A Morbid Form of Self-Analysis
I warned y’all last week that I’ve still got a few posts from The Baptized Body that I’ll be sharing within the next 2 weeks and this posts proves I meant it! Not to worry though, at this point I’ve only got two more quotations from TBB in my Google Drive that are tagged as “Future Posts.”
The quote that I want to share today hits on a theme that is central to much of Leithart’s thought, at least as far as I can tell in all that I’ve read. The theme is that of “morbid self-analysis.” By “morbid self-analysis” Leithart means the act of looking inside of one’s self to determine whether one is “really saved.” As I’ve read Leithart, this is a practice that he has taken aim at over and over again, especially in Reformed circles. Leithart criticizes this trend in showing how too many Christians insist on looking toward the subjective and slippery nature of their own hearts, rather than the objective grace of God expressed in Christ, to decide the nature of their standing with God.
The following quote comes from the end of the last chapter of The Baptized Body and I think it does a wonderful job of summing up the problem that Leithart perceives:
Too often the Reformed tradition has degenerated into a morbid form of self-analysis that is actually much closer to medieval piety than to the first Reformers. We are trained to stand outside ourselves and adopt a stance of objectivity in order to examine our performance, the strength of our faith, the consistency of our obedience. If our life matches our profession, then we are assured of our standing in Christ. Then we “know that we know” (1 Jm. 2:3). This is not, I think, what the New Testament means when it talks about assurance. “Knowing that we know” means experiencing the assurance that we are in a relationship of love—a “knowing” relationship—with God in Christ through the Spirit. We come to this experience of assurance in the midst of our abiding in Christ, not by standing outside our relationship with Christ and evaluating it as outsiders. We come to that experience as we trustingly, believingly remember and improve our baptisms, hear the Word of our beloved Husband, and feast as His Bride at His table. (pg. 106)
As moderns, we tend to believe that we are capable of objectively removing ourselves from our relationship with Christ and stand outside of it and judge it properly. Not only is this impossible, it would be a sinful approach to things even if we were capable of doing it. We are not to judge the nature of our relationship with Christ from outside it. Rather, we are to remain in our relationship with Christ and continue to receive from him at all times. What is it that we are to receive from Him? Leithart explains in the last sentence. We are to receive the words of assurance that we received at our baptism, we are to receive the weekly word from God from the sermons we hear, and we are to receive the weekly invitation from Jesus to dine with Him at the Lord’s Table.
We are to receive these things from within our relationship with Jesus. These are objective realities from which we know Jesus is maintaining a relationship of grace and love toward us. He continues to speak to us and invite us to His table weekly. And it is through our continued acceptance of His word and invitation from within our relationship with Him that we gain assurance.
Food for thought.