At E.A.S.E. In Zion

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for getting rid of the old and making fresh starts. That is, of course, what New Year’s Resolutions are all about.

The genealogy of the New Year’s Resolution has been ably traced by Heinrich v. Schlunk in his five-volume introductory work, Einführung in das Studium der Neujahrsverbesserungsbe schlüsse mit Rücksicht auf erkenntniswissenschaftliche und existentielle Zusammenhänge. However, because this work is difficult to obtain, and because only portions of it are relevant for evangelicals, we will summarize its most salient point.

The New Year’s Resolution, it seems, arises from a reflective self-awareness of the fact that—to quote one ancient source—“we have done those things we ought not to have done and have left undone those things we ought to have done.” This self-awareness was called conscience in traditional theology, and conscience, despite its obsolescence, remains one of the most distressing psychological characteristics of present-day evangelicals, including many among the staff and subscribers of Christianity Today. (Was this perhaps why the late Karl Barth waggishly suggested that it ought to be called Christianity Yesterday?)

This reflective self-awareness, or conscience, used to produce a “purpose of amendment”—or a “commitment to greater obedience,” expressed, for example, in the above-mentioned New Year’s Resolutions. However, as was already noted by v. Schlunk in the historical work that laid the ground for his great “Einführung,” Die Neujahr-sverbesserungsbeschlüsse von Hammurabi bis Hubert Humphrey, most Resolutions remain inoperative, hence leading to further problems with conscience.

At one of the familiar academic conclaves held over ...

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