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Tag Archives: Law in Christian life (“3rd use”)

The Insecure Anchor of Christ Hold Fast

What does this mean?

 

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Preface

If you pay attention to the ministries like Christ Hold Fast, Chad Bird’s website, and the 1517 Legacy Project (these are all affiliated with one another), please pay attention to the article-length post below from Cody Edds.

When I read Cody’s article, here is the question that crossed my mind: “Is it really Jesus Christ who is holding fast in Christ Hold Fast?”

I am not going to insist that He isn’t or won’t, but the core question here is this: who among us is not tempted to massage our picture of Jesus? Because of the temptations of any age, the Lord gave us, through His Apostle, words like those in II Corinthians 11:4 to warn and guide us.

I contend that anyone who is immersed in the Scriptures — knowing passages like this one above — cannot help but begin to doubt that Jesus Christ is at the center of these ministries as claimed. And while doubt is undeniably a part of our Christian lives until the very end, when it comes to the salvation that Christ has won for us, doubt is always something from which we flee.

Cody’s words must be taken seriously, for Jesus Christ came not only for those who call themselves “sinners” but for those who recognize their need for the third use of the law and for striving in their sanctification — even as they simultaneously see their failures here!

I can also say this: if observed and experienced patterns are any reliable indicator, I can already tell you how many of the most devoted adherents of these ministries will respond. They will not respond with words from the Bible or theology, but simply say something along these lines:

Cody is not a Lutheran but is mostly affected by Calvinist influences. Therefore, of course he is not going to like what true adherents of Luther have to say! (maybe the fact that Cody finds some common ground with you should have you worried about your own Lutheranism!)

Cody, however, has done his homework, having sat at Dr. Luther’s feet and other Lutheran greats a fair deal. I urge you to give him a hearing, and to maybe even read his article more than once.

His experience of falling into antinomianism through ministries like these is not unique, but I think the article that he writes is unique in its thoroughness, theological acumen, and, importantly, its accessibility.

I’m very, very pleased to be able to publish this piece on my blog.

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Guest post by Cody Edds

 

“Christ Hold Fast has a much larger reach than you know… [T]hey are… fooling evangelicals into believing that Luther was something he is not.”

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My name is Cody Edds. I was born into a Southern Baptist culture of legalism and man-based religion. Christ was barely mentioned but if only to draw one’s attention to the altar call. It wasn’t until I found Luther’s commentary on Galatians that my world, and my understanding of Christianity, was completely changed. Soon after falling in love with Martin Luther, I found myself in an antinomian church that based its entire theology off of the likes of Gerhard Forde and Robert Capon. Within a year I was an antinomian myself, leading a website ministry of antinomian articles and a podcast just the same. My last year of that environment was spent as a youth minister teaching others the heresy of antinomianism. Below is not only my story of how I went from evangelical antinomianism to radical Lutheranism to confessional reformed theology, but what follows is also my critique of those who fostered my faulty view of Luther. Namely, the leaders and ministry of Christ Hold Fast (christholdfast.org).

Since leaving radical Lutheranism and the antinomianism that undergirds it, I have joined a Reformed Baptist congregation and have embraced the theology of confessional Reformed Baptists in the school of the 1689 London Baptist Confession. I am not a paid theologian or pastor; I am not a well-known voice within either Lutheran or Reformed circles. Although I’m currently getting my Bachelors in Theology, I am merely a layman of the global church who walked through the mud of radical Lutheranism. I have seen and experienced firsthand what ministries like Christ Hold Fast really bring about within evangelical and Lutheran circles. Though there are many differences between Lutheran and Reformed (or particular) Baptists, this article is simply to highlight the erroneous theology of a website ministry/organization that is leading many astray within evangelicalism and Lutheranism just the same. Though some may doubt my knowledge and credibility to be critiquing a Lutheran organization, I hope that what follows will prove those people mislead.

To my Lutheran brothers and sisters: Christ Hold Fast has a much larger reach than you know. They are not ‘winning’ people over from evangelicalism to Lutheranism; they are instead fooling evangelicals into believing that Luther was something he is not. For the sake of Luther’s name, Confessional Lutheranism, and the love for your brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to speak out against such harmful organizations. To my Evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ: Christ Hold Fast is not just some fringe Lutheran website that has no influence within your world of the church. The ideas propagated by them are ideas that have ravaged the evangelical church for centuries. Christ Hold Fast is a small step away from the liberalism that has characterized much of the downfall within our own denominations. It is this reason we should speak openly about their influence. The work of Christ Hold Fast to bring evangelicals into their liberal-slanted Lutheranism is a work that must be opposed by both Confessional Lutherans and evangelicals.

 

“Tullian himself was fond of my website on which I published many antinomian articles, since I was an antinomian myself.”

 

My History with Radical Lutheranism

As someone who was once a youth minister in a church built upon the theology of Forde, I am well-equipped to speak to Christ Hold Fast’s theology. I was made to study Forde and his works in my antinomian church. I’ve read more than a few of his works including On Being a Theologian of the Cross, The Law-Gospel Debate, and his essays on Sanctification and Christian Spirituality and Radical Lutheranism. I’ve also studied extensively his work on Luther “Where God Meets Man” in which Forde rejects the orthodox view of the atonement and challenges the inerrancy of Scripture. I’ve also read most of Luther’s published sermons, Bondage of the Will, Freedom of a Christian, Against the Antinomians, his commentaries on Galatians and Romans as well as his Small and Large Catechism, Two Kinds of Righteousness, The Smalcald Articles, Table Talk, To the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity, A Treatise on Good Works, and obviously The Heidelberg Disputation. I’ve also read a lot of Melanchthon, Chemnitz, the Book of Concord, and Pieper. As well as Walther’s Law and Gospel and his sermons. I not only have done extensive studies on Forde (whom Christ Hold Fast bases a lot of their theology on), but I have lead ministries (within the local church and online) that were a huge part in the grace movement. Tullian Tchividjian’s son went to my church, and Tullian himself was fond of my website on which I published many antinomian articles, since I was an antinomian myself. While publishing these antinomian articles I had many of the current writers for Christ Hold Fast write articles for my ministry. Though they did so out of love and support for my antinomian ministry, a lot of their posts were antinomian as well. During this antinomian phase of mine, the leaders of Christ Hold Fast kept quiet (for the most part; more on this later) UNTIL I came out of it. They refused to rebuke me, and they allowed me to continue using Luther to support my antinomianism. Though I was very close with Dan Price and others at CHF none of them said a word of rebuke until after I came out of antinomianism. Though they tried to persuade me into radical Lutheranism, I heard no words of antinomianism thrown at me. I say all of this to say: I have spent years in the same circles that the writers of CHF run in, and I have lead ministries as an antinomian formulating much, if not all, of my theology off of what I was reading on their website, and Forde in particular. With that said, Christ Hold Fast’s antinomian leanings are very worrisome as is their support of Forde.

 

“You can’t say the gospel is of first importance (as those at CHF say) while celebrating someone who rejected the very heart of the gospel (vicarious penal substitutionary atonement).”

 

Their Support of Forde

First off, given that Forde denies Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) and strongly challenges the inerrancy of Scripture, I am lead to believe that nothing of Forde should be supported. There is a very big difference between blatant denial of PSA and supporting another theory of the atonement (Like Christus Victor, for instance). I would suggest the reader to Forde’s works “Where God Meets Man” and “Caught in the Act.” There Forde blatantly rejects penal substitutionary atonement, mockingly asking questions like: “Could God be so childish as to be appeased by the death of one man?” (Paraphrase); and openly stating that God could not possible be “bought off” as PSA theories (in Forde’s mind) state. Forde goes on to say, “Christ was not doing anything else in his death but dying” (direct quote). It is common knowledge within Lutheranism that Forde not only rejected penal substitutionary atonement but most other Anselmian and patristic theories (Christus Victor for one). For Forde, God is not a God “constrained” by some demand of justice, but a hidden God revealed in Christ. Therefore the cross is not a means by which His justice is satisfied but simply a means by which God reveals Himself as a God of love rather than a God of Wrath. Compare what you read of Forde’s works on the atonement to Chemnitz and especially Pieper.

My main issue here is simply this: a blatant rejection of Anselmian/Patristic/Lutheran vicarious penal substitutionary atonement will affect your theology. Especially your theology of sanctification and the law. You can’t possible reject the confessional view of the cross and that not have negative implications for your view of sanctification and the law. You can’t say the gospel is of first importance (as those at CHF say) while celebrating someone who rejected the very heart of the gospel (vicarious penal substitutionary atonement). Anyone who rejects substitutionary atonement can’t be trusted with other doctrines especially those so closely related to the cross and justification (i.e. the Christian’s resurrected life, sanctification, good works, and the law). Are there things to be gleaned from other atonement theories? Yeah! Should we be gleaning anything from a man who blatantly rejects penal substitutionary atonement? No. It’s not like Forde is the only Lutheran theologian who wrote about sanctification. Glean your doctrine of sanctification from others who actually strongly hold to PSA and inerrancy.

Where Christ Hold Fast comes in with all of this is simply this: anyone who celebrates the theology of a man who rejected the heart of the gospel should not be held very high in theological circles. Period. CHF has formulated their view of sanctification and the law off of Forde’s theology AS IF Forde’s denial of PSA wouldn’t affect his theology of sanctification and the law. But it does. It affects everything. Christ Hold Fast shouldn’t be a ministry not simply because of Chad Bird and Dan Price’s affairs, not simply because they like some theologian that I don’t like, but because they propagate and spread the false and harmful doctrines of Forde regarding sanctification and the law. Doctrines that are directly tied to Forde’s denial of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

 

“…most heresies are not taught by what is said, but by what is left unsaid.”

 

The Law’s Third Use Is Necessary

Secondly, and this follows my first point, CHF’s own writings are worrisome. It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that most heresies are not taught by what is said, but by what is left unsaid. Their emphasis on grace, God’s love, and Christ are to be commended as we should be emphasizing those things! But to emphasize them at the expense of other doctrines such as sanctification, man’s work in sanctification, and the law’s necessary use of guiding the Christian in obedience, is a problem. This leads to antinomianism. If this doesn’t make CHF antinomian then it sure does produces antinomians. I was one of them, so I should know. I’ve spoken with MANY antinomians who blatantly reject third use, regeneration, and man’s work in sanctification, and they all say the same thing: “Well, Christ Hold Fast…” Now you might say, well it’s not the writers at CHF’s responsibility how people receive his message. Yes it is. If you’re teaching with an emphasis on works but you never or very little speak of the gospel that will inevitably lead to legalism. The same is true with antinomianism. As Chad Bird and others have taken it upon themselves to place themselves in public ministry with a website and books, it is their job to ensure that they are not causing their brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.

An example of their emphasis on the gospel to the exclusion of the law and good works can be seen in Chad Bird’s post “How to Make Grace Unamazing.” In this post Chad says, “Jesus didn’t say, “Screw up again, boy, and I’ll have your brothers dig up your old stinking sin and slap you in the face with it.” He said, “I have removed your sins as far as the east is from the west. I will remember them no more.”” Yes and amen! But in a post regarding so strongly the topic of grace in relation to works, for him, a trained theologian, to leave out that Christ also said “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) is a purposed fault that leads others down the road of antinomianism. He should know better. Any theologian who writes extensively on the gospel’s relation to works and ONLY tackles the law’s second use while comparing that to its relation with the gospel is doing a great disservice to his readers. And I have to assume with Bird’s education, he knows exactly what he’s doing. If he doesn’t realize that writing and teaching on the gospel’s relation to good works in this way, with this emphasis on gospel to the exclusion  of the law’s third use–if he doesn’t realize that this leads to antinomianism then he has no business writing and teaching in the first place regardless of his harmful theology.

As a quick note: contrary to what Christ Hold Fast would have you believe, you actually can use the law. 1 Timothy 1:8 for example tells us that “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” A quick look at 6.1 in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord leads us to clearly see that after men are regenerate, the law is a guide and a “fixed rule according to which they [that is regenerate men, not God] are to regulate and direct their whole life.” In Luther’s Lectures on First Timothy he states that we must “use the law as you wish. Read it. Only keep this use away from it, that you credit it with the remission of sins and righteousness.” Finally, in Luther’s commentary on Galatians—a work that modern antinomians praise—Luther clearly states, “see to it that you know how to use the law correctly.” Christ Hold Fast constantly make the argument that you can’t use the law. But Scripture, Luther, the Book of Concord, and general experience tells us otherwise. This is merely an excuse to curtail their refusal to preach third use. If you write 1000 articles on how Christians can’t measure up to the law’s demands then you have used the law 1000 times to show that the Christian can’t measure up to its demands (accusative use).

Another supportive work of Chad’s is his post “Grace is Not Dead.” Nowhere in this post does he define what a Christian is, what repentance is, that grace should lead to good works, that if good works are absent then so is Christ, etc. Yet he ends it with, “Grace reigns triumphant in the scarred but resurrected body of Jesus Christ. That grace is yours. And you are Christ’s. And he, the love of God incarnate, will hold you fast.” Who is the person he is referring to here? Blanket statements of God’s love spoken to someone who may or may not be a Christian is the bedrock of my former antinomian church and ways. This is what it looks like to preach gospel without law. You give ANYONE the assurance that they are in Christ even if they aren’t. And they therefore remain in their sin. The gospel should never be qualified or conditioned, but it shouldn’t be preached carrying blanket statements that don’t qualify the fruit and type of person the gospel produces.

 

“You give ANYONE the assurance that they are in Christ even if they aren’t. And they therefore remain in their sin.”

 

Good Works Evidence Faith

Elsewhere Chad writes, “Thus, to answer, “Are you a Christian?” by looking inside ourselves, or by looking to our deeds or love of the neighbor, is to drink the poison of doubt. In fact, the more Christians look at themselves to see whether they are Christians, the more they will become convinced that they are not Christians” (How Do I Know I’m a Christian, CHF). This statement is harmful and is based upon the theology of Forde. But this sounds nothing like Luther who said, “Works assure us and bear witness before men and the brethren and even before our own selves that we truly believe and that we are sons of God in hope and heirs of eternal life,” and who also said, “Works are a certain sign, like a seal on a letter, which makes me certain that my faith is genuine.” Chad Bird and others at CHF continuously teaches that good works do not evidence faith (see Zack James Cole’s post The Gift of Righteousness). This doctrine is not found in Luther or Scripture. We know that James tells us, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” The answer to that question is: no. And to say that good works don’t evidence faith is to answer that question differently. If James is right that faith without works is dead, then along with Luther, we must agree that works show forth your faith. In fact Peter calls us to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” by our works (2 Peter 1:10). Luther himself comments on this verse, “We are commanded to make our calling certain by good works.” This doctrine of CHF’s leads directly to antinomianism. As a former antinomian, I would say then, “Since good works don’t evidence your faith, you can do whatever you want and God will still love you in Christ. Your faith is not tied at all to your works and therefore if you are a Christian you can and should do whatever you like!” This I said because men like Dan Price and Chad Bird taught me that good works and faith are separate things, only related in a causal effect: one leads to the other. Rather than a causal and evidencing effect: one evidences the existence of the other.

 

“…the law has some place in making us equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”

 

The Law Doesn’t Only Accuse

The idea that the law only accuses sounds Lutheran but it’s not. Take Ryan Couch’s post “Sanctified by Faith” for instance. Here he states, “Sanctification is not a work of the law it is the result of God’s promise to us in Christ, the gospel.” But if “all Scripture [that includes the law] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” then the law has some place in making us equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I believe the author would agree with my statement but that he would clarify by saying “the law that is used in sanctification is a crushing law that drives us to the gospel.” For this author, and for CHF as a whole, any talk of our duty in sanctification, “relegates law to a manageable list of “to dos” instead of what it is, God’s word of condemnation that puts us to death.” But God’s word of law isn’t just a word of condemnation. In fact, it is a list of “to dos” is it not? More so, God’s law is an entire worldview and system. It’s more than anything this author has suggested. The law of God is primarily covenant words to God’s covenant people. These words do many things, and condemning us to death is only one. He goes on to further say, “The law, which serves to magnify our sin (Rom. 3:20) does not aid us in our sanctification, it simply reveals our need for it.” Is that all the law does? In a post that states such dramatic statements about the law, but never clarifies that the law has a separate use, it is easy to assume the author doesn’t believe the law is anything besides accusative. Does the law always accuse? Yes. Does it only accuse? No. Not only do we never see Christ himself say that his followers shouldn’t read the law as a guide, but we see him countless times exhorting his followers with the law. Some might say he only exhorted to show them their need for him, which is sometimes true (Matthew 5:48). But to say that every time Jesus exhorted his followers to good works he was doing so to crush them with the law not only makes Christ very cruel, but also reads a lot into the Scriptures that isn’t there.

The author’s notion that the law only leads to more sin is also false. As a former antinomian I would often use Romans 7:5 to highlight that the law leads to sin: “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” But this is not the norm for the Christian since “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (v. 6). The old way mentioned here is obviously not that we don’t serve God according to the law, but we don’t serve God by using the law to merit our salvation. To say otherwise is to make the entire law obsolete.

We should also note that if the law is only supposed to be used for crushing the sinner or condemning the old man, as a mirror to show the sinner’s wretchedness, then we must ignore Romans 12:1, or else our theology fails us. In my antinomian days, I did all I could to ignore such passages as Romans 12:1. Romans 12:1 begins with, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” Here Paul is appealing to the regenerate Christian “by the mercies of God,” and in doing so, is recalling the very gospel to the Christian’s mind. In essence, Paul is saying, “What I am about to say is in light of the gospel I have preached in the previous chapters.” After recalling the gospel and mercy of God to the Christian’s mind, Paul goes on, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” My question for those who claim the law shouldn’t be used to guide, but only used for the purpose of showing the sinner his sinfulness, is this: Why would Paul, after presenting the gospel of God’s grace, crush the sinner with God’s law? In short, why follow the gospel of freedom in Christ with “look how sinful you are?” Has he not set them free in Christ? Christ Hold Fast holds to the law/gospel distinction of Lutheran theology. Holding to this, they would agree that it is improper to crush the sinner with God’s law after you have already set them free in the gospel. To make the sinner realize his sinfulness after preaching to him of the gospel that forgives all of his sins is not only improper, but harmful. So, what is Paul doing here if not exhorting—using the law as a guide? These are the kinds of questions that haunted me as an antinomian.

 

“Take it from someone who has been there. Antinomians exist; I was one of them. The theology of CHF and Forde leads to antinomianism….”

 

Regeneration is Real

Another post that shows the harmful theology of Christ Hold Fast is “Yes, But…” by Kelsi Klembara. In that post she states, “If you never did anything good again, but you believe Christ died for you, would the Gospel still be true? It would.” To which Luther simply replies no, “For Christian holiness, or the holiness common to Christendom, is found where the Holy Spirit gives people faith in Christ and thus sanctifies them.” She asks rhetorically elsewhere, “What would actually happen if we simply stopped after hearing the Yes of the Gospel?” Sin. Sin is what happens according to Luther: “It will not do to think and say: Well, it is sufficient to have the doctrine, and if we have the Spirit and faith, then fruits and good works will follow of their own accord.” The underlying notion here must be that regeneration is not believed by the author. If that’s not what she means to communicate it sure is what she’s communicating to the antinomians I speak with. But Romans 6 tells us otherwise. In fact, Romans 6 tell us that just as Christ died to the curse of sin, so too has the Christian died to the power of sin. This obviously doesn’t mean we can be perfect, but it does mean that if a Christian isn’t growing in obedience to God then they probably aren’t a Christian.

Romans 6:9-11 tells us that we must “consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The word consider here is the same word for “counted” in Romans 4:5—that God has counted us righteous in Christ. So God is telling us that the same certainty we have that God has counted us righteous in Christ is the same means by which we should consider ourselves dead to sin in Christ. But as a radical Lutheran, and antinomian, I didn’t agree with this at all. In fact, my way of twisting Scripture—as is the prevalent way with antinomians and other radical Lutherans—was to assume that every instance regarding “dead to sin” in Romans 6 was speaking of my death to its condemnation rather than its power. Regeneration is best defined as “that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology). But I didn’t believe that, and neither do antinomians. I used to say things like, “The Christian is incapable of good; that’s why Christ is our only goodness before God.” But this isn’t true.

Radical Lutherans teach that we aren’t even capable of keeping the commands of God in part or even a little. They don’t believe we are united to Christ’s death to sin’s power unless it’s sin’s condemnation. What I mean here is that when we died to sin through the death/resurrection of Christ we died to the condemnation of sin not its reign. In short, they believe we are still totally depraved—unable to do any good. Though they won’t say this out-right, they teach it often and with vigor. Dan Price’s post “I Am Not Ashamed of the Law” comes to mind. Here Dan says the easiest way to de-shame the gospel is to tame the law, to make it achievable.” What does he mean by achievable? Can we do enough of the law to merit salvation? No. Can we actually do the law? Yes. Though our works can never be perfect or without sin, they can still be good, and we are capable of this good. Acts 9:36 states that Dorcas was “full of good works,” Ephesians 2:10 states that we are created “in Christ Jesus for good works,” 2 Timothy 3:17 teaches that the man of God can be “complete, equipped for every good work,” and Titus 2:14 says that Christians are to be “zealous for good works.” So just because we can’t be perfect doesn’t mean we can’t do good. Price goes on to say I love the law. Not because I can do it. Not because it can save me. I love it because the law shows me my need for a Savior.” Notice that in this context there is no notion of a third use, guiding principle. This leads others to believe there is no third use. Regardless, the idea that Dan can’t do the law is unfounded once again. Galatians 5:14 doesn’t only tell us we can do God’s law but that in some sense we can fulfill it: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And again, Romans 13:8-13 tells us that the one who loves another has “fulfilled the law.” My former antinomian self would say, “But who has truly loved another? Christ! He has fulfilled it on our behalf.” The problem with that interpretation is that it’s actually not an interpretation of the text. Nothing in the immediate context of Romans 13 allows us to read imputed righteousness into “fulfilled the law.” To someone who would say that I would simply ask, “Where, in that text, do you see imputed righteousness?”

To say the “disposition of the soul is made holy” is to say the very opposite of everything Christ Hold Fast believes. Radical Lutherans would have you believe that to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” means to consider yourself dead to the penalty of sin. But Paul in Romans 6 isn’t addressing justification or forgiveness—he’s addressed that already in Romans 5. Here, Paul is addressing the justified sinner who asks, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1). Neither the question nor Paul’s answer addresses the penalty of sin. Paul addresses the power of sin in the Christian’s life: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing [Katargeō – to render powerless], so that we would no longer be enslaved [douleuō – to be enslaved to] to sin” (Romans 6:6). As an antinomian, I used to say that sin’s enslaving power was its power to condemn and therefore we are simply released from sin’s power to change our standing before God. Though I agree that we are saved from sin’s penalty, neither the question nor Paul’s answer addresses our standing before God. Romans 6 is in regards to our regeneration and sanctification. I would also read Romans 6:17 that “you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart,” but would dismiss this as something else. We can’t possibly be obedient from the heart! Our heart is wretched! I would dismiss this as a passage regarding justification rather than regeneration and sanctification. This is a twisting of Scripture. And if it’s not the twisting that underlies the theology of Christ Hold Fast in posts like above then it is what is communicated. Again, I should know. It’s posts like this that lead me to antinomian radical Lutheranism.

In summary I don’t think Christ Hold Fast is defined at all by Pieper’s words here: “In urging members of their churches to become ‘rich in good works,’ pastors should not be deterred from doing this boldly and resolutely, without any fear or faltering, by the thought that this insistence on good works might crowd out its central position on the doctrine of justification without works. Only if one does not know the Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith will he be timid in asking for a multitude of good works.” If you do not see this quote and the Lutheran confessions as well as Luther himself as being in great opposition to the general tone and content of CHF then you are poorly mistaken. Take it from someone who has been there. Antinomians exist; I was one of them. The theology of CHF and Forde leads to antinomianism; I was one of them.

 

“I might have believed [the third use] existed, but I never used it and thought those that did were legalists.”

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What Their Theology Leads To

Let me state here that I am completely and fully responsible for my own sin of antinomianism. In fact, I was antinomian before Christ Hold Fast came on the scene. That cannot be stated weakly and must be made abundantly clear. I have confessed that sin and have repented of it, sought pardon and have received it in full from Christ. With that said, that does not negate the responsibility and guilt of those who caused me to stumble into that sin. Chad Bird, Dan Price, and some others at CHF saw and knew that I had fallen into antinomianism. Not only are they guilty of leading me into that trap but they are guilty for quietly allowing me to remain there while I taught others such nonsense.

I once had a discussion with Dan Price via webcam regarding the third use of the law. During this discussion he attempted to persuade me from being an evangelical antinomian openly denying third use of the law to a Radical Lutheran antinomian who believes there is a third use but who never uses it. He persuaded me to stop reading Tullian and other antinomians and just start reading him and Forde who SOUND like antinomians but “I assure you, we aren’t.”

After conversing with Dan and others at CHF I wasn’t convinced. While telling me there was a third use of the law, I watched Dan and others refuse to use it, emphasizing the gospel over the law to its exclusion, and writing entire blog posts with statements about the law’s accusative use without qualifying that there are other uses (as seen above). A late night webcam discussion wherein Dan tried to convince me that he believed in third use of the law only leads to a functional antinomianism. I might have believed it existed, but I never used it and thought those that did were legalists. It’s not enough to have webcam chats while blogging on a daily basis a system of theology that is full of accusative-only-law. That evening I thanked Dan for all the clarification he offered me, but it wasn’t long until I realized, “This guy might think there’s a third use, but he hardly ever uses it.” Just because someone says they believe in a third use doesn’t mean they aren’t antinomian nor does it mean that they don’t teach in a way that leads to antinomianism. Believing there’s a third use and actually teaching WITH the third use are two different things. And a ministry aimed at evangelicals leaving legalism which focuses on grace to the exclusion or downplaying of the third use of the law leads only to one thing: Antinomian evangelicalism (what I was before speaking to Dan), or antinomian Lutheranism (Radical Lutheranism; what I was after speaking to Dan). Again, did CHF and Dan Price try to persuade me out of antinomianism? No. They persuaded me into their version of it.

They lead me into that sin by teaching an emphasis on grace with the exclusion of a proper emphasis on good works. I believe that I, along with most others who are deceived by CHF, was very vulnerable to the heresy of antinomianism since, like most others, I was coming out of man-centered legalistic evangelicalism. Chad and Dan should know better, given their theological education and knowledge. They should know that those of us coming out of legalism are susceptible to the heresy of antinomianism, and therefore, instead of pandering to our weakness (a weakness seeking to hear only the gospel and nothing of good works), they should rather submit their teachings and writings to God and seek to bring weaker brothers and sisters in Christ to a better understanding of all of God’s word (law and gospel). The weakness and sin of wanting to ignore God’s word (His law) for the sake of only hearing God’s gospel should not be pandered to.

I will state this as simple as I can: to fight a wrong view of God’s law (legalism) one should not emphasize the gospel to the exclusion of the law. Rather, one should rightly emphasize the gospel while preaching a proper view of the law in all its uses. To combat legalism with merely preaching a heavy handed gospel shows ignorance and theological flippancy. And yet, most of those at CHF do just that. This leads many, including my former self, into antinomianism. Where else would it lead but there? As theologians we should be trained to care for those under our teaching, whether online or in the local church. When writing primarily for an audience coming out of legalism we should teach them not just the radical implications of the gospel, but also the loving kindness of God in giving us a necessary law to guide us into obedience. When writing primarily to an audience coming out of legalism, we should understand that they are susceptible to antinomianism and therefore should counter that weakness with a strong stance on the law’s third use. Anything less only serves to do harm. In short, as theologians we should know better. Chad Bird and Dan Price should know better. The mere fact that CHF is writing to such an audience with such a harmful exclusion of the law’s third use proves that Christ Hold Fast as a website ministry shouldn’t be teaching anything. It shows that, though they may have theological knowledge of doctrines, they are ignorant of the implications of their emphasis towards their audience. And that’s the best case scenario! If they do understand what they are doing, and yet they remain, then they aren’t as ignorant as we thought. Rather, they are divisive and purposefully harmful for the sake of pride and self-praise. I don’t know which is the case with CHF and its leaders. In fact, I suspect the former. But given my overall lack of knowledge regarding their intent, I cannot make any statements regarding which one they are: whether ignorant or purposefully harmful. In either case, they are harmful, guilty of leading others into antinomianism, and should quietly recede from the internet and the minds of all those who read to their harmful theology.

 

“Reading the Book of Concord and Luther’s sermons brought about a realization that my view of the law and good works was not the view of Luther.”

 

The Book of Concord, My Help

Reading the Book of Concord and Luther’s sermons brought about a realization that my view of the law and good works was not the view of Luther. And conversely, the confessional Lutheran view of the law and good works is not the view taught by those at Christ Hold Fast. When Article 6.2 of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord stated, “The one side taught and maintained that the regenerate do not learn the new obedience, or in what good works they ought to walk, from the Law, and that this teaching [concerning good works] is not to be urged thence [from the law], because they have been made free by the Son of God, have become the temples of His Spirit, and therefore do freely of themselves what God requires of them, by the prompting and impulse of the Holy Ghost, just as the sun of itself, without any [foreign] impulse, completes its ordinary course,” I thought “Not only does that describe me, but that describes what I’m interpreting from Christ Hold Fast!” Yet I did my best to hold true to what I believed. As a youth minister and a leader of a website ‘ministry’ there was too much to lose if I were to give up on my lack of third use preaching. Sure, I could believe that it existed, but to preach it as often as Luther says we should, that’s another thing! But again, 6.6-9 spoke a whole different world to me: “And, indeed, if the believing and elect children of God were completely renewed in this life by the indwelling Spirit, so that in their nature and all its powers they were entirely free from sin, they would need no law, and hence no one to drive them either, but they would do of themselves, and altogether voluntarily, without any instruction, admonition, urging or driving of the Law, what they are in duty bound to do according to God’s will…However, believers are not renewed in this life perfectly or completely…Therefore, because of these lusts of the flesh the truly believing, elect, and regenerate children of God need in this life not only the daily instruction and admonition, warning, and threatening of the Law, but also frequently punishments, that they may be roused.”

So there is a guide? So what of those who deny a third use? In fact, what of those who say they believe it but refuse to urge this use of the law upon Christians? Article 6.20 answered, “Accordingly, we reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.” As Article 6.3 of the Epitome of the Formula of Concord told me that the law should be urged upon believers “with diligence” I saw nobody, including myself, doing such things. In fact, the strongest of statements is found in the above quote of 6.20. The truth is that a lack of diligent third use preaching is harmful and “detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness.” Some might say, “Of course we urge the law with diligence, just the law in its accusative use!” To that, the Formula of Concord would state that the law in need of being diligently urged upon the believer is the law in all of its uses and functions. Included, but not limited to, the use of that law as exhortation and guide: “We believe, teach, and confess that, although men truly believing [in Christ] and truly converted to God have been freed and exempted from the curse and coercion of the Law, they nevertheless are not on this account without Law, but have been redeemed by the Son of God in order that they should exercise themselves in it day and night, that they should meditate upon God’s Law day and night, and constantly exercise themselves in its observance” (The Epitome of the FOC 6.2).

Luther himself stated that antinomians not only refused to exhort but they simply refused to do so diligently and often: “Many now talk only about the forgiveness of sins and say little or nothing about repentance. There neither is forgiveness of sins without repentance nor can forgiveness of sins be understood without repentance. It follows that if we preach the forgiveness of sins without repentance that the people imagine that they have already obtained the forgiveness of sins, becoming thereby secure and without compunction of conscience” (Martin Luther, Visitation Articles, found in LW 40:274).

 

“…faithful preachers must exert themselves as much in urging a love that is unfeigned or in urging truly good works as in teaching true faith…” — Martin Luther

 

Luther’s Sermons, My Help

Finally, it was Luther’s sermons that brought me out of Radical Lutheranism, along with the Book of Concord. I can’t express how thankful I am for Luther’s sermons. The whole notion that radical Lutherans rail against “law-gospel-law” preaching was crushed by Luther’s sermons. He’s all over the place. Law here, gospel there, law again, law again, gospel, some commentary on the church, law, gospel. I will here simply show two sermons as examples of Luther’s commentary on radical Lutheranism and antinomianism in today’s church. In The Church Postil on the epistle for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, Luther states:

“Here again is an admonition for Christians to follow up their faith by good works and a new life, for though they have forgiveness of sins through baptism, the old Adam still adheres to their flesh and makes himself felt in tendencies and desires to vices physical and mental. The result is that unless Christians offer resistance, they will lose their faith and the remission of sins and will in the end be worse than they were at first; for they will begin to despise and persecute the Word of God when corrected by it. Yea, even those who gladly hear the Word of God, who highly prize it and aim to follow it, have daily need of admonition and encouragement, so strong and tough is that old hide of our sinful flesh. And so powerful and wily is our old evil foe that wherever he can gain enough of an opening to insert one of his claws, he thrusts in his whole self and will not desist until he has again sunk man into his former condemnable unbelief and his old way of despising and disobeying God.

Therefore, the Gospel ministry is necessary in the Church, not only for instruction of the ignorant – such as the simple, unlettered people and the children – but also for the purpose of awakening those who know very well what they are to believe and how they are to live, and admonishing them to be on their guard daily and not to become indolent, disheartened or tired in the war they must wage on this earth with the devil, with their own flesh and with all manner of evil.

For this reason Paul is so persistent in his admonitions that he actually seems to be overdoing it. He proceeds as if the Christians were either too dull to comprehend or so inattentive and forgetful that they must be reminded and driven. The apostle well knows that though they have made a beginning in faith and are in that state which should show the fruits of faith, such result is not so easily forthcoming. It will not do to think and say: Well, it is sufficient to have the doctrine, and if we have the Spirit and faith, then fruits and good works will follow of their own accord. For although the Spirit truly is present and, as Christ says, willing and effective in those that believe, on the other hand the flesh is weak and sluggish. Besides, the devil is not idle, but seeks to seduce our weak nature by temptations and allurements.

So we must not permit the people to go on in their way, neglecting to urge and admonish them, through God’s Word, to lead a godly life. Indeed, you dare not be negligent and backward in this duty; for, as it is, our flesh is all too sluggish to heed the Spirit and all too able to resist it. Paul says (Galatians 5:17): “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh … that ye may not do the things that ye would.” Therefore, God is constrained to do as a good and diligent householder or ruler, who, having a slothful man-servant or maid-servant, or careless officers, who otherwise are neither wicked nor faithless, will not consider it sufficient once or twice to direct, but will constantly be supervising and directing.”

Secondly in Luther’s sermon on John 15:10-12:

“Wherever faith is not preached and is not given primary importance, wherever we do not begin by learning how we are united with Christ and become branches in Him, all the world concentrates only on its works. On the other hand, wherever faith alone is taught, this leads to false Christians, who boast of their faith, are baptized, and are counted among the Christians but give no evidence of fruit and strength. This makes it difficult to preach to people. No matter how one preaches, things go wrong; the people always hedge. If one does not preach on faith, nothing but hypocritical works result. But if one confines one’s preaching to faith, no works ensue. In brief, the outcome is either works without faith or faith without works. Therefore the sermon must address itself to those who accept and apprehend both faith and works; the others, who do not want to follow, remain behind.”

Here Luther showed me that not only was the third use of the law, the law as a guide, necessary, but he showed me that without the law’s guiding principle sanctification will not take place. It was here in studying the Book of Concord and Luther’s sermons that I found my escape from radical Lutheranism and its partner of evangelical antinomianism. The strong stance that Lutheran’s took in the past along with their confession and Luther himself were a world of difference for me. In fact, C.F.W. Walther’s Law and Gospel Lecture Thirty tells us that preachers must tell their congregants that “as God lives, they will be damned if they live in this or that sin. If you only tell them that Christians remain sinners until they die, you will frequently be misunderstood.  Some will lull themselves to sleep with the reflection that they are poor and frail human beings, but that they have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – however, a lip faith.” To which Luther would add, “This is why faithful preachers must exert themselves as much in urging a love that is unfeigned or in urging truly good works as in teaching true faith,” (Luther, Galatians).

 

“I see that Scripture shows me I’m preaching wrong… but I won’t preach like that.”

 

Two Examples to Show Their Theology and Its Result

Aside from my own experience with Christ Hold Fast, I hope the following will serve to show forth their damaging theology.

I spoke to a man who used to write for my ministry, who was a very close friend of mine, and who is currently a writer for CHF. This was over a year ago, and though I hope he has changed his stance I don’t believe he has. But due to my lack of knowledge here regarding his current position I will leave his identity anonymous. Though upon reading his recent material it doesn’t seem he has changed, at least not as strongly as he needs to. During my discussion with him over a year ago I proved to him from Scripture that not only was the third use Biblical, but to not preach the law as a guide OFTEN is not only harmful but sinful and unbiblical. I proved that Scripture opposes those who preach an emphasis on the gospel to the exclusion and lessening of the preaching of the law as guide. At the end of our discussion this man said to me, “I see that Scripture makes clear that I am preaching wrongly. But if I do start preaching third use like that then people and myself will become prideful in their works. Therefore I can’t preach like that.” For those reading, this man currently writes for CHF. Again, to repeat his words, “I see that Scripture shows me I’m preaching wrong…but I won’t preach like that.”

Secondly, I spoke only months ago with a self-professing antinomian who blatantly denies that the law is to be used as a guide for the Christian life. During our discussion he constantly sourced Christ Hold Fast, Chad Bird, and others. He constantly spoke of the law as “a lion that can’t be tamed” and therefore a “word of God that can ONLY accuse but never guide.” After 3 nights of discussions and over 13 hours of walking him through Luther sermons, Walther, Pieper, the BOC, Scripture, and the like, he recanted. But though he would agree that the law is to be used as a guide, he remained in his support of CHF for the sake of not allowing a preaching of the law to usurp the gospel. Coming out of legalism this man is very vulnerable and susceptible to antinomianism. Though God convinced him of his theological antinomianism, he remained a functional antinomian simply because “Chad Bird can’t possibly be wrong.”

These two examples serve not only to show that there is truly an antinomian presence within CHF (or rather, there was if that man has repented), and that their teachings are leading vulnerable Christian brothers and sisters into sin and misguided heresies.

It is my hope that this will be read and shared, and that what has been stated above will be taken to heart. Please understand, though Christ Hold Fast might or might not be antinomian, their teachings lead to it. I’m an example, and I know many others who are currently deceived and openly antinomian due to what they read at Christ Hold Fast. Please be advised and avoid this website at all costs.

FIN

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Thanks for writing this Cody.

My last comment, which Cody appreciated the other day:

 

Update:  For those who want to go deeper.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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What Does the 1517 Legacy Project Believe Concerning the Nature of God’s Law and the Atonement?

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):

Brad Novacek [Infanttheology], I’m not sure I follow your meaning. Are you saying that there’s something wrong with the article you posted, or are you using it as a kind correction about [this theologians] alleged theological issues?
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[Infanttheology] Brad – here’s what I say: http://www.patheos.com/…/jesus-became-sin-also-become…/
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Brad Novacek [Infanttheology], Okay, I think I understand your point here. This is certainly a complex issue and the terminology must be well defined to convey a proper understanding. This is often not done. I think we actually hold very similar views, but there is a sense in which Jesus became a “sinner” on the cross. To be clear, it is plain wrong to say that Jesus became the “embodiment of sin” or “took on a sin nature,” Just as it is wrong to say that he was a sinner because of some sin of his own. But if we think of the term “sinner” in the broad sense (a person with…or perhaps convicted of…sin) as opposed to the narrow sense (someone who has sinned), we can see a great distinction that can be made in the case of Christ. Jesus was fully man and was therefore under the law just as any of us are. He has a human nature, but without original sin. Also, he never committed actual sin. So Jesus was not a sinner in the narrow sense (one who has sinned).

However, the broad sense is another matter. Here is my meaning. When we receive salvation we receive the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is not imparted to us so that it becomes ours…inherently part of us. Rather, it is imputed to us…It remains Christ’s, but we wear it like a cloak. Therefore, in the eyes of God and under the accusations of the Law, we are not guilty. We are still sinners, but reckoned as righteous because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. But this great exchange goes in both directions. He remained righteous but was reckoned as a sinner for our sake because of our imputed sin. We remember that Christ’s atonement was substitutionary…he is our substitute. A substitute must by definition stand in our place as sinners. As his righteousness is imputed to us, so also was our sin imputed to Christ on the cross. Again, imputed, not imparted. It did not become his own, but rather he wore it just as we wear his righteousness. In the same way we say that we are righteous (in truth, only reckoned because of Christ’s imputed righteousness in us), so also we can say that Christ was a “sinner” in the broad sense of one who has sin (again, only reckoned because of our imputed sin in him). But that reckoning has meaning. In the eyes of God, we ARE righteous, just as Jesus on the cross WAS a sinner. So yes, the law found him guilty because of our imputed sin, just as it finds us not guilty because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. That’s simply Christ as our substitute. That is Luther’s whole point in calling Jesus a sinner (the greatest of sinners, in fact) in his Galatians commentary. All of this seems to be the main point of the first article you posted, though he didn’t acknowledge the broad sense of “sinner” as it is used by Luther (and Calvin in the portion he quoted), intentional or not, I cannot tell.

The idea of Jesus as a “sinner” can cause confusion, but in the broad sense it is biblically accurate. However, to say that he embodied sin, took on a sin nature, or became a sinner in the narrow sense is simply unbiblical. That is why Jesus as a “sinner” can cause so much confusion if not properly defined. We must determine whether the broad or narrow sense is meant. Both you and the author of the other article were thinking in the narrow sense, and you were correct in your statements, but it’s not the whole story.

As for saying that he was “justly accused by God’s law,” I’d have to read the full context to fully grasp the meaning of the author, but his flowery language there makes me think he may have just misspoke in his effort to be interesting. The whole question is perhaps dubious since I’m not sure we can say from Scripture whether or not Jesus was actually accused. We are accused but not condemned because Christ took our condemnation, but I’d have to determine whether Christ was condemned because of the law’s accusations against us (against our sin imputed to him) or because of supposed accusations against him as the bearer of our imputed sins (if we can determine that from Scripture at all). The point is that there is accusation and condemnation. We are accused of sin, Christ is condemned as a “sinner.

[Infanttheology] Brad Novacek “I’d have to determine whether Christ was condemned because of the law’s accusations against us (against our sin imputed to him) or because of supposed accusations against him as the bearer of our imputed sins (if we can determine that from Scripture at all).” I’m going with the former, because the law’s accusations against us are accusations based in fact. “On our behalf” are key words, I think.

Brad Novacek [Infanttheology], I would lean that way as well since we know that much for sure.

[Infanttheology] Brad Novacek Do you mind if I turn our convo into a blog post? Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Brad Novacek Absolutely. Thanks for checking. I hope it turns out well for you and can help people understand this particularly tricky situation.

I think that Brad has worked very hard to put the best construction on the statements I discussed in the blog post. That said, my main point is this: given the premise that God’s law is not eternal but temporal, it makes perfect sense that a person’s view of the atonement would be radically altered. To believe, for example, that Jesus becomes a sinner because an imperfect law, not fully reflective of the will of God, accuses and condemns Him as such (go back to my post again for the more fully worked-out argument).

And if you want to follow my reasoning even more closely you can do that in what immediately follows. I followed up with the theologian I was challenging, sending the following email to him (slightly edited):

“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.

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Because if Forde’s doctrine lives, we die.

FIN

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Jesus Became Sin – But Did He Also Become a Sinner According to God’s Law?

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

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Among professed confessional Lutherans, this, it appears to me, has become an issue.

At the end of my controversial review of Concordia Publishing House’s “So-Called 3rd Use of the Law” book, The Necessary Distinction[i], I made the following statement:

“I know the folks at CPH need to eat, but that is not best done by promoting books that say, for example, that Jesus was justly accused by God’s law (157).”

Here, specifically, is what I was referring to. Naomichi Masaki sums up Luther as follows:

“Christ relates to the law passively. He was born under the Law. He voluntarily… subjected Himself to it in His ministry. This He did so that the Law may rage against Him as much as it does against an accused and condemned sinner, and even more fiercely. The Law accused Jesus of blasphemy and sedition. It found Him guilty before God of all the sins of the world. It frightened Him to the point of the bloody sweat in Gethsemane. Finally, it sentenced Him to death, even to the death on the cross” (157, italics mine)

I’ve been reflecting on this more – Masaki, seemingly echoing Luther, is saying that the law actually accuses Jesus of blasphemy and sedition.

VDMA LQ? Hmm… why would anyone say “[The] law is present only where Christ is absent,” the Holy Spirit is “the opposite of the law,” or that “the criterion of the law is the self”?

When one looks at some quotes from Luther’s Galatians commentary that relate to this, one might think that it fully explains why Masaki writes as he does.

For example, in the well-known Christian Dogmatics textbook by Francis Pieper (see vol II: 344ff), we find the same passage of Luther mentioned by Masaki, from his famous “Great Galatians” commentary:

“Christ is no longer ‘an innocent and sinless Person, but a sinner who has and bears the sin of Paul, the blasphemer and persecutor, and of Peter, the denier of his Master, and of David, the adulterer and murderer; in a word, He bears and has all the sins of all men in His body…. He Himself is innocent, but since He bears the sins of the world, His innocence is weighed down by the sins and guilt of the whole world. Whatever sins I and you have done have become the sins of Christ, as though He Himself had committed them. Is. 53:6 says: ‘The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.’’ (St. L, IX: 369ff)” (italics mine)

As an online interlocutor put it to me: “the Perfect is ‘weighed down,’ as Luther says, with imperfection. The Sinless has become sinful. In a sense, on the cross Jesus is simul justus et peccator.”

“How was Christ made sin? Certainly by imputation. And thus we are made the righteousness of God in Him (Examination of the Council of Trent, “Concerning Justification,” 1.7.6.).” – Martin Chemnitz

 

In that same Galatians commentary, speaking of chapter 3, verse 13, Luther writes:

Let us see how Christ was able to gain the victory over our enemies. The sins of the whole world, past, present, and future, fastened themselves upon Christ and condemned Him. But because Christ is God He had an everlasting and unconquerable righteousness. These two, the sin of the world and the righteousness of God, met in a death struggle. Furiously the sin of the world assailed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is immortal and invincible. On the other hand, sin is a mighty tyrant who subdues all men. This tyrant pounces on Christ. But Christ’s righteousness is unconquerable. The result is inevitable. Sin is defeated and righteousness triumphs and reigns forever.

In the same manner was death defeated. Death is emperor of the world. He strikes down kings, princes, all men. He has an idea to destroy all life. But Christ has immortal life, and life immortal gained the victory over death. Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of death.

The curse of God waged a similar battle with the eternal mercy of God in Christ. The curse meant to condemn God’s mercy. But it could not do it because the mercy of God is everlasting. The curse had to give way. If the mercy of God in Christ had lost out, God Himself would have lost out, which, of course, is impossible.

Here, the following questions perhaps arises: is the curse only associated with sin? Or something else? In this regard, his comments on Galatians 4:4 are even more interesting:

How did Christ manage to redeem us? “He was made under the law.” When Christ came He found us all in prison. What did He do about it? Although He was the Lord of the Law, He voluntarily placed Himself under the Law and permitted it to exercise dominion over Him, indeed to accuse and to condemn Him. When the Law takes us into judgment it has a perfect right to do so. “For we are by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. 2:3.) Christ, however, “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” (I Pet. 2:22.) Hence the Law had no jurisdiction over Him. Yet the Law treated this innocent, just, and blessed Lamb of God as cruelly as it treated us. It accused Him of blasphemy and treason. It made Him guilty of the sins of the whole world. It overwhelmed him with such anguish of soul that His sweat was as blood. The Law condemned Him to the shameful death on the Cross.

It is truly amazing that the Law had the effrontery to turn upon its divine Author, and that without a show of right. For its insolence the Law in turn was arraigned before the judgment seat of God and condemned. Christ might have overcome the Law by an exercise of His omnipotent authority over the Law. Instead, He humbled Himself under the Law for and together with them that were under the Law. He gave the Law license to accuse and condemn Him. His present mastery over the Law was obtained by virtue of His Sonship and His substitutionary victory (italics mine).

It almost sounds like, as a Radical Lutheran (a term Gerhard Forde coined) might put it, that God’s Law is a master at getting loose, escaping its chains! What has gotten into God’s “holy and righteous and good” (Apostle Paul) law?

“We know the law is good if one uses it properly.” — the Apostle Paul

 

Well, with Luther’s words ringing in our ears, let’s get back to our question. If the law does “justly accuse Jesus”, what makes this accusation just? One might argue that this is exactly what happens when Jesus “becomes sin” for us – the law is going to accuse and condemn Him, and by God’s intention and design. Just as He who has no sin undergoes John’ baptism in solidarity with us, “fulfilling all righteousness,” Jesus so closely identifies with us that He becomes the “real sinner,” so to speak, whose condemnation satisfies the wrath of God the law demands.

Even as, for example, the thief on the cross recognizes that He, truly, is innocent. The spotless Lamb of God.

There is something missing here though. The primary question this brings up is how and why the law accuses Jesus Himself of things like blasphemy and sedition. Does it really do so as the law of God, as it is wielded by the Holy Spirit? (see John 16:7ff).

No.

Why not? Because this is a case of the law being wielded by Satan (who Luther tells us, uses it for our harm and not our good)[ii], but Satan getting played by God.

“…the Antinomians state[] that the law only shows sins, certainly without the Holy Spirit, so it therefore only shows them unto damnation…[but] the Holy Spirit is in his majesty when he writes with his finger on Moses’ tablets of stone…” — Luther, vs his Antinomian opponent, Agricola

Here is how it works: God, being of perfect character, is the definition of justice. Therefore, if He chooses, from the foundation of the world, for His Son to be slain by sin and evil – something the Son Himself ultimately is determined to have occur – in order to die in our place, “blow up” death and the curse, and win back His creation, then it is, by definition, “just”. Satan’s plan gets co-opted and used in the bigger plan of the One who “works all in all.” Jesus therefore, in spite of being unjustly accused by the law as wielded by Satan, is, in this sense “justly accused.” He becomes sin for us so that God’s justice (broader sense of the term – which includes mercy) – which even uses evil for good! – prevails. Even Jesus Himself, as our Great High Priest offering Himself for us as sacrifice, can say “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

In other words, the answer to the question “Was Jesus than “justly accused by God’s law?” is “Perhaps, but only in a very limited sense.” (the one above)

That said, I still do not think we should say that “Jesus was justly accused by God’s law,” as it is more liable to confuse than anything else – “Are you saying Christ actually broke the law?” — and to be hijacked by others for nefarious purposes.[iii]

Which brings me back to Masaki’s essay. You might be thinking, “this is not specifically what Masaki said anyways (justly accused), so why did I have that in my original review? Was it fair of you to say that?” The reason I said that is because other statements made by him, covered in that review, indicate he follows Gerhard Forde in his belief that most all theologians outside of Luther have considered “the Law,” and not God’s gracious favor, “as the original way of salvation.” Therefore, “[f]or Luther,” he explains, “the Law was not a description of what man is supposed to do within the structure of the eternal order. Instead, he viewed the Law as what it actually does. It kills” (The Necessary Distinction, 153-154). Forde explicitly draws the logical conclusion: Jesus Christ, in spite of His perfect life traditionally understood to have been in complete accordance with God’s law “was quite justly condemned by the law” (Forde, Theology is for Proclamation, 77).

“Satan hates the teaching of piety (cf. 1 Tim. 6:3). This is why he wants to remove the law through such spirits.” — Luther

 

“Justly condemned by the law.” Even though I am unfamiliar with this line of thinking being present anywhere in the church’s history, persons sympathetic or somewhat sympathetic to Forde have expounded on thoughts like this – and not in the way I unpacked it above. Rather, they might say, for example, that in the end Jesus was justly accused as a violator of God’s own law so that all sinners may have assurance of eternal life. In violating the law, Jesus Christ is actually being faithful to his Father’s mission to save the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matt 10:6). Here, Jesus presumably breaks the Law by, for example, dining with sinners![iv] Another — not Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland — has even appeared to say that Christ committed His own, personal sin by not believing the Word of God (when He was on the cross): “He felt God’s wrath and took that experience as something truer than God’s own word of promise to him.”[v]

In sum, what it comes down to is this: Christ ends up a damned sinner, “defeated” by that most coercive and even killing of forces: the merciless “order keeping” law!

What do I mean?

By “order keeping” I mean something like this: law is not necessarily associated first and foremost – or at all! — with God’s law, the 10 commandments, but is rather anything which provides boundaries, “makes life work,” and keeps peace – all good things! What really is true, right, and just may not even need to be considered here, as this story from a good friend of mine illustrates:

“In Kindergarten I was accused of and punished for throwing a snowball at recess. I had not done it. Oddly enough, 45 years later, it still kind of hurts to think about.

In other words, even though I was not guilty of the sin for which I was punished, there was significant suffering involved on my part. I didn’t need to be the sinner to suffer for the sin of whoever did commit that sin. Although that is what I, for all intents and purposes, became.

And justice was served. The boy hit by the snowball in the face, and his parents, were satisfied. The teacher and principal upheld the law. My classmates learned from my experience.”

By “merciless,” I mean that the law, though “good” in an earthly sense, ultimately fails because it does not have the good of particular persons in mind – even Jesus!

This, however, is mistaken. Why? Luther believed that the law, in its proper use (see footnote 2 as well), always went hand in hand with truth and the Holy Spirit – and that God convicted by it with the intent to deliver the faith-creating Gospel. Lutherans used to talk about this all the time, as John 16:7ff was used repeatedly by the original Reformers. This is why Luther could talk about the law in a way you generally won’t hear from persons attracted to Forde (and certainly not from Forde himself!): “The law does not want you to despair of God,” he said, ratherit wills that you despair of yourself, but expect good from God…”

“For even in His own eyes, Christ was similar to one who has been forsaken, to one who has been cursed, to a sinner, a blasphemer, one who is condemned, and yet without sins or guilt.” — Luther

 

Yes, since we are sinners and remain so until heaven, the good law can’t not accuse and condemn us. That said, from the beginning, the law was not given to threaten, accuse, and terrify us, but rather to inform us of danger and guide us in truth.

Again, the only response to the idea that Christ ends up being a damned sinner according to God’s law is that this is a perversion of the truth that will not do. As the Apostle Paul would have put it: “Anathema!” As another one (this one) put it, “Jesus knew that God knew that Jesus was innocent.” Therefore, Jesus willingly accepts the punishment – the wrath! – we deserved as He bore our sins on the cross.

When Luther, for example, comments on Psalm 51, he writes that

“[T]hat expression, ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ is similar to blasphemy against God, but it is not blasphemy. If, therefore, we were to say that Christ had been made the blasphemy of God, as some translate that passage from Deuteronomy (21:23), ‘he who is hanged is a blasphemy of God,’ or, ‘he who is hanged is an insult of God,’ of which Jerome makes much in his treatment of Galatians, then we would say it in the same sense as that statement (Gal. 3:13), ‘He was made a curse and sin,’ that He felt the blasphemy, the curse, the sin in Himself without the blasphemy, without the curse, without the sin which, in us, was a blasphemy that blasphemes, a curse that curses, a sin that sins. To such an extent was Christ plunged into all that is ours, as it says in Ps. 69:10 and Rom. 15:3, ‘The insults of those who insult you fell upon Me’” (italics mine).

…those with eyes to see can tell that is not the same thing as claiming that, by the law’s judgment (is the law, properly used, in accordance with truth or not? – see footnote 2), Jesus took His experience of God’s wrath as “something truer than God’s own word of promise to him.”

The law does not do its work without God’s Holy Spirit, who gives “all truth, wherever it might be,” for “to forbid the law is to forbid the truth of God” (Solus Decalogus est Aeternus [SDEA] 139, ; see also 55)

Luther also writes “For even in His own eyes, Christ was similar to one who has been forsaken, to one who has been cursed, to a sinner, a blasphemer, one who is condemned, and yet without sins or guilt.” If this is indeed the way to understand Christ’ cry of dereliction, there is, contra Gerhard Forde, no good reason to think that Christ had not, in fact, experienced His Father’s turning away, and thereby let His suffering humanity be known to Him (whom He never ceased to look to in trust!). Is God not holy? Indeed, does He not refuse to abide that which is not? Particularly when all that is not holy has been concentrated in one [very human, very created,] place?

And yet, sin and death — and their judgment in Him — could not hold the God-Man. Perhaps, remembering not just the beginning of Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why….”) but its glorious end as well, our Lord ultimately cries out “It is finished!” and then, “Into your hands, I commend My Spirit.” He does not despair of God, but expects good from Him, fulfilling the law.

In sum, Christ never violates God’s law, which some today, misinterpreting Romans 10:4, believe absolutely had to go – not just in the sense of accusation, but totally. This is wrong.

Luther: “These true disciples of Satan seem to think that the law is something temporal that has ceased under Christ, like circumcision.”

 

I close with the following point from Dr. Eric Phillips:

“To call Christ a sinner, and to treat Him as such, is to number Him with sinners. To call Christ sin is to call Him a sin offering, because this is how the OT sacrifices consistently speak of it (“sin offering” is simply the word “sin”).

To say the least, this is a great mystery! Brothers, from the bottom of my heart, I say this: Let’s remember who we are dealing with… let us trust the Word of God, delivered to us in the Scriptures!

FIN

 

Notes

[i] Also discussed on Federalist writer Matthew Garnett’s “In Layman’s Terms” podcast here and here. Part 3 available this weekend.

[ii] Would this be using the law properly? After all, nowhere are we told in Scripture that Christ commits any sinful action. He is fully without sin, even as, per God’s eternal plan, our sin is imputed to Him. Note also that when Luther talked about law being administered on earth, his understanding of it law is hardly a “wooden” one but is considerably nuanced: that “[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) and that 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). (see here for more). If earthly rulers are to be so careful in their judgements with the law, how much more so God in heaven? (and to point out such a thing is not to say that the law does not also, before God, cause every mouth to be silent, revealing as it does the guilt of all.)

[iii] Having read the text which precedes this footnote, Pastor Eric Phillips, I think, aptly sums up what is at stake in this question:

“For the accusation to accomplish justice (whether the wide or narrow sense of “righteousness”), and for it to be just in itself, are two different things. The former concerns the end and the latter the means. This is a case (the prime case) of justice being accomplished by unjust means, of good coming from evil, because the one who was called upon to suffer that injustice willingly did so instead of insisting on His rights, and offered His suffering for the sin of the world.

To say that the law accused Jesus justly is to confuse the end with the means.

It also demonstrates the danger of talking about the Law as if it were a person, when it’s not. Who used the Law to accuse Jesus? It was “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The Father bruised the Son by using the devil, not by using the Law. And as the devil wielded the Law, it was unjust.”

Therefore, when Luther writes colorfully about the law in the quotes above in the main text, giving this “force” personality, are we to believe that this is more than creative rhetoric? That he is to be taken literally here, and that he honestly thinks that the law by itself has a personality of sorts? Or that it is operating properly, as it is designed to be used?

[iv] This author goes on to talk about how in Jesus Christ’s ministry, everyone excluded by the law (tax collectors, prostitutes, prodigals, etc) would be embraced by God. It is for that particular reason that the very Son of God is shunned and killed on the cross. Here the law, even in those with good but self-justifying intentions, overcomes God’s promise in Christ alone. The law must therefore have its limits — and even its end! (Rom. 10:4)

[v] Another statement: “[Jesus was] multiplying sin in himself just like any other original sinner who does not trust a promise from God.” This has to do with Christ’s cry of dereliction from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Presumably, we are to understand here that God, did not, in fact, turn away from Jesus at this moment, prompting His cry. Rather, because of the weight of the sins of the world He bore, Christ irrationally confessed our sins by believing that His Father was displeased with Him and thereby sinned all of our sins. In other words, Christ’s willful act of ‘confessio’ is what makes Him truly a sinner who disobeys according to the law, which is to be sharply distinguished from God’s will. For example, in other statements this author says: “[Jesus] wants to take your sins and leave it to no one else; so he sins against the Golden Rule,” that when Jesus took sin by association, he not only transgressed the law, but placed himself ‘under an evil lord.'” More: “If Christ were obedient to the law, rather than obedient to the Father…” and “Christ’s obedience is outside the law, since the Father is not the law.” If this author believes and means to say that “ontologically Christ didn’t sin,” or something like this, then the logical thing to conclude is that God’s use of His own law is, to say the least, wooden (e.g., “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.” [!]) and that it is not in accordance with what is really good, right and true, correct? This,, however, is the opposite of what Luther believes. The great reformer not only notes how “the Spirit first convicts the world of sin in order to teach faith in Christ, that is, the remission of sins (John 16:8)” (SDEA 37), going on to speak about how Adam, David, and Paul are killed by the law. He also says that, in accordance with God’s will, the law does not do its work without God’s Holy Spirit, who gives “all truth, wherever it might be,” for “to forbid the law is to forbid the truth of God” (SDEA 139 ; see also 55).

Luther does speak about the importance of metaphorical and figurative language. For example, he writes vs. Latomus: “So, coming to the point of this discussion, we see that when Christ is offered up, he is made sin for us metaphorically, for he was in every respect like a sinner. He was condemned, abandoned, put to shame, and in nothing different from a true sinner, except that he had not done the sin and guilt which he bore” (LW 32:200). Luther goes on, “In this trope there is a metaphor not only in the words, but also in the actuality, for our sins have truly been taken from us and placed upon him, so that everyone who believes on him really has no sins, because they have been transferred to Christ and swallowed up by him, for they no longer condemn. Just as figurative language is sweeter and more effective than is crude and simple speech, so also real sin is burdensome and intolerable to us, while transferred and metaphorical sin is wholesome and most delightful” (LW 32:200). Thus, “We therefore say that the sophists really do not know what sin is according to the usage of Scripture, for when they talk of ‘penalty’ they dream in an unscriptural way of something very different from sin. As I said, Christ was in every respect similar to sin except that he did not sin, for all the evil which follows sinful acts in us, such as the fear of death and hell, was felt and borne by Christ. The sophists themselves do not understand what they have invented about guilt and the attribution of punishment. Contrary to what they say, Christ felt that attribution, and was similar to one to whom sin is attributed, although without guilt. What is an attribution which one does not feel? Absolutely nothing. So, as I said, Christ differs not at all from a sinner of our own day who has just received the sentence that he must be condemned to death and hell. It was an effective attribution, wholly genuine, except that he did not deserve it, and was delivered up for us without having done anything to merit it. However, this is a thing rather to be experienced than to be discussed and grasped in words” (LW 32:202).

Still, does this not seem to be a far cry from the words in the previous paragraph? See Pastor Cooper’s post on this topic from the other day as well.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Discussion on “The Necessary Distinction” on Matthew Garnett’s “In Layman’s Terms”

Always have a good time with Matthew. Looking forward to next week for a part II:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/18283/572497-critique-of-necessary-distinction

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Dissecting the Readily Hijack-able “Radical Lutheranism” with Todd Wilken

Pastor Wilken in the studio of Issues ETC. with a couple guests.

 

Please note: Pastor Wilken’s comments are in blue alone. The rest is my voice.

First of all, if you need a primer on Radical Lutheranism – the term first coined by the late Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde – you can see this piece that I wrote, explaining why every Christian should be tempted by it!

Nevertheless, don’t be too tempted! — it has its problems. For instance, you can get a taste of them in this interview that Pastor Todd Wilken, of the theological talk show Issues ETC., did with Jack Kilcrease (found on this page – Kilcrease’s is a more sympathetic critique) about Gerhard Forde.

 

One of the Radical Lutherans’ big claims is that later Lutherans domesticated Luther and put him in a straightjacket of sorts. It is they who go back to the vintage, authentic Luther. My guess is that most if not all of the authors of the book The Necessary Distinction: a Continuing Conversation of Law and Gospel would say the same thing (in addition to Martin Luther getting it right where every other person in church history had been wrong!).

I would contend however, that Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations, unpacked in my recent series Luther’s Antinomian Disputations for Dummies, should cause anyone to doubt this claim. And Pastor Wilken has also been critical of Radical Lutheranism himself. See, e.g. the talk referenced here by Pastor Cooper and looked at more closely on the Steadfast Lutherans blog.

Wilken, reviewing Pastor Cooper’s book: “As a Lutheran pastor and 20-year Forde disciple, I spent the better part of my parish ministry and subsequent time as a radio host promoting the Radical Lutheranism of Forde…”

 

In this post, I am going to look in more detail at the points that Pastor Wilken made in his talk critiquing Radical Lutheranism in light of my recent study of Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations. Since I think Pastor Wilken’s first ten points are his strongest ones, I focus on providing longer comments on those, usually with more sound bite-length comments for the last nine. The immediate text below and numbered comments in blue below are Pastor Wilken’s. My commentary is interspersed between these.

The teachings of Radical Lutheranism can be recognized by any combination of the following ideas:

  1. Sin is reduced to self-justification. The only thing sinful about any thought, word or deed is that it is an attempt to justify oneself before God.

The antinomians in Luther’s day evidently believed that because of Christ’s work, no sin actually remained in the Christian. Therefore, the law was no longer needed. In Radical Lutheranism, sin does remain in the Christian and the law is still needed, but almost always only to convict persons of the sin of trying to earn their salvation before God by being overly concerned about avoiding specific sins and the like. Even though the antinomians of Luther’s day talked about following Christ’s example, they also mocked those overly concerned about particular sins. For the Radical Lutheran, in the end, one often gets the impression that the people who think that they should both be concerned about actual sins and that God’s law should be proclaimed vs. actual specific sins are the only persons who God is really angry at. In other words, since non Radical-Lutherans do not realize that God is not really angry at the world (in Forde’s account, Jesus’ death was not even to atone for their sins!), and so also not angry at them, He is now, in some sense, angry at them for rejecting his goodness (unless the Radical Lutheran is also a universalist, which, yes, we also should be tempted by).

  1. The Christian’s struggle against sin is replaced with a struggle against feelings of guilt.

The antinomians of Luther’s day simply wanted to avoid being condemned and convicted by God’s law (preferring more subtle ethical instruction from Christ’s example – being both less direct and not merely propositional).

What Wilken says directly above though does indeed seem to be what happens in Radical Lutheranism – if a specific sin is talked about, it tends to be the sin of “self-justification,” deriving from original sin, mentioned above. Along with this comes the idea that it makes sense for the Christian to be humble about what he believes about God and particularly God’s law. In Luther’s day, no one questioned that guilt was incurred for actual sins but the guilt of original sin was, for many, in doubt (possibly with the antinomians of Luther’s day as well, though they would have protested this). Again, today’s Radical Lutherans have the opposite problem, with, it seems, many an actual sin being all that is thrown into doubt (or simply being regarded as irrelevant).

While surely not all identifying with Radical Lutheran theology want to toss out God’s law, those who do have a friend in its theology, with its more “hijack-able” system. Focusing on guilt instead of sins allows “old sins,” like traditional sexual immorality, to be replaced by “new sins” like “homophobia,” and all in the name of spiritual humility. More progressive Christians do not even have to say, with the postmodernists, that there is no truth or that truth is evolving, because instead of focusing on the Bible as God’s word they can appeal to something like Platonic ideas. In other words, they can appeal to something like “unchanging Forms in the heavenly realms (or in the mind of God)” that we, as we progress in sanctification (their definition), are coming to better realize and understand with the help of one another (in a “Hegelian dialectic” fashion). Christian thought, in their view, has evolved regarding things like polygamy (well, we’ll see), slavery, and now, marriage and gender.

 

  1. The Christian’s struggle against sin is described as, at best futile, or merely an attempt at self-justification.

Against the antinomians of his day, Luther spoke gravely against their security – how they ridiculed sin, smiling and smirking, treating “innumerable evil desires to be a joke and a game” (SDEA 253). On the contrary, “it certainly is the duty of a preacher to say that lusts, wantonness, greed, and cheating someone else is sin and that God will punish it, even with eternal death” (SDEA 289). But with Radical Lutheran theology at the helm – where no sin is serious enough to demand atonement – things like cohabitation, lustful thoughts, drunkenness, what one watches or views, and the use of the profanity are, to say the least, far more likely to be seen as far less serious than previous generations of the faithful have judged.

Of course, self-justification and the other sins deriving from it – various legalisms – should be avoided by all means. Again, it is far more likely that Radical Lutherans or those sympathetic to them will even find doctrines like the Real Presence and corresponding practices like those of closed communion – meant to protect safeguard the richness of the simple and humble message of the Gospel (Christ’s real body and blood given and shed for you!) and those partaking of Christ’s body and blood – as evincing this legalism.

Very interestingly, Luther suggests that it is not so much what Christians believe – in this case about God’s law – that the world finds problematic, but rather its willingness to act on its beliefs, which we all know tends to, uncomfortably, reveal divisions and distinctions among persons. To the idea that Eph. 2:14 suggests the wall destroyed by Christ is his law, Luther responds as follows:

“And here Paul speaks about the law of Moses proper, not about the Decalogue, since the latter pertained to all nations. For the nations did not hate the Jews because of the Decalogue, but because they separated themselves from the remaining nations by way of unique worship and cer­emonies, and called themselves alone the people of God, all the others they called atheists and unbelievers. The quarrel was about the temple and the ceremonies. Yet finally Christ came and destroyed this obstruction and Jews and Gentiles were made one. But if the Decalogue is referred to, it is well, and it is here removed, and destroyed insofar as it is damnation, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (ODE, 123)

  1. The Holy Spirit’s uses of the Law are usually abandoned one by one (usually in the order of 3, 1, 2)

3 = law as a guide (to guide the Christian who remains a sinner), 2 = law as a mirror (“bringing down to hell,” to condemn), and 1 = law as a curb (for civil society). In Luther’s day, the antinomians focused on the second, or condemning use of the law. They denied that the Holy Spirit had anything to do with this process, which Christ came to alleviate with his first coming. Perhaps today Satan attempts a less direct route, focusing on third use of the law. Here, conta everything we see in Paul’s letters, the idea is that it is wrong to exhort a Christian to behave in a certain way after they have been told that God puts away their sins (the only message, which when embraced by faith, grants and preserves us in eternal life). For the Radical Lutheran it is this which would not be the work of the Holy Spirit, but the devil himself. If you disagree, you are like Luther’s opponent Erasmus!

Ultimately, of course, Satan would like to eliminate the second use of the law, and so perhaps now he is content to play a longer game. In Luther’s day, perhaps he conceived he could be successful because of the growing popularity of Pelagian and semi-Pelagian theologies (salvation by works). Pelagians and semi-Pelagians have a weakened doctrine of original sin, and the Lutherans emphasized how the law accused us not only of sinning and particular sins, but of being sinners who failed at a very deep level: we are all rebels, enemies of God, etc. Without this doctrine, Christ is no longer needed.

  1. Contrition over sin is assumed, even in unbelievers. People are generally assumed to have a knowledge of, and guilty conscience over their sin.

This claim, which does indeed seem to be assumed by many Radical Lutherans, is simply not credible. In Luther’s Antinomian Disputations he admits that even in his day few are terrified by God’s law and that even when there is a little fear unbelievers in fact need more fear: “the law is also not so great that it could cast love—if it is genuine and not fake—out of your heart. But the more you fear, the more the law is to be urged, until you see that you do not love wholeheartedly as the law requires” (SDEA 167). Just because Luther insists that all persons have a natural knowledge of God, this should not be given too much weight. Luther reminds us that Paul knew much about God’s law and yet was not convicted of His persecution of God’s people. Furthermore, God had to republish the law through Moses in order to help people remember His will. Finally, Luther even makes the comment that a people can get to the point where they are “unnatural” – where the revealed and even seemingly natural knowledge of God seems far from them. There is always a sense in which they know and are still culpable, and yet, that knowledge is being suppressed to an unbelievable degree.

Even granted that some do experience a guilty conscience over sins they really are guilty for –and that God will bring to repentance and faith those who He has predestined for faith in good time – whatever different types of strategies they might choose, Christians nevertheless have an obligation to create an environment where the full counsel of God can be heard by the people of God and the world is welcome to hear it as well.

  1. The Law is confused with the pain and trouble of living in a fallen world. The Law may be described as any bad situation or evil occurrence in life.

It is important to note that when Luther says in the Antinomian Disputations “whatever shows sin, wrath and death exercises the office of the law,” and that “reveal[ing] sin is nothing else – nor can it be anything else – than to be the law of the effect and power of the law in the most proper sense,” what he does not say is just as important, namely, for example: “whatever produces sorrow” exercises the office of the law. Indeed, the matter of a good conscience and bad consciences, seared ones and hardened ones – intextricably related to the written law which correlates with the law written on man’s heart –should certainly be foremost in our mind here. We should not be giving the impression that books like this one by Tim Wengert — which purport to give an accurate view of what Luther taught regarding Law and Gospel — are actually helpful in any sense.

All this talk about 3rd use of the law is a form of omphaloskepsis? What? : ) Well, we didn’t start the fire, as one said. This is a recent, careful evaluation of the roots of liberal theology – by a liberal theologian. The book explains a lot. And so does the paper described (and linked to!) here by my pastor.

 

  1. The distinction between Justification and Sanctification is blurred in statements like “Sanctification is simply the art of getting used to justification.”

The main figure in Radical Lutheranism, Gerhard Forde, rightly pointed out how those who are justified and have peace with God are also those who are sanctified. It is most certainly true that those who are justified by faith have a faith that is alive – for they have also experienced the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (passive sanctification). This said, what, ultimately does it mean to say that “sanctification is simply the art of getting used to justification?” Does it mean that we can say that in this and because of this new relationship with Christ by faith, we begin to act according to the law by loving God and neighbor — and that this flows with and not against the 10 commandments? If not, why not? If the answer is “no” is it because, as regards the proper standard of conduct for the reborn, it can only be said to be their relatedness to Christ, which is not compatible with the unchanging will of God, the Ten Commandments? (“relatedness” vs. “law”).

My guess is that they are not going to like this “old school sanctification” definition provided by Robert Baker:

Sanctification (Greek, hagiasmos : (1) Consecration, purification ; (2) the effect of consecration, sanctification of heart and life. Thayer), in its theological use, denotes the progressive development of the regenerate life in the attainment of conformity to the divine law. It is described in the New Testament as being “conformed to the image of his Son,” the end of predestination (Rom. 8 : 29 ; 2 Cor. 3:18); being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12 : 2) ; “putting on the new man” (Eph. 4 : 23, 24, etc.), besides the usual terms, “holy,” and “sanctify.” Sanctification admits of degrees, unlike justification and regeneration. It is distinguished from justification, also, by bringing an actualized righteousness, while justification brings an imputed righteousness; from regeneration, as this is the impartation of the new life in its beginning, while sanctification is the increase and consummation of the new life. The standard of sanctification is the law of God, particularly as that law is embodied In the life of Christ. Its essence is love (Rom. 13 : 10 ; Col. 3 : 14). It involves the subordination and crucifixion of the “old Adam,” but not, in this life, the eradication of original sin. The error of those who teach otherwise, whether Rome, or an extreme and fanatical Protestantism, is based on a false definition of sin, and a confusion of sanctification with justification. The work of sanctification is effected by the Holy Ghost, the renewed spirit of the believer yielding to his guidance, and co-operating with him. The means of grace are here, as elsewhere in the kingdom of grace, the channel of the efficiency of the Spirit of God. C. A. M.

Source: The Lutheran Cyclopedia, Henry Eyster Jacobs and John A.W. Haas, eds., (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899), 420-1.

  1. Christian cooperation in Sanctification, clearly and carefully taught in the Lutheran Confessions, is equated with cooperation in Justification.

These are clearly not the same, as one can clearly tell from Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations. Whereas the unbeliever is in bondage, desiring to not submit to God’s will, the believer has a new heart, and therefore begins to desire good. The Romans 7 and Galatians 5 and I Cor. 9 battle that Paul describes can now actually take place. All thoughout his career, the reformer talked about the two natures of the Christian. For example, at the end of chapter 1 of his book, “On Christian freedom”, Luther says this:

“The reason why seemingly contradictory statements are often made in the Bible about Christians is due to the Christians two-fold nature. The simple fact is that within each Christian two natures constantly oppose each other. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit wars against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17, “On Christian Freedom”).

Should we be talking about seeing this matter analogously to the issue of Jesus Christ and Christology? Should we be talking about the two natures of the Christian? Luther did not hesitate to do so, and few would accuse him of focusing on the Christian per se instead of Christ!

“Progressive sanctification? The horror!” — Kurt Marquart, sarcastically.

 

  1. Christian cooperation in Sanctification is depicted as resisting, rather than cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

If someone asks what a Christian contributes to their salvation, a good answer is “sin”. That however, is not a good answer when it comes to matters involving sanctification. I’m guessing that what Matthew Garnet talks about here is in the ballpark of what Pastor Wilken has in mind with his ninth point. Garnet asks the question “Does the pastor show you your sin through his preaching?” and goes on to reply:

“Problems to look out for here include the obfuscation of original sin as well as abstracting actual sin. One very famous Lutheran pastor, speaking on original sin in one of his podcasts asserted that anytime Christians try to be good people in accord with the commands of Scripture, they are re-enacting Adam’s fall. Because only God is good, he reasoned, to try and be good is trying to be like God. Thus, for this man, trying to be good is the essence of original sin. I’ve observed variations on this theme as well from other preachers and obviously, it is wrong.”

  1. Encouragement or instruction in Good Works is considered de facto legalism.

In their essay “The Hated God,” Steve Paulson and Nicholas Hopman say:

“The fundamental concern of a legal myth is to motivate hearers to take a journey that corresponds or collaborates with God (along with the various ‘co’s’ like covenant, contract, or ‘the Great Com-mision’ that all assume cooperation between divine and human for salvation). In this way, law is taken as God’s gift to provide direction in life (reciprocation). Grace is empowerment to fulfill law’s movement, which is what sinners want most from the story: what can we do to help?” (11)

Still, Luther, a guy who knew more than anyone about the “legal myths” and “ladder theologies” by which men seek to secure salvation before God, said this:

“Yet Christ,” [these antinomians] say, “has removed your sin. Why are you sad?” This is why they continue to do what they do in an utterly secure manner. They translate the merit of the passion of Christ and of the remission of sins into luxuriousness….

Christ fulfilled the law, but it needs to be added: “Later see to it that you lead a holy, pious, and irreproachable life, as it is fit­ting for a Christian. This is what you have heard so far: Be forgiven. But lest you complain that you are utterly forsaken, I will give you my Holy Spirit, who makes you a soldier; he will even produce mighty and unspeakable cries against sin in your heart, so that you thus finally do what you wish.” But am I not unable? “Pray that I may hear you, and I will make you able…” (SDEA 303, 305, italics mine)[i]

  1. The Law itself is viewed as the source of legalism, rather than man’s sinful misuse of it.

In short, the law doesn’t make people hate God. It reveals that sinful man, familiar with God’s qualities apart from the Gospel, can’t not hate God. Detail.

  1. Scripture’s warnings against falling away from the faith are minimized or ignored.

Luther: “Our Antinomians are so blind that they cannot recognize the doctrine of the law in Paul, e.g., in these obvious words (Phil. 4:8): “Whatever things are chaste, just, etc., these pursue.” Yet they do all things for that reason that they might render us secure and that the window might be opened for the devil in order to overthrow us unexpectedly” (ODE 156, SDEA 287, italics mine)

Again: “[I]t is necessary to admonish, to stir up, and to call as if to battle, so that they may remember in what danger they live. Don’t sleep, don’t sleep and don’t snore! Awake!” (SDEA, 263)”

It’s almost like we walk in danger all the way or something.

  1. Scripture is often searched to find the sinner, rather than the Savior.

As I once wrote: “… they also, seemingly unawares, often give the impression they think they are the ones who are mature.

They are not like, for example, legalistic, cowardly and insipid pastors stuck in the rut of seeking security! At the very least, these deserve to be ignored, not engaged with seriously, not sympathized with, etc.  No, the more radical Lutherans are the true holy ones who will boldly embrace the mission of the church!  It is they who are the brave and righteous heroes – not only willing to embrace but seek out the multitude of sinners… addicts, ex-cons, prostitutes, the LGBT community, etc…  They are unlike the legalistic Pharisee-types concerned only with their own security and the minutiae of the law… simply unwilling to really “get dirty with” and speak the radical gospel to ‘real’ sinners.”

The “I’m not like other Christians you’ve met” pick-up line is getting old. — Todd Wilken

 

  1. The sins of Biblical figures are exaggerated or sensationalized.

Those sins are bad enough — no sensationalism necessary!

  1. Teaching is often guided by a reaction to the errors of moralistic evangelicalism, rather than God’s Word or the Lutheran Confessions.

It is more than understandable why many an evangelical Christian stuck in moralism might find someone like Forde to be “cool waters”. Still, my point is always this: we can see what is good about Forde’s emphasis on the Gospel message and the incredible power it has — unadulterated gospel preaching should be appreciated by all Christians. Radical Lutherans, however, often give the impression that they see nothing redeeming about things we find valuable, and often even seem hostile towards them: evangelical converts who, while delighted by the Gospel they find here, nevertheless see something lacking in contemporary Lutheran preaching on the law (where is the delight in the law we see in Psalm 1 and Romans 7?), the Lutheran scholastics, the Synodical Conference, etc.

  1. Man’s sinful condition is described as though a person’s sin qualifies him to receive Grace, rather than Grace being without qualification or condition in man.

Crassly put: The Gospel is for real sinners who know they need Christ, not those who show they don’t need him anymore by talking about a third use of the law!

  1. The effects of the Law are attributed to the Gospel.

For Luther, the passion of the Christ, for example, may “hit” someone as law or gospel. That said, if it is exclusively preached as law, the gospel is “all used up” so to speak.

  1. The Law may be avoided to such an extent that the Gospel is pressed into service to do the Law’s work (produce repentance, instruction in good works through “Gospel imperatives”).

This would be classical antinomianism. The Antinomians also wanted to get around the third use of the law by saying: We don’t need the law to teach us what to do. We just use Christ’s example! Luther, recognizing that they didn’t live like pigs, laughs at them, because what’s Christ’s example if not a restatement of the law?

  1. The Gospel is sometimes replaced with “We’re all sinners, who am I to judge?”

In Tom Christenson’s The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education (2004) he goes in a direction that I have heard university-level LC-MS theologians tempted to go… :

“We may say about an unmarried couple living together that they are ‘living in sin’.  A reflective Lutheran should not talk that way because, from a Lutheran point of view, we are all living in sin, whether we are married, single, sexually active, or celibate.  Our sexual situation or orientation or practices do not make us more or less sinful.  Any relationship may be self-serving, harmful, abusive, careless, and hateful.  We are certainly not rid of all that simply because we have enjoyed a church wedding” (44).

Whatever truth might be in Christenson’s statement is made null and void by what is wrong with the statement. Later on, he says “Our own efforts to secure our own sinlessness themselves spring out of pride and are marred by sin” (43) which sounds good on one level, but may cause one to wonder whether there is any genuine “pursuit of holiness”…. I wonder if what he states here goes hand in hand with his anthropology, which, among other places, he addresses on p. 74 of his book:

“But what if Luther was right, that we are simul justus et peccator, not only both saint and sinner but both at the same time and in the same respect? What if, for example, human accomplishments and human destructiveness are not expressions of opposite parts of the human, but expressions of the same thing? What if it is the best part of us that goes wrong? Is Is that the meaning of the story about Adam and even in the garden who ate the fruit from one tree that was the tree of knowledge of both good and evil?” (p. 74)

To say the least, whatever Christenson means by “a) “in the same respect;” b) “expressions of the same thing;” and c) “the best part of us,” this is not Luther’s view of either the significance of the fall or Christian anthropology.

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] Sometimes Radical Lutherans go in the opposite direction, giving the impression that we really ought to shy away from talking about the Christian’s active faith at all. Nicholas Hopman states in his 2016 Lutheran Quarterly article on the Lex Aeterna in the Antinomian Disputations, things like “[t]he law (First Commandment) demands faith, which is the presence of the living God, who is not the dead Decalogue (law) written on stone tablets (2 Cor. 3:7)” (167, italics mine)

Here’s the video:

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Review of CPH’s New “So-Called Third Use of the Law” Book

Not the conversation that we need.

 

Update: See my full review of this book here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/justandsinner/review-cphs-new-called-third-use-law-book/ or here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/review-of-cphs-new-so-called-third-use-of-the-law-book/

+++

For non-Lutherans, CPH is “Concordia Publishing House”.

For upset Lutherans, please consider taking 14 minutes to listen to one of my pastor’s sermons at the bottom of this page: “The law and love”, from Sept. 10. Faith comes by hearing the word! This should help you get a better handle on how he — someone who more or less agrees with me on these issues — handles the word of truth.

So, this book. There were times in the past week or so whether I wondered whether I would have to eat crow for my pre-emptive strikes against CPH’s new book: The Necessary Distinction: a Continuing Conversation on Law and Gospel.

I honestly wish that would have been the case, but I don’t think an apology is necessary. In fact, the book is worse than I ever thought it would be! In sum, it is a mass of confusion for scholars to deal with, much less your typical layperson.[i]

While the book contains much valuable information and I even enjoyed much of what I read – I loved reading about Stephen Lee (97-99) and Stephen Hultgren’s scholarship is really quite amazing (more below) – there is also much that is misleading and certainly un-Luther-like, which I’ll talk about below.

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little portion which the wold and the devil are that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.” — Luther

And let me be absolutely clear so there is no mistake. I do believe it’s a good thing a dialogue like this took place between the LC-MS, NALC, ELCA folks, etc. Really, I do — there is no doubt in my mind such talking is desirable and good.

That said, I just don’t think that the LC-MS dialogue partners were chosen wisely, and, more importantly, that this book ever should have been published by Concordia Publishing House, which is devoted to providing only the best and purest teaching for not only pastors, but us laypersons.

They seem to know that themselves, at some level. We’ll call it a felicitous inconsistency.

And the best construction is?...

And the best construction is?…

The argument I have about the book’s content is simple really, and I’ll take some time to unfold it here after some initial set-up.

First of all, it is interesting that you have many person who are friendly to the late Gerhard Forde and yet seem to deviate from him not only when it comes to his ideas about the atonement, but also when he says that the law of God is temporal.

Luther (not to Dr. Forde): “These true disciples of Satan seem to think that the law is something temporal that has ceased under Christ, like circumcision.”

For example:

  • Stephen Hultgren, in his condensation of his book chapter, states “We can understand divine law for the Christian believer not as the opposite of freedom, but as the proper form by which true freedom is to be shaped.”[ii]
  • Mark Mattes writes: “[t]he new person in Christ truly delights in God and in His ways, how God has ordered the cosmos and the limits he has established for our behavior which fosters our own well-being as well as the well-being of others” (133).
  • James Nestingen writes that the law’s “eschatological significance always remains,” and that it is eternal in this sense, revealing “the shape of life God intends for the creation and the new creation….[Luther’s catechisms] “spell[] out the elemental requirements of creaturely life…” (175, 183).

This all sounds pretty good. However, one also notes this from Dr. Nestingen:

“Augustine, with the Early Church, took the Greco-Roman tradition of natural law. An order built into the shape of life by creation, in the Christian interpretation of it, arranges everything that has being in a hierarchical order from top to bottom. The law, the lex aterna, preserves this order so that all things will move toward the end assigned to them by their status in the hierarchy of being. Natural law is thus inherent in life and necessary to the shaping of existence.

This has important consequences theologically. To begin with, it makes the Law the original way of salvation…. (170).

Giving into paganism? Or…. do we believe that man needed to be “saved” even when “very good” in the Garden?

Let’s stop right there. That last sentence of Jim Nestingen clears up a lot of things right away. It is why, for example, Wade Johnston can write in his harsh critique about Jordan Cooper’s Lex Aeterna book the following:

“Cooper’s scholasticism is too abstract to preach and not concrete enough to fully confess Christ as a person, flesh and blood, whose incarnation, when it comes to us, was not primarily about being something, but about doing things.”

Why? Because Forde is assumed to be correct while Cooper, in embracing “scholasticism,” has fallen to a law-focused “legal scheme” that basically kills the Gospel. As another Forde disciple, Nicholas Hopman, has put it, when a static lex aeterna—“a theological projection of divine, eternal, objective order”— “becomes the framework for the whole theological system, [it] destroy[s] the inherently eschatological nature (Rom. 10:4) of the law-gospel distinction.”[iii]

But assuming that is a fair way to sum up what the older, post-Luther Lutherans believed (there is room to question here!), why, exactly, do they think this is the case? Why, for example, did the late Gerhard Forde believe that any person who upheld the third use of law inevitably took the position of Erasmus? I suggest the answer is very clear: it comes back to the matter of their view of how the First Article of the Creed should fit into our theology.

Like the 3rd use of the law? The “Western tradition” based on creation, fall, and redemption? You are with Erasmus.

As Forde sees it, Erasmus stood with the “entire Western tradition by and large” in his traditional rendering of the fall of man, where the creature was “given a relative perfection in the creation.”[iv] This, he gravely warns “means nothing but trouble for the understanding of sin and freedom” – the “very word ‘fall’” “is not…a good biblical term” (Captivation of the Will, 70).[v]

And this brings us to Naomichi Masaki’s essay in the book on Luther’s Galatians commentary. He says that Luther was not only fighting the “papacy, the enthusiasts, the sacramentarians, and the antinomians alike,” but

“was also fighting against the most powerful and attractive opinion that is inherent in man at the same time: the Law as the original way of salvation. This is what human hearts say. This is also the entire theological tradition both before and after Luther” (italics mine).[vi]

Is this true? That is the core question.

Is Masaki, like Forde, saying that no one previously in church history (post Apostle Paul) had understood that God did not intend for man to live by the law of God, but from the favor of God? Did no one before Luther believe that, in Christ, man could have the peace with God once again that Adam and Eve had had with him in the Garden? Did everyone prior to Luther believe that man, even when perfect in the Garden, needed to be “saved”?

Actually, as I read persons who identify with men like Gerhard Forde, all of these kinds of questions do not seem to occur to them (they do, however, occur to Stephen Hultgren, whose essay really does stand out in this volume). And I think it is because they fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the original creation and Eden – and many (not all!) early church theologians. In a sense, they think the same things that they claim these old theologians did! The “entire theological tradition… before… Luther” they say Luther found himself fighting against!

My argument here is that they, like Masaki does above, are projecting their own false viewpoint of the creation, fall, and redemption on to all the church’s theologians prior to Luther. They look at Luther’s statement that God threatened Adam and Eve by saying “you will surely die,” and they find this threatening. The law always accuses!

A false structure: “[Law and Gospel] are against each other as life and death” (quoted in 316 of TND).

In other words, man, from the beginning, had to deal with a kind of foreign or alien attitude from God: not a pure love which Jesus would demonstrate and could be solely associated with freedom. Rather, they had to deal with something other than a pure love —something which could only be associated with coercion. In short, when God says “you shall surely die,” that is a threat, and that is all you need to know. Period. As Masaki puts it, “The way of the Gospel is not by coercion. The Gospel does not demand; it bestows [God’s] gifts freely” (159).[vii]

The Gospel, in other words, saves us from coercion — even the coercion we feel from God.

For some then, it makes sense to go immediately to what Naomichi Masaki writes here:

“When Luther confessed that the Law was not given to justify but to terrify, accuse and kill, he put himself in enmity against the rest of the theological world. For Luther, the Law was not a description of what man is supposed to do within the structure of the eternal order. Instead, he viewed the Law as what it actually does. It kills” (pp. 153-154, italics mine).

But, as Nestingen acknowledges, Luther talks about how the Decalogue, apart from other parts of the Law, is eternal. This, of course, means that it somehow remains in heaven, revealing as it does “the shape of life God intends for the creation and the new creation”. And so when Jim Nestingen says:

[Augustine’s lex aterna] makes the Law the original way of salvation. The Law must be fulfilled if human beings, who hold a status just below the angels, are to come into the unity with God that is their ultimate purpose. The Law lays down the categories within which grace functions. As Augustine said, ‘Grace gives what the law demands.” (170)

…one notices that for him, the problem, once again, is coercion: “The law must be fulfilled….” Roland Ziegler quotes Werner Elert saying the same thing: “Law denotes our entire reality as the realm ordered by God, but therefore also as a realm of coercion (CE, 81)” (312, TNP).

Getting this right!: “How does (or can) one reconcile the freedom and spontaneity of life in the Spirit with the concept of a Law for the justified, which ought to be noncoercive? This, indeed, is how the Formula [of Concord VI] itself frames the debate” (Hultgren, 191, in TND).

The problem with this view, however, is that Luther — unlike many modern Lutherans — did not believe that the commands given to man in the garden actually threatened him. He did not believe that Adam and Eve felt any pressure to “be saved”, much less that there was the constant pressure of being critiqued, judged, and assessed! For Luther, even though man did have a “relative perfection in creation” (contra Forde) and could progress in the Garden from a lower state to a higher state, this would not have been because they were attempting to gain salvation, that is, attain peace with God. For man already had everything that he needed with his Creator. And good works for the neighbor’s sake were to flow from the peace found in the knowledge and worship of God.

Teleology, or the purpose of our design, is in view here to, as Luther notes: “What advantage is there in knowing how beautiful a creature is man if you are unaware of his purpose, namely, that he was created to worship God and to live eternally with God?” (AE 1, 131)

Sure, if “Lutheran theology” is not in any sense Luther’s theology!: “Christ has set us free from the teleological life, the life that aims at some kind of ideal” (quoted on 324 in TND).

But doesn’t Luther himself, at other times, seem to contradict my thesis? After all, in his Genesis commentary, while discussing the negative effects St. Augustine’s view of the image of God[viii] had in the history of the church, Luther, ever concerned to guard the doctrine of justification, says the following:

“…although I do not condemn or find fault with that effort and those thoughts by which everything is brought into relationship with the Trinity, I am not at all sure that they are very useful, especially when they are subsequently spun out further; for there is also added a discussion concerning free will, which has its origin in that image. This is what they maintain: God is free, therefore since man is created according to the image of God, he also has free memory, mind, and will. In this way many statements are carelessly made, statements that are either not properly expressed or later on are understood in a wicked way. Thus this was the origin of the dangerous opinion that in governing men God permits them to act under their own impulse. From this assertion came many inconvenient ideas. It is similar to the quotation: ‘God, who created you without you will not save you without you.’ From here the conclusion was drawn that free will co-operated as the preceeding and efficient cause of salvation. No different is the assertion of Dionysius, though more dangerous than the former, when he says that although the demons and the human beings fell nevertheless their natural endowments, such as the mind, memory, will, etc., remain unimpaired. But if this is true, it follows that by the powers of his nature man can bring about his own salvation” (60, 61, italics mine).

Hultgren, defending FC VI: “A third use of the law calls the justified to something higher than the first use does; the latter applies to all people, justified or not” (243).

Is Luther saying that even in the Garden of Eden man needed to reach an ideal to be saved? Not at all! Here, Luther is simply concerned about the way that the issue of “free will” has been understood by most in the Western tradition. The idea has developed such that, in his time, even respectable theologians in the church believed that they could be saved by their own efforts apart from grace – by doing what one could.

But everything that Luther writes in his Genesis commentary gives the exact opposite impression — for him, there was no pressure or coercion here! This, I think, can easily be proved (a brief summation and a much more detailed summation). And this is at the root of our controversies about the third use of the law, which is, at bottom, a matter of Christian anthropology.

Et tu Dr. Scaer? Well, the rule is that if you clearly defend the 3rd use and you are over 70 (“so-called” is derisive!) we let it go. : )

There are, by the way, in this volume, essays which uphold and attempt to defend the third use of the law (though preaching is not mentioned), from both Mark Mattes and from Stephen Hultgren (non LC-MS folks). Both essays are not without their problems however – Hultgren’s, for all its many strengths, even says that Romans 7 is not Paul as a Christian![ix] – and therefore, this is a small consolation. Roland Ziegler’s essay is particularly disappointing. It sets up strawmen (329), lacks depth (What are the implications of insisting that one should not preach like Paul’s letters? How are those who want the legal institution of same-sex marriage nevertheless against the Law? – see 330), and neglects, for example, to mention Edward Englebrecht’s 2011 book Friends of the Law at what would have been an opportune time (312).

Dr. Hultgren, you’ll have to pry Luther’s understanding of Romans 7 away from our cold, dead hands.

Again, I think that the LC-MS should have gotten partners for this dialogue from its own house who were vigorous defenders of the third use of the law (like Dr. David Scaer and Dr. Joel Biermann), and also that they should have published the papers for free on the internet, without any real fanfare. I know the folks at CPH need to eat, but that is not best done by promoting books that say, for example, that Jesus was justly accused by God’s law (157).

In sum, despite the contrary impressions given on the internet – particularly by the editors of this book who have been hawking it – this book is clearly not something to celebrate. Perhaps if Mattes’ and Hultgren’s and even Nestingen’s essays had served as jumping off points for others who clearly uphold the third use of the law to respond (and rebut), this would have been a great book. As it stands however, the book just gives us another duty for us to fulfill.

“Make duty a pleasure!”

FIN

Note: I have changed the text above somewhat (5:45 central time) for the purposes of clarification, filling in some blanks.

Notes:

[i] In sum, I stand by everything I said, when I had only read all the preliminary materials that were available and had heard a podcast interview with the editors.

[ii] As reader Jon Alan Schmidt observes about this paper, “Skimming through it, he does not appear to address the question of whether paraenetic exhortation is appropriate within the sermon.” Jeff Mallinson, from Concordia Irvine has recently written a paper for Concordia Seward’s education journal (where he, incidently, really gets one of my writings wrong in a footnote) where he also argues that exhortation in the sermon is never really necessary if it is being done in other venues.

[iii] pp. 153, 172, Lutheran Quarterly, Spring, 2016. This leads to other interesting conclusions on Hopman’s part:

  • “[T]he content of the commandment/law is always a weapon attacking human sin” (159).
  • “Where there is no accusation, there is no law” (164)
  • “Only where there is freedom from law… can there be love of the law” (167)
  • “[T]he law and delight in the law are two mutually exclusive realities” (167)
  • “The Christian, in faith alone, is beyond the law” (160)
  • The Christian is successful vs. sin because the Christian and Holy Spirit are not law (171)
  • “[The] law is present only where Christ is absent” (164), and the Holy Spirit is “the opposite of the law” (166)
  • “[T]he fulfillment of the law actually empties the law of all its content, namely, its threatening teeth” (160, italics mine)

[iv] This is exactly what Luther says in his commentary on Genesis (see AE 1). Perhaps what we have here is an “immature very good” (able not to sin) which, through growth in God’s word, moves towards a “mature very good” (not able to sin). See FC VI: 11 ff. One also can consider the Lord Jesus, always free from sin, as regards his growth according to His human nature. We consider that as a child even our Lord “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (NIV), and, as a part of this experience, gladly heard teachers of the law and, undoubtedly, his parents. This aspect of our creatureliness should surely be kept in mind vs. any interpretation of the  new man which, improperly elevating passages like Jeremiah 31: 34, I Cor. 2:15-16, I John 2:27, etc. might insist that the new man never learns through teaching (seeing this as synonymous with coercion!).

[v] Elsewhere in the book we read the following description of this larger Western creation that Forde is critical of:

“The larger Christian tradition begins theologically with creation and the fall. There are certain inherent human characteristics, present by creation, that distinguish humanity from the other creatures of the earth, such as reason and freedom of the will. These powers function in the context of God’s all-embracing law, also inherent to the creation, promoting obedience or turning in the fall toward disobedience. Self-seeking, the force of disobedience, has become the condition of created humanity since the fall, releasing the forces of disorder implicated in the fall.”

[vi] Later he writes: “What we observe from Luther’s confession of the doctrine of the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel is that unlike the medieval scholastic theology that had gone before him and the default position of the human heart that goes on as long as man exists in the world, the Law is not the ultimate any longer; the Law is not the way of salvation. The Law is now replaced by Christ” (p. 161).

[vii] See also footnote 103 of his article, p. 159.

[viii] Augustine had said that “the image of God is the powers of the soul – memory, the mind or intellect, and will” (60). More: “Augustine has much to say in his explanation of this passage [Gen. 1:26], particularly in his book On the Trinity. Moreover, the remaining doctors in general follow Augustine, who keeps Aristotle’s classification: that the image of God is the powers of the soul – memory, the mind or intellect, and the will. These three, they say, comprise the image of God which is in all men.

Moreover, they say that the similitude (or likeness, as distinct from image) lies in the gifts of grace. Just as a similitude (likeness) is a certain perfection of an image, so, they say our nature is perfected through grace. And so the similitude of God consists in this, that the memory is provided with hope, the intellect with faith, and the will with love. In this way, they say, man is created according to the image of God; that is, he has a mind, a memory, and a will. Likewise, man is created according to the similitude of God; that is, the intellect is enlightened by faith, the memory is made confident through hope and steadfastness, and the will is adorned with love” (60).

[ix] See 190-191, 219-226. Hultgren abandons Luther’s simul, which, somehow, is able to incorporate both “totus-totus” and “partim-partim” dimensions. He also states that FC VI can be nothing other than a “compromise document”. More work needs to be done here, to say the least! All this said, Robert Benne is right when he says that this is the “definitive essay” in the book. There is much valuable and clarifying information in this essay, which should be read by persons who feel a need to delve deeply into FC VI, or, particularly, feel tempted to deny it. As I have been saying, CPH should not have published this book for profit, but the LC-MS should have made these papers freely available without fanfare.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Completely Impartial Book Review of Pastor Jordan Cooper’s Lex Aeterna

What does this mean?

 

Yes, its not impartial. : )

Anyway, as I said in a recent post, about the new book on Law and Gospel now being released by CPH….(see above):

If someone in the Confessional Lutheran house spoke about the “so-called doctrine of justification,” you could bet that every head would turn.

But say “so-called 3rd use of the law” – using the church’s publishing house meant to provide the most excellent Christian doctrine to the laypersons – and many will yawn, talk about the variety of definitions of “so-called,” yada, yada…

Why don’t people with some real clout fight? Do some housecleaning? Say anything?

[this is the cue to unveil my new book review of Jordan Cooper’s Lex Aeterna…]

And for a less intense review of Pastor Cooper’s last book, see here.

 

[Because] they are afraid. The ideas of Gerhard Forde have infiltrated confessional Lutheran seminaries and colleges in many a local. Dissent may cost you — perhaps not your job, but relationships to be sure. If you criticize at all, make sure you are exceedingly generous with praise as well – and don’t appear like you want any boats rocked.

Jordan Cooper, however, doesn’t belong. He is a convert to Lutheranism who came to the faith largely by reading not 20th century Lutheran theologians, but everyone before that time. As his podcasts show time and again for any with ears to hear – and either the knowledge or research skills to verify – Cooper knows his stuff.

And he knows Gerhard Forde’s theology is trouble. He sees what so many do not want to see. No one in their right mind would deny that Gerhard Forde was a stand-out human being. The trouble, however, is that he is one of the primary forces responsible for letting lose a virus that has given strength, aid, and comfort to Fake Lutheranism everywhere in its most sophisticated forms.

But this is a book by Jordan Cooper, who, in spite of some of what you may have heard, is not only a very loyal confessional Lutheran we are blessed to have on our side, but a warmhearted and ecumenical theologian extraordinaire. If you are looking for fiery and rhetorical-loaded polemics lacking critical nuance, you will be very disappointed with this book.

Cooper does a very nice job of dealing with this topic and breaking it down in a simple way. I never had noticed all the connections he makes, namely how for Gerhard Forde defining absolutely everything by *doing* and not *being* is the rule: “being is defined by act. Everything is defined by what it does, rather than an essence that has independent existence behind that action” (Cooper, 82).

Like the 3rd use of the law? You are with Erasmus. — Forde

 

In this sense, Forde is completely in line with the pragmatic postmodernist existentialist Hegelian currents which dominate academia and elite circles today. Don’t worry! This doesn’t need to be complicated at all – that is what Forde and those who follow him have done. Cooper will methodically unveil that to you, reducing things to essentials. Like a good butcher, he carves up things where the joints are.

A sample of his getting to the meat:

“[Forde] purports that if the gospel contains specific doctrines about Christ’s life and death as a substitutionary act then it simply becomes another kind of law which one must accept in order to be saved…. 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….

Forde is even bold enough to say that Christ ‘was not doing anything else in his death but dying’” (92).

Yes, you read that right (and there is more where that came from, including Forde’s contention that Adam and Eve’s being “very good” [i.e. “original righteousness”] prior to their fall has no real relevance for theology).

Well, confessional Lutheran – don’t complain that you live in uninteresting times! You live in an age where, in your house, the thoughts of someone like Cooper seems threatening and foreign while many in our academic circles snuggle up closely with Forde.

 

In spite of the gravity of the threat, I must say that Cooper’s usual irenicism and willingness to assume the best in those he so effectively counters — while giving them an escape hatch for their mistakes — come through. All would not be so generous in the covering of faults, for our ignorance often carries with it great culpability as well.

Don’t believe the bad reviews. They are one-sided views at best, and, I believe, hit sloppy hit pieces at worst. Today, on Pastor Cooper’s Just and Sinner blog, I am putting up this review as well as a short evaluation of what Jack Kilcrease says above.

Get the book for yourself and check it out.

[end review, which will be found at Amazon.com under the title “It Takes an Outsider like Cooper to Really Begin this Sacred Cow Slaying”]

And now, as a bonus, here is an evaluation of Jack Kilcrease’s complaints about Pastor Cooper’s book, also on Amazon.com, simply by using the quotes from Pastor Cooper’s book:

Kilcrease: “First, when I affirm the eternity of the law in my writing, I do not do so only insofar as God eternally wills to punish sin.”

Cooper: “Instead, God’s eternal will is to punish sin, and thus, the law is both eternal and condemnatory.”

Kilcrease: “I affirm that the law that God revealed in nature and Scripture represents an eternal good that in time God wills for his people, irrespective of whether or not it condemns them under sin”

Cooper: “Kilcrease draws upon a distinction made by Theodosius Harnack between the essence and the office of the law … the office of the law differs before and after the fall, as well as in the present and eschatological ages. Forde rejects this distinction by defining the essence of the law by its condemning office.”

Kilcrease: “I do indeed affirm (in accordance with the early Wittenberg Reformation) that habituation to virtue is valid. Nevertheless, my criticism of Biermann is that this does not apply to sanctification, but only to civil righteousness. Sanctification is not something someone develops by repeated practice- that is the position of Thomas Aquinas and not Luther.”

Cooper: “While Bierman argues that Luther only rejected the ideas of habituation and virtue in the context of justification, Kilcrease purports that the Reformer rejected these concepts altogether. To adopt a frame work of virtue ethics is to argue that God gives man some kind of potentiality which he can then use in a process of self-creation or self-actualization.”

Kilcrease: “Thirdly, Cooper suggests that I believe that the law possesses a purely negative role in the Christian life. This is utterly false and slanderous. In the article cited by Cooper, I very clearly state that the law is a necessary channel for human gratitude for the salvation given in Christ. That being said, in our fallen state, the Formula of Concord and the Apology (which I quote!) state that it is impossible to disentangle this use of the law from the law’s condemning and coercive effect. This is simply a byproduct of the simul of Christian existence.”

Cooper: “He approaches the third use of the law in almost exclusively negative terms.”

Kilcrease: ” Lastly, Cooper seems to suggest that Forde and my view of the Christian life is one in which there is no genuine renewal. According to Cooper, I agree with Forde that “sanctification is getting used to justification.” Although I never use this slogan, I would actually agree with its content. That being said, what Cooper and many of his followers imply is that what this means is that one can simply live a life mired in sin and rely on justifying grace as a free pass. This is not merely a caricature of Forde’s (and my) position, it is flatly slanderous.”

Cooper: “While distancing himself from Forde in a number of ways, Kilcrease does not significantly depart from Forde’s perspective on the Christian life. Like Forde, views the Christian life as a process of getting used to the fact that one is wholly justified by faith.”

In sum, the point of controversy seems to be what the proper standard of conduct for the reborn is: Is it their relatedness to Christ or is it the unchanging will of God, the Ten Commandments? From Kilcrease’s own words in the review, it seems that he sides with Forde against the Formula by preferring the former (“relatedness”) over the latter (“law”). (update posted 7/10/2019: Jack’s own response to me about this is was as follows: “There’s no difference between ‘getting used’ to one’s new relationship with God in Christ and obeying the Ten Commandments. Being a new being in Christ means to fulfill the original purpose of creation, which is to live in accordance with the Ten Commandments.”)

“If you’re more Lutheran that Luther and the Confessions, there’s a problem.” — Christopher Jackson

 

Here, I point to the introduction to the article on the third use of the Law in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord:

Since the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be urged or not upon regenerate Christians. The one side has said, Yea; the other, Nay.

I don’t know — its just a guess, but I don’t think that the writers of the Formula of Concord were concerned that the Holy Spirit might not want to urge the law on Christians these ways!

“Yea” — in spades.

FIN

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Previews of CPH’s New “So-Called Third Use of the Law” Book

“There is a time for everything…,” but here, now, in this way?

 

Yes, I know that the book is not only about the third use of the law. But we all know that this is where the controversy lies today.

If someone in the Confessional Lutheran house spoke about the “so-called doctrine of justification,” you could bet that every head would turn.

But say “so-called 3rd use of the law” – using the church’s publishing house meant to provide the most excellent Christian doctrine to the laypersons – and many will yawn, talk about the variety of definitions of “so-called,” yada, yada.

I have two sneak previews for you — for this book that anyone who cares about the future of the LC-MS will be reading in the next few days (this is rhetroric by the way, hyperbole deliberately employed to make a point).

The first is from the Thinking Fellows podcast. A couple of these thinking fellows interview James Nestingen and John Pless, two of the authors who in the book’s introduction talk about the “so-called 3rd use”.

I didn’t need to listen to more than the first ten or so minutes of this podcast to come to Lando Calrissian’s conclusion:

 

Before we know it, we’ll be learning that Nadia Bolz-Weber also has an essay in the book (even though that is certainly not an endorsement!).

Now the second preview — mine. We do know that the LC-MS was founded with the belief that the Confessional Lutheran Church is the true visible church on earth, right? Crazy? Might that be kind of important to some of us who have come to Lutheranism or, after a struggle, decided to stay? We must be pretty serious then about defending our confessions.

Well….let’s take a look. It says in the book’s preface (download the excerpt I read here):

We have also included “God’s Word Forever Shall Abide: A Guiding Statement on the Character and Proper Use of the Sacred Scriptures” as an appen­dix to this volume. This statement, adopted by the dialogue committee made up of representatives from the NALC, LCC, and LCMS, asserts the necessity of rightly distinguishing the Law from the Gospel for a proper understanding of the Holy Scriptures.

Well, there is no doubt that this is true. That said, being that the book grew out of LC-MS/NALC dialogues I certainly hope that in the book there is some real honesty about the very different understandings those distinct bodies have when it comes to understanding the Scriptures as God’s word… Hmmm. Maybe they will say more about that below.

More:

In our conversations together, we have recognized that the signif­icance of the Law/Gospel distinction is downplayed, questioned, and rejected by some within American Lutheranism. Others have misused the distinction to promote an allegedly more liberated sexual ethic. The place of the so-called “third use of the Law” remains a contentious issue in some circles…

In the Smalcald Articles, Luther notes “that the law was given by God, in the first place, to curb sin by means of the threat and terror of punishment and also by means of the promise and offer of grace and favor” but “the foremost office or power of the law is that it reveals inherited sin and its fruits” (SA III 2).1 These are commonly identified as the first two uses, or functions, of the Law. The Formula of Concord clarified a dispute that had arisen among Lutheran theologians over the place of the Law in the life of the Christian, asserting in Article VI a “third use” that is a guide to the good works that the Christian is obligat­ed to do in his or her vocation. Several of the essays in this volume take up this topic.

The editors of this book are firmly committed to the Lutheran asser­tion that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is a necessity if the Scriptures are, indeed, comprehended according to the mind of the Lord who inspired them. (bold mine)

There it is again: “The place of the so-called “third use of the Law” remains a contentious issue in some circles.”[i]

As far as I am concerned, that statement says all you need to know about this book, which yes, I plan to read. I could care less is this statement was made in an Augsburg-Fortress or NALC publication. I expect that kind of language from them. But this kind of statement certainly gives the impression that John T. Pless and Albert B. Collver III, who co-wrote the preface with Jim Nestingen, don’t really think vigorously defending the ‘third use of the law’ is that important.

We’re all good confessional Lutheran brothers though who agree that the law is good and the Scriptures are God’s Word[ii] though, right?

No. Not at all. In sum, my sense is that this book would probably be a Godsend in the hands of many an ELCA laymen, but not so with us and our house.

When Mark Tranvik from Augsburg writes: “This book is a cool drink for those thirsty for new perspectives on the proper relationship between Law and Gospel,” I’m happy for ELCA folks to get that but not for LC-MS folks to get the idea that ELCA views like those of Gerhard Forde have a perspective that does not deserve a vigorous rebuttal and brotherly rebuke within the same book – at least in a book by CPH, which is meant to be an organ for the promulgation of unadulterated truth to the LC-MS and beyond. When WELS professor (!) Wade Johnston writes “[b]oth pastors and laypeople will benefit from the essays contained here,” I read that as saying that Gerhard Forde’s disciples aren’t just content to bring their ideas into LC-MS seminaries —  ideas they no doubt believe can help an LC-MS that they see as overly legalistic. I am not even sure how Robert Bugbee can seriously write, “These authors take Christ, the Scriptures, and our confessions seriously” when we are not talking about the same confessions.

Frankly, in my view, the infections of some of these authors — note I didn’t say these authors themselves — need to go back to Bad Bol, Germany from where they came. We should not be so laissezfaire toward the viruses that have created so much Fake Lutheranism in the ELCA. Luther certainly would have not stood for this nonsense.

Another more conservative ELCA gentleman, Robert Benne says: “All you want to know about the distinctive Lutheran wit­ness to the proper relation of Law and Gospel is in this volume.”

To Robert I say: We shall see. Things aren’t off to a good start however, in the mud that I see on our carpet floor. Why shouldn’t I think myself to be naïve for hoping it will be somehow cleaned up by the rest of the book?

Why don’t people with some real clout fight? Do some housecleaning? Say anything?

Finally, if you are reading me to say that I do not think that we should be talking to persons from the NALC and ELCA about these issues, you have not understood people like myself at all. In fact, we need to have a conversation! No, I would delight to have conversations with people who have honest disagreements over these issues, even if we must agree to disagree.

Lord, in these last days when you said faith would be rare, give us faith. Much faith.

FIN

 

 

[i] In John Pless’ essay in the book, available for free here, he also says: “Within the last decade or so, there have been significance publica­tions and conferences on Law and Gospel, particularly with reference to the so-called ‘third use.’” “So-called” can refer to how something is publicly known, or, more often nowadays, be used derisively. Why introduce possible confusion here, if not to stir the pot? Well, pot stirred.

Pless also quotes Murray, who indirectly implicates Walther and Peiper: “The theologians who provided articles for The Abiding Word were deeply affected by the orthodoxy they inherited from Walther and Pieper. They emphasized the Law as an objective standard that provides instruction for Christian holiness. Unfortunately, their viewpoint tended to accept a tamed Law” (Murray, Law, Life, and the Living God, 73).

[ii] The editors of this book are firmly committed to the Lutheran asser­tion that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is a necessity if the Scriptures are, indeed, comprehended according to the mind of the Lord who inspired them.

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Luther’s Antinomian Disputations for Dummies 5 (of 5): Welcome “Mr. Sin” Boldly!

Chapter 5 of 5: Sin Boldly or Welcome “Mr. Sin” Boldly? (Luther’s “Thomas Christian”)

 

Chapter 1: Natural Law in Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations

Chapter 2: Does the Christian Cease to be Under the Law of God?

Chapter 3: If the Law is Abrogated in Jesus Christ How Can the Ten Commandments be Eternal?

Chapter 4: Should the Preacher Reduce the Force of God’s Law?

+++

“Sin boldly” means in no way boldly to sin. But enough about that. Let’s talk about those baptized into Christ welcoming “Mr. Sin” boldly. 

“we have… Christ, through whom we are pure & unleavened. And nonetheless [Paul] commands us to cast out the old leaven.” – Luther, SDEA 103

You see, it’s not just about what some call “the simul”. Many are familiar with Martin Luther’s point that Christians are simultaneously saint and sinner, which correlates with the idea of the new man and the old man, the spirit and the flesh, or sinful nature.

As one stands before God, one always must remain totally a sinner and totally a saint (100% each). The Christian’s primary identify is saint, and yet in order to be a saint one must, on earth, be willing to see one’s self as a sinner.

On earth, after all, the healthy, or righteous, do not need the doctor (or so they think!). They do not need the friend of sinners (or so they think!). If these do claim Christ as their own, they then have a false Christ. Only those who are Christians are those who are sinners and saints at the same time.

But.

“[W]hat exercise of faith will be left….when the battle between spirit and flesh will be taken away?….” (SDEA, 261)

But few know that Martin Luther also thought that another idea was needed to really explicate the Christian’s day-by-day experience. This concept, the “Thomist Thomas or twin,” describes how the Christian is also triumphant and militant at the same time.

So what does this all mean? Luther explains in his response to the third argument of the fifth Antinomian Disputation.

First, the triumphant aspect:

“Insofar as he is triumphant, and dwells under the shadow of the wings of his Lord (cf. Psa. 36:7), as it is said (Psa. 32:1-2), “Blessed are those whose sins are covered and whom the Lord did not impute their sins” so far there is nothing about law. Here let Moses depart, let him go away to the ravens with his stuttering tongue, here I do not hear anything, neither heaven nor earth….  Insofar as the Christian is a Christian, leave him in peace and unconfused. For being accused and convicted, and being—or be­ing regarded—righteous, cannot stand at the same time. Yet the Christian is righteous by faith in Christ. In himself, however, he still has inherent sin” (ODE 150, 151).

Again, the justifiied say “Silent law!”: “He died for us, bore the curses and punishments of the law, and gave us his innocent righteousness… where I shall have Christ by faith, there I have what the law requires and demands from me. (SDEA 63, 189)

 

This seems a lot like the “saint” part of the sinner-saint formulation. But now, with the militant aspect of the Thomas Christian, things get really interesting – and colorful, as is Luther’s custom:

“…now I come to another area, which is widely different from that above, to the militant Christian, who still lives in the flesh, and I come to me and my person. Alas, how much wretchedness I see here! Here I, and you, insofar as we as such, would do all shameful acts in our power, if only they could be done secretly, without the knowledge of people, so that we daily and truly ought to experience how true it is, what Paul says about himself (Rom. 7:23): “I see another law in my members” etc. Yet as soon as these things take place, and as soon as this law or this carnal nature infected by the venom of Satan in Paradise rears its head and incites the poor Christian to lust, to greed, to despair, or to hatred of God, there, I say, the Christian stirs himself up and says, as if in wonder: “Look! And you are still here! Welcome, Mr. Sin. Where were you? Where did you spend your time so long? Are you still alive now? From where do you come to us? Away with you to the cross! It will absolutely not be so! I will protect my virgin and will do what is just, even against your will. And the more you torture me, even challenge and incite me to dishonor, lust, despair, the more I will laugh at you with a spirit that is both confident and strong! Trusting in the help of my Christ I will scorn you and crush your head (cf. Gen. 3:15). What do I have to do with you? I have another Lord in whose camp I am now a soldier. Here I will stay, here I will die.” This one is that glorious soldier and strong George who makes a great massacre in the army of the devil and wins gloriously, as Paul says (Rom. 8:37): “In all these things we overcome through Jesus Christ,” and he does not permit sin to devour in his flesh.

Indeed we, each in his age and situation, cannot but encounter a great number of sins and evil desires. But with God’s help, we will nevertheless not permit them to rule. I witness my flesh having a taste for the same things as the Turk, the pope, and the entire world, but don’t assent! Let him not allow the lice to build nests in the coat. Thus Paul has sin, but conquered and faint. The impious have living, ruling, triumphant sin” (SDEA 275, 277; ODE, 151, 152, italics and bold mine).[i]

Look at these passages again, paying close attention!

When it comes to the sinner-saint aspect of our Christian life, the saint identity is the primary one. So what identity do we think is primary here? Is it, as we might think, the victorious Christian aspect?

“[I]s it then here really appropriate for us; I wonder, to sleep or to be secure, to be inattentive or to snore giving the raging of an utterly vigilant and violent enemy?” (SDEA, 261)

Not in the context that Luther is here concerned with! He is clear:

“…we do not hope for peace, since we are under the Lords of Hosts, under Sabaoth, not of sleepers and snorers, but of the fighters under the Lord, who is Christ Jesus. This is why the Church living in this life is called militant, not trium­phant. Certainly, after this life, when all our enemies will be destroyed and when also death, our last enemy, will be subdued and destroyed, then we will triumph.” (SDEA, 263 ; ODE, 145)

And he is not shy about how ugly and difficult it is to “obey[] the Spirit, [and] avert[] by prayer[ii] the evil [we] feel[]… (SDEA, 271). Speaking of Christians, the pious, he goes so far as to say that disgrace and punishment may well be primary motivators for us (SDEA, 269): “…I, and you… would do all shameful acts in our power if only they could be done secretly, without the knowledge of people….” (SDEA 275, ODE 151). Again, “the law is still given to the holy and righteous Paul, not insofar as he is righteous and holy, but insofar as he is flesh, and he ought to be convicted by the law… (SDEA, 269).

Unless we watch extremely carefully in prayer—[the devil, the world, and our flesh] finally overthrow us at some time, and we will not be able to escape without huge and extremely great danger.” – Luther, SDEA 297

Note what is not being said here.

First, Luther is not denying, but is rather upholding, the distinction between venial and mortal sins. Simply put, venial sins are done vs. the renewed will of the Christian, while mortal sins are done with his full consent and pleasure (and yes, venial sins become mortal when considered insignificant — if you are confused by this, see this short post which makes things more concrete).

Second, Luther is not saying that there is nothing in the Christian that wants to conform to God’s law. He said as much earlier in the disputations, when he, for instance, states: “…insofar as there is Spirit in us, so far is there also delight in the law” (SDEA, 47, 61, 63). The point is simply that sometimes fear of punishment and disgrace is – and until death must continue to be! – a part of the Christian’s complex of motivations, which are never fully pure, but which can certainly be more or less so.[iii]

Third, while Luther is saying that motivations like this might play a part in the believer’s behavior, he is not saying that preachers, for instance, necessarily need to encourage this kind of behavior, this kind of ongoing repentance, through threats of punishment. There may be occasions where this is what they do, but at the same time, as we saw in the last post, there is also a kind of admonishment without the intention of threat that is based on appealing to believers “by the mercies of God….”

In sum, it is not difficult to imagine Luther making appeals, based on Christ’s mercy, like “stir yourself up!”, “protect your virgin!”, “Laugh at Mr. Sin!”, and the like.

One only needs to look at his sermons to see that this is the case. To see the similarities he shares with the Apostle Paul.

“Get behind me, Satan (cf. Mat. 16:23)! Shut up! No, don’t rule, flesh! Be completely silent!….These and such words are not man’s, but Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s…” (SDEA 271)

 

And he has a very definite judgment about the antinomians of his day:

“Our Antinomians are so blind that they cannot recognize the doctrine of the law in Paul, e.g., in these obvious words (Phil. 4:8): “Whatever things are chaste, just, etc., these pursue.” Yet they do all things for that reason that they might render us secure and that the window might be opened for the devil in order to overthrow us unexpectedly” (ODE 156, SDEA 287, italics mine).

No patience:

“Yet Christ,” they say, “has removed your sin. Why are you sad?” This is why they continue to do what they do in an utterly secure manner. They translate the merit of the passion of Christ and of the remission of sins into luxuriousness….

Christ fulfilled the law, but it needs to be added: “Later see to it that you lead a holy, pious, and irreproachable life, as it is fit­ting for a Christian. This is what you have heard so far: Be forgiven. But lest you complain that you are utterly forsaken, I will give you my Holy Spirit, who makes you a soldier; he will even produce mighty and unspeakable cries against sin in your heart, so that you thus finally do what you wish.” But am I not unable? “Pray that I may hear you, and I will make you able…” (SDEA 303, 305, italics mine)

And if that gives you pause, remember also that this is the man who highlighted the doctrine of justification in the Church’s time of need – when it was needed the most! He, and those who follow in his train, are more than eager to give you, the penitent, absolution in Christ.

One more:

“[I]t is necessary to admonish, to stir up, and to call as if to battle, so that they may remember in what danger they live. Don’t sleep, don’t sleep and don’t snore! Awake!” (SDEA, 263)

“I walk in danger all the way…” (Hymn # 716)

 

We Christians can boldly face Mr. Sin because our old nature, our old Adam, is being put to death in Christ. It’s not that we were baptized, for we currently belong to him (it’s not I was married, but I am).

We are baptized. There is no condemnation for we who are found in Him.

Those who let God be God, cling to Him, and have no other hope.

 

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)

 

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] Other passages that leap out to me in the Antinomian Disputations (SDEA page numbers):

To be dead and to die to sin is a Pauline phrase for battling against sin and not allowing it to rule in us. And this happens not only in one member, but in all, so that now the heart, eyes, hands, tongue, and feet do something else than before, and serve Christ the Lord, not sin, and thus become from day to the next constantly holier and better. But because this nature is totally infected by the devil, we do not hope to be fully free from sins before the body is covered by the ground and is consumed by worms. There is therefore a twofold death in Paul: To die to sin or world, and to die to nature. The impious also dies to nature, no matter how great he is. But the pious dies also in this life to sins, that is, to the world with all its evil lusts, which Paul calls elsewhere mortifying and crucifying his flesh, as he says to the Ephesians (4:28): “Who was stealing, let him steal no more.“

But such death of Christians is not seen. For it is hidden in Christ, where there is neither male nor female (cf. Gal. 3:28). But meanwhile, as long as this life lasts, we must constantly fight against the sins that remain in the flesh, which, since they cannot be totally taken away, needs to retain the law that keeps the flesh in service. (335)

And:

Truly saints, pure, and righteous, just as even Gabriel himself in heaven, by faith; and we are truly set in the heavens with Christ (cf. Eph. 2:6). But as for myself and my flesh, I am a sinner. Yet as I there become lord of all things now and in the kingdom with Christ, over law, death, and devil, so I here become a servant of all things and a soldier of Christ against sin and all evil lusts,(i) as Christ says (John 5:14): Go, sin no more, lest something worse happen to you. (337)

And:

Insofar as they are Christians they are rightly called righteous and are not under the law, since no law is given to the righteous (1 Tim. 1:9), insofar as he is righteous. And the greatest care needs to be taken lest Groom and bride disagree. For the forgiveness of sins ought to rule preeminently the conscience with Christ, and it ought not to be allowed that it be vexed by the law. For this bed is narrower than that it could further receive or allow the law or any tradition. Here the Groom alone lies down with the bride, after all onlookers are thrown out.

It is true, because we still carry around with us the flesh and the body of sin, the law must be added and urged; the yoke must be added, lest we begin to be lascivious, because the flesh is usually the largest part. One ought to place its feed higher and restrain it, lest it advance beyond its limits. And for the unbridled the law needs to be emphasized more than the Gospel preached. To the others I respond: Insofar as they are right, they are called righteous and not under law, since for the righteous there is no law given. (361)

[ii] See theses 17-30 from the 3rd set of theses in ODE 126-127 (SDEA 231). Here, Luther talks about the Lord’s prayer as a prayer of repentance, a powerful weapon of the Holy Spirit. “If you are a saint, why do you cry? Because I feel the sin clinging to me, and this is why I pray: “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.” “O Lord, be merciful to me.” But you are a saint. But you are a saint? In this way, insofar as I am a Christian, because to that extent I am righteous, pious and belonging to Christ, but insofar as I look at me and my sin, I am wretched and a very great sinner. Thus, in Christ there is no sin, and in our flesh there is no peace and quiet, but perpetual battle as long as this old Adam and this corrupt nature last. They are destroyed only by death itself” (ODE 153, SDEA 281).

[iii] Note what Luther says in this sermon excerpt. While it might initially seem to contradict the sentence this footnote is attached to, note and reflect on the words in italics:

What will your repentance profit you, if you fail to do it gladly or willingly, but are constrained by the commandment or by fear of shame, otherwise you would rather not do it? But what is the reason? Because it is a repentance in the devil’s name or in your own name. Hence you go on and do worse things, and wish there were no confession and sacrament, so that you might not be constrained to attend them. This is repentance in our own name, and proceeds from our own strength.

But when I begin to believe in Christ, lay hold of the Gospel, and do not doubt that he has taken away my sin and blotted it out, and comforts me with his resurrection; my heart is filled with such gladness that I myself take hold willingly, not through persuasion, nor of necessity, I gladly do what I ought and say: Because my Lord has done this for me, I will also do his will in this, that I may amend my ways and repent out of love to him and to his glory. In this way, a true reformation begins that proceeds from the innermost heart, and that is brought forth by the joy that flows from faith, when I apprehend the greatness of the love Christ has bestowed upon me.

 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Luther’s Antinomian Disputations for Dummies 4 (of 5): Preaching the Law not to Condemn?

Chapter 4 of 5: Should the Preacher Reduce the Force of God’s Law?

 

Chapter 1: Natural Law in Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations

Chapter 2: Does the Christian Cease to be Under the Law of God?

Chapter 3: If the Law is Abrogated in Jesus Christ How Can the Ten Commandments be Eternal?

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Lutherans, as anyone who knows about Martin Luther might expect, are famous for talking about how the law of God even accuses the most mature of Christian believers: lex semper accusat.

“Augustine [says]: ‘Since you were a fugitive from the heart.’ The law is revealed to me because of original sin; it is also to be taught. For we always sleep, given the opportunity. Therefore we are to be woken up by the law which shows us our sins” (SDEA, 383).

.

And it is right that we do. As Luther said of pious believers, perhaps to the surprise of some (SDEA 289),

“[they]… still have sin left in their flesh,”… [they should be] “admonished and convicted, lest they become secure and complacent; so that they can be stirred up for a battle and military service against remaining sins and temptations… the law is to be taught and inculcated… lest we become idle and sluggish, lest we perish” (SDEA, 269, 283)[i]

At the same time, there is a danger here that such a focus, if we are not sufficiently aware, might contribute to us to missing the bigger picture. In the Garden of Eden, when God gave law in the form of the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, this command did not accuse, but simply informed. And in this sense, of course, it warned of danger.

As Luther put it in his Genesis commentary (AE:1), regarding the passage “On whatever day you eat from this tree, you will die by death”:

“..if they should transgress His command, God announces the punishment… as though He said: ‘Adam and Eve, now you are living without fear; death you have not experienced, nor have you seen it. This is My image, by which you are living, just as God lives. But if you sin, you will lose this image, and you will die’” (AE:1, 62).

In spite of this, we might think, fearful warning[ii], one thing that immediately stands out about Luther’s commentary is that Luther gives the impression that man, created in the image of God[iii], was perfectly at ease with his Creator.[iv]

For example, Luther writes that prior to the fall, man’s “intellect was clearest, his memory was the best, and his will was the most straightforward – all in the beautiful tranquility of mind, without any fear of death and without any anxiety” (AE:1, 62), and also asks “who [now] could understand what it means to be in a life free from fear, without terrors and dangers, and to be wise, upright, good, and free from all disasters, spiritual as well as physical?” (AE:1, 65, italics mine).[v]

“God does not command man impossible things. But man himself, by sin, falls into impossible things… God is forced to give us the law and show or reveal ourselves to us…” – Luther, SDEA 291

 

Luther says more about Adam and Eve’s original state:

“You can remain in the life for which I have created you. And yet you will not be immortal in the same way as the angels. Your life is, as it were, placed in the middle: you can remain in it and afterwards be carried to an immortality that cannot be lost; contrariwise, if you do not obey, you will become a victim of death and lose your immortality…[this is] the deathless life in which there would be no further opportunity of sinning” (AE:1, 111).[vi]

With the Fall however, everything changes. As Luther points out, the new situation demands a new word from the Lord: “[W]e have a different Word, which Adam did not have when his nature was perfect…”[vii] “The Law given to the unrighteous is not the same Law that was given to righteous Adam” (AE:1, 109).

God’s commands – His Law – begins to accuse us. And rightly so. Even now, for we who have begun to know the amazing grace found in Jesus Christ.

Elsewhere in the Antinomian Disputations, Luther makes this abundantly clear:

“[The Antinomians] cast aside [this terrifying and convicting use of the law] when they damn as sacrilege the terrifying of the pious by the law…. The law is still given to the holy and righteous Paul, not insofar as he is righteous and holy, but insofar as he is flesh, and he ought to be convicted of the law.” (SDEA, 265, 269)

At this point we are very far from the intent of the original command in the Garden! No one can doubt that Luther believes that the pious should, in some sense, remain terrified by the law of God. This was also seen from the quotations from the Antinomian Disputations in the second chapter of our series (Does the Law cease for the Christian) …. Lutherans would typically associate this kind of thing with the “second use of the law,” (the law as mirror, given to convict) and not see this as qualifying as a separate “third use” (the law as a guide to what pleases the Lord).

At the same time, when it comes to this convicting function of the law, there are concerns thoughtful Christians should have.

Lutheran saint Kurt Marquart: to not preach the third use of the law is break the bruised reed and snuff out the smoldering wick

 

For example, after one of the greatest Lutheran theologians of the 20th century had given a talk defending the 3rd use of the law, (I speak about this presentation more briefly in this post) he was questioned by another popular teacher and seminary professor in the following way (this text is at the end of the linked post):

Questioner 3: Thank you. The Gospel cannot be preached without preaching the Law—

Dr. Marquart: Yes.

Questioner 3: —calling to repentance, God working contrition. Does not the Law that brings about contrition and repentance also serve the function of admonishing the Christians to what is good? Or [does] the Law need to be separated in its application in terms of second and third use? In other words, if the Law has been preached to work repentance, does it then need to be repeated again in some sort of way that—different sense, after the Gospel has been proclaimed and comforts and is the means by which the Holy Spirit quickens?

Dr. Marquart: There’s a very important question, and in answer I should like to say that we should beware of all legalisms that want to confine preaching to some particular formula, like this “goal, malady, means,” which is pure manipulation. Rather, the Christian preacher ought to present that in freedom, so that his sermons are basically unpredictable. People should not be able to see—look at their watch and say, “OK, he’s had ten minutes of Law, now he must be going to say—the next ten minutes, Gospel.” That’s too predictable, too mechanical. Rather, Law and Gospel ought to be intertwined. They ought to be in dialogue constantly. And the second use of the Law basically will concentrate on our evil and our sins. But the third use of the Law should concentrate on the good things which are pleasing to God. So that’s how these ought to be handled differently. But, of course, the Holy Spirit will, in the preaching of the Law, will do both things at the same time. But yes, pastors ought deliberately to have in mind to support the new creation in its struggles against the world, the devil, and the flesh. But there’s no particular formula, in other words, and, for example, some say, “Never end with an admonition.” Why not? What’s wrong with, after a rich Gospel sermon, saying, “And so the Lord gave us these riches; let us go and do likewise.” Nothing wrong with that. So—

Questioner 3: So, just to clarify, the Law is doing both when it is proclaimed—second or third use—

Dr. Marquart: It can.

Questioner 3: —first, second, third—

Dr. Marquart: It can do both.

Questioner 3: But the “uses” are more descriptions of how the Law functions—

Dr. Marquart: Right.

Questioner 3: —as opposed to being able to be—

Dr. Marquart: But the preacher needs to make the distinction, because otherwise, the recipient will feel that he is just an unconverted sinner and needs converting every Sunday.

Note the last line. What is fascinating about this exchange between Dr. Marquart and this other theologian is that Martin Luther shows a similar sensitivity when it comes to the law’s condemning function and the person who is already a Christian.

“You are a saint and pray because of sin. You make sense of it” – Luther, SDEA 291

 

In the quotation which follows, take note of what Luther says — presumably to someone who was sympathetic to the Antinomians — during the twenty-first question in the second of the Antinomian Disputations. Also, please take note that this is not even a concession that Luther makes to the Antinomians, but simply a concise re-stating of themes that he had already sounded earlier:

The law is already mitigated greatly by the justification which we have because of Christ; and it thus ought not to terrify the justified. Yet meanwhile Satan himself comes along and makes it often overly harsh among the justified. This is why it happens that those are often terrified who ought not to be, by the fault of the devil.

Yet the law is nonetheless not to be removed from the temples; and it is indeed to be taught, since even the saints have sin left in their flesh which is to be purged by the law, until it is utterly driven out. For this wrestling match remains for the saints as long as they live here. Here they fight by day and night. There they finally overcome through Christ.

Before justification the law ruled and terrified all whom it touched. But the law is not to be taught in such a way among the pious, so as to ac­cuse and condemn, but so as to admonish to good. For I ought not to say or preach: You are not under the remission of sins. Likewise: You will be condemned; God hates you etc. For these sayings do not pertain to those who have received Christ, but address the ruthless and wild. The law then is to be attenuated for them and is to be taught them by way of exhortation: Once you were gentiles; now, however, you are sprinkled and washed by the blood of Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11, 13; 1 Cor. 6:11). Therefore now offer you bodies to obey righteousness, putting away the desires of the flesh, lest you become like this world (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 6:13; Eph. 4:22). Be imitators of the righteousness of good works (cf. Tit. 2:14) and do not be unrighteous, condemned like Cain etc.; you have Christ” (ODE 116, SDEA 211, 212, italics mine)

“The law is not to be taught in such a way among the pious, so as to ac­cuse and condemn, but so as to admonish to good… The law then is to be attenuated for them and is to be taught them by way of exhortation.” Here, in the Antinomian Disputations we see Luther talking about what the later Lutherans would recognize as and call the “third use of the law,” even if he himself did not call it this. While Christians, unlike Christ, cannot receive the law completely without threat, they nevertheless do begin to delight in it (see SDEA 61). This, of course, would help explain why the Apostle Paul preaches differently in Romans 1-3 and Romans 12ff, for example.

Yes, but not in the way described by Luther himself?

 

To re-iterate once again, because of the fall this use of the law is not the primary or “proper one” — for our great sin must be exposed – continually – that we might continually see our need for our great Savior. With this proper use of the law established as foundational in our minds, this “third” use of the law can then help us to remember and recall the purpose of the original laws and commands given to Adam and Eve.

In other words, these are things given not to accuse (even as, insofar as we are sinners, we will be), but again, to keep us safe, to guide and invite.

To be encouraged by and to delight in… because of the mercies of God! (check out Romans, chapter 12)

“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)

 

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] Here, Luther warns of the possibility of losing faith. Elsewhere though, he is very positive about this fight of faith, essentially speaking about how losing faith should never happen. The Lord “can lead into battle, but he himself wants to console the conscience, having given for this purpose the Holy Spirit who sufficiently arms those who are his” (SDEA 267, italics mine). Referring to Micah 6:8, “Walk attentively with your God,” he says “…the Christians indeed are taught the law, but with a certain prerogative, because they triumph in these matters and do not succumb, neither to sins – even if they are sometimes opposed – nor to the law” (SDEA 287).

[ii] Luther’s translation of God’s warning is a far cry from even St. Augustine’s: “I will kill you.” See AE 1: 62-65, 111. Luther appears to steer away from this kind of Augustinian interpretation.

[iii] Related to this concept, Luther forthrightly lays out the teleological-related truths one may gather from divine revelation, stating that “man is a unique creature and that he [alone] is suited to be a partaker of divinity and immortality” (AE 1: 115).[iii] Related to this goal, Luther elsewhere says the following:

“It is revealed in the Word of God, which alone, as I said, imparts true information about the two main causes, the effective and the final; knowledge of these, if available, is considered to be of the greatest importance also in matters pertaining to nature. What advantage is there in knowing how beautiful a creature is man if you are unaware of his purpose, namely, that he was created to worship God and to live eternally with God?” (131)

He goes on to say:

“The main goal, then, to which Scripture points is that man is created according to the likeness of God; in eternity, therefore, he is to live with God, and while he is here on earth, he is to preach God, thank Him, and patiently obey His Word. In this life we lay hold of this goal in ever so weak a manner; but in the future life we shall attain it fully. This the philosophers do not know. Therefore the world with its greatest wisdom is most ignorant when it does not take advantage of Holy Scripture or of theology. Human beings know neither their beginning nor their end when they are without the Word. I say nothing about the remaining creatures” (131).

[iv] “[This tree] was forbidden; and… in this respect they should obey so gracious a Creator… In this way Adam and Eve, resplendent with innocence and original righteousness, and abounding in peace of mind because of their trust in God, who was so kind, walked about naked while they discoursed on the Word and command of God and praised God, just as should be done on the Sabbath. But the, alas, Satan interfered and within a few hours ruined all this, as we shall hear” (AE 1: 144, italics mine).

One is reminded of what Luther writes in his Small Catechism, about the first article of the Apostle’s Creed: “… and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true. (SC II.1)”

[v] Of course, by way of contrast, in Reformed theology, there is the notion of a covenant of works, whereby man was to earn his final salvation through his deeds, but in Luther’s Genesis commentary, one looks in vain for such a concept. See Pastor Jordan Cooper’s blog post on the topic here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/justandsinner/there-is-no-covenant-of-works/

[vi] Elsewhere he writes: “It is not our business to determine or to investigate too inquisitively why God wanted to create man in this middle condition, or why man was so created that all people are brought into being from one through procreation [unlike the angels]…” (AE: 1, 112).

[vii] What he goes on to say connects all of this with the need even Adam and Eve had to actively and consciously fight temptation, consenting to the work of God’s Spirit, through His word, within them:

“….this tree in the middle of the garden would have been like a temple in which this Word would be preached: that all the other trees were wholesome, but that this one was destructive. Therefore they should have learned to obey God and to render Him the service of refraining from eating of it, since God had forbidden it.

In this way uncorrupted nature, which had the true knowledge of God, nevertheless had a Word of command which was beyond Adam’s understanding and had to be believed. Moreover, this command was given to Adam’s innocent nature that he might have a directive or form for worshipping God, for giving thanks to God, and for instructing his children. Since the devil sees this and knows that this command is beyond the understanding of the human being he tempts Eve so that she herself may not proceed to ponder whether this is God’s command and will or not. This is the beginning and the main part of every temptation, when reason tries to reach a decision about the Word and God on its own without the Word” (AE:1, 154).

Luther also explains elsewhere that the tree had this “death-dealing” power because of the Word of God coupled with it, much like the serpent that was raised up in the wilderness had “life-giving” power to save. (AE:1, 227)

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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