Listening to: Mozart: Mass in C Minor
I think Steven Paulson's book Lutheran Theology is much stronger rhetorically and substantively in describing death, sin and alienation than life, righteousness and reconciliation. That's a real shame. I think it is also true to say that as an introduction to Lutheran theology the book is pretty dire. Despite that it is compelling reading because he can say true things in a very striking way.
Baptism into Christ is an even more offensive claim than "you have died." It says your baptism is unity with Christ, and that unity is first a unity with his death [...] Christ takes the sinner's sin, but the exchange that takes place does not leave the recipient as she was - only without sin. The sins were not just possessions of mine, but they were me. They were not appendages, but my very heart [...] For this reason the first exchange with Christ is death. Christ does not offer an escape from sin and death, like the Gnostics dreamed about, but he came down from heaven into sinners, under them, and suffered to take the sins - and with them he took "me" - or my heart [...] Christ took the world's sin including my own, even in his own body, and became a curse on the cross. I cannot reclaim as my property those old sins by the old theory of distributive justice - though strangely this is precisely what sinners desire. Sin is a matter of the heart, and when sins are removed from a sinner the heart just manufactures more like the government mint printing money. The value of money, it is said, depends upon trust in the government that stands behind it. For this reason an unfaithful heart cannot merely be cleaned off in the way soap removes dirt from the hands [...]
Christ's death on the cross took the sins of the world, but this must now be preached and given so that the person no longer remains more-or-less intact after sin is removed - endlessly able to produce false trust in idols. That heart, and so the entire person to his or her roots, must die to sin, just as Christ did on the cross. A heart after all is more than just the organ of love (as the world supposes) in the form of erotic love, it is the source of faith and so unfaith in idolatry. To destroy Adam's heart and receive the new heart in Christ, God uses nothing else but the instruments of his words preached to a sinner that are first given in baptism.