It is no secret that the writings of the late ELCA theologian Gerhard Forde have impacted the folks at the 1517 Legacy Project out of Concordia Irvine.
Some in that group — at least the ones in charge of making the stickers! — are quite proud of this fact.
Not only does “Forde live” with the 1517 Legacy Project, but one of the celebrated speakers at the recent 1517 Legacy’s Reformation conference is considered, by many, to be Forde’s theological heir, carrying on his unique emphases.
This particular person, along with Forde, was one of the main topics of my last blog post (I did not name him there nor will I name him here), discussing the idea that Jesus was justly accused by God’s law. I argue that Forde’s view of the law (i.e. that it is wholly temporal) and his view of the atonement go hand-in-hand, and result in novel theological statements like “Jesus was justly accused by God’s law”.
As regards that thesis, I want to thank Brad Novacek, who very thoughtfully engaged with the article on the Confessional Lutheran Fellowship Facebook group.
I got Brad’s permission to post our conversation here (I’ve edited the conversation somewhat, fixing spelling errors and the like):
“I have tried as best I can to discern what you are saying theologically, from your writings. Where might I be going wrong? I really do want to know, as I have no interest in misrepresenting you.:
Luther tells us that “the law’s proper effect…you always ought to remain in the chief (principal) definition of the law, that it works wrath and hatred and despair…”
According to you, Jesus Himself felt this wrath: “[Jesus] felt God’s wrath and took that experience as something truer than God’s own word of promise to him”
By its own standard, which cannot be violated (as a friend once told me “When the Law says ‘stone’ you stone!), the law “justly” but falsely accuses Jesus of being a sinner.
([As you say:] “Here 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.”)
Why? Is this perhaps where we say that the law, though good, is weak? It is “good” temporally, and has a practical function for the time being, but ultimately is a creation of this world that is passing away?
Is it because the Law, focused on externals, can’t distinguish between a cry of dereliction that dishonors God and one which, though without faith, was, given the circumstances, in some sense justified?
When[, as you say,] Christ “irrationally comes to confess this crime so vehemently that he believes he has committed it— and as Luther famously said, “as you believe, so it is,” does God, seeing this occur, change His mind about sin?
Is this where the will of God accepts Christ’s lack of trust and cry of dereliction that results when Christ personally takes on the sin of the whole world? – i.e. this unbelief is somehow understandable?!
For you then, does the law falsely accuse Jesus of sinning when, in fact, by God’s judgment (which makes it so!) “ontologically Christ didn’t sin” (not sure where this quote is from, but someone claimed it for you)?
If so, the law of God here, on the other hand, does not accept this. Because, ultimately, the law of God is not the will of God – in the end it is distinct from, apart from, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
[As you say:] “As long as God’s anger at sin, his law, is his righteousness, then his righteousness is in the process of destroying the whole cosmos”
“[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.” (LW 46:103; WA 19:632)
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 ; out of books come extravagant and untenable judgments” (LW 45:128 ; WA 11:279)
In the end then, Jesus did not just, as the Scriptures say, “Become sin” for us – He also became a Sinner according to God’s law, which now passes away…
E.g. [as you say:] “The law is eternally in the past for those who have been put to death in baptism; it is a memory. Their future is without any law, since a good heart does the works of the law—without any law at all— perfectly freely.”
My conclusion: Per you, God’s will does not see Him as a sinner. The law falsely does. What happens here though? What is the inevitable result? Now is it harder for us to see Him as God to…. Or is that just our theology of glory talking, which can’t stomach weakness in God, who should be strong?”
Unfortunately, I have been told that this particular theologian does not appreciate being challenged at all, and will generally not answer emails from his own students. I hope that he will reconsider this policy, and let us know what he really does believe, teach, and confess regarding these issues.
And I am sure that many of us think that a statement from the 1517 Legacy Project regarding the same would be in line as well.
Because if Forde’s doctrine lives, we die.