Stott“William Temple used to illustrate the point [that Christians are capable of living like Christ through the indwelling Spirit] in this way:

‘It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that.  Shakespeare could do it; I can’t.

And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that.  Jesus could do it; I can’t.

But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like his.

And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life his his.’

God’s purpose is to make us like Christ, and God’s way is to fill us with his Holy Spirit.” (John StottRadical Disciple, p. 37)

Calvin“They [Calvin’s opponents] contend that through the justification of faith, good works are destroyed…They pretend to be grieved that, when faith is so gloriously extolled, works are degraded.  What if, rather, these were encouraged and strengthened?  For we dream neither of a faith devoid of good works nor of a justification that stands without them.  This alone is of importance: having admitted that faith and good works must cleave together, we still lodge justification in faith, not in works.  We have a ready explanation for doing this, provided we turn to Christ to whom our faith is directed and from whom it receives its full strength.

Why, then, are we justified by faith?  Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God.  Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also.  For he ‘is given unto us for righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption’ [1 Cor. 1:30].  Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify.  These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond…Those whom he justifies, he sanctifies…

Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself.  Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ?  You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces [1 Cor. 1:13].  Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other.  Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.” (John CalvinInstitutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, 3.16.1, p. 797-98)

Hauerwas“There can be no sanctification of individuals without a sanctified people.  We need examples and masters, and if we are without either, the church cannot exist as a people who are are pledged to be different from the world…[This leads to] the status and necessity of the church as the locus for Christian ethical reflection.  It is from the church that Christian ethics draws its ethical substance and it is to the church that Christian ethical reflection is first addressed.  Christian ethics is not written for everyone, but for those people who have been formed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.  Therefore Christian ethics can never be a minimalistic ethic for everyone, but must presuppose a sanctified people wanting to live more faithful to God’s story.

The fact that Christian ethics begins and ends with a story requires a corresponding community existing across time.  The story of God as told through the experience of Israel and the church cannot be abstracted from those communities engaged in the telling and the hearing.  As a story it cannot exist without a historic people, for it requires telling and remembering if it is to exist at all.  God has entrusted his presence to a historic and contingent community which can never rest on its past success, but must be renewed generation after generation.  That is why the story is not merely told but embodied in a people’s habits that form and are formed in worship, governance, and morality.

Therefore the existence of Israel and the church are not accidentally related to the story but are necessary for our knowledge of God.  You cannot tell the story of God without including within it the story of Israel and the church.  So it is not odd that as part of the creed we affirm that we believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…It is only through such a people that the world can know that our God is one who wills nothing else than our good…

In a sense, the place of the Bible can be misleading in this respect, because it may appear that Scripture conveys the story regardless of the existence of a historic people.  You do not need an intergenerational community.  All you need is the story told rightly in a book.  But the Bible without the community, without expounders and interpreters, and hearers is a dead book.” (Stanley HauerwasThe Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, pp. 97-98)

Lapide“The history of the impact of the Sermon on the Mount can largely be described in terms of an attempt to domesticate everything in it that is shocking, demanding, and uncompromising, and render it harmless.  ‘Time and time again,’ writes Gunther Bornkamm, ‘Christianity, especially with the assistance of its theology, has known so well and still knows how to intercept, so to speak, the thrust of Jesus’ challenge, to divert it and to settle down peacefully in spite of it.’” (Pinchas Lapide, The Sermon on the Mount: Utopia or Program for Action?, p. 3)

Rowe“Inasmuch as the communal embodiment of God’s revelation involves the potential for cultural collapse [among non-Christian environments], Acts’ ‘good for them even though they don’t know it’ claim is startling, even offensive.  To modern ears it will likely sound the warning bells of triumphalism, imperialism, and so forth.  That such bells should ring, however, is largely a result of the history effected by the changes in the Roman empire in the fourth century rather than a close reading of the text.  Our awareness of the warring and repressive Christian emperors, Augustine’s argument for coercion in the Donatist controversy, the medieval crusades, colonialism, and many other ecclesial cancers makes it extremely difficult not to read Acts with the knowledge that Christians could eventually do great harm in the name of particular theological construals of the mission of God–and indeed, we should not attempt to bracket out such knowledge precisely because it enables us to ask necessarily pointed questions of our normative texts.  Yet, there is simply no trace in Acts of the ‘common Christian argument that coercing the other will do him or her good’ [Moshe Habertal, a famous Jewish scholar]…

We must ask if the narration of cultural collapse as part of the outworking of the good that comes to the pagan world via the Christian mission leads in the logic of Acts to the coercive making of Christians ‘for their own good.’  There is a direct answer to this question: No.  The narrative logic of Acts points in another direction altogether…

Its vision of human life together [is] grounded entirely in the identity of the Lord of all.  Insofar as the formation of Christian community is the cultural explication of this identity, the political vision of Acts cannot be sundered from the life of the universal Lord.  Whether Luke knows the Pauline conception of the church as the ‘body of Christ’ is open to debate, but that Acts narrates the life of the Christian mission as the embodied pattern of Jesus’ life is not.  Put succinctly, according to Acts, the missio Dei has a Christological norm…

This norm is displayed narratively in the shape of the life of the Lord’s disciples–Stephen, Peter, and Paul above all, but also the communities in Jerusalem, Iconium, Thessalonica, and elsewhere–where the pattern of a willingness to suffer even unto death is the mimetic reproduction of Jesus’ own life as narrated in the Gospel of Luke and retold in the speeches of Acts.  Thus the truth claim about Jesus’ Lordship does not lead in Acts to a narrative blueprint for the need to coerce others for their own good but to a form of mission that rejects violence as a way to ground peaceful community and instead witnesses to the Lord’s life of rejection and crucifixion by living it in publicly perceivable communities derisively called Christians.  The claim to universal truth is not thin but thick, or enfleshed–shown to be what it is in the living out of the person’s life about whom the claim is made.  According to Acts, therefore, to be the community that claims to know the Lord of all is to be in the world in just such a way as the Lord himself was.  Theologically said, ecclesiology is public Christology.

The narrative logic of Acts thus cannot be read as leading to the coercion of the religious other, but in fact must be seen to oppose all such moves that would contradict the nature of Jesus’ own Lordship.  In this light, the text of Acts compels us to read the later development of coercive measures in the history of the church as fundamental and tragic departures from the normative witness of scripture, a turning of the ecclesial back on the foundational narrative of Christian mission.  If we are thinking along with Acts, we can see, furthermore, that these departures  are not simply wayward moments in an otherwise forward-marching ecclesial history.  Rather, recalling the thick or lived character of a truth claim, we should understand them as evidence of a much deeper problem in the Christian witness to the universal Lord: the potential to live a false life, to embody the lie that renders untrue practically the claim that Jesus is Lord of all…Hence does the tension that lies at the heart of Acts produce both an unavoidable conflict over the truth of a claim to a comprehensive way of life and a description of that conflict as witness rather than coercion.” (C. Kavin RoweWorld Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age, pp. 172-74)

Yoder“The ultimate justification for the mandate of the state is to be found within the mandate of the church.  The mandate of the church, the mandate to overcome evil, is the superior mandate; the mandate of the state, that of keeping evil in check, only has meaning because the church is accomplishing its mission.  Ephesians 3:10 makes similar claims when it says that the church is to proclaim to the ‘powers’ that God’s ultimate purpose is the building of a church.  Again the early church dared to be audacious, claiming that the glorious Roman Empire, standing as something unique in world history, existed for one purpose only: that God could use a small, despised bunch of fishermen and tax collectors to carry forth the name of an executed Galilean from Jerusalem into the whole world…State sponsored religions everywhere have viewed religion as support for the state–an educating, morality-teaching, consecrating power.  The Christian faith inverted this relationship and viewed the world-embracing empire as merely a support system, subservient to the real work God is accomplishing in the world…

In terms of its service to the state and to the general welfare, the church serves most effectively and in its most essential and irreplaceable way when it seriously goes about the business of being Christian, proclaiming the Gospel, modeling an exemplary community life, and praying for all people.  The Christian who wants to put the role of Christian living into second place in order to serve the state as a first priority is like a musician who leaves the stage in order to work as an usher in the concert hall.  Of course the usher is also necessary; but the musician cannot be replaced in his or her role.  And musicians, of all people, should know that they are of most value when they perform the role that no one else can fill.  If the musician is not on stage, and there is therefore no concert, then the usher’s role has no meaning either.” (John Howard YoderDiscipleship as Political Responsibility, pp. 22-23, 44-45)

Yoder“The divine mandate of the church consists in overcoming evil through the cross…The posture of the Christian in relation to evil fits into the category of ‘following Jesus.’  This concept has become so familiar, so commonplace, so cheap, that we do not properly understand what following really means.  What it means is something completely revolutionary.

The early church believed that God was at work within the church by means of Jesus Christ living on within it…The early church did not view the way of the cross which the church traveled in following Jesus as some sort of extra moral achievement, something that would have been optional and commendable, but which they could have done without.  They viewed it as something that belongs to the very essence of God’s salvation plan for the world.  The cross-carrying following which the church practices, that is the continuing life of Jesus through his Spirit in the members of his body, is not an implication, something tackled on; rather it is part of his saving work.  That is what the New Testament means when it speaks of following, of the body of Christ, of the Holy Spirit–that God’s continuing work today is no less valid, no less divine, no less urgent than it was from the start.  Just as God was at work through the person of God’s own Son, so God continues to be at work in the church in the form of the Spirit.

It is self-evident, and never to be forgotten, that the cross of the church has no meaning without Jesus.  Suffering in itself does not accomplish any saving work.  But we are too reluctant to confess the other side along with the Scriptures, namely, that without the cross of the church, the cross of Christ would be emptied.” (John Howard YoderDiscipleship as Political Responsibility, pp. 21-22)