Robert Farrar Capon

Robert Farrar Capon (October 26, 1925 – September 5, 2013) was an influential Episcopal Priest and author that has changed the lives of thousands of fellow Christians. His books are mainly focused on proclaiming radical grace of Jesus Christ  to all. Some of his best known books are:

– Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace
– Hunting the Divine Fox: Images and Mystery in Christian Faith
– The Mystery of Christ…and Why We Don’t Get It
– The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
– …and my personal favorite – The Kingdom, Grace and Judgment Parables.

If you were to ask me which single modern writer influenced my theology the most, I would have to say Robert Capon. This page is meant to capture some of my favorite quotes I have gathered while reading his many books. Enjoy!

Quotes

“Salvation is not some felicitous state to which we can lift ourselves by our own bootstraps after the contemplation of sufficiently good examples. It is an utterly new creation unto which we are brought by our death in Jesus’ death and our resurrection in his. It comes not out of our own efforts, however well-inspired or successfully pursued, but out of the shipwreck of all human effort whatsoever. And therefore if there is any ministering to be imitated in the Good Samaritan’s example, it is the ministry to Jesus in his passion, as that passion is to be found in the least of his brethren, namely, in the hungry, the thirsty, the outcast, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned in whom he dwells and through whom he invites us to become his neighbors in death and resurrection.” – Robert Capon

“In Christianity, “we move from the disasters of our loving and the bankruptcies of our goodness into the passion of Jesus where alone we can be saved. Niceness has nothing to do with the price of our salvation.” – Robert Capon

“The entail of our sinfulness cannot be broken by good examples, even if, per impossible, we could follow them. Quite the contrary, the Gospel says clearly that we can be saved only by bad examples: by the stupid example of a Samaritan who spends his livelihood on a loser, and by the horrible example of a Savior who, in an excruciating death, lays down his life for his friends.” – Robert Capon

“As long as the most important thing in your life is to keep finding your way, you’re going to live in mortal terror of losing it. Once you’re willing to be lost, though, you’ll be home free. Your lostness is one thing no one will ever be able to take away from you. The only ticket anybody needs is the one ticket everybody already has.” – Robert Capon

“Life is a web of trials and temptations, but only one of them can ever be fatal, and that is the temptation to think it is by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life. But that will never work. If the world could have lived its way to salvation, it would have, long ago. The fact is that it can only die its way there, lose its way there. The precise temptation, therefore, into which we pray we will not be led is the temptation to reject our saving death and try to proceed on our living own. Like the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that is the one thing that cannot be forgiven, precisely because it is the refusal of the only box in which forgiveness is ever delivered.” – Robert Capon

“I am aware of the more usual “persistence wins” interpretation given to  lines like “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” But in fact, persistence doesn’t win anywhere near often enough to be held up as the precondition of God’s answering prayer. And I will not let you hand me the cheap, cruel bromide that when persistence doesn’t win it probably wasn’t real persistence. Tell that to somebody who asked, and sought, and knocked till her knuckles bled for a child who eventually died of leukemia anyway. Or if you don’t have the nerve for that, try at least to remember that no matter how persistent or productive your prayers, there will inevitably be, on some dark day, one whoppingly unproductive prayer of yours (the prayer to be spared your death just one more time) that God will answer, “Sorry; the door of your life is already shut; all my real children are with me in the bed of my death; and I’m not about to rise from the dead just to give you back the same old two-bit life you were perishing of. Bring me a shameless acceptance of your death, though, and I’ll show you how I really do business.” – Robert Capon

“The world is not saved because of its repentance, its wisdom, or its goodness – and certainly not because of its stumbling efforts to become sorrier, wiser, or better. Rather, it’s saved because it is a dead world, and because the life of him who is greater than Jonah or Solomon has reigned out of its death.” – Robert Capon

“It is not success of any kind that saves – not even success in keeping the law; it is only the violent disruption of all success proclaimed by the Gospel of death and resurrection that can lead to true life in the kingdom.” – Robert Capon

“Since its demands remain perpetually holy, just, and good – and since we are none of those things – the law can only condemn those who rely on their keeping of it to save them.” – Robert Capon

“Living well may be the world’s idea of the best revenge, and it is certainly the human race’s commonest criterion for distinguishing the saved from the lost. But in the mystery of the kingdom, it is precisely living badly – being poor and hungry and covered with repulsive sores – that turns out to be the true vehicle of saving grace. Even a minute’s consideration will serve to make that clear.” – Robert Capon

“We will never enjoy the eternal Supper of the Lamb unless we say yes to it: unless less we put on the wedding garment of our acceptance of his acceptance of us, we will spend eternity gnashing our teeth in the darkness outside the party. But the party remains unpoopable: the precise hell of hell is that even if we never go back into the wedding reception, his endless, less, nagging invitation to the celebration will beat forever like hailstones stones on our thick, self-condemned heads.” – Robert Capon

“Jesus does not come to see if we are good: he comes to disturb the caked conventions by which we pretend to be good.” – Robert Capon

“The Messiah was not going to save the world by miraculous, Band-Aid  interventions: a storm calmed here, a crowd fed there, a mother in law cured back down the road. Rather, it was going to be saved by means of a deeper, darker, left handed mystery, at the center of which lay his own death.” – Robert Capon

“The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.” – Robert Capon (Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law and the Outrage of Grace)

“But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, and certainly will need from here on out into the New Jerusalem: the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the love that draws us home. My repentance, accordingly, is not so much for my failings but for the two-bit attitude toward them by which I made them more sovereign than grace. Grace – the imperative to hear the music, not just listen for errors – makes all infirmities occasions of glory.” ― Robert  Capon (Between Noon & Three)

“The wonderful thing about the ecology of good and evil, of life and death, is that death is given free reign as much as life. But from the beginning God knows the end, and the end is redemption. Redemption is the whole story from beginning to end. God took the evil on himself and redeems it—Jesus’ resurrection is the core of the whole thing—the real meaning of the whole creation. Death is swallowed up in the victory of life. It’s all about redemption.” – Robert Capon

“Confession has nothing to do with getting ourselves forgiven. Confession is not a transaction, not a negotiation in order to secure forgiveness; it is the after-the-last grasp of a corpse that finally can afford to admit it’s dead and accept resurrection. Forgiveness surrounds us, beats upon us all our lives; we confess only to wake ourselves up to what we already have… We are not forgiven, therefore, because we made ourselves forgivable or even because we had faith; we are forgiven solely because there is a Forgiver.” – Robert Capon (Kingdom, Grace and Judgment)

“Confession is not the first step on the road to recovery; it is the last step in the displaying of a corpse.” – Robert Capon (Between Noon & Three)

“The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.” – Robert Capon

“At the end of the game of images, we put the cards back in the box and go to bed with nothing but the trust we started with… Another hand of cards, perhaps, in the morning; but through the dark times, only faith.” – Robert Capon (Between Noon & Three)

“The only reason the church cannot rise from its moribund condition is that it will not die–that for as long as it tries to hang on to the life it thinks it has, it will never enjoy the gift of resurrection from the dead that God gives it in Jesus. “Jesus came to raise the dead,” he said–not to teach the teachable, reform the reformable, or improve the improvable.” – Robert Capon (The Romance of the Word)

“My death was not the tragedy I first thought; it was my absolution, my freedom. Nobody can blame a corpse–especially not the corpse itself. Once dead, we are out from under all the blame-harrows and guilt-spreaders forever. We are free; and free above all from the messes we have made of our own lives. And if there is a God who can take the dead and, without a single condition of credit-worthiness or a single, pointless promise of reform, raise them up whole and forgiven, free for nothing–well, that would not only be wild and wonderful; it would be the single piece of Good News in a world drowning in an ocean of blame. It was not all up to me. It was never up to me at all. It was up to someone I could only trust and thank. It was salvation by grace through faith, not works.” – Robert Capon (The Romance of the Word)

“Trust him. And when you have done that, you are living the life of grace. No matter what happens to you in the course of that trusting – no matter how many waverings you may have, no matter how many suspicions that you have bought a poke with no pig in it, no matter how much heaviness and sadness your lapses, vices, indispositions, and bratty whining may cause you – you believe simply that Somebody Else, by his death and resurrection, has made it all right, and you just say thank you and shut up. The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.” – Robert Capon

“Jesus obviously does not answer many questions from you or me. Which is why apologetics is always such a questionable enterprise. Jesus just doesn’t argue.” – Robert Capon (Parables of Judgment)

“We were never told that it would not hurt, only that nothing would ever finally go wrong; not that it would not often go hard with us but that there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” – Robert Capon (Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace)

“If the Gospel is about anything, it is about a God who meets us where we are, not where we ought to be.” – Robert Capon

“Our pride drives us to establish our own righteousness. We strive all our life to see ourselves as keepers of rules we cannot keep, as loyal subjects of laws under which we can only be judged outlaws. Yet so deep is our need to derive our identity from our own self-respect – so profound our conviction that unless we watch our step, the watchbird will take away our name – that we will spend a lifetime trying to do the impossible rather than, for even one carefree minute, consent to having it done for us by someone else.” – Robert Capon

“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way through the streets of the universe, flinging the sweetness of its cassations to every window, pounding at every door in a hilarity beyond all liking and happening, until the prodigals come out at last and dance, and the elder brothers finally take their fingers out of their ears.” – Robert Capon

“Parables are told only because they are true, not because the actions of the characters in them can be recommended for imitation. Good Samaritans are regularly sued. Fathers who give parties for wayward sons are rightly rebuked. Employers who pay equal wages for unequal work have labor-relations problems. And any Shepherd who makes a practice of leaving ninety-nine sheep to chase after a lost one quickly goes out of the sheep-ranching business. The parables are only true because they are like what God is like, not because they are merely models for us to copy. It is simply a fact that the only thing we dare not under any circumstances imitate is the only thing that can save us. The parables are, one and all, about the foolishness by which Grace raises the dead. They apply to no sensible process at all – only to the divine insanity that brings everything out of nothing.” – Robert Capon (Kingdom, Grace and Judgement)

“…there is therefore now no condemnation for two reasons: you are dead now; and God, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, has been dead all along.The blame game was over before it started. It really was. All Jesus did was announce that truth and tell you it would make you free. It was admittedly a dangerous thing to do. You are a menace. Be he did it; and therefore, menace or not, here you stand: uncondemned, forever, now. What are you going to do with your freedom?” – Robert Capon (Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace)

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills, and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross—and then be brave enough to stick around while it goes through inevitable withdrawal symptoms.” – Robert Capon (The Foolishness of Preaching)

“Think of what it would be like if, in the thick of sin, we were told that we stood uncondemned by a love that would not let us go.” – Robert Capon

“In Jesus, God has put up a “Gone Fishing” sign on the religion shop. He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it – to trust the bizarre, unprovable proposition that in him, every last person on earth is already home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and reciting the correct creed – no nothing. . . . The entire show has been set to rights in the Mystery of Christ – even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s wild, and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn’t sell worth beans. But it is good news – the only permanently good news there is – and therefore I find it absolutely captivating.” – Robert Capon

“I’ve always had a problem with the phrase “cheap grace.” As far as I’m concerned, nobody can make God’s grace in Jesus any cheaper than it already is: It’s free …. I guess what I really don’t like is the way people start out by defining sin as “moral failure,” and then go on to think that if they commit “sins” they’ll cut themselves off from grace. That’s all nonsense, of course: “sinners” are the very thing God gives His grace to —lost sheep, lost coins, lost sons. As a matter of fact, the true New Testament opposite of sin isn’t virtue, or moral success, or getting your act together: it’s faith in the grace that takes away all the sins of the world. Paul says, “All that is not of faith is sin.” And Jesus says, “The one who believes is not judged.” We’re not on trial: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And we shouldn’t weaken that by giving a narrow interpretation to “those who are in Christ Jesus”: the whole world is in Him, reconciled and made into a New Creation by the Mystery of Christ.” – Robert Capon (The Mystery of Christ & Why We Don’t Get It)

“Religion, despite the correctness of its insistence that something needs to be done about our relationship with God – remains unqualified bad news: it traps us in a game we will always and everywhere lose.

But the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is precisely Good News. It is the announcement, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that God has simply called off the game – that he has taken all the disasters religion was trying to remedy and, without any recourse to religion at all, set them to rights by himself. How sad, then, when the church acts as if it is in the religion business rather than the Gosepl-proclaiming business. What a disservice, not only to itself but to a world perpetually sinking in the quagmire of religiosity, when it harps on creed, cult, and conduct as touchstones of salvation. What a perversion of the truth that sets us free when it takes the news that while we were yet sinners, Christs died for us, and turns it into a proclamation of God as just one more insuffereable bookkeeper.” – Robert Capon (The Parables of Grace)

“When God pardons, he does not say he understands our weakness or makes allowances for our errors; rather he disposes of, he finishes with, the whole of our dead life and raises us up with a new one. He does not so much deal with our derelictions as he does drop them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. He forgets our sins in the darkness of the tomb. He remembers our iniquities no more in the oblivion of Jesus’ expiration. He finds us, in short, in the desert of death, not in the garden of improvement; and in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, he puts us on his shoulders rejoicing, and brings us home.” – Robert Capon (Parables of Grace)

“By the folly of the cross, Jesus becomes sin for us, and he goes outside the camp for us, and is relegated to the dump for us, and becomes garbage and compost, offal and manure for us. And then he comes to us. The Vinedresser who on the cross said “forgive” to his Lord and Father comes to us with his own body dug deep by nails and spears, and his own being made dung by his death, and he sends our roots resurrection. He does not come to see if we are sorry: he knows our repentance isn’t worth the hot air we put into it. He does not come to count anything…He comes only to forgive. For free. For nothing. On no basis. On no conditions…we do nothing and we deserve nothing; it is all, absolutely and without qualification, one huge, hilarious gift.” – Robert Capon

“When God pardons, he does not say he understands our weakness or makes allowances for our errors; rather he disposes of, he finishes with, the whole of our dead life and raises us up with a new one. He does not so much deal with our derelictions as he does drop them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. He forgets our sins in the darkness of the tomb. He remembers our iniquities no more in the oblivion of Jesus’ expiration. He finds us, in short, in the desert of death, not in the garden of improvement; and in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, he puts us on his shoulders rejoicing, and brings us home.” – Robert Capon (Parables of Grace)

“We are called to be fools for Christ’s sake and to proclaim the foolishness by which God saves the world.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

“The beloved nineteenth-century hymnody of your youth was not exactly a seamless tissue of musical spun gold. Besides, the name of Jesus is, I think, quite able to fend for itself despite any or all lapses of taste on the part of its advocates.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

“What Jesus did by dying and rising was the end of whatever religion was trying to accomplish, not the beginning of a new one.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

“Ever since Adam and Eve, my dear, the power of good example has been so low it can’t possibly be underestimated. Jesus gave the world the best example it ever saw and the world’s nastiness quotient wasn’t in the least affected by it.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

“Sure, law should be based on morality. But, in the long run, the only thing strict morality is going to tell the world is that it’s going to hell in a handbasket. I would have hoped that the church – which has the antidote to that bad news in the free grace of a God who died for us while we were yet sinners – would not so easily have been tricked into hiding the light of its Gospel under a bushel of law.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

“The one thing you can never sell is grace. The human race would rather die than give house room to the outrage of free acceptance, while we are yet sinners. You can get people to buy acceptance after their sins are under control, or only when their disasters have been forestalled by proper behavior. But all the Gospel has to offer is acceptance now: in our sins and in our shipwrecks. And without condition. With no guilt left to be expiated and no good-deed lists asked for. You can always sell religion. But the Gospel of grace isn’t religion and therefore you can’t sell it for beans. Any gospel that sells is, by definition, not the Gospel.” – Robert Capon (More Theology and Less Heavy Cream)

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