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The Hi-Jacking of Tucker Carlson’s Concerns: Is There a “Gynocentric” Agenda?

What do you think about this? Good stuff for Christians? Good stuff for everyone? Anything in there to cause concern?:

 

Isn’t it good when “conservative” men will cheer for and click on and up vote pro-life feminists vs. those bad feminists?

I don’t think so. I said I would talk about the influence of feminism again at some point, and so here we go….

I see feminism as largely responsible for the fraying of the most precious bonds that hold us together — and I’m not just talking about the radical feminists.

What did you think about all of the hubbub caused by Tucker Carlson recently? He doesn’t tweet much. Here are his last 3:

1/3, 2/3, 3/3. I wonder if he could be trying to tell us something? Get something across? Communicate with us as other human beings?

Anyway, what I thought is what he thought.

So I’ve been a little bit more vocal about this kind of stuff on my Twitter feed recently.

Why?

Well, I’ve got a got a couple theses going on here. First:

If the father of a mother’s children does not look to provide for, treasure, and protect for his own, they must look to man.

And yes, I literally mean man. Men. Usually “the man” though, meaning those with political power.

Second: Basically everyone knows this, but all either suppress it or don’t talk about it, or talk around it endlessly. Marx certainly understood this. He saw capitalism destroying all the traditional bonds of society, particularly the natural family. There were definitely things about captialism that upset him, but this, to be sure, wasn’t one of them.

I wonder why?

I think I Cor. 11:3 is one of those “elephant in the room” passages that nobody wants to deal with. By the way, I thought it odd that even most of the modern translations are almost the same as the very literal NASB, while basically only the conservative ESV (based on the NRSV, from the original RSV) reads “…head of a wife is her husband…”

What does this mean?

I thought I’d take the plunge the other morning to see what the free old commentaries on Bible hub had to say about the passage.

People get ready. Lots of free old stuff.

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things I found on this passage only from the main page (anyone who wants to find out where they are from can go to the page and press “control f” to find the phrases). Of course, I’ve deliberately chosen those quotes most offensive to our modern ears that I could find. Feel free to sample just a few and scroll down to what follows… :

  • To feel bound to assert your liberty in every detail of social and political life is to cease to be free—the very liberty becomes a bondage.
  • [he] lay[s] down the principles which are opposed to the principle of that absolute and essential equality…
  • …As there is a subordination of the whole body to Christ, so there is in that body a subordination of woman to man.
  • As the Head of the Church—e., as the man Christ Jesus—Christ is subordinate to the Father, and, indeed, perhaps the idea is carried farther into the mystery of the divine nature itself, as consisting of three Persons co-eternal and co-equal, yet being designated with an unvarying sequence as “first,” and “second,” and “third.”
  • The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort.
  • The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness.
  • The word “head,” in the Scriptures, is designed often to denote “master, ruler, chief.” … In the New Testament the word is used in the sense of Lord, ruler, chief…
  • Every Christian should recollect the relation in which he stands to him, as one that is suited to produce the strictest decorum, and a steady sense of subordination.
  • …in her demeanor, her dress, her conversation, in public and in the family circle – should recognize her subordination to him.[i]
  • their subjection in point of order, modesty, and seemliness, is to be maintained.[ii]
  • “Jesus, therefore, must be of the same essence as God: for, since the man is the head of the woman, and since the head is of the same essence as the body, and God is the head of the Son, it follows the Son is of the same essence as the Father” [Chrysostom].
  • “The woman is of the essence of the man, and not made by the man; so, too, the Son is not made by the Father, but of the essence of the Father” [Theodoret, t. 3, p. 171].
  • …the woman in religious services ought to behave herself as a person in subjection to her husband, and accordingly to use such a gesture, as, according to the guise and custom of that country, testified such a subjection…
  • the man is called the head of the woman, because by God’s ordinance he is to rule over her, Genesis 3:16; he hath an excellency above the woman, and a power over her.
  • … God is the Head of Christ, not in respect of his essence and Divine nature, but in respect of his office as Mediator; as the man is the head of the woman, not in respect of a different and more excellent essence and nature, (for they are both of the same nature), but in respect of office and place, as God hath set him over the woman…
  • Christ is the Head of his church, and every one that is a member of it; and man is the head of the woman, he to whom the woman ought to be subject.
  • …he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains
  • And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief…[iii]
  • … he declares that the woman is one degree beneath the man by the ordinance of God, and that the man is so subject to Christ, that the glory of God ought to appear in him for the preeminence of the sex.
  • Such persons are here reminded that according to God’s word (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:13) woman was designed to be in subjection, both in society and in the family.
  • The relation indicated by ΚΕΦ. is that of organic subordination, even in the last clause: He to whom Christ is subordinate is God…
  • … The indecorum in question offends against a foundation principle, viz., that of subordination under the Divine government; this the Cor[1598], with all their knowledge, cannot “know,” or they would not have allowed their women to throw off the ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς (1 Corinthians 11:10)….
  • In the sight of God all men are equal; yet without distinctions of rank and office society could not exist. But equality and order are reconciled by the revelation of God in Christ.
  • … Cf. Ephesians 5:23. “It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion….[iv]

One of the passages I found most intriguing was the following one (maybe its because I am an LC-MS Lutheran, which is a rather congregationalist church body):

And the head of Christ is God – Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, and to recognize God the Father as superior in office. Hence, he was obedient in all things as a Son; he submitted to the arrangement required in redemption; he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, and always regarded God as the supreme Ruler, even in the matter of redemption. The sense is, that Christ, throughout his entire work, regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father; and that it was proper from his example to recognize the propriety of rank and station everywhere.[v]

In any case, what to do with this Word of God thing? As my pastor likes to say in Bible class, “Well, mark it out of your Bibles.”

In all seriousness, no. So how to start thinking about it? I am not entirely sure, given that there really do seem to be few models out there, at least when it comes to men who are both vocal and winsome (is that even possible?) on this issue.

This brings me to an email rant that I got the other day from one of the readers of my blog. This man is highly intelligent and socially conservative and his note is so “out of the box”–and yet, I think, so shockingly insightful–that I thought I should share it. I do so keeping this reader anonymous and changing some details with his blessing (its lengthy so if you want to skim see the parts I bold):

I made the mistake of checking social media and I see this making the rounds among the patriarchs of the LCMS: ‘Tucker Carlson Is Right About America’s Elites And Working Class’

Just for starters, the picture used as the header is literally two women jogging. And the author even uses the word “chivalrous” to describe how elites should conduct themselves [Nathan’s note: see here].

So a conversation that started out talking about MEN in America, the uncomfortable truth that women don’t want men who earn less than they do, all the pathologies and challenges facing (especially, but not only) poor, working and middle class men… that gets turned into… something about women jogging??? You go grrrrl! Win the race!

This is how ‘The Federalist’ is gonna lead the way and help [Christian leaders] and all the rest restore the family?

And if you read the piece you’ll see the author arguing against welfare that penalizes marriage! He claims to be about encouraging family formation. So what’s his proposal? More money for daycare. So women who get married (thereby increasing their household income) won’t lose out on subsidies for paying other women to care for their children while they go out and serve the market. Remember, this guy is one of the people arguing the market isn’t god. And supposedly standing up for social conservatism and against libertarianism and those who put the market above all. And his big idea, is to help families by giving women more money to make it easier to go work for the market.

And the women who take care of their own kids while their husband supports the family, what do they get? Shut up! We’re busy fighting against those evil elites who idolize capitalism. We don’t have time for questions like that. 

Fake News, circa 2003?

Carlson started off denouncing the clowns at “overfunded think tanks”. He started off talking about “MEN in America”. He started off talking about how social conservatives have betrayed their supposed principles and priorities and beliefs. He started off challenging the system and opening the door to an important conversation. And this is what it turns into. More government money for daycare.

This is how the author, Willis Krumholz, holder of advanced degrees who works in financial services, thinks we should go about helping his struggling brothers he allegedly cares so much about. He’s a moral, caring, godly, Christian elitist. And that’s why he wants to give women more. That’s the way to help blue collar and middle class men! This fake populist, Dudley Do-Right, product of D.C. conservatism is showing how they never stop. They will twist anything. This is what these people do. And they will pat themselves on the back, and congratulate each other for serving the Kingdom.

Mr Krumholz also works with Defense Priorities, an outfit supposedly dedicated to foreign policy realism. So I guess I can assume the return of realism is another recent positive development on the Right that will be corrupted and twisted and used to sell B.S. 

Nobody cares Jennifer.

None of this is new.

Brad Wilcox and Robert George and the gang at AEI and all these other people who work for and hand around and were ushered into “Conservatism” by those “overfunded think tanks” Carlson denounced, all those out of touch, uncaring, unChristian, cosmopolitan elites that JD Vance and Rod Dreher and the gang are supposedly against… they’ve been working on this for years.

Don’t means test welfare. That’s it.

Not cut welfare so husbands become a necessity. Not support one-income families. Not disincentivize unwed motherhood. Not helping boys become providers, directing them toward the form of higher education they’re suited for, eliminating subsidies for B.S. degrees, calling out the absurd practice of educating and training women for important jobs just so they can drop out of the workforce (or work fewer hours than a man would have) once they get what they really wanted which was marrying a man with that level of education, not establishing a different “success sequence” for the two sexes.

Nope. Just stop means testing government subsidies for daycare. This is the populist, chivalrous, anti market idolization, Christian, super conservative, moral and caring response to the problems of the forgotten man. They care about real people more than market, you see!

God bless America. How ’bout some real home economics?

It’s infuriating because this is so close to the truth. Arguing against libertarian utopianism. Great! Seeing real human beings instead of economic automatons. Fantastic! Seeing the role technological advancement has played and grappling how that interacts with our laws, our biology, and the institutions of civil society. How all these things interact, Wonderful! But it’s all a scam. It’s all the same people, the same phony “conservatives” coming up with new language, new talking points, new packaging, new manipulation to go about advancing their same gynocentric agenda.

Fake News circa 2006? Or what the cruel culture of Molech really does?

Just like they manipulate the abortion issue to promote Republican feminists in a fake battle against Democrat feminists. And turn what should be genuine outrage and immediate action into money and jobs for the pro-life industry. But maybe when Ginsburg goes we’ll get Amy Coney Barrett to save us all. So we can… um… regulate abortion and give more money to women. Or something…

This is what these people do. This is what the system does. If you think the men of the LCMS can be about something else, start with convincing all the men around you who eat this garbage up, who are part of promoting it, who think this is some brilliant new way to save the family, and who jump at the chance to share this stuff but only post [Matthew] Cochran when he’s writing about immigration. Because they see the other stuff [that he writes, dealing with the problems of feminism and such,] as simply manipulation to draw in suckers like me. Have some personal conversations with your brothers and convince them.

Buy a copy or two or three. Worth your investment.

I don’t think this reader is about to turn to Islam or something. At the same time, like it or not, he has a point. You can ignore him and crucify him if you like, but human nature is not going to go away. And Christianity means to get that human nature on the right track, not to abolish it completely.

By the way, when he says “they see the other stuff as simply manipulation to draw in suckers like me,” he is clearly talking about giving lip-service to doctrines while not putting them into practice in senses that are meaningful or significant. I got a similar reaction from a [not LC-MS] Lutheran after my article critical of Gerhard Forde in the new Concordia Theological Quarterly:

It surprises me that CTQ published it, as so many are Forde fans. I have an idea why though.

Sort of like when we talked about feminism being so pervasive in the LCMS, you can feel better about it or justify it by pointing out the gross error of the ELCA in the matter.

I wonder if pointing out Forde himself, gross Fordism, as error allows some self-justification of Forde-light. “At least we’re not that” so to speak.

This man, no doubt, is highly skeptical of the LC-MS and its internal going-ons (related — see the newest from Tom Lemke). Just like my friend above basically asking “do these folks really mean what they say?” This other non-LCMS Lutheran went on to say this:

“….if you have something to say or criticize, you should be prepared to say it to all and not in secret.”

Yes indeed.

None of this is easy.

I remember one of the most difficult questions my wife and I had before getting married centered around these very issues. I remember a very painful conversation, lasting for several hours into the morning. There are only one or two times before we got married when I wondered whether or not things could really work out between us, but that long conversation was definitely one of those times.

It is hard to have these difficult conversations. Especially when our culture has largely given up on the Bible as being the Word of God. Especially when our culture thinks it has little to nothing to learn from the ancients, or even our immediate ancestors for that matter.

“The nearly universal teaching of all of mainstream culture is… that female rebellion is a virtue and that men must always submit to women with whom they are involved. #feminism” — Matthew Cochran

FIN

 

Notes: portions of the above edited for clarity at 7:30am day of the post.

[i] It goes on: “The danger was, that those who were under the influence of inspiration would regard themselves as freed from the necessity of recognising that, and would lay aside the “veil,” the usual and appropriate symbol of their occupying a rank inferior to the man. This was often done in the temples of the pagan deities by the priestesses, and it would appear also that it had been done by Christian females in the churches.”

[ii] It goes on “Paul reproves here their unseemliness as to dress: in 1Co 14:34, as to the retiring modesty in public which becomes them. He grounds his reproof here on the subjection of woman to man in the order of creation.”

[iii] It goes on “as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.”

[iv] It goes on: “Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over-hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head.”—De Wette

[v] A different commentary appears to have an opposing view: “The relation indicated by ΚΕΦ. is that of organic subordination, even in the last clause: He to whom Christ is subordinate is God (comp 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 15:28, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15; Romans 9:5; and see Kahnis, Dogm. III. p. 208 ff.), where the dogmatic explanation resorted to, that Christ in His human nature only is meant (Theodoret, Estius, Calovius, al[1757]), is un-Pauline. Neither, again, is His voluntary subjection referred to (Billroth), but—which is exactly what the argument demands, and what the two first clauses give us—the objective and, notwithstanding His essential equality with God (Php 2:6), necessary subordination of the Son to the Father in the divine economy of redemption.[1758] Much polemic discussion as to the misuse of this passage by the Arians and others may be found in Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact.”

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Biggest Radical Lutheran Straw Man of Them All

Straw men are much easier to deal with…

 

+++

There is probably no heresy as dangerous in the church today as that of Radical Lutheranism.

The reason is that Radical Lutheranism, like no other heresy, seems to get so very close to the heart of the Gospel message of Jesus’ free forgiveness, life and salvation for sinners.

It is, however, all a lie.

A horrible, insidious lie which has captured even many a good theologian (very painful detail — start with part 1).

OK, 1517., but that means we die (more of this, please!): “Forde argues that theology which concerns itself with propositions, or with things as they are in their essence, is a theology of glory, or a theology ‘about the cross,’ rather than a theology of the cross…” — Jordan Cooper, Lex Aeterna, 92

 

And sadly, whether they realize it or not, these theologians excel in creating straw men[i] en route to advancing their own theology vis a vis traditional orthodox Lutheranism/Christianity.

What are some examples of Radical Lutheran straw men of orthodox Christian teaching?:

  • All those Christians who oppose (or even just question) Radical Lutheranism do not believe that the law always accuses the Christian at some level.
  • Any attempt to find a positive role for the law in the lives of Christians inevitably leads to self-justification (because they claim the nature of original sin is self-justification by the law).
  • Any person who believes that the law of God can be used to guide the Christian qua Christian (“third use of the law”) takes the position of Erasmus (vs. Luther, as in the Bondage of the Will).
  • Everyone who thinks you can preach the third use of the law does not realize that the Holy Spirit applies the law as He wills. (but for some reason you can preach the second use of the law).
  • Any theologian who holds to the “Western tradition” based on creation, fall, and redemption also takes the position of Erasmus!
  • Everyone who believes “sin [is] anything said, done, or thought against the Law of God” is a medieval Roman Catholic of the worst kind.
  • Every theologian post-Apostle Paul and prior to Luther did not really believe that God wanted man to live from the favor of God but rather by the law of God.
  • All other Reformers after Luther (Melancthon, Chemnitz, Gerhard) did not “get” Luther’s theology and betrayed it.
  • Again, “theology which concerns itself with propositions, or with things as they are in their essence, is a theology of glory, or a theology ‘about the cross,’ rather than a theology of the cross…” (see above picture)

One might think that no one even relatively involved in the practice of academic theology could get away with this many straw men, but, evidently, it is possible (and won’t even keep you from being endorsed by respected church historians). The following tweet helps to identify the issue at the root of the problem which needs to be rooted out:

What, however, causes one to narrow the content of preaching in this way? Let’s look at the biggest Radical Lutheran straw man of them all: outside of people like the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther, the church has taught that the law forces God to send His Son to die.

And in its most crass form, found in Steven D. Paulson’s book (misleadingly titled Lutheran Theology), this culminates with Jesus Christ Himself being implicated in actual and original sin:

“[On the cross] Christ comes to believe he was guilty…. Confessing made it so, and thus Christ committed his own, personal sin—not only an actual sin, but the original sin… not only did he confess our sins as his own (and believed it), but he proceeded to take on every single sin ever committed in the world: “I have committed the sins of the world” (“Ego commisi peccata mundi”).” (Paulson, Lutheran Theology, 105).

Where one finds this “Stockholm Syndrome Theory” of Atonement.

 

Evidently, we are to believe that this is at the heart of the atonement and is God’s will!

Let’s look at something presumably less rhetorical (Is that what that was? Does anyone really know?) and more careful: an article on the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ from the recent Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions, from the same Steve Paulson along with Nicholas Hopman:

The Father and Son did not conduct a legal transaction between themselves in which the Son gained a legal righteousness though accepting the results of the Father’s supposed need to pour out His wrath. Instead, the Father and Son, in mercy, worked together outside the law, stealing sinner’s most precious possessions, their sins. The law then reacted and legally condemned Christ for his sin (48-49, bold and italics mine).

This tracks with another thing Paulson says in his book above: “Paul’s point is exact: the law is no respecter of persons, it does not identify Christ among sinners as an exception to the rule. Law as ‘blind lady justice’ executes its judgment regardless of race, color, creed—or divinity.” (104). Later on in his article with Hopman, he says that “Christ makes a “payment for sin to the law” and “once Christ satisfies the law on the cross… the Father owes Christ his resurrection” (50, italics mine).[ii]

What an odd way of framing the orthodox doctrine of the vicarious satisfaction – and only in order to knock it down, of course, and claim the crown for itself!

And as is always the case in Radical Lutheranism, notice how the enigmatic and sneaky Law gets loose and does its own thing, even, supposedly, justly accusing Christ of sin. This is because, shockingly, in the radical Lutheran reckoning of things, the Law really has no connection with God’s character!

Professor Dr. Scaer, making the connections that matter since 1966: “Denial of the third use of the law does not in each case translate into a redefinition of God as one who no longer requires the death of the Jesus as atonement for sin. But it does allow it. And a denial of the eternal, unchanging nature of the moral law of God (FC SD II 50) demands it.” (italics and bold mine)

 

Nevertheless, on the one hand, one can see why Radical Lutheranism sounds so good.

It sounds great because it gets oh so much right! For instance:

“Christ pays for sins, suffers punishment, and makes satisfaction. However, this satisfaction is not the goal or driving force behind his dying. The primary force is the Father’s merciful will that Christ comes to take away the sins in order to prevent the sins from damning sinners. Therefore, Christ suffers and pays the price of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23)” (49).

Amen! Sound it from the rooftops! Go tell it on the mountain!

And yet, the devil is not even usually in the details, but is simply in what is never said, never proclaimed…

Most certainly not true (compare with tweet above).

 

Still, as we can see from that first Paulson/Hopman quote above, there are some details that really do give things away. Note in particular the following two quotes which make clear the dislike for God’s eternal law.

When it comes to Christ’s work of atonement, the Father should be understood apart from such a law:

No lex aeterna (eternal law) or unstoppable desire to pour out wrath compelled the Father to sacrifice his Son to fulfill legal righteousness or wrath… (48, bold and italics mine).

“the law reveals sin, but not God’s heart…” — Paulson, xxxiii

 

And, not to be outdone, the Son of God’s work on the cross really has nothing to do with the eternal law either.

No law within God (lex aeterna) compelled Christ to do [His work on the cross]. His completely free will, bound only by his love for sinners and his love for his Father, obeyed His Father (48, italics mine).

What is missing here?

Wrong Werner. False structure. “Law denotes our entire reality as the realm ordered by God, but therefore also as a realm of coercion (CE, 81)” (quoted on 312, The Necessary Distinction, CPH, 2017).

 

First of all, let’s state the obvious: God the Father was not forced by Himself – or by some Law which regulated Him – to put Jesus to death. Nor was the Son so forced.

Again, what a strange way of putting things! This is not orthodox Christianity, but a tired caricature of the same. Orthodox Christianity does not teach that God was “subject to the law” (51), but that law and gospel exists precisely because of the character of God the Father and His Son. This character also explains the true significance of the cross in Romans 3: we see the reconciliation of justice (“so that he might be just”) and mercy (“and [be] the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”).

“…he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” — Rom. 3:26

 

This is in accordance with who God is and what God wants to do.

All done for our sake, as not only the Father, but the Son, were “compelled” only by love for the world (John 3:16).

To continue putting the nails in the coffin of Paulson’s and Hopman’s program (and may it have a quick and blessed end), we should address their peculiar droning on about “legal righteousness” (see the bold and italicized portions of the quotes above).

Nailing it: “Law is what God is eternally in himself and gospel is his gracious response to our disregard of who and what God is.” — David Scaer, p. 7

 

What happened at the cross, and beyond, was not that “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… work together outside the law in mercy” (51, italics mine). Understood most simply, legal righteousness, or righteousness according to the law, specifically in the Ten Commandments, proclaims an imperfect picture of what must be done, what is prescribed. Even better, given that it is from God, reflects God, and is for man, legal righteousness simply proclaims what real righteousness looks like. And it does us well to note here that legal righteousness involves both justice and compassion (see, e.g., Matthew 23:23).

“When it comes to law, good decisions are made ‘as though there were no books.’ Such a free decision is given, however, by love and natural law, with which all reason is filled… [A]ll laws that regulate men’s actions must be subject to justice [Billicheit], their mistress, because of the innumerable and varied circumstances which no one can anticipate or set down.” — Luther (LW 45:128 ; LW 46:103)

.

In other words, legal righteousness, in its essence, describes the man Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and man (and what is truly ours through his work on our behalf).

Again, Paulson and Hopman will have none of this.[iii] Believe me (or Matthew Cochran) — this is going to affect what gets preached, taught.

For them, second generation Lutheran reformers (like Flacius and Chemnitz) preserved Luther’s teaching of the atonement even as they insist that they changed it as well (make up your mind!): “for [them], this obedience to the law is not only to suffer its punishment passively, as in Luther, but atonement also depends of Christ’s actual obedience to the law” (49).[iv] To say the least, this is assuming a lot about Luther – without any evidence or argument to support such assertions.

“Although it is true that Luther spoke of the atonement in a less systematic way than his successors, one cannot deny that Luther understood Jesus’ saving act in his fulfilling of the whole, eternal law….” — Andrew Preus, p. 96

 

Paulson and Hopman’s overriding desire to show pastoral compassion, in line with Martin Luther, can elicit sympathy. They write:

“Luther repeatedly returns to the claim that everything the Father and Son are doing in the atonement is for the sake of providing comfort to sinners, specifically in the present. [In Luther’s commentary on Galatians,] the aim of Luther’s commentary/preaching is faith (fiducia=trust) in the hearer” (50).

Again, amen! And Paulson is right to point out the Christian’s consistent need to hear the Gospel message throughout their life (Outlaw God, xxxvii-xxix). Amen and amen and amen! From this Gospel word alone we live!

There is no greater news!

At the same time, does not comfort for sinners also means that all evil, evils outside us and evils inside us, will be finally dealt with, as Luther well knew?

Evil must be relentlessly identified, excised, and slain.

No “teeth” for you?: [We have] an outlaw God who gives the law, but who is not the law.” — Paulson, xxxiv

.

All this must happen by the fiery justice on display at the cross, with God’s wrath either being quenched in the flesh and blood of the Christ, or on the Great Last Day, when vengeance for God’s people will involve the “banning” (see Hebrews 13:13) of all those following in Satan’s train, in accordance with their various degrees of guilt.

My Christian brethren enamored or even just friendly towards Radical Lutheranism, please listen to me: “Can you see what is going wrong here?” Listen to Luther:

“The law does not want you to despair of God…it wills that you despair of yourself, but expect good from God…” — Luther (ODE, 195)

 

…and abandon the notion that “If God has been satisfied, where is God’s mercy?” is the question.

Embrace our Fearsome and Good King.

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] A “straw man” is when you improperly characterize the positions of those who oppose you in order to defeat them more easily.

[ii] They also state that God “owes salvation to the sinners who apply Christ’s fulfillment of the law to themselves through faith” (50).

[iii] Just like feminists are terrified of the prospect of an enduring male-female polarity, the consistent Radical Lutherans is terrified that the character of God does not change, and is accurately reflected in His law.

[iv] “Lutheran Orthodoxy failed to understand Luther’s teaching about Christ’s death and the relationship between law and gospel in this critical locus, greatly harming Lutheranism throughout the world and helping to deliver it into the legalistic arms of Pietism, antisacramental Protestantism, and modern secularism” (51).

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Some Honest Questions about Steve Paulson’s Book “Luther’s Outlaw God”

 

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The following is not for the fainthearted. Major theological and philosophical wrangling below.

First, a confession: even though I have been very critical of Dr. Paulson in much of my recent writing, I must say that I, like many, am quite easily taken by the man (see the talk here). And he is also a very interesting writer, to be sure, and I often find myself—against my better judgment, I think—wanting to agree with him (even as others see loads of “logical leaps” in what he says).

I certainly don’t feel any hostility for him. Sometimes, as I read him, my thoughts are like those of Thomas Lemke here:

 

Now perhaps that is a bit overly generous, but nevertheless, on to the meat of this post! I think that the most important chapter in Steve Paulson’s new book, “Luther’s Outlaw God,” is the final one, titled “God, Evil, and Suffering.” The quotes below are all from that chapter.

He writes, on pp. 237-238:

“Erasmus asks, Why did God permit Adam to fall in the first place? The answer, however, is not graspable by the law as he would prefer. Such a question is not really answered by Erasmus’s attempt to insert free will (for example, God was giving Adam a choice between good and evil, so that evil is the price of freedom) so the Christian humanist contents himself with saying that potential for good is also potential for evil. He determines that we humans must live with this potential to choose evil, and so also must God. God must put up with our limits and failings in order to maintain the great and beneficial system of the law, even though it makes God into a know-nothing and do-nothing” (italics mine)

And that kind of thinking is not all that unusual, either. I hear it all the time. Stuff like: “When God created man and woman, he created them in the likeness of God, without sin and with the freedom to choose… Unfortunately, with the power of choice came the ability to sin.”

Obviously, there is something a bit off about this. In our heavenly perfection, for example, will we be able to “choose sin”? May it never be! Does firmly answering “no” to this question mean that in heaven we will not act, love, in true freedom? Of course not!

Is the person who states this, after all, speaking about a real ability – or would sinning prove that a kind of disability had been brought forth instead? The latter for sure, as we are dealing not with anything like an “empowering” but rather a kind of disempowering! Again, we are not dealing with the exercise of something that was there (the good will God had given them) nor the “creation” of something that was not (their “own” will contrary to God’s)! If anything, this was a failure to exercise something that was there and/or the destruction of something that was! (their unenslaved will that hitherto gladly submitted to God’s). How is the will “free” and “empowered” if it departs from the very will of God?

That is nonsense, right?

So Paulson is right to identify and want to deal with this problem, even if I do question the way he frames it.

He goes on:

“Likewise, this argument goes, if someone were to say, ‘Why did God create us all infected with the same sin, when he could either have preserved [Adam] or created us from another stock,’ since he has all possibilities before him and can chose the best possible one, the best possible world, how are we to reply? What Erasmus is demanding with these hypothetical questions is an explanation of evil within the sphere of divine law. But Luther points out to him that the answer to such questions cannot be the usual one that simply stipulates that God is not evil’s first cause (the legal answer). Luther knew the only true answer to the question of evil is to say that God is no cause of evil at all, period. The sophists were all wrong. God’s will is not ruled, it rules. That may sound like something like Ockham, because it speaks of God’s freedom from the law, but directly contrary to such nominalism, Luther is saying there is no pact or covenant made by God’s free choice that provides humans their own sphere of ordained power and therefore a ground for creatures on which to take God to court for allowing evil. God’s freedom is not a choice of one particular law among many—the best of all possible laws—but precisely no law at all. God’s majestic secret is his choice outside any law, natural or covenanted, and without any ordained order but an election and kingdom made exclusively by His Son Jesus Christ. Christ refuses to be made into any ordained order, as if he had come merely to introduce a new and more beneficial set of laws. That is why Christ forgives precisely the wrong ones: sinners apart from the law. He also makes this election certainly, or absolutely. Any opposition to this promise is then necessarily overcome because God cannot lie. But Luther’s ‘If God wills it, it must be right’ is also not nominalism’s, or even Hegel’s, picture of absolute and ordained law, because for Luther God’s word in Christ is precisely a promise, not a law.

“Contempt like Erasmus’s for the text of Pharaoh’s hardening is contempt for the gospel and so always concludes by fighting for some room or flexibility in God’s system, as if mercy were simply leniency within the judgment of the law. Since there aren’t many alternatives or possibilities within the systems of the law, the most common flexibility in legal systems imagines a long-suffering God who does not exactly harden but rather tolerates Pharaoh’s bad heart while hoping things might change in the future—no doubt with much grace. God is then imagined to suffer by waiting, withholding, putting up with the imperfections of the likes of Pharaoh in order to see if, in the end, something better could possibly result. But the problem for Erasmus was just how specific God’s hardening of Pharaoh was. It is not just that everyone is a sinner in general, but that God somehow makes Pharaoh’s hardening a personal, specific act—a special case like a negative miracle—foreknown, absolute, and necessary. In hardening Pharaoh’s heart, we learn that the term necessity is confusing not just because it is inadequate to describe what Pharaoh’s heart actually wants but because it says two opposing things. Necessity says the thing concerning the law, but it says something opposite this law when necessity concerns a promise. In the law, necessity means coercing a recalcitrant human will to will what God’s will wants in the future—that is, to get your untamed will to align with God’s steady, cultivated will and so finally to accomplish the law’s demands. But Luther’s necessity means certain, and certain means opposite things in the law and in the gospel. In the law, certain means forced; in the gospel certain means what no opposition, even my own, can overcome (pp. 238-239, italics his)

Yeah, you might need to read that 3 or 4 times. With a theological dictionary (and maybe with the book as a whole, even though a lot of it is like this).

First, to K.I.S.S, like I said in this recent post: Luther’s approach is better.

Second, as regarding the rhetoric of the last sentence, there is a problem which is that God’s revealed will can always be resisted, both in the law and in the gospel (see, for example, the Luther quote here). And in that same Bondage of the Will, for example, Luther notes “we say, the good God does not deplore the death of his people which he works in them but he deplores the death which he finds in his people and desires to remove from them” (LW 33: 139). For Luther, God’s revealed will can always be resisted, both in the law and in the gospel, causing the revealed, incarnate God to shed bitter tears… (see LW 33: 179, 180)

Third, let’s try to deal with the “big picture” provided in this quote as a whole. Given that I am understanding what he is trying to say (and that is dubitable, given the difficulty one often has in understanding his writing) – and trying to put the best construction on what he is doing and why… I think that Paulson is really trying too hard here, basically saying that we can’t talk about eternal law because this is a way for free will to get its foot in the door so to speak, and to bind God (at least, to effectively bind God in the public square, among the elites and “wise men”?). Meaning, if there is an eternal law, man’s “free will,” being naturally corrupt, is just going to conclude that God is powerless or even doesn’t exist, because “God could give a command concerning the way things should be that was simply not followed or fulfilled” (italics his). “Why would God allow this, unless he could not stop it?” (228)

My view here is basically: So what? Who cares? Why should what man’s will did (or does, given that we are speculating about Adam and Eve if they are in consideration here too) with God’s law have any impact on whether or not it is good, describes the good life, is given for our good, etc.? (again, doesn’t this seem to be Luther’s view?)

Radical Lutheran leaders appear eager for some rules from non-biblical authority figures… What does this mean?

 

Question for Dr. Steve Paulson (or those who have learned under him and/or read the book): Do you think we could perhaps sum up the whole issue here like this?:

The whole of Luther’s Bondage of the Will is basically a commentary on how sinful man, captive to his own reason vis a vis the clear Word of God, doesn’t understand and can’t follow the first commandment – the importance of fearing, loving, and trusting God’s word, revealed to us. This goes for history, commands, and promises, though the book focuses specifically on the promise of justification by grace through faith.

Or, am I wrong? Do I need to go with the following view–what I understand to be Paulson’s view–instead? (hoping I have nailed the substance of it):

The whole of Luther’s Bondage of the Will is basically a sermon to Erasmus (and others listening in) on how God does everything to show He doesn’t lie and to preserve certain trust in His Promise for his people. And even though Luther might want Erasmus to turn… Erasmus might also well be like Pharaoha tool opposed to God by necessity for the purpose of strengthening trust in the Promise.

Finally, page 243, the last paragraph of this key chapter…

“…we have our strange, evangelical answer to the persistent question, Why evil? Because God, who gives the promise, cannot lie. Pharaoh learned this to his detriment, while Moses and God’s elect rejoiced: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and the rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation… hidden in holiness” (Exod 15:1-2, 11).

Where is the “hidden in holiness” coming from in the quote above? I don’t see that in verse 11, but I don’t doubt that I might be missing something, as I am not a Hebrew scholar.

Any Paulson fans who have arrived at this sentence, thank you very much for reading… Thanks to regular readers as well.

FIN

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Radical Lutheranism is Bad, but its Not Necessarily Communism

Radical Lutheranism, aka Fake Lutheranism, says things like “[King] David’s sin was that he didn’t have a preacher”.

Never comfort yourself with thoughts like these because now, not tomorrow, is the day of salvation.

Now is the day to live and walk in, with, and through Christ.

You are His, you are baptized.

I’m glad to see young Christian apologists seeing through the reductionist, anemic, shallow, and unsatisfying Radical Lutheran lines. Thomas Lemke certainly has some provocative things to say in this short post!:

Really, take a long, thoughtful look at Lemke’s recent provocative post above.

And only then, feast on this thoughtful response to Lemke’s article from a whip-smart Facebook acquaintance:

To be an unhelpful purist, I would say that, strictly speaking, Marxism is less about the oppressor/oppressed paradigm as the possessors of capital/workers paradigm. Marxism as articulated by both Marx and Lenin is impressively amoral and almost entirely obsessed with economics, relegating such things as morality, and even ‘power’ as such as ‘epiphenomena’ which appear and take men merely because of the economic system that all, both capitalist and worker, are enslaved to. Strictly speaking, capitalists, in Marxism, are not evil, or even oppressive, they too are ‘victims’ of the system, which itself is a necessary step to the next economic step in human civilization.

But I have a feeling that is not at all what you are getting at. Rather you are getting at the Adorno/Marcuse reworking of Marxism into, effectively, a political theology of power. I do think this has strong roots in our society, though I think the reason why this ‘Neo-Marxism’ is so appealing to Americans in a way that the old Marxism was not is because suspicion of power and hatred of those who concentrate it is deep in the American character. The revolution was largely inspired by such a desire to remove power from people, and, interestingly, both the Democrat party, in defending slavery, and the Republican party, in wanting to abolish it, both framed their ideology as ‘ensuring that power cannot be aggrandized by a handful of elites.’

I think the article is partly right. But the part it misses is that the Bible, as all of humanity before the US, has assumed that to possess power is good if good people possess it. It is an American innovation to argue that possession of power is, as such, an evil. Perhaps one could argue that it is a Puritan heritage. Regardless, it has been informing our theology for long before Marxism. Neo-Marxism appeals to both us and our theology because it appeals, in some sideways manner, to our Americanism.

Discuss.

FIN

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

God Knows When We Won’t Do Good. And He Knows When We Will.

Even if all our good works are tainted by the “old Adam” that remains, does that mean none of our works are truly good before God?

 

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“Truly, you cannot read Scripture too much; and what you read, you cannot understand too well; and what you understand, you cannot teach too well; and what you can teach, you cannot live too well.”

–Martin Luther, Erlangen, LXIII, 370-372.

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Getting ready to make some New Year’s resolutions for this year? Below are some thoughts to help you prioritize — thinking about the matter of growing in faith and abounding in good works… (see, e.g. 2 Cor. 9:8)

A few months ago here, I asked the question of whether an atheist could do any truly good works. So first, to get started, let’s briefly address some of my Lutheran brethren who question whether or not they can!

First, a couple tweets from a “Radical Lutheran” to chew on:

There is a lot of truth in this… this goes hand in hand with the importance of the doctrine of justification… how we are saved by grace alone though faith alone in Jesus Christ. Now though, note Mr. Martin’s last few sentences here:

Again, one can make a case that this is certainly true about our justification. Dead in our sin, faith cannot come without God giving us the same (and baptism comes with faith, not before it)! At the same time, Radical Lutherans also carry this same attitude — “He knows we won’t” — into the realm of sanctification, or our spiritual growth.

The problem with this view (which it seems is much like that of the late novelist John Updike) is that even as “He knows we won’t,” He knows we will as well.

“[Some] fear God for the sake of God, and, at the same time, for the sake of the threatened punishment; their works are less good and perfect.” – Luther

And, by the way, He plays a big part in that — and always has, right from the very beginning.

After all, it is not only fallen man who must depend on God for all things. In truth, we were created to depend on God, the weaker one drawing strength from the Stronger One…

“We should be humans and not God, that is the Summa.” – Luther

 

Furthermore, given that the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 asserts that:

“[God is,] in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

We should recognize that God working for the “good” in all things (covered here more in a recent post), spoken of in Romans 8:28 as well, means working towards the purposes Paul mentions here.

Yes, “God work all things for good for those who love him…”, but of course some things are also better to work with than others!

 

And given that:

“….we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (I Thes. 2:13)

And that

“But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9)

And finally:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

We believers must never assert that God does not give us sufficient love and strength to do the works He calls us to and to do!

But what about my T-shirt?

 

Surely, as noted above, with the initial conversion of the Christian, also known as regeneration, our faith may be said to be passive, as God’s Holy Spirit grants both repentance and faith by hearing. Think about the child at his mother’s breast! (more here on this kind of infant-like faith). As Luther rightly confessed:

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

“…you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

 

In like fashion, one may reasonably conclude that because of

  1. the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in us,
  2. the measure of the knowledge of God and His ways that we have been given, and
  3. the measure of grace God has given us and continues to gives us in this or that particular circumstance

we Christians cannot but depend on God, even unconsciously, and hence often succeed in enacting the good works that He has planned for us (like Luther put it so marvelously here).

That said, we should not imagine that en route to serving our neighbor for His Name’s sake (why we are here!), there will also not be other times when–particularly in the midst of trial and temptation–it may be necessary for us, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to consciously look to Him for more, depend on Him for more: rely on the truth and promises He has planted in our heart, cry out to Him, ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit, show us better paths to walk on, include fasting on our paths, etc.

We are in a war after all. Cue Dr. Veith at Cranach.

 

Furthermore, given that the Apostle in 1 Cor. 7 says that

“If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better” (I Cor. 7:36-38)

We should be aware that not rejecting God’s grace in this or that circumstance, sufficient for us, will result in us being able to determine not only what is right but what is the even better thing or at least will get us on the road to such recognition!

Some might insist: all of this is abandoning Lutheranism!

It’s not. And even if it was abandoning “Lutheranism,” today, it would not be abandoning Martin Luther nor those who followed faithfully in his train.

Luther not abandoning Luther.

 

In the Antinomian Disputations of the late 1530s, Luther responded to the following proposition: “We are not obliged to do the impossible. The law is impossible. Therefore we are not obliged to do it,” as follows:

It is said improperly, that is, not rightly and not fittingly, that we are obliged to do what is impossible by the law. When Adam was first cre­ated, the law was for him not only something possible, but even something enjoyable. He rendered the obedience the law required with all his will and with gladness of heart, and did so perfectly. Yet what now, after the fall, is impossible, is so not by fault of the law, but by our fault. It is not the fault of the one binding, but of the one sinning, hence this statement, The law urges us to do what is impossible, needs to be understood fittingly, for if you want to preserve the strict sense of the words, it sounds as if God himself is being accused of burdening us with the impossible law. Yet it is sin and Satan, who made the possible and enjoyable law impossible and terrifying, who are to be accused.

Christ, however, by willingly submitting himself to the law and enduring all its curses, earned for those who believe in him the Spirit, being driven by whom they also in this life begin to fulfill the law; and in the life to come the most joyful and perfect obedience will be within them, so that they will do in body and soul as now do the angels (SDEA 47, 49).

Again, as I noted above, “we believers must never assert that God does not give us sufficient love and strength to do the works He calls us to and to do.” We do not say this for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and we do not say this about ourselves now – even if every good work that we do here will be tainted by sin and sinful motivation, to this or that degree.

Ultimately, why does this not need to condemn us? I mean, given that God’s law requires perfection, there is no doubt we should be condemned!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

It is because we are yoked with Christ, who lived the life we could not, and died the death we deserved to die. With Him, “it is finished” indeed, and God sees all of our good works though His good work. We are robed in His righteousness.

Because this loving Savior’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, we gladly strive in Him.

We ultimately do so – and now, post-fall must even remind ourselves that we do so (we are always now tempted to believe that our good works save us!) – from the peace that we have with God through the forgiveness, life, and salvation Christ brings–and continues to bring us, in His perpetual pardon and power every day!*

We are, again, “in the groove,” as Concordia Seminary St. Louis professor Joel Beirmann puts it. Christ returns us to that child-like peace and innocence and creaturely limitedness (a good weakness!) that we had in the garden with our Creator!

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) – the Apostle Paul

FIN

 

Images: Sin target: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ccfp/3234368992 ; Yoke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoke

* As my pastor put it years ago, we are “MacGyver Christians”: everything we need we already have…

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Peter Scaer on God’s Will, Law, and Freedom

Reprinted from here with permission from Peter Scaer

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There is a strange notion going around that the law is somehow alien to God, that it differs from his will. The law is called a legal scheme, which is done away with, not fulfilled, by the preaching of a gospel word, by an absolution, apart from the law’s fulfillment. The thinking goes like this: God should not be thought of as being bound to the law, as if he were subject to a legal code, and not totally free to forgive us.

But such folks miss some important truths. First, the law is not inherently negative. We may think of commandments concerning murder, adultery, and stealing, and note that they condemn us as sinners. True enough. But positively speaking, the law describes life as God would have it, life as we find in the life of Christ, and indeed in the eternal life of the Trinity. In short, the fulfillment of the law is love, and love is eternal. So, even though I am a sinner, in as much as I am a Christian, I delight in the law. I see the beauty of children obeying parents, the attraction of a culture that values life and marriage, and neighborhoods where people look out for each other and their property, without coveting or malicious words. Yes, the law, from the point of view of the Christian, as Christian, is beautiful to behold, for it is simply the life of love, the law of liberty.

And, do we really want to say that God’s grace is somehow freer if he is free to disregard the law? What we are saying is that freedom might be defined as God being free to be who he is not, to go against his character. That, of course, is not freedom. So also, in the heavenly places, we shall be totally free, but that does not mean that we will be free to sin, which is a type of ugly bondage, but free to be who we are, and will be in the resurrection. God’s will is not arbitrary, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And that means that our eternal life in Christ is secure. He’s not reneging on his promises.

Does the gospel then override the law as if the law were nothing. Of course not. Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill, on our behalf. When Christ submits to the justice due us, he acts according to both justice and mercy. A God who simply overrode the law would show himself not more loving, not more gospel-like, but indifferent to the suffering which sin causes, callous to justice and to the cries of those who are wronged.

Ah, yes, our God is the God whose Son fulfilled the law because it was necessary, not contingently necessary, but necessary for our salvation. Thanks be to God who demands the sacrifice, and then provides it.

FIN

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Is Martin Luther’s Exlex God Steve Paulson’s “Outlaw God”?

Is God like an Outlaw? Or more like the Good Sheriff?

 

Following up a bit on my recent series  “Meditations for Radical Lutherans on Luther’s Antinomian Disputations….”

In Francis Pieper’s classic Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, we read:

“Man is just when his actions conform to the Law of his divine Superior. But since God has no superior and therefore no fixed norm, can we really predicate the righteousness of Him? This apparent difficulty is resolved in the Scriptural axiom coined by the Scholastics and used by Luther: Deus est exlex. God is outside the Law. ‘He is just, because He wills and does everything in conformity with His own Law.’ Luther: ‘God issues His Law to others, but He does not apply it as a norm to Himself’ ” (457).

Is Steven Paulson right then? Is His “Outlaw God” the same as Luther’s exlex God?

Let’s take a look at what Luther said in a sermon on Exodus 9, preached on Dec. 26th of 1524 (St. Louis ed., vol. 3:811-815 (= WA 16:140-145)) Interestingly, this lesser known passage, not available in Luther’s Works (including the new volumes, I think), is from the time between the publication of Erasmus’s Freedom of the Will (Sept. 1524) and the publication of Luther’s response in Dec. 1525:

A measure has been established for man that I should do this and that: my life is finite; it can be comprehended and has a rule, measure, manner, and law, Wis. 11. If you wanted to act with God in the same way, you have missed God. For what is taken up concerning God according to law, measure, and goal is off the mark. Reason cannot reach anything beyond thinking: God should act this way and not differently; and soon it arrives at the judgment and says that it is not good to harden. In this way, it establishes a measure for God, thinking that God is like a man in order to judge God like a man. … But God gives laws to you, but does not accept any from you: he establishes a goal for you, but you do not establish one for him. This is why it is not right that you want it to be so … but know that he wants it to be so and commands it to be accordingly: his will is placed above all laws. When he says: I want to have it this way, then it is above all laws; for he is an infinite God and has the power and freedom to do so. But if one says: Well, I do not understand how it is good that he hardens. Indeed, friend, in your eyes it is evil–do you think you are God? God has no measure, law, or goal (as has been said); this is why he cannot act against it; he cannot sin against the law because no law has been placed before him. This is why everything he does is good, Gen. 1:31.
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But another question arises from here: Whether God drives man to sin? This question brings it about that I comprehend God into a ring and circle or into a glass where I want to keep him. He has prescribed to me how I should live and how I should serve him–this is why I think he should live like this as well. He gives the law, but he does not accept the law. No one but God alone may give law and teaching how one should live and be good. But I am not to ordain a law for God as to how he should rule the world or man. No matter what you think, what God does is right; for his will is not unjust or evil; he does not have his measure or law as to why he enlightens this one or hardens the other one. If I measured or judged God in this matters according to my reason, he is unjust and has more sins than the devil; in fact, he is more terrifying and horrible than the devil. For he acts and deals with us violently, plagues and tortures us, and has no regard for us.
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This might cause one to become foolish if he does not take his reason captive and does not allow all such thoughts to be driven out of his head. And this foolishness is caused only by the fact that no one should measure God or prescribe him a law; for God is exlex, as one says. But reason cannot be talked into this, much less can it be persuaded here; one cannot remove from its eyes the cursed, damned brooding and searching in such lofty incomprehensible matters, as reason always says: why? For the law is there: If God does this or that according to the law, then it would be done rightly. But this measuring causes you to lose body, life, and our Lord God when it is said: measure away in the devil’s name! But every heart that can say: Dear God, do as it pleases you; I am content–that heart cannot perish, but all the others must go down. …
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Man is called good because he acts and lives according to the law. Turn this around for God; in his case, a work is called good because God does it. My work is not good because I do it, but because it is done according to the law of God in which it is prescribed to me what I should do. I must step out of my mind into a higher mind, namely, the law of God. God is not good because he does a particular work, but the work is right, good, holy, and well done because he himself does it, so that the goodness comes from God, not from the work. God is the doer and does not take the goodness from the work or law. But our goodness does not come from doing good things and respected for it among the people, but, so that the law is given its due, it must be fulfilled through the Holy Spirit; then we too get the name that we are good. …
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Reason cannot properly interpret this Pharaoh, that God drives him to do evil and hardens him, or entices him to good or evil. God does well and does not act unjustly. But he who is driven in this way does act unjustly: For he has God’s commandment before him that he should not act in this way, and the devil nonetheless drives him to act and do in this way way and not to live as God wants to have it. God wants you to have his law before you; but the devil entices you to act against the law. Would you then say: Is God’s will against itself? That is too high. God’s will is there, but I am not to know how this happens. I am to look down, to what God wants to have. Now he has revealed his will by law and gospel and taught what I am to do. I am to deal with this and not climb up and ask why God does this or that. Leave this undone. But once you have come to faith and true understanding and have experienced the cross, then you will understand it.
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Reason always begins to build the house on top at the roof and not at the bottom. One finds many who have never heard a sermon on Christ; they are crude and wild people, torture themselves and curse as if they were full of devils–and their first question is why God does this or that thing. They come to the light with their dirty feet and blind reason and measure God according to reason. … 
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One should preach about the divinity only once a year so that people would know that, when it comes to salvation, one has to start below, that is, how Christ came to us, so as to preach how this child, Christ, eats milk and butter, lies on his mothers breasts, and is to be found in Bethlehem–and learn there why Christ came, what he gives, Is. 7:15; 1 Peter 2:2. When I say to God: why do you do this? He answers: I know well what is behind it. If we could only leave out the “why,” the devil would not make inroads with questions such as: are we predestined to salvation or not? How can Christ be God and man? 
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Should one not rather preach about faith and love? Indeed, people say, I’ve known all that well. But, friend, do not embark on such questions; deal with the humanity of Christ; there you are certain that God sent his Son into the flesh; leave him in the flesh; seek him here; he has come down into the Virgin Mary’s womb and put his humanity before our eyes. There he wants you to know, contemplate, and practice yourself in the same. He is the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6. Nonetheless, we want to climb higher and know how he predestined this or that, how he hardened this one and not the other. He who is intelligent and wise, let him remain on this marked-out path. …”
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There goes Luther, with that 3rd use of the Law stuff again. And talking about goals too! Good grief!*
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Will someone teach him how to be a real outlaw already?
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In other matters though…  Merry Christmas everyone!
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I think you might like — even if you are a Radical Lutheran! —  this sermon my pastor did a few years ago where we hear that “God is found in the little baby Jesus, so that He does not frighten us away with His appearance among us”.
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FIN

 

*Freshly translated by Holger Sonntag.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2018 in Uncategorized