Some scribbles on the elderly as gift

632614403133_0_BGOn a recent Sunday past, I had the joy of preaching on hope and memory to a wonderful group who were, on average, and at a guess, about twice my age. Not surprisingly, I loved being among them, and felt greatly privileged to share time together with them. And being with them made me do something I used to do a lot more of than I have in recent years – pause. More specifically, pause and reflect on why I really love being among the aged. That afternoon, I returned to my reading of Rowan Williams’ recently published book Faith in the Public Square (and therein to his address to the Friends of the Elderly, also available here) wherein he writes:

[A]geing brings much that is bound to be threatening; of course it entails the likelihood of sickness and disability and that most frightening of all prospects, the loss of mental coherence. But if this is combined with an unspoken assumption that the elderly are socially insignificant because they are not prime consumers or producers, the public image of ageing is bound to be extra bleak; and that is the message that can so easily be given these days. In contrast to a setting where age means freedom from having to justify your existence, age in our context is often implicitly presented as a stage of life when you exist ‘on sufferance’. You’re not actually pulling your weight; you’re not an important enough bit of the market to be targeted in most advertising, except of a rather specialised and often rather patronising kind. In an obsessively sexualised world of advertising and other images, age is often made to look pathetic and marginal. And in the minds of most people there will be the picture of the geriatric ward or certain kinds of residential institution.

To borrow the powerful expression used of our prisons by Baroness Kennedy, this is ‘warehousing’ – stacking people in containers because we can think of nothing else to do with them. From time to time, we face those deeply uncomfortable reports about abuse or even violence towards the vulnerable. Terrible as this is, we need to see it as an understandable consequence of a warehousing mentality.

As the Friends of the Elderly make plain in their literature, even if not precisely in these terms, the question of how we perceive age is essentially a spiritual one. If you have a picture of human life as a story that needs pondering, retelling, organising, a story that is open to the judgement and mercy of God, it will be natural to hope for time to do this work, the making of the soul. It will be natural to ask how the life of older people can be relieved of anxiety, and how the essentially creative work of reflection can be helped. It is not an exaggeration to say that, in such a perspective, growing old will make the greatest creative demands of your life. Furthermore, if we are all going to have the opportunity of undertaking reflection like this, it will be important that older people have the chance to share the task with the rest of us. The idea that age necessarily means isolation will be challenged. There is a sense that what matters for our own future thinking through of our life stories doesn’t depend on the sort of things that go in and out of fashion. That is why, in most traditional societies, the term ‘elder’ is a title of honour – as it is, of course, in the Christian Church, where the English word ‘priest’ is an adaptation of the Greek for ‘elder’. A person who has been released from the obligation to justify their existence is one who can give a perspective on life for those of us who are still in the middle of the struggle; their presence ought to be seen as a gift.

Incidentally, one of the most worrying problems in the impact of Western modernity on traditional culture is that it quite rapidly communicates its own indifference or anxiety or even hostility about age and ageing. Generation gaps open and it is no longer clear what there is to be learned. On our own doorsteps, we now have to confront a situation in, for example, the British Muslim community, where the status of older family members has been eroded by the prevailing culture around, creating a vacuum: of course it is natural and in many ways healthy for the young to examine and explore the received wisdom of their elders as they move towards maturity but when younger members of a community are left without signposts, they are more easily shifted towards extreme behaviour of one sort or another. It is as if, in the crises of these communities and the challenge they pose to the rest of our society, we see an intensified image of the tensions and unfinished business in our whole attitude to age and ageing.

We must not be sentimental. Age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom, and the authority of ‘elders’ of one sort or another can be oppressive, unrealistic and selfish. But when we completely lose sight of any idea that older people have a crucial role in pointing us to the way we might work to make better sense of our lives, we lose something vital. We lose the assumption that there is a perspective on our human experience that is bigger than the world of production and consumption. Work, sex, the struggle to secure our position or status, the world in which we constantly negotiate our demands and prove ourselves fit to take part in public life – what is there outside all this that might restore some sense of a value that is just given, a place that doesn’t have to be earned? A healthy attitude to the elderly, I believe, is one of the things that can liberate us from the slavery of what we take for granted as the ‘real’ world. Giving dignity to the elderly … is inseparable from recognising the dignity of human beings as such. Contempt for older citizens, the unthinking pushing of them to the edges of our common life, is a sure sign of a shrivelled view of what it is to be human. (pp. 244–46)

Here, Williams does a characteristically stellar job celebrating the invaluable gift that the elderly are to human community, and that while avoiding any sense of either reducing old people to commodities or apotheosizing them with a romanticism that seeks to shroud some of the ugliness that characterizes all human being.

From time to time I get asked how I feel about being part of an ‘ageing’ (which seems to be code for ‘dying’) institution like the Presbyterian Church here in New Zealand. One thing that immediately comes to mind is the incredible depth of memory that characterizes such a community, storied memory that helps us to understand who we are, why certain things matter, and why ‘realities’ like consumerism represent such an empty lie. Of course, I am grieved too that such an ageing community has fewer and fewer people each year to share its memory with – memory shaped by, among other things, decades of mistakes that need not be repeated, but will be.

This is part of the obligation laid upon the elderly; an obligation which, in my experience, too few rejoice to take up, and that for a great number of reasons that we need not go into here. But some do, of course, and in many such instances provide beautiful illustration of the claim that one really can teach an old dog new tricks; and, what’s more, many have learnt by now that there’s a joyous freedom in so learning some such tricks, and that not because by such one might progress anywhere but simply because learning new tricks can be surprisingly hilarious – the boisterous merriment of the Spirit. More importantly, such learnings-in-community – and the stories that accompany such – celebrate the relationality that lies at the deepest recesses of the universe’s grain.

Another great thing about being part of an institution filled with old people is that one is surrounded by so many more people who can teach me how to die – who have been given the time to teach me how to die and, hopefully, how to die well – and thereby be liberated from the horrible burden of having to always act as if one were younger, or older, or more indispensable, than one actually is. Exactly how this happens remains a mystery to me, although there seem to be conditions that surround the life of the aged that make such virtues real and not merely abstract possibilities. These include friendship, a humble assessment of human vocation, hope that rests in the all-embracing love of God, and a manifestly genuine aversion to twaddle.

But, to repeat, it’s not like this for all. Some old people live with consciences and hearts which have become so calloused over many years – through, among other things, the skill of self-justification – that it seems that it will take as long in the time beyond this time to soften such sisters and brothers enough that healing might take place and growth begin again. To employ a different metaphor, it is no slack knot that grace must undo; and for the elderly this knot has had longer to tighten. For the elderly, as for all – Peccator in re, iustus in spe! Of course, one need not squint too hard to see how industrialisation has contributed too to the very environments in which such knots are formed and then made to be what seems permanent. Consider, for example, words penned by Helmut Thielicke as he reflected on his first visit to the United States in the Spring of 1956, and in which he diagnosed a dire picture:

Elderly Americans constantly made a depressing impression upon me. I can still see the large hall of a hotel on the coast before me. Old ladies were sitting there with wrinkled faces that were not just made up but, frankly, plastered with cosmetics. To me they seemed like masks, consumed with boredom. They stared straight ahead, or looked with unseeing eyes through the gaps in the sun-blinds onto a street where nothing ever happened, or sat for hours in front of the television. A few of them played patience. The same was true of the old people with whom I lived in a house together for a few days. None of them ever read a book, at the most they might occasionally read a magazine. And always that unseeing stare and always television as a desperate protection against drowning in boredom. Some friends confirmed the correctness of this impression to me.

What is the origin of this despairing attitude to old age? One of the reasons is certainly not least the fact that people’s exclusive dependence upon the car kills any real attachment to the countryside. One can indeed wander all over nature and get to know it inside out, but despite this never actually experience it. When Moltke retired he was asked what there was now left for him to do, since he had always been such an active man. He replied: I shall watch a tree grow. How many elderly Americans could give a similar answer? (This question could, of course, also be directed at many elderly Europeans.)

The life that is determined exclusively by external influences prompts a sham vitality on the part of the individual. However, when contact with the outside world becomes weaker as the individual’s receptivity for impressions decreases and he is forced to have a life of his own, the pseudocharacter of his vitality inevitably becomes apparent. The friendly manners in America only inadequately disguise the fact that elderly people are often regarded as a burden. ‘But we don’t have elderly people like in Europe’, a clever woman once said to me with whom I had been discussing this problem and whose memory had perhaps caused her to idealize the Old World too much. ‘Such a thing as the serenity of old age is here rather the exception’, she said. Alongside this, there is also a sociological side to the problem of aging. This takes the form of an idolization of youth. After the loss of youth, life is regarded as a decline and people live in fear of this. That is why people basically do not have a positive attitude towards aging and do their utmost to conserve their youth. (Notes from a Wayfarer, pp. 311–312).

Once upon a time, in the time when we (in the West, at least) were less eager to shove our aged into holding pens, or what Williams refers to as ‘warehousing’, to await their death (these pens are sometimes called ‘nursing homes’), we were more likely to grow up alongside those living in the winter of their lives; that is, alongside those who are moving to die, alongside those who appear to be beginning even now to undergo a translation of life from time (i.e., time as we know it) to eternity (i.e., time as we will know it). Insofar as this is true, the elderly, or at least those elderly who have ceased engaging in the kinds of groping for justification and celebration of independence so characteristic of other adults, are among us as a kind of ‘sacrament’ of true being before God, as icons of God’s presence in frail flesh, as parables of the truth of human being-in-dependence-upon-the-other, and as signs that ‘the glory of human beings is not power, the power to control someone else … [but] the ability to let what is deepest within us grow’ (Jean Vanier, Befriending the Stranger).

In his final book to be published during his lifetime, P. T. Forsyth testified to the ways that ageing can also occasion immortal things becoming more real to us, of eternity being more deeply set in our heart. ‘We become’, he says, ‘more alert in a certain direction. We become more sensitive to what is deep than to what is lively, to a searchlight than to the flares, to what is the sure, permanent, and timeless thing in all movement’ (This Life and the Next, 54). This description does not tell the whole story, of course, but it does tell the story of some, perhaps even of many; and I consider myself blessed to be doing life among those who are alert in this way.

To be continued …

Words to sink your ears into

Missing your lectures? Eyes need a break? Need to kill some time over the Christmas period? Want to impress your friends (and enemies) with your learnedness? Check out some of the following links (which are mostly from our friends at Holden Village):

H. George Anderson

Karl Barth

  • “Was ist für Sie Mozart?”. Gespräch mit R. Schmalenbach (Text Schweizerdeutsch Text Standarddeutsch). Aus “Musik für einen Gast” (Radio Interview vom 17.9.1968, geführt von R. Schmalenbach). [mp3]
  • Weihnachtsgruss 1960 (siehe auch Letter Nr. 12) [mp3]
  • Institutio-Jubiläum 1959 (siehe Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Nr. 158, vom 11./12. Juli 2009, S. B 3) [mp3]
  • Aus dem Gespräch mit den Tübinger Stiftlern vom 2. März 1964 über die Entstehung der Barmer Theologischen Erklärung (siehe K. Barth, Gespräche 19641968, hrsg. von E. Busch [Gesamtausgabe, Abt. IV], Zürich 1997, S. 111–114; auch in: K. Barth, Texte zur Barmer Theologischen Erklärung, hrsg. von M. Rohkrämer, Zürich 20042, S. 221–223) [mp3]
  • Aus dem Gespräch mit der Kirchlichen Bruderschaft Württemberg vom 15. Juli 1963 über die Bedeutung von Barmen (siehe K. Barth, Gespräche 1963, hrsg. von E. Busch [Gesamtausgabe, Abt. IV], Zürich 2005, S. 54; auch in: K. Barth, Texte zur Barmer Theologischen Erklärung, hrsg. von M. Rohkrämer, Zürich 20042, S. 191) [mp3]
  • Aus “Die Liebe”, Abschiedsvorlesung Karl Barths vom 1. März 1962 an der Universität Basel (siehe K. Barth, Einführung in die evangelische Theologie, Zürich 20045, S. 220) [mp3]
  • Aus “The Community”, Vorlesung Karl Barths vom 26. April 1962 in Chicago und 2. Mai 1962 in Princeton (siehe K. Barth, Evangelical Theology. An Introduction, Grand Rapids, MI 1979, S. 41) [mp3]
  • Aus “Commentary”, Vorlesung Karl Barths vom 23. April 1962 in Chicago und 29. April 1962 in Princeton (siehe K. Barth, Evangelical Theology. An Introduction, Grand Rapids, MI 1979, S. 9–12) [mp3]
  • Tondokumente aus Letter Nr. 6.
  • Gespräch mit R. Schmalenbach. Aus “Musik für einen Gast” (Radio Interview vom 17.9.1968, geführt von R. Schmalenbach). [mp3]
  • Gespräch mit der Kirchlichen Bruderschaft in Württemberg. Aus dem Gespräch am 15.7.1963 im Restaurant Bruderholz in Basel. [mp3]
  • Gespräch in Bièvres. Aus der Diskusion am 20.10.1963 über Fragen im Zusammenhang seines Buches «Einführung in die evangelische Theologie». [mp3]
  • Podiumsdiskussion in Chicago. Aus dem Schlusswort bei der Podiumsdiskusion in Chicago 26.4.1962. [mp3]

Carl Braaten

Walter Brueggemann

Nancy Eiesland

Terry Fretheim

Martin Marty

Bonnie Miller-McLemore

Jürgen Moltmann

Ched Myers

Lesslie Newbigin

John Polkinghorne

Dorothee Sölle

William Stringfellow

  • Civil rights movement – an interview with Robert Penn Warren: Part I, Part II (1964)

Helmut Thielicke

Vitor Westhelle

Rowan Williams

Umhau Wolf

John Howard Yoder

Helmut Thielicke on preaching

It would be fair to say that I am not known for my speediness. That confessed, I am currently racing to finish off a wee manuscript on the sermons of PT Forsyth (hence the relative paucity of posts here at Per Crucem ad Lucem). So I’ve been thinking much of late not only about Forsyth but also about preaching. And in regards to the latter, it’s been fun to revisit some of my old reading notes on preaching. Here’s one from the pen of Helmut Thielicke that I wanted to share:

‘The aim of the sermon, after all, is to create something living and set it in motion. Consequently, it should be directed not only at the intellect, but must at the same time also be aimed at the conscience, will, and imagination. It is addressed to the whole person! Corresponding to the complexity of this goal are the wealth of reflections in which one is absorbed before one makes ones way to the pulpit.

The extremely pluralistic composition of my audience forced me to still further reflections. The different levels of education and social background necessitated an inquiry into that aspect of human nature that is common to all human beings, that center of their being in which – each in his own different way – human beings are moved by fear and hope, by their finitude, by ambition, desires, the search for meaning, by the burden of guilt and torment of conscience. My goal – and I strived to attain it at least partially – had to be above all to ensure that everyone could say afterwards (because he had been personally touched in this center of his being, “I was the subject of this sermon, he meant me.”

In order to find associations with the text for my sermon and so to illustrate it with images, stories, and a human touch, I constantly kept an eye open during my varied reading for anything I could use in the pulpit. I started various collections in files and card indexes in order to have suitable quotations and other material at hand. If this material then nevertheless failed to hit the mark, I could at least comfort myself with the fact that I had done all that I could.

I did not, by the way, keep to the prescribed readings, that is, to the texts stipulated for use in church sermons. At best these prescribed texts have one useful function, namely, they safeguard the preacher from misusing the text by preventing him from choosing a text simply as a motto for his pet ideas. Preachers who do this quickly preach themselves dry. Their only achievement is to cause deadly boredom – probably not only to the audience but also to themselves – by their constant rummaging through the remnants of a crop that has long since been completely harvested. A prescribed text is certainly the best protection against the law of inertia taking effect in this way. It is also possible for the preacher himself to build a defensive wall against this temptation. This can be done in the following way.

I forced myself to give series of sermons oriented towards a sequence of biblical texts or a single subject. This is how the aforementioned series on the Lord’s Prayer, the parables, the biblical creation story, the pastoral conversations of Jesus, the creed, and many others came about. I also gave openly “didactic” sermons, which were a sort of catechism lesson for adults, in which I explained, for instance, the theological significance of historic-critical textual research and allowed the congregation to take a look into the workshop of academic theology. This principle of preaching series of sermons proved to be fruitful for both sides. It was fruitful for the preacher because it subjected him to a salutary constraint and safeguarded him against arbitrarily choosing texts on his own authority. It was fruitful for the audience because their interest was sustained by the continuity and development of a particular subject or train of thought, as a result of which they always looked forward eagerly to the next sermon.

The fact that I brought current events into play in my sermons should not be taken to mean that I had been talking politics in the pulpit. In my opinion, there are two types of degenerate sermon, both of which, although very different in themselves, are today having a ruinous effect on the life of the church service.

The first of these decadent forms is the transformation of the sermon into a set political speech proclaiming a particular political position as the Christian position. In my experience, this mostly gains the upper hand among people whose spiritual substance is too diluted for them to give a rousing proclamation of the Gospel. They are then forced to give their sermons a political shot in the arm to lend their dead spirituality the appearance of life. But this form of sermon has no permanence. People very soon wonder why it should need the circuitous route of the pulpit to get this political message across and whether they could not get the same thing cheaper and without the Christian paraphernalia simply by going straight to a political meeting.

The second type of degenerate sermon is a certain ritualism that suppresses or at least obscures the personal faith of the individual through the excessive use of time-honored phrases and traditional musica sacra.

This brief look into the “theological laboratory” has not yet touched on what goes on inside the preacher. This remains hidden to outside eyes. I can only give the following hint at where one should look for an answer. Whoever sees so many eyes directed towards him is in great danger. He may believe that they are directed towards “him,” whereas he is in fact only the ambassador of another. In the sacristy of the Church of St. Michael there is a little altar where the preacher prepares himself to approach the pulpit and arms himself against the temptations that threaten him. This is all that I wish to say about this matter’.

– Helmut Thielicke, Notes from a Wayfarer: The Autobiography of Helmut Thielicke (trans. David R. Law; New York: Paragon House, 1995), 291–93.

Psalm 6: A reflection

anguishFor the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith.

A psalm of David.

1O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.

2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.

3 My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?

4 Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

5 No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave?

6 I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.

7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.

9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.

10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in disgrace.

The problem with a hymnody that focuses on equilibrium, coherence, and symmetry (as in the psalms of orientation) is that it may deceive and cover over. Life is not like that. Life is so savagely marked by incoherence, a loss of balance, and unrelieved asymmetry.[1]

What strikes me most about Psalm 6 is that (like Job), when under the cloud of defeat, David doesn’t whinge to others, nor does he use the occasion to cultivate a calloused heart toward God. Fear, pain and distress constitute his world (and little else, or so it would seem). And his enemies want him dead.

But David turns to God. His turning constitutes a refusal to settle for things as they are, a snub to recognise the world as it would seem. His song is an act of relentless hope that considers that no situation falls outside of God’s capacity for transformation, nor of God’s responsibility.[2] Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, in their book Cry of the Soul: How our emotions reveal our deepest questions about God, recall that:

The Psalms do not offer an analytical treatment of emotions. They are not a how-to text from which we can extrapolate four easy steps to resolving difficult emotions. Such simplistic reductions of our inner world, and of life itself, strip the heart of calling out to God in the darkness of His mysterious involvement with us. Instead, the Psalms invite us to question God. But they do this in the context of worship – they were the hymnal used in public worship. God invites us to bring before Him our rage, doubt, and terror – but He intends for us to do so as part of worship.[3]

So David calls out to God, and he recalls, among other things, God’s unfailing love.

Yet what if we were to listen in on this prayer as if it were not only David’s, but also that of a frightened man in Gethsemane, afraid that his impending death would mean the end of fellowship with God. ‘Who praises you from the grave?’ There is no resurrection hope here. So Thielicke:

Sheol [is] the land of no return, which means exclusion from God’s saving dealings with his community. Since salvation is history – in God’s mighty acts and in worship – exclusion from history is particularly painful. It involves the contradiction that on the one side life is ordained for God’s honor and praise and the other side is lost in the land of no return.[4]

When the Son takes on flesh and becomes Jesus, he becomes our brother, fully identifies with us in all the experiences of life, entering into the depth of creaturely existence ‘so savagely marked by incoherence, a loss of balance, and unrelieved asymmetry’. And as our brother, he dies our death, the death of all. All humanity enters Sheol in him.

And on the third day … Jesus – and humanity in him – turned to God.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 25.

[2] Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Theology: Essays on Structure, Theme, and Text (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 29.

[3] Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, Cry of the Soul: How our emotions reveal our deepest questions about God (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1994), 37.

[4] Helmut Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith, Volume Three: Theology of the Spirit (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), 401.

Helmut Thielicke on the conscience

thielicke-3‘The conscience is not serene or troubled according to what we have done or not done. Peace of conscience depends solely upon what we are, i.e., on whether we believe – and the extent to which we believe – in the boundless unconditioned mercy of God … It is theologically wrong to try to pacify a conscience-stricken person by talking away his sins. To do so is to try to cure him by means of the “outer tent.” But there is no healing here, and cannot be. In fact the heart of his problem is that he is still loitering in this forecourt. The only way we can help is to point him to the εφαπαξ that which took place once-and-for-all for him in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ’. – Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics Volume 1: Foundations (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), 310.

Helmut Thielicke on How Crises in Faith Arise

‘We are all aware of everything that we have to keep in mind, and we also know how the constant round of thinking can wear us down and leave us without a word to say. Do we have any brain cells left over for the process of faith to use? Isn’t every thought about God a deviation form the current task we have been given? When bombs are bursting around us, or even when we are in the working-day harness, we have not time for extra thoughts. And faith, after all, is a thought – or is it?

Certainly everyone has had that experience. And if faith is taken seriously, that experience can make us miserable and sometimes almost tie us in knots. But it is crucial to be clear on this point, because then it become apparent that we cannot base our life on our faith. Faith is often conspicuous by its absence. How few moments there are when I consciously recognize that I am performing an act of faith, when I can establish completely, clearly, and unambiguously, “Now I believe.” Furthermore, faith is also very unstable. Sometimes on a quiet evening, perhaps after hearing Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, I am completely filled with faith, in fact, I am downright enraptured. If I should die at that moment, heaven’s gates would be wide open. But the very next morning it takes only one blow from an ugly letter to snuff out that feeling again.

No, we cannot base our life on faith. Even the disciples do not live from their faith in that moment when they are battling anxiety and seasickness. They hardly remember that they are believers. There’s simply no time to think about it. That may be put very crudely, but that’s how it is nevertheless! At that moment the disciples do not live from the fact that God is in their thoughts (because he is not!), but they live because Jesus Christ is thinking of them, and the stillness that surrounds his conversation with the Father is filled with these thoughts about his own. Our faith’s grip on the Father may loosen. But he in whom we believe holds us fast in his grasp. Jesus’ high-priestly prayer does not stop even when we quit praying. Thus, there is really no such thing as “Psychology of Religion” because the decisive events between God and me do not happen in my psyche, my consciousness, at all; they occur in the heart of my Lord. Here (and only here) there is constancy and faithfulness; here there is a love that will not let me go, even though my fever chart fluctuates between faith and little faith, between trust and doubt, and no reliance can be placed on my defiant and despondent heart. I don’t need to tell you what a comfort it can be to know that, and how that knowledge can help me survive those times when my own faith is cold and empty and dead and a sealed heaven arches above me’. – Helmut Thielicke, How To Believe Again (trans. H. G. Anderson; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 69-70.

The Devil’s Eggs

‘ … the devil succeeds in laying his cuckoo eggs in a pious nest … The sulphurous stench of hell is as nothing compared with the evil odor emitted by divine grace gone putrid’. – Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father, 133.