; a "swap" of sorts.

First, God deals with the problem of mankind's sin and evil, by God placing on Christ ("imputing" to Christ) our sins, and then punishing Him for them. That in essence is what happened on the cross two milennia ago. Second, God's standard of perfection, (which has not been met by anyone save for Christ Himself) is satisfied by God placing on the believing sinner (imputing to him) the righteousness of Christ.

This brings us to the second concept, justification. Justification, is the state in which the sinner now stands, when, upon believing in God's Son, Christ's pefection has been placed ("imputed" to him) to his account.

It is like a condemned criminal standing before a just judge. The judge slams down his gavel and declares the condemned man, "Innocent" on account of someone else serving his sentence.

So then, nearly 2000 years ago, our sins were "imputed" to Christ. Upon belief in Christ, God "imputes" Christ's righteousness to us, and we are "justified."

Now for the Martin Luther analogy I was reminded of. I will quote from the book, "The God Who Justifies," by James White. (James speaks far more eloquently about manure than I ever could.) Here then is Luther's rather "earthy" illustration of justification:

One of Luther's most famous illustrations comes from the rural farms of Germany. Famers, needing a way to fertilize their fields, would collect the refuse of their farm animals into piles to be spread out on the fields when the weather demanded. These 'dunghills,' would at times dot the landscape and were, of course, anything but attractive to either see or smell....He likened our sinful state to a dunghill: ugly and offensive, it has nothing in and of itself that would make it pleasing to anyone, let alone to God.

Justification, he went on, is like that first snowfall of the approaching winter, the one that covers everything in a blanket of pure white. Unlike later snowfalls, where man has shoveled and plowed and otherwise worked to clear a path for himself, that first snow is clean, beautiful. Everything is covered in the same uniform blanket—even, Luther points out, those piles of dung. What was once foul is no longer. The smell is gone. The repulsive sight is gone. All is white and clean and pure.

In closing, I was quite moved (no pun intended) when I first heard Luther's dunghill analogy. Being an artist I wanted to explore this concept visually. Thus was born the following two works. Simply titled "Imputation 1" and "Imputation 2." Hopefully these pieces will demonstrate visually what Luther was trying to do with words. Enjoy...

1 comment:

Dan said...

Well spoken Tim, beautiful.