Extraspective Clair Davis

Clair Davis on the extraspective

“No wonder that our Reformation fathers and mothers liked extraspective so much, since everyone else looked at themselves way too much, and they were determined to look only to Jesus. Lutherans specialized in that, better than anyone else. Reformed people believed it, but also kept checking out their hearts and lives, always desiring more Christ-likeness. See what the Westminster Confession says about our assurance of salvation. The beginning is encouraging, what an amazing gift the Lord gives us, to know that we belong to him and he to us. But then out of nowhere come those ‘sudden and vehement temptations.’ Take me, when I’m preaching away with my heart set on Jesus and his glory—but then I spot all those folks leaning forward in their chairs looking up at me. My focus on Jesus gets dulled by noticing that my sermon is working. It’s one thing when ordinary people aren’t extraspective, but when the preacher isn’t—now that’s terrible. I could tell you of more ordinary ‘sudden and vehement’ ones I have, but the preacher one is the worst. So of course then God ‘withdraws the light of his countenance’: I’m telling people to glorify God but I’m really happy that they’re glorifying me—what in the world must the Lord be thinking of me? The Confession goes on to describe what a life like that is really like, and concludes on the note that at least it’s not characterized by ‘utter despair.’ To me that doesn’t sound like much of a climax. Doesn’t the Confession really need another paragraph, beginning with ‘Nevertheless?’ Now there you can see what Reformed looks like, and that it’s not as simple as Lutheran. But isn’t that a true picture of life, after all? Just when we think that our joy in Jesus is so gripping, isn’t it then that our daydreams are so putrid?”


[Editor’s Note: This post was written by my good friend and seminary professor Dr. Clair Davis.  In it he offers some well-informed and insightful reflections on the unity of salvation in Christ, and on the difficulties we in the conservative Reformed world have encountered as we have sought to understand and express this great truth.]


I think about the grace of God in Jesus Christ as a package.  We get so much from Jesus right from the beginning, all together.  Why is that so hard to grasp?  Mostly because we’re used to thinking about our sanctification as a kind of response to God’s grace in justification.  But how do the two relate?  No doubt church history gets me confused—it’s easy to think that the job of the theologian is to fix the bad answers that have been given so far.  But what if they all answer questions that God and…

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