Paul F. M Zahl’s, Grace in Practice: A Theology​ of Everyday Life – Part one: On the Law

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In 2018, I stumbled on Paul Zahl’s book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, and read the book for the whole year. It was the only book I read besides my bible. 

Paul’s views on grace and the gospel are weighty. Many times I had to wrestle with his views on grace because they are otherworldly – too good to be true and impractical. The adage “Too heavenly minded, No earthly good” kept on ringing in my head. And yet, I kept on reading. 

Paul Zahl gives us a lofty view of what grace is, and yes, he gives you a heavenly view if you will be of any earthly good. Grace is lofty, heavenly and otherworldly. And grace helps you live in this base, restless, and evil world. Grace is in this world but not of this world. 

I thought I should share quotes from his book. 

This is part one of a series of quotes from his book. 

On the Law

Law, whether biblical and universally stated or contextual and contemporarily phrased, operates in one way. Law reduces its object, the human person, to despair.

A theology of everyday life perceives that the pressure to be a “good Christian” and the pressure, for example, to be a “good husband” are the same in their effect.

Christianity works through the law embodied within the inward human man laws that cause stress and guilt.

Everyone carries laws within themselves….inner conscience, inner stresses of demand, are the same thing as God’s law that requires perfect submission.

In its devastating impact on love, God’s law is not a sublime thing. It turns love into a duty. It imperils the freedom of love in favor of doing something we are supposed to do naturally.

The intent of the law is to move us to goodness… Law creates the opposite of what it intends to create.

Both in theology and in everyday life, the law results in its distorted underside: resentment, passive-aggressive behaviour, protest, and hospitalization.

The law throws you off any degree of poise or balance you may have achieved. It makes a mockery of the very idea of achievement. It slams you down into a mud-hole and leaves you there without any hope of getting out, at the mercy of giant spider-creatures that feast upon you in their own time.

What the law requires is exactly what men and women need in order to be wise, happy, and secure. But the law cannot pull this off. The problem with the law is not its substance. The problem with the law is its instrumentality. The law is not up to the task it sets for itself.

Law curses everything it touches. It is an ironic curse, because it intends to bless. It means well.

The law is like Norman Bates. It thinks it will do us good. It desires to do us good. But in fact, the result is always that “the trespass multiplied” (Romans 5:20). It makes worse that which it seeks to control.

Grace is the end of the curse over life. It is the end of the law. This is why Paul writes as an exclamation his words in Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law.”

That’s what grace looks like

Paul F. M. Zahl. Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life. You can buy the book from Amazon