Great Stuff — Are you an Antinomian?

November 29th, 2013 Post by

Found over on Gottesdienst Online

 

485px-Johannes-Agricola-Eisleben-Does God promise both temporal and eternal rewards to our good works?

What! Are you kidding? I mean, if you believed that, you’d be a Gospel denying Romanist or a Fundy TV evangelist, right? Law driven! Bad!

Or, then again, if you believed that maybe you’d be the greatest Lutheran theologian ever.

This teaching is set forth in our churches plainly and distinctly from the Word of God, namely, that the expiation of sins, or the propitiation for sins, must not be attributed to the merits of our works. For these things are part of the office which belongs to Christ the Mediator alone. Thus the remission of sins, reconciliation with God, adoption, salvation, and eternal life do not depend on our merits but are granted freely for the sake of the merit and obedience of the Son of God and are accepted by faith. Afterward, however, the good works in the reconciled, since they are acceptable through faith for the sake of the Mediator, have spiritual and bodily rewards in this life and after this life; they have these rewards through the gratuitous divine promise; not that God owes this because of the perfection and worthiness of our works, but because He, out of fatherly mercy and liberality, for the sake of Christ, has promised that He would honor with rewards the obedience of His children in this life, even though it is only begun and is weak, imperfect, and unclean. These promises should arouse in the regenerate a zeal for doing good works. For from this we understand how pleasing to the heavenly Father is that obedience of His children which they begin under the leading of the Holy Spirit in this life, while they are under this corruptible burden of the flesh, that He wants to adorn it out of grace and mercy for His Son’s sake with spiritual and temporal rewards which it does not merit by its own worthiness. And in this sense also our own people do not shrink back from the word “merit,” as it was used also by the fathers. For the rewards are promised by grace and mercy; nevertheless, they are not given to the idle or to those who do evil but to those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord.And so the word “merit” is used in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Wuerttemberg Confession, and in other writings of our men. In this way and in this sense, we set forth the statements of Scripture in our churches about the rewards of good works. 1 Tim. 4:8: “Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Luke 14:14: “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Matt. 5:12: “Your reward is great in heaven.” Matt. 10:42: “He shall not lose his reward.” Gal. 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” Eph. 6:8: “Knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord.” Heb. 6:10: “God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints.” 2 Thess. 1:6–7: “Since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, etc.” Scripture is full of such promises of spiritual and bodily rewards.

That’s Chemnitz, the Examen, vol 1, page 653ff.

That’s what Lutherans believe. If you don’t, you are an Antinomian.

+HRC


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  1. Rev. George F. Borghardt III
    December 4th, 2013 at 18:52 | #1

    And I saw and sensed a completely different spirit in Pastor Borghardt’s insistent protests that this brotherly conversation should not take place, and his insistent claim that Antinomianism is something that does not exist in the LCMS in any way, shape, or form, nowhere, nohow.

    I don’t believe that anyone has provided actual evidence that this is a real problem in confessional Lutheranism.

    I never said it didn’t exist. I just said that no one has shown it. I’ve heard an antinomian conversation here or there or someone once whispered it.

    It’s completely anecdotal. That’s my point.

    I’d say it holds as much weight as “Fort Wayne graduates being nazis concerning the Liturgy.” They aren’t and if there was an isolated case, it wouldn’t make for a general rule.

    My feelings concerning how we behave as pastors within confessional Lutheranism have just as much weight. They are also anecdotal. lol

  2. Rev. McCall
    December 5th, 2013 at 08:24 | #2

    @Rev. George F. Borghardt III #1
    I think you are making a valid point. Can anyone actually provide evidence that antinomianism is a real problem in confessional Lutheranism? It certainly is a term we throw around but it is more of a boogeyman than a reality or a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light. I would liken the ELCA’s teaching to antinomianism (all “gospel” and no law) but as you point out, I think it is isolated and random at best in the LCMS.

  3. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 5th, 2013 at 09:49 | #3

    No, presenting the testimonies of history’s great witnesses to the faith is not “a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light”.

    Revisiting testimonies of the fathers of the faith to bring to remembrance fundamental concepts of theology which you know from your own experience, nonetheless, to be easily forgotten by theologians such as yourself is not “a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light”.

    Nor is a brotherly conversation in which Pastors discuss their own shortcomings and temptations when it comes to preaching actual obedience to God as an expression of true faith, and discuss how best to do this aright “a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light”.

    Nor is Pastors claiming to have seen and heard what they have actually seen and heard, and that they have had the experiences they have actually had, without exposing by name the brothers with which they have had the conversations they have actually had, or the so-called brothers from whom they have experienced persecution “a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light”.

    To pretend that others have said things they have not said, and to persist in such pretense – now, that is “a slam to cast a fellow brother in a bad light”.

  4. Rev. George F. Borghardt III
    December 5th, 2013 at 11:24 | #4

    @Jais H. Tinglund #3

    Until such time as actual evidence (in sermons, papers, etc.) is provided, this remains at best a straw man or at worst simply a problem isolated to a few individuals. It certainly isn’t a massive problem. I am open to be proven wrong by some actual evidence.

    I don’t think anyone actually has the chutzpah to say what’s really going on here. I’m gonna say it for y’all. My guess is that some Gospel preaching tweaks us, makes us uncomfortable, and we think it needs to be curbed by the Law.

    We hear a Gospel so sweet, so free, so liberating, and we think, “Oh, people will just live like pigs! That’s… that’s antinomian!”

    I’ve heard this sentiment from people about my own preaching and teaching. Who are you to argue with my assessment since it’s based upon my own anecdotal experience?

    I’m at least being honest enough to say that this is only my opinion. If given enough time, I’m certain you guys will prove my point for me. Just wait (very big grin)…

    A blessed Advent to y’all!

  5. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 5th, 2013 at 12:58 | #5

    Rev. George F. Borghardt III :
    I don’t think anyone actually has the chutzpah to say what’s really going on here. I’m gonna say it for y’all. My guess is that some Gospel preaching tweaks us, makes us uncomfortable, and we think it needs to be curbed by the Law.
    We hear a Gospel so sweet, so free, so liberating, and we think, “Oh, people will just live like pigs! That’s… that’s antinomian!”

    Well, that is not what is going on with me.

    What is going on with me is that I have heard things like this:
    1. People who are living openly and persistently in sin should not be told that to do so is sinful, nor should they be told that to change theirs ways in this regard.

    2. People who are living openly and persistently in sin should never have the Sacrament withheld from them, nor should they be warned that the Sacrament may be withheld from them, until they express repentance.

    3. People who are living persistently in sin should not have to hear in preaching that continuing to do so unrepentently might be detrimental to their faith, and thus to their salvation.

    4. No distinction should be made between on the one hand deliberately choosing to permanently live in a manner contrary to the Word and will of God and continuing to do so without remorse or repentance, and on the other hand being a sinner by nature and therefore occasionally (meaning often, and in fact, all time) sinning and living in constant repentance.

    All this has been defended based on classical Antinomian theology such as that “there is such a thing as forgiveness”, that “we are not under the law”, that those who are born again and renewed by the Holy Spirit are not obligated to do such good works as abstaining from willful sin, and that it is but an option for the regenerate to do or not do good works when he wants (“if they do, then great, and if not it does not matter”), and a person can indeed retain faith while he intentionally perseveres in sin.

    And most this has been said with specific reference to a Pastor who disagrees (and agrees instead with the Lutheran Confessions), and to members of his congregation, in conjunction with statements to that their Pastor does not know his theology, that he has not understood the first thing about what the Gospel is all about, and that he should be disciplined, and severely so.

    With or without names being mentioned, that is what is going on with me.

    And another thing that is going on with me is that I have sensed in myself a reluctance to preach the Law specifically and sincerely as God’s demand for actual obedience on the part of His Christians.

    I have sensed in my self the reluctance to do what I have heard others (faithful Pastors, as far as I can tell) flat out refuse to do, namely preach the law in its third use, as a consequence of the Gospel, for fear of creating uncertainty in their hearers with regards to their salvation (which would, in that case, not be the third use of the law), or to preach law after Gospel in any way, shape or form.

    And I have found it beneficial to revisit and be reminded on a regular basis of what is actually Biblical and thus Lutheran teaching about this.

    I have found it beneficial to discuss with brothers how best to preach actual obedience to God as an expression of true faith without challending and bringing into question the absolution given and received in the Gospel. And yes, for the record, I think this is more about how to say what than it is about counting law words/sentences/seconds as opposed to gospel words/sentences/seconds in a sermon, or having a fixed sermon structure and format for each and every sermon to follow.

    That is what is going on with me, in this regard. Well, some of it, anyway.
    Anecdotal – but true, nonetheless.

    Now can we perhaps start talking about this?
    O, and for the record: I am not sure I am all that proud myself about the tone I have taken with you. I apologise, partially. Although I am not too sure about for which parts I apologise, and for which not.
    Can we leave it at that – brother?

  6. Rev. McCall
    December 5th, 2013 at 13:50 | #6

    Does every pastor in our synod struggle with proclaiming the Law at times? Yes. Does that make them antinomian? No. There seems to me to be a huge difference between a pastor who struggles or is nervous with proclaiming the law at times and in certain circumstances and a pastor who flat out refuses to proclaim the law period because he believes it does not apply or should not apply anymore because of the Gospel. Every pastor struggles with the former. Few have the latter as their problem. The term “antinomian” in all its historical roots implies the latter. So IMHO it is a rather harsh condemnation and an inappropriate one at that to simply go throwing the term antinomian around at every pastor who struggles with or is nervous about proclaiming the law in certain and often delicate circumstances of pastoral care.

  7. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 5th, 2013 at 14:10 | #7

    Rev. McCall :
    So IMHO it is a rather harsh condemnation and an inappropriate one at that to simply go throwing the term antinomian around at every pastor who struggles with or is nervous about proclaiming the law in certain and often delicate circumstances of pastoral care.

    I am not aware that anybody has thrown the term antinomian around at every pastor who struggles with or is nervous about proclaiming the law in certain and often delicate circumstances of pastoral care – neither on this thread, nor over on Gottesdienst

  8. Rev. McCall
    December 5th, 2013 at 14:40 | #8

    @Jais H. Tinglund #7
    Perhaps you missed the first page of comments on this thread (cf comments #5 & # 6). While not directly aimed at pastors struggling with delicate circumstances it certainly is an insulting blanket statement to assert that sermons that are preached as Law and then Gospel equals antinomianism. Further I also never limited my remarks to simply this thread or Gottesdienst. Numerous previous articles and threads on this site have seen the term “antinomian” being thrown about rather freely. In fact, I believe it was not too terribly long ago that Pr. Rossow wrote an article for this site to, in part, correct some of the misuse of the term “antinomian”.

  9. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 5th, 2013 at 14:54 | #9

    I do not really see that assertion.
    I do see a statement that “a sermon in that shape is not wrong by any stretch”.

    But I shall admit that I could have done without the sermon structure explanation. I really do not think that this can or should be boiled down to being about particular sermon structures or templates – as I have hinted at previously. It is every bit as much about how exactly what is said, and what is being said along with it.

  10. December 6th, 2013 at 06:45 | #10

    @Rev. George F. Borghardt III #4
    Hmmm…these comments do make me think, and I believe this does occur; at times. I think when it comes to preaching, I hope every pastor does think about “what will this do to the flock.” Yes, Law does proclaim judgement, Gospel does proclaim glorious Salvation from what we have been condemned by.
    What a glorious challenge the Lord has placed on the pastor’s plate.

  11. Rev. McCall
    December 6th, 2013 at 08:04 | #11

    @Jais H. Tinglund #9
    I saw that assertion, but perhaps I was reading into it too much. Diane asked for an example of an antinomian sermon and the reply was, “Law (2nd use) then Gospel” On its very face it is impossible that this is an antinomian sermon structure because:
    1. It includes Law (the very opposite of antinomian)
    2. As Pr. Rossow and you have rightly pointed out the Law is and remains one Law and all three uses can and are there when it is spoken. When one reads Walthers “Law and Gospel” his emphasis is entirely on 2nd use of the law as the predominate emphasis in preaching.
    What I think people often mean when they assert that someone is an “antinomian” is that they think they aren’t preaching a certain USE of the law enough (usually 3rd use). That’s what Pr. Curtis implies, but that certainly doesn’t make one an antinomian.
    To paraphrase what Pr. Wilken once stated on a thread about antinomianism, “I preach the Law, then I preach the Gospel, then I shut up and sit down. In that order.”

    A blessed Advent and Christmas to you.

  12. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 7th, 2013 at 09:56 | #12

    @Rev. McCall #11
    I do believe that, historically, the Third Use of the Law was an element in the Second Antinomian Controversy – and that the reasonings behind rejecting the Third Use of the Law and the preaching of the Law to Christians, not only as a proof of sin, but also as God’s demand for actual obedience from His Christians correspond closely to elements already present with Agricola.
    As such, I think it is legitimate to consider the teaching that the Law should not be seen God’s demand for actual obedience, or that it should not be preached as such to Christians as part of the Antinomian package.
    And I feel fairly certain that when people bring up Antinomianism, and particularly when they do so without reference to anyone in particular, it is usually not because they think somebody is not preaching a certain use of Law enough – but rather because they are concerned with whether or not the Law is preached at all as God’s demand for actual obedience – as some of us find ourselves tempted not to do, or to do only in the most perfunctory manner – and as others flat out refuse to do, either out of concern for the Gospel being obscured, or because they actually believe that being “under the Gospel and not under the Law”means that a Christian is free to disregard the Word and will of God in the way he or she chooses to live.

    Again, that is where I am coming from.

    I think you should do yourself a favour and check out the conversion that has been going on lately over on Gottesdienst. Good things are being said there, in a spirit of listening to each other, and sharing observations. And certainly not in a spirit of slamming or condemning individuals – although there were, for a time, demands that the conversation be turned into that instead.

  13. Rev. McCall
    December 8th, 2013 at 05:58 | #13

    @Jais H. Tinglund #12
    Thanks, I may check out Gottesdienst.

    “it is usually not because they think somebody is not preaching a certain use of Law enough – but rather because they are concerned with whether or not the Law is preached at all as God’s demand for actual obedience”

    I understand what you are saying, but the examples on comment threads on this site don’t seem to support this. Pr. Curtis’ example of antinomianism was a “Law/Gospel” sermon structure. In that setting the Law is still clearly preached. A while back Rev. McCain’s claim against me was that I was antinomian because I indicated I liked to preach “Law/Gospel” structured sermons. The historical antinomain controversy, even while focusing on the third use, was not such that sermons somehow preached second use of the law and no third. That is simply impossible because the law is one and the same law. No law period was emphasized and preached by antinomians. If the third use cannot and should not tell you how to live then the second use certainly can’t claim your wrong or that you’ve sinned. This is why the Confessions state there is and remains only one Law.

    As Pr. Borghardt stated: “Until such time as actual evidence (in sermons, papers, etc.) is provided, this remains at best a straw man or at worst simply a problem isolated to a few individuals. It certainly isn’t a massive problem. I am open to be proven wrong by some actual evidence.”

    I agree with him. I’d be happy (or maybe not happy) to be proven wrong, but I have not seen or heard of any LCMS pastors rejecting the Law outright and preaching only Gospel. Do we all struggle with temptations not to preach the Law too “harshly”? Yes, and yet even if only done in a perfunctory manner, it is still done. If this is the definition of antinomian though then we are all antinomians, but I don’t think that is what is truly the definition or what is meant historically by that word.

  14. December 8th, 2013 at 08:38 | #14

    @Jais H. Tinglund #12

    Translation and distillation of what has been said:

    If you disagree with me you are a heretic, a lawless antinomian, you love war, you hate freedom, and you must REPENT!!!

    Now please calm down and let’s politely direct traffic and readers to my blog where we can discuss things, listen to each other, and share observations.

  15. December 8th, 2013 at 09:16 | #15

    I think those who claim to be concerned about “antinomians” and rebellion against the “will of God” are usually concerned with rebellion against THEIR will.

    It does not seem to me that such men are “afraid of their authority” but rather in love with it. It does not seem that they are afraid to tell their people they are not being obedient. They seem quite happy to tell their people, other people, and the whole world what everyone is doing wrong.

    We’re told that in the church laymen should hold the clergy accountable, judge what they say against Scripture, and approach them with all concerns. Even while they play games with the very meaning of words? So a regular person should get into a theological debate and wordsmith competition with someone who has a seminary degree and sees any disagreement as a threat to his job (by extension his family), his ego, and his personal mission in life? I wonder how that usually works out. Probably about as well as it has for me.

    Often this is really just a way of letting the clergy know who the problem members are and who must either get their minds right, be isolated and stigmatized, be buttered up and manipulated, or be ushered out the door.

    I think I shall now redefine some words, make outrageous claims against the world, condemn those who disagree, and then adopt a kindly manner and attitude of complete incredulity when someone responds negatively. I will confuse my will with that of God. I will find in the Bible and Christianity justification for every opinion, preference, and inclination I happen to have on every issue under the sun. And then I will complain about how much myself and my friends are persecuted. And maybe if I’m really good at this I will be granted bodily rewards and revered by my subjects….uh I mean followers…… uh I mean people.

    Those who scream the loudest about “freedom” are often the first to fall in love with authority as soon as they are the ones in charge. The only thing they are actually consistent about is that they and their friends are right. About everything.

  16. Diane
    December 8th, 2013 at 14:19 | #16

    @Rev. McCall #11
    What you say is so true, Pastor McCall. How could a sermon have the characteristics of ‘antinomianism’ if the format is Law then Gospel since the definition of antinomian is– someone adverse to the law and the law was preached. Maybe I have a mistaken definition of what an antinomian is or the definition is different when applied to preaching. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to have read or heard that preachers usually preach to themselves first. So, if this is true, are some preachers feeling guilty for not preaching the law harshly enough? I’m sincerely asking this, not trying to be sarcastic at all.

    Diane

  17. Jais Tinglund
    December 8th, 2013 at 16:50 | #17

    Well, sometimes, as in this case, there is more to a theological definition than what a term can litterally be translated into.
    For example, even though your Pastor will probably on occasion perform a Baptism, he may still not be a Baptist …

  18. Jais H. Tinglund
    December 8th, 2013 at 20:19 | #18

    @Rev. McCall #13
    I think I may have overlooked or neglected that particular point of yours. So here goes: I agree with you that preaching primarily (or even exclusively) in the scheme of “condemning Law, then relieving Gospel” hardly makes you an Antinomian – you should have to do worse to qualify for that dishonour …

    And I do agree that reluctance toward preaching the Third Use of the Law (which is what I refer to when I talk about the Law as God’s demand for actual obedience, also of His Christians) can hardly serve as the very definition of Antinomianism. At worst it reflects a touch of Antinomianism; or let us call it “the Antinomian temptation”.

    I have not really had previous discussions in mind – they date back to the time, I believe, before I began to haunt these premises. But at any rate, I do believe in considering each conversation on its own merits, as its own context …

    But, as Dr. Stuckwisch suggested over on Gottesdienst, let us let the term Antinomianism aside (might that be what you have been suggesting all along) and just talk about how to preach (I am paraphrasing).

    My concern is twofold: first what could perhaps be called the “Antinomian temptation” – which concerns preachers; perhaps it could be more appropriate labeled nomophopiba: fear of anxiety about preaching the Law as God’s demand for actual obedience, also of His Christians.

    The other concern we could call the Antinomian misunderstanding, which has always been a challenge, even so that it is addressed already in the Letter to the Romans: The idea that the Gospel means that we do not have to obey the Law, and, in fact, we should not, rather, we should sin so that mercy may abound.
    Sinful nature is predisposed for this misunderstanding, either as an alternative to ungodly legalism, or in various kinds of absurd conjunction with it.
    And some of our members have been raised to embrace this misunderstanding by some of our predecessors – perhaps not so much in their preaching as in their teaching, or in their pastoral practices and policies.

    And for these and probably some other reasons I cannot think of right now – I think the problem is real …

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