Gene Veith

Spirituality of the Cross

Gene Veith is an LCMS Lutheran who writes in a way that speaks to many Reformational layman. He is a Professor at Patrick Henry College, and has written several great books. My personal favorite is his book The Spirituality of the Cross.


“Instead of insisting that human beings attain perfection, Lutheran spirituality begins by facing up to imperfection. We cannot perfect our conduct, try as we might. We cannot understand God through our own intellects. We cannot become one with God. Instead of human beings having to do these things, Lutheran spirituality teaches that God does them for us – He becomes one with us in Jesus Christ; He reveals Himself to our feeble understandings by His Word; He forgives our conduct and, in Christ, lives the perfect life for us.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“We do not have to ascend to God; rather, the good news is that He has descended to us. Most philosophies and theologies focus on what human beings must do to be saved; Lutherans insist that there is nothing we can do, but that God does literally everything.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Human sin and God’s grace are the two poles of Lutheran spirituality. To be sure, these are intrinsic to all of Christianity, but in Lutheranism they are both heightened. They are resolved in the principle by which, it is said, the church stands or falls: justification by grace through faith.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Lutheran spirituality begins with the insight that all human effort to reach God is futile. The will, to use Luther’s term, is in bondage – not only can we not fulfill the moral law perfectly, on the deepest level, we do not want to. The intellect is in bondage of its own, bound by its limits and tainted by the sinful will. The emotions are likewise in bondage, apt more to lead us astray than to lead us to God. Far from ascending to God, we spend most of our time trying to run away from him.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Lutheran spirituality is all about what God does. To rescue us from our miserable and depraved human condition, He became a human being Himself. The God-man Jesus Christ accomplished the perfection moralists only aspire to. He upon Himself the punishment for everyone’s moral failures by dying on the cross. The spiritual life has to do with recognizing God’s work – what He accomplished on the cross and what He continues to accomplish in people’s lives.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Those broken by the Law are convinced of their need and of their inability to save themselves. Then the message that God does it all comes as an astounding relief, as good news. Those who despair of achieving perfection by themselves can hear the message of the cross – that they can find totally free forgiveness through the work of Jesus Christ – and cling to it, desperately, with every fiber of their being.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Faith for Lutherans is not a ‘decision to accept Christ,’ as it is described by later evangelicals. Making salvation a function of the will would be moralism, dependent, again, upon what we do, our effort, willpower, and action, in all of their actual futility. Lutherans consider faith itself to be a gift of God, created in the human heart as His action through the Holy Spirit, working through Word and Sacrament.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Much of Lutheranism, of course, accords with other Christian theologies. Other evangelicals emphasize the experience of conversion. Lutherans also believe in conversion. But the Law and the Gospel, the dynamics of repentance and the acceptance of Christ, are part of the fabric of Lutheran spirituality, not just a one-time occurrence but a pattern entered into again and again throughout one’s life.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Those who have been justified by Christ are changed from the inside. Good works flow unconsciously from the work of Christ. Christians, however, have a double nature: their new spiritual nature from the indwelling Christ (Luther’s ‘new man’) and the old sinful nature from Adam (‘the old Adam’). These are in constant conflict, so that the Christian’s life is often one not of peace but of turmoil.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“When a Lutheran is asked, ‘When were you saved?’ the answer is often something on the order of ‘about two thousand years ago, when Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead.’ Christianity has to do not so much with a code of behavior of a system of belief or a set of experiences, but with Christ. We are saved by the action of God: He is the one who saved us by performing everything we could not.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“The words of the Bible do not merely convey information, they convey the Holy Spirit. “The Word of God is living and active.” The words of Scripture actually connect us to what they are describing. As we read those words on the page, God is literally and objectively present and working, inscribing our hearts the gift of faith.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Faith is not a matter of intellectual mastery, nor is it a decision. Faith is trust, a relationship of utter dependence on Christ. Do babies, in all of their incapacity, trust their parents? Do babies have a relationship of utter dependence with their parents? Isn’t the love of a mother for her child something the baby knows, constituting the most heartfelt reality of his or her little existence? If babies can have faith in their parents – resting securely dependent on their love and care – why can’t babies have faith in their heavenly father?” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Luther answered those who agonized over the question of whether or not they were of God’s elect by pointing to a fact outside of themselves: ‘You are a baptized child of God,’ he would tell them. In times of doubt, fear, and even despair, those who worry about God’s love for them, and those who question their salvation and their participation in Christ, should not look inward where they will probably find even more reasons to doubt their salvation. Rather, they must look outside of themselves. Grace, Lutherans insist, is objective. Christians in need of assurance should understand that their salvation is an objective fact, sealed in an event in space and time, as tangible as water.” – Gene Veith (The spirituality of the Cross)

“The one who receives the bread and wine hears that Christ’s body and blood, here offered, are ‘for you.’ There is nothing vague here. There is no need to worry about my decisions or whether or not I have been elected to be saved or whether or not I am sinful. In the Sacrament, Christ gives Himself to me. All of His promises and everything that He did for my redemptions and forgiveness on the cross are made so tangible, I can taste them. I am touching, in fact, the risen Christ, as the first disciples did. And God’s Words, ringing in my ears as I take this nourishment, tells me that His body and blood are for me. That means that my sins are actually forgiven, that I can be assured of God’s favor.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“The Gospel of Christ converts us, but it also nourishes us. We need to keep receiving Christ over and over again.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Being helpless and utterly dependent, however, is precisely our spiritual condition. We are utterly helpless to save ourselves. We are utterly dependent on God. Saving faith involves giving up on our pretensions of being self-sufficient, strong, and in control. We are to rest on utter dependence on Jesus Christ.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God give us our daily bread, which He does. He does so, not directly as with the manna to the Israelites, but through the work of farmers, truck drivers, bakers, retailers, and many more. In fact, He gives us our daily bread through the functioning of the whole accompanying economic system—employers and employees, banks and investors, the transportation infrastructure and technological means of production—each part of which is interdependent and necessary if we are going to eat. Each part of this economic food chain is a vocation, through which God works to distribute His gifts.” Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“Though Lutheranism is sometimes accused of antinomianism, a too-permissive dismissal of the moral law in light of the radical free gift of the Gospel, this is a gross misunderstanding. Our relationship to God is not determined by our good works (since those with a sinful nature can never have enough of them to earn anything before God)—what we need, rather, is forgiveness for our bad works along with the perfect good works of Jesus Christ, imputed to us as if they were our own. But our relationship to our neighbors is determined by our good works, which themselves are only made possible by God working through us. Lutheranism, in fact, displaces morality from the realm of the theoretical and overly theological, bringing it down into the realm of real life.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“The earthly kingdom exists to carry out the law; the spiritual kingdom exists to carry out forgiveness.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“We often expect a highly spiritual life to include mystical reveries, superhuman virtue, or the possession of a supernatural power that overcomes all obstacles. Actually, the spiritual life turns out to be somewhat ordinary – on the surface. It involves the universal expereiences of forming relationships, marrying, rearing children, struggling with problems, and working. The doctrine of the two kingdoms teaches that God is hidden in ordinary, everyday life.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)

“It is thus not simply moments of transcendant ecstacy that are ‘spritual.’ Human relationships are spiritual. The pleasure of being so caught up with someone you love that you forget yourself – as happens so often in marriage – a high and holy experience. When you act as a parent – protecting, disciplining, caring for, and loving your child – you are intimately close to God, who is hidden and active in what you do for your child.” – Gene Veith (The Spirituality of the Cross)


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