there is a genuine gospel humanism

I’ve been getting back into John Webster lately — reading his slim little book on Barth’s Earlier Theology and working my way through his Kantzer Lectures on ‘The Perfection and Presence of God’ from back in 2007.

I’m loving it!

Here’s a gem from the end of his second Kantzer Lecture (from about 54 minutes in):

Because God is who God is, there is a proper gospel humanism. But it can’t be seized precipitately. We need to approach it slowly and patiently through the doctrine of God. Indeed, only when we approach it in this way do we attain to a real humanism — one in which being human means being a creature in the presence of the perfect God. But the fact that we may arrive at this stately affirmation of creaturely dignity is not the least of the gospel’s glories.

Rough translation:

When we trust and follow Jesus, it won’t ruin our lives. Putting Jesus first won’t be a disaster for our dignity and freedom. It won’t leave us unfulfilled and empty (although it will probably unsettle more than a few of our notions of fulfilment).

It will richly satisfy us.

Think of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. His call is fierce and uncompromising: ‘Go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (Matthew 19.21).

But the promise is of real satisfaction and restored dignity: a life free from the love of money (a love which can only shrink and diminish us) and rich towards God.

Any theology that suggests otherwise — even in the name of magnifying God’s sovereign grace and initiative — is deficient. For it will have bought into the assumption of classical liberalism that for God to be great, man must become less (and vice versa).

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