Broken Lutheranism? My comment on Anthony Sacramone’s recent blog post

08 Apr
John Starck, 17th/18th century othodox/pietist hybrid

John Starck, 17th/18th century othodox/pietist hybrid

Over at his blog Strange Herring, Anthony Sacramone has really written an excellent post challenging views of sanctification all too common among even confessional Lutherans (I have done this to, and the most popular post on this blog has actually been about sanctification: The Christian life is like chutes and ladders.*)  Here is the comment I left at that post:

One of the reasons I know my sanctification levels are so low is that I am often spending more time on the internet than I should be.

That said, need to do it now…  : ) This is a very thoughtful post and it seems to me there is a bit of “convergence” happening right now regards these things…

In addition to your post, a convert to Lutheranism from the Reformed, Jordan Cooper, also posted “Progressive Sanctification- A Lutheran Doctrine” on this blog yesterday:

It’s a very compelling post, and I’ll give you this one clip:

“This type of teaching has practical consequences. I know of Lutheran pastors, theologians, and lay people who use as course language as they can, drink excessively, watch pornography, blow smoke in people’s faces who don’t approve of the act, just to proclaim their “Christian liberty.” I don’t think this is what Luther or Paul had in mind when they discussed the concept. I seem to remember someone answering the question, “Shall we sin that grace may abound?” with the answer “by no means!”, or as the Cotton patch paraphrase puts it: “Hell no!” I think many Lutherans today would answer that question by saying “of course!”

I recommend subscribing to his blog.  An AALC Lutheran, he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on.

Also, last Friday Issues ETC had a guest who really talked a bit about the idea of progressive sanctification (he distinguished between passive and active sanctification):   This man, Holger Sonntag, is the translator of the new edition of Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses (see : )

Incidently, regarding that Issues ETC last Friday, the guest right before him talked about Christian freedom, and it made for a very interesting – jarring? – back to back… Its interesting to listen and to ask whether or not the two views are compatible, and if so (I think they are, with some caveats) how?  Here’s that interview:

I recently saw Pastor Heath Curtis, who is translating Gerhard, point out that there is a “good kind of synergism”:

Of course Pastor Paul McCain is often talking about these issues.  As has Pastor William Weedon:

Back when Issues ETC host Todd Wilken still blogged for the Brothers of John the Steadfast (it looks like all of his old posts have now been removed for some reason) he asked about modern worship songs that had good words.  I posted some that I thought were pretty good from the Gospel Coalition folks and I didn’t get much of a response – except from a guy who told me that the songs encouraged an unhealthy view of sanctification (I’m a pretty decent theologian, and the words to those songs were fine).

Tullian T., Billy Graham’s grandson who pastors the church James Kennedy used to be at, has recently been influenced much by conservative ELCA theologians like Gerhard Forde (and perhaps Paulson, who kind of carries on Forde’s work?) was also recently taken to task on the Gospel coalition website for some of the things that he has said that they believe undermine sanctification:


I also wonder if you are aware of Jonathan Fisk’s background specifically.  He touched on this more in a very interestingly titled talk “I’m Lutheran, but….” (where he talked about growing up Lutheran, losing faith, and coming back through a Calvinist preacher….)

I did a short post on this article ( ) and here is part of what I said:

“And when I went to Slovakia in 96-98 as an English-teaching “missionary”, it was not lost on many of us at our “missionary orientation” in St. Louis that many of us going overseas who actually seemed grounded and eager to share our faith (one guy I talked to wasn’t sure he believed in the Trinity, I recall) had been heavily influenced by Campus Crusade for Christ and Intervarsity Christian fellowship. I had even read Senkbeil’s “Sanctification: Christ in Action” in the summer of 1995, and while it helped some, his picture of evangelicalism did not seem to line up with the evangelicals that I knew…”

As I reflect on what brought me back to a more committed Lutheranism from my 6-year flirtation with evangelicalism, it occurs to me that a lot of it probably had to do with this guy named Don Matzat…. If a guy who was obviously so “spiritually alive” (he had been a charismatic after all) could come back to Lutheranism….

As regards Fisk’s book, I don’t think it’s totally fair to say he ignores sanctification.  The Baptist reviewer you cite may have missed the fact that Fisk says there is “higher level of faithfulness to pursue”, “[the] possibility of finding actual true growth”, and “objective maturity” (Fisk, 210).

That means to say its not that its absent, but it really does get lost in the rest of the book.

Actually, when Pastor Fisk did his interviews for the book, I noticed this as well, and it prompted me to offer these two critiques (and two others) of his interviews on my blog:

“To say that the devil convinced Adam and Eve that what God called good (namely them) was not quite “good enough” certainly rings true (they were right where God wanted them to be!), but at the same time, I think Lutherans have historically believed that they were to ultimately become better, meaning more mature (i.e., being not able to sin was and is the goal), albeit only through God’s giving even this to them.”


“While it is certainly true that “Christ for you” is the primary message we preach to fallen man, “Christ in you” – put in the proper context – is a very important topic to discuss as well.  Living from our justification (“Christ for you”), God certainly would have us delight to grow in our sanctification as well (“Christ in us”) – to increase in righteousness with Him and to increasingly will, from the heart, to run the way of His commandments – and not only to will but to do.  Again, talking sanctification here, not justification! (Hebrews  10:14)”

Fight the good fight Anthony.  I think there is much truth to your remarks.  I think a lot of us would really benefit from getting out hand’s on an older version of Starck’s** prayer book (the newer version has had a lot of it taken out).  This guy was on friendly terms with both the Orthodox and the Pietists and his prayer book underwent 100s of editions and printings.  It was a staple of the Missouri-Synod in its early years.

Here it is:

It is definitely intense, intense, intense!  Doesn’t sound like a lot of the Confessional Lutheranism today though I think its just fine.  I think balancing it with John Kleinig’s more recent work is helpful….


P.S.  I will now continue the pursuit of holiness today by abstaining from blogs on the internet!

* I have talked a bit about sanctification on this blog elsewhere as well in the series titled: Holiness.  What does this mean?  Part I and Part II

** Here is some more on Starck: (you will have to press “translate” as there is only a German Wikipedia article on this very influential man)


Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Broken Lutheranism? My comment on Anthony Sacramone’s recent blog post

  1. Matt Jamison

    April 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I came across this dynamite quote from Pr. Mark Buetow. I would be interested in your reaction:

    “Let’s face it: there are some out there who think there are others out there who even today, right now, are abusing the Gospel to cover their immoral lifestyles. How we love to tell others that such people exist and claim to be Lutheran! But we would never dare to be true Lutherans and use the Gospel to cover their sins or have the decency to express our concerns privately. Instead, we are a church of Hams, ready to point everyone to naked Noah; a church full of Cains, fuming that some immoral person should dare to claim nothing but the Lamb as their offering; a church of scribes and Pharisees who know nothing about mercy but everything about telling others why someone else doesn’t measure up; a religion of Uzzahs who think they can lightly touch the death-dealing Law as if it’s a mere exercise in willpower to keep it. Run up to Mt. Sinai if you like. But if that scares the crap out of you, don’t worry because there’s a Mt. Calvary and all the sanctification you could ever need or want has already gushed out of Jesus into the font and cup.” – Rev. Mark Buetow

    • infanttheology

      April 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm


      Well, I don’t find it terribly objectionable so long as it is in the abstract. I don’t think it applies to me at all, but I’d be interested in knowing if persons thought it did!

      Another thing that is interesting about it is that if we do want to apply it to someone personally, we may have already contradicted its content ourselves! In that this is a public quote about someone else’s sins (of judgmentalism and lack of mercy) which we should have perhaps covered up privately and quietly….

      Thanks Matt,


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