God the Ignorant, Pastor the Scrutinizer

From Steven Paulson’s Lutheran Theology:

When faith (like Abraham’s) gets a promise (like Christ) the whole world changes. Faith finally grasps the object it was made for, and in so doing takes leave of itself and clings only to Christ. Christ then becomes the sole mediateor between the sinner and God’s wrath… When trust is in the right thing, then Abraham’s sin is no longer counted; it is ignored becauase it belongs to Christ…

I was terrified the first time I believed that God ignored my sin. It must have been about two years ago, after a conversation with my pastor, as I read something by Luther. I felt like a heretic. I grew up Southern Baptist and the Baptists don’t tend to be huge fans of ignoring sin.

It was two things things that convinced me this “ignorant God” thing was not heresy, but in fact the core of the gospel. I was being told, by Luther and other theologians that God was ignoring my sin. Okay, I thought, how nice. At first it was simply another expression of the transactional ‘decision’ I made for Jesus when I was seven. But, as I was growing closer to my pastor at the time, I realized he was relating to me as if God ignored my sin. He was giving flesh to this little “God ignores your sins because of Christ” proclamation. He was more concerned about getting me to grasp the gospel (intellectually), and grasp onto the gospel (spiritually), and I could tell he was not immediately worried about inspecting and restricting my sin problem. 

If you have grown up a Christian, when a pastor relates to you as if they are firstly concerned with teaching you what Christ has done for you, it is a strange sensation. We don’t realize it, but we just expect our pastors to treat our sin problem. This is why people try not to say words in front of pastors that they would say in other contexts. This typically pisses most pastors off, but I have said curse words around enough pastor types to realize that most unconsciously respond with a disapproving attitude. They are simply doing what their congregation expects them to do.

So, when a pastor intentionally refuses to do the scrutinizing, when he imitates God’s posture of ignoring our sin because of Christ, people begin to grasp this core part of the gospel. If they are like me, for the first time ever, they will realize God is no longer their enemy.

One Comment

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  1. You nailed this one my friend…This is practical grace in pastoral work. Zahl calls this ignoring sin in pastoral work as being like “Mr. Magoo.” The whole world is crashing down around him, but he is absolutely oblivious to it! Oh, just an FYI, I used to be the other type of pastor you mentioned and SBC.

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