“Two Kinds of Righteousness” – Theological Fad or Helpful Paradigm? News from the NID South Region Pastors Conference, by Pr. Rossow

I will be spending the next few days at the Northern Illinois District (NID) South region pastors conference where we are hearing Professor Joel Biermann from Concordia Seminary St. Louis (CSL) speak on the two kinds of righteousness. If you have never heard of the “two kinds of righteousness” (2KR) don’t worry, that may be a good thing. However, it is worth a bit of our discussion here in the website if for no other reason than to have an insight into the rise and fall of theological themes.

The two kinds of righteousness is the topic of a sermon by Martin Luther in 1518. It was seized upon by a few professors from the St. Louis seminary a few years ago as a potential new theological motif that could rival and maybe even supplant the law/gospel motif. As best I can tell, the seed for this this new impetus for the two kinds of righteousness was planted by Robert Kolb and watered by Chuck Arand, both CSL professors. The most complete presentation of it that I know of is in an article by Arand.

Luther’s point in the sermon is that the Bible speaks of two kinds of righteousness: 1) the righteousness of faith that is imputed to us on account of Christ and 2) the actual righteous acts that we do, that is our good works. This is similar to the distinction between justification and sanctification.

So what is all the fuss about? The fuss is over the fact that some of the professors in St. Louis trotted this theme out as a potential major theme to possibly take precedence over the motif of Law/Gospel. It was thought that an emphasis on two kinds of righteousness will allow us to more readily talk about good works and also open up more avenues of dialogue with the Reformed. (“Reformed” is a loose term for most non-Lutheran, non Pentecostal protestants.)

I am all in favor of academic pursuits and I think the two kinds of righteousness talk is interesting and can help us fine tune our understanding of the Gospel and the theological development of Luther. However, I think that the proposal that it is a full blown theological paradigm right up there with Law and Gospel is textually inaccurate and can even be harmful to Scriptural Lutheranism. There are helpful elements in the notion of the two kinds of righteousness. For instance, it can remind us to do more preaching and teaching of the ten commandments to help form our spirituality. Here are at least three reasons to be skeptical about this elevation of the two kinds of righteousness.

1) It is not an on-going theme in Luther. He preached the sermon in 1518 and after that did not make this a major theme. As a matter of fact he actually goes on much later in his Commentary on Galatians to talk about five or more kinds of righteousness. The massive index volume of the Luther’s Works (it is an entire volume) does not even have an entry for the “two kinds of righteousness.” That is about all you need to know about the subject. (The 2KR proponents would argue that it is a major theme that has been forgotten and they are merely reviving it which is why it does not show up in the index.)

2) An over emphasis on the two kinds of righteousness diminishes the prominence of the law/gospel dichotomy. In the law/gospel dichotomy, we hear the law to be convicted of our sin and we need the gospel to raise us to new life in Christ. It is that freedom from the law that is the fundamental thing of the Christian faith. Biermann and others are emphasizing the two kinds of righteousness in order to make the law and living in accordance with it the fundamental thing of the Christian faith. Adam and Eve before the fall did not live for the law, they lived with God who walked and talked with them. Yes there was law there in the garden but they did not even notice it. They lived perfectly until they fell into sin. Likewise in heaven we will not live for the law, we will live in the presence of Christ. We will be perfect but we will not even know that we are living in accordance with the law of God because we will be so smitten with seeing Christ face to face and our old sinful flesh will have already been destroyed once and for all. This side of heaven the Gospel is everything for us. Without the love of God in Christ we are lost and condemned creatures. Even once we get to heaven, the Gospel will be everything for us. We will live in the love of God. This does not abrogate the law. It still stands in its full force but it is not the fundamental thing for which we were created.

3) It is not the proper role of the pastor to teach the active righteousness of children, parenting, ruling, etc. This is the role of fathers, rulers, and others as a left hand kingdom activity. When the left hand kingdom becomes too prominent in the church we get sermon series on money-management, parenting skills, and good sex, all of which are favorites of the Evangelical crowd. The pastor’s role is to preach the law to repentance and the speak forgiveneess where there is repentance. Of course, there will be some teaching on being a good parent, ruler, etc. as Luther does in the Large Catechism but this does not rise to the level of new major Lutheran motif.

A brief blog like this is no place to capture the subtleties of this discussion. Please pardon me if this is not entirely clear. I am looking forward to hearing the presentation and if nothing else pressing comes up, I will update you on how the presentation unfolded.

Speaking of the conference, my circuit was recently moved into the South region and I could not be happier. Even though I am not a big fan of the two kinds of righteousness, it is very refreshing to see a pastors conference focus on doctrine. There are precious few conferences left who do this. Most spend their time on “practical” matters such as evangelism, small group theory, leadership, and the like.

On a totally different topic, if you haven’t signed in our mini petition speaking against these sorts of “practical” concerns dominating the synod, please take a moment and read my post from yesterday and if you are so moved, affix your name to it.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


“Two Kinds of Righteousness” – Theological Fad or Helpful Paradigm? News from the NID South Region Pastors Conference, by Pr. Rossow — 28 Comments

  1. Just a note –

    I was on CSL’s campus last academic year working on STM coursework (I’m a Ft. Wayne M.Div grad). I had been briefly exposed to the controversy by Ft. Wayne profs before my arrival at St. Louis (so, yes, some might call my view “tainted”).

    Having heard from a couple of professors at St. Louis (I had classes with both Prof. Biermann and Dr. Kolb) as well as reading some of what’s out on 2KR, I would just like to note that I’m not sure there’s entirely a crystalized consensus at St. Louis regarding exactly what this new “paradigm” is and the degree to which it can “replace” Law/Gospel.

    So far as I know, there is no propositional presentation of it (ala, Walther’s Law & Gospel) and each person I’ve read/heard presents 2KR in such a way that I walked away with a different understanding of the central core. They may have been saying the same thing, but it was murky enough that it didn’t sound the same.

    I only mention this because I want to avoid people painting the idea with too broad of brush strokes based upon one or another presentation. I do think that 2KR may help avoid a certain type of Gospel Reductionism that can result from a MISAPPLICATION of the Law/Gospel motif, but my own opinion is that it doesn’t rise to the level of a replacement.

    Perhaps things have crystalized more in the last several months, but until something more concrete comes out than I have seen, I have a hard time treating this as more than an academic exercise with the possibility of both good and bad ramifications, as Pr. Rossow has pointed out.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my take/critique on 2KR as I understand it —

    The primary problem I personally see with 2KR is that, if not properly understood, it can separate sin on the horizontal plane from sin on the vertical plane – treating them as separate and distinct. Yet the root of sin on the horizontal plane is the existence of sin on the vertical plane (i.e., the fact that we are a SINNER). That is to say, we sin because we are sinners. A misunderstanding of 2KR is the “Reformed” (as a general designation for “NON LUTHERAN”) understanding, we are sinners because we sin.

    The truth is, we break the commandments of the 2nd table because we hate God who created our neighbor. As sinners, our deepest desire is to rebel and lash out against God – and we do so by working to destroy His creation which He originally called “very good.” As sinners, we don’t see it as “very good” we see creation as a threat to our personal autonomy – an impingement of God upon our own soverignty – and we lash out against it.

    In this way, horizontal UNrighteousness is simply an outgrowth of our vertical UNrighteousness (trees and fruit and all that). A re-establishment of vertical righteousness has, as its consequence, a re-establishment of horizontal righteousness (again, trees and fruit and all that). This identification of horizontal UNrighteousness as the outgrowth of vertical UNrighteousness is the purpose and effect of proper LAW/GOSPEL preaching which identifies this connection and points it out and points to the remedy in Christ. This is what is meant by drowning the Old Adam that the New Man may daily come forth and arise (notice Luther’s passive language regarding the New Adam). As the New Man comes forth and arises, He makes himself evident through His righteous acts. (Again, trees and fruit and all that).

    If misunderstood, 2KR takes “active righteousness” to mean righteousness proceeding from our own independent (i.e., Old Adam’s) will that seeks to bring itself into conformance with God’s Will. Properly understood, our “righteous activities” (or our “acting righteously” which might be a better way to conceptualize it than “active righteousness”), proceed from the impulses of the New Man who spontaneously and joyfully does what God wills without the constant threats and cajoling of the Law.

    Whether 2KR as promulgated by any professor at CSL ACTUALLY falls into these traps or not IS A SEPARATE ISSUE (which I do NOT here address)… what I simply address is how the language of 2KR can cause difficulty and confusion and where it has not, as far as I can tell, been fully (or carefully) articulated thus far by those using this paradigm at CSL.
    (alright… this post has already gotten too long — sorry… I’ll end it here for the sake of sanity [and vocation…])

  2. It looks to me as if Luther simply used it as an illustration in his sermon on Justification/Sanctification (not exactly a new paradigm in Lutheran thought these days). To belabor the illustration is to miss the point. I don’t see how that is particularly helpful. We can speak of the two apart from each other only in an academic way. In practice they are distinct but inseparable.

  3. I am not at all sure what any of this has to do with Law and Gospel. Dr. Arand was at the IDE fall pastors’ conference last year and spoke about it–but even though being there I am not sure that he gave any concrete proof to the theory.

    I agree with James that Luther simply used it as an illustration in his sermon on Justification/Sanctification. The seminary profs would better serve the family of students getting into them a proper distinction of Law and Gospel and not search for new items to expand far beyond their original intent.

  4. I don’t know how everyone everywhere will use the phrase, “the two kinds of righteousness,” but being a St. Louis grad, I was rather thankful for the distinction at the time, for it helped to englighten my pietistic little head right into confessional Lutheranism. Some may treat it differently, or abuse it, but I think its hard to call it “new” to Lutheranism. Rightly understood, as Luther wrote of it in his introduction to Galatians, I believe it’s little other than what we confess in the Augsburg Confession:

    (IE, Passive Righteousness:)

    Art. IV-V: Justification and Ministry (as the sum of it)

    Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4. That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

    4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

    (IE, Active Righteousness:)

    Art. VI: New Obedience

    1] Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification 2] before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by 3] the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.

    And, Art. XVI: Of Civil Affairs.

    1] Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that 2] it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.

    3] They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

    4] They condemn also those who do not place evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil offices, for 5] the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such 6] ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates 7] and laws save only when commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29.

    more of my words now

    One thus applies the concept of horizontal or active righteousness to what we also/otherwise call “law” or any kind of “civil” obedience. It’s a good thing. It’s observable, good for the neighbor, and should be taught, say, as our Catechism does specifically in the Table of Duties. It is not the chief end and goal of the Church, but it is indeed included in the “all things” our Lord has commissioned us to preach. We could also compare these ideas to the distinction between the 1st article of the Creed and the 2nd/3rd.

    Meanwhile, preaching the passive, alien, free gift Righteousness of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake is the chief purpose and aim of the Church. It’s what we usually call “Gospel” Not only would I hate to be told I could not preach that, but I don’t see how one paradigm can really replace the other, as they’re two ways of distinguishing the same thing: that there is in fact good and evil, and that we are evil but saved by grace for the sake of merits of our Lord Jesus. Kyrie eleison! Maranatha cum!

  5. We did a show in 2KR once. It just confused me.

    If it takes a Ph.D. to explain it to laypeople, it should stay in the seminary classroom.

    If it is intended as a substitute for a proper distinction between Law and Gospel, it should be rejected. There is NO shortage of Luther or Confessions recommending Law/Gospel to us.

    If this is seminary profs bored teaching the same old theology, then we need to return those profs to the field so that they find better things to do with their time, and learn again that the laity need God’s Word, plain and simple; not fine theories and speculations.


  6. Pastor Rossow,
    I can’t say I agree with what you said in #3. If there was never a NEED to know what a husband, wife, parent, NEED to do & not do say & not say, that is not, nor never was a left hand kingdom issue. Most people AREN’T taught this, I’ve read several posting here on that. This is a lacking in the LCMS today. Rather than do what we once did, we now say, read this book or see this counselor. No, this is an elder or Pastor’s domain. These heretical teachings on marriage, parenting, relationships etc, (see Warren, Hybels, Kimball, Bell, methoepiscobaptist. etc) would never have gotten into the LCMS, if there wasn’t an opening or void for them. They found an empty spot and filled it with their heresy. We assume, every parent in the LCMS teaches or taught their children how to be godly spouses, godly parents, foundational lutheran children of Christ, but STATISTICS show, that we are failing in that. We run in tandem w/the left kingdom in those. It IS the responsibility of Pastors & Elders do this. Or at least we USED to do so. Seeing my pastors at my house growing up (not small congregations mind you) went a long way in their knowing me, my sister & my parents. My Dad wasn’t called out on elder calls just because of lack of attendence, he went out on more calls because of marriage, parenting, addiction, and life issues more often than any other (1970-1990). It is wrong & in my mind, dangerous to assume parents know this, teach this, and spouses really know how to live a rightous wedded life. Most don’t and that they that do MUST have that restated & more in depth, from their PASTORS on any given Sunday, IN DETAIL. People shouldn’t just hear this at home, they should hear it, & be taught MORE IN DEPTH, from the pulpit. I despise all the heresies that have been brought in, on “life aspects” but if you really want it gone, we have got to be willing to teach these things IN A FOUNDATIONAL, BIBLICAL & LUTHERAN way. This, with the utmost respect, you KNOW I do, but that smacked of a passing the buck assumption, not SHEPHERDING which is the important part of the office. Lambs need to be taught & retaught how to eat grass, what grass is good & what isn’t. Those heretical teachings are teaching just how to eat, not what is best TO eat. You are depending on a foundation that may or may not exist, and that is the problem. Offer Foundational answers & applications, and many, many will leave these present heresies behind.

  7. “The fuss is over the fact that some of the professors in St. Louis trotted this theme out as a potential major theme to possibly take precedence over the motif of Law/Gospel.”

    As an M.Div. student at Concordia Seminary, I have NEVER heard 2KR professed or implied as a substitute for or replacement of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. In fact, from what I understand, 2KR cannot be understood without first understanding Law / Gospel. 2KR BUILDS off of Law / Gospel. Maybe Pastor Rossow knows something I don’t, but I have not detected the slightest whiff of any move in that direction in any way, shape, or form.

    And I’m sorry, but this assertion makes as much sense as saying that the Doctrine on Vocation is at odds with Sanctification, or that the Doctrine of Man is the antithesis of the Doctrine of God, or that Paul’s teaching on Justification and James’ teaching on faith and works are in conflict. Just because two doctrines address similar issues does not mean these doctrines are incompatible.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Pastor Rossow’s follow-up post on this topic AFTER the pastors’ conference, specifically reporting back to us that he raised these concerns and questions and reporting what answers Dr. Biermann gave.

  8. Just to echo what Dutch (# 6) wrote, here’s a quote from Apol. XV, 43, Lutherans confess:

    “In our churches, on the other hand, all sermons deal with topics like these: penitence, the fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, comfort for the conscience through faith, the exercise of faith, prayer and our assurance that it is efficacious and is heard, the cross, respect for rulers and for all civil ordinances, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (or the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”

    Also consider which part is the longest and most voluminous in the Large Catechism — the Ten Commandments. Besides, Luther wrote quite a few texts dealing with these daily issues from a biblical perspective.

    Flawed (Evangelical) literature and instruction in this area is there, true. But the abuse does not take away the proper use of a thing, that’s also in the Confessions.

    Perhaps the talk of two kinds of righteousness, no matter whether there’s a clear position on this among the faculty at St. Louis, can help us appreciate life in this world as a pursuit of something other than money, namely, as a pursuit of, and growth in, righteousness (and holiness). That seems to be a biblical theme, just see Ephesians 4.

    As I understand it, it can’t replace the law-gospel distinction. It can only make sense within that distinction, and there it can give us a richer, deeper understanding thereof. And that’s not a bad thing, I think.

  9. I would like to mention that one should also read Luther’s works On the Freedom of a Christian and Treatise on Good Works to fully understand the development of Luther’s thought from 1517 to 1520.

    The Sermon on Two Kinds of Righteousness (1518) still contains vestiges of late medieval ideas of “infused righteousness”. In fact the Latin text uses the phrase “infusa” which is translated “instilled” in the Luther’s Works edition. I believe Luther had developed a better understanding of the distinction by 1520 in regards to the doctrine of justification (*No big revelation there if one reads the vast bibliography on this subject).

    Luther’s lectures on Galatians from the early 1530s (published in 1535) represent his clearest and mature presentation on righteousness and justification. These lectures should be read in comparison with Melanchthon’s Apology IV.

  10. Matt,

    Very good point. 1518 is a rather precarious time yet in Luther’s theological development.

    To Dr. Biermann’s credit he did mention the Commentary on Galatians and how Luther mentions 5 or more kinds of righteousness there which I take to be proof that the 2 kinds is not paradaigmatic. Dr. Biermann drew a different conclusion.


  11. I’m working on my D.Min at St. Louis and took a class with Joel Biermann in which we discussed 2KR. I would suggest before worrying about what any possible twistings of the teaching might be, you should read Arand and Kolb’s book The Genius of Luther’s Theology. The first half of the book discusses 2KR in some depth.

    The main thrust that I got out of 2KR is that the Law/Gospel paradigm has been abused in the past and 2KR is a way of guarding against abuses. The maxim that the law always accuses has often been twisted to the law only accuses. I believe this is why Gospel Reductionism was originally called by the term Law/Gospel Reductionism. Both Law and Gospel were violated. When the Law is assumed only to work to kill, there is no positive place for the Law in the life of the Christian. Out goes the third use of the law and in comes all kinds of perversions into the Christian Church. After all, the Gospel has made us free! See the recent actions in the ELCA. The proper Law Gospel distinction is part and parcel to 2KR(it is one kind of righteousness – alien righteousness).

    As for 2KR being confusing, I didn’t think so. As for professors being confusing, that is often the case. Kolb and Arand’s book on the other hand is very clear and a worthy read.

  12. My dearest Anonymous,
    Your words here, vex me. The words you speak here VEX me. You seem to have a “Luther Knowledge, lacking the Understanding”… the dichotomy in your words, doesn’t make much sense, even to me. As you say, as a M DV student, you seem to think you have a grasp of “Luther’s words, writings, but…by & through whom?”. My dearest Anon, have your read his sermons, not the commentaries, THE SERMONS, all of them, at length & PONDERED THEM AT LENGHT, WITH THE SCRIPTURES? On this topic, & those topics mentioned by me, & re-iterrated by Holger Sonntag? Sometimes, prof’s or ta.’s, or…Lord forbid such,… special guests (Rob Bell or Leonard Sweet, Dan Kimball,etc) in their turn, smudge & muddy Scriptural & Doctrinal things of God, to give their own turn to things. I am, ,a mere pew sitter. However, I do know how to read & understand a sermon. Believe me when I say, I can smell a rat in a ship, & something rotten in Denmark, so is the care of the Shepherd to those who sit in a pew!!! Luther has many sermons, on a gambit of subjects. Which I have many times depended on, as I HAVE NOT HEARD IT ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, IN QUITE SOME TIME, BUT LUTHER SPOKE IT, AND I CAN STILL READ IT TODAY!! I have only one link:
    Martin Luther Sermons (117 sermons)

    It is from a re publish, 8 volume, the original 14 volume of the said. I don’t have enough space to buy them, let alone store them, OH I HOW WISH I DID. I WILL NOT SPEAK FOR THE CHURCH WHO PUBLISHED THEM, BUT IT IS MORE THAN I HAVE FOUND ELSEWHERE. Now, take marriage for example. Gambit of books out there: OI VEY!! (heresy & apostasy), but none can take the place of what Luther spoke himself, there is a book (oldie but still DESPERATELY NEEDED, is still in print on amazon) called
    “The Marriage Ring: Three Sermons on Marriage by Martin Luther”
    Oh, think of the possibilities, should pre marriage counseling, or sermons on marriage be taken from these three!! (FYI, Men may NOT KNOW THEIR STATION NOR DUTY TO THEIR LORD, UNDER THUS, NOR WE HELPMEET’S, BUT LUTHER HAD NO DOUBT!) Luther has spoken much, in his sermons, on the subject: “2RK” above, & Neither the left, Nor the right, have remembered nor thought on, that which he, Luther, spoke on, nor what they speak of. On this or any number of subjects! I do not know, if you are now laity, Pastor, elder, missionary, etc. However, look, read, & ponder on Luther’s sermons, for a while. What little I have, is the best I can do for you. If you accept what is stated, ask yourself why, & how I came to believe this. If you should reject them, ANY PART OR PARCILE, ask where, how, by whom, & why. You must decide, ACCEPT; SUBMIT & OBEY OUR LORD’S WORD IN SCRIPTURE, OR REJECT IT, AS FOLLY! You may be elder or pastor, SO UNDERSTAND FULL WELL, YOU…, WILL BE CALLED TO ACCOUNT FOR WHAT YOU TEACH OR NOT TEACH, SAY, OR NOUGHT, DO OR NOUGHT, & WHY YOU DID THUS. YOU WILL TAKE OTHERS WITH YOU, WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO GO, BE MINDFULL OF THIS, YOUR LORD KNOWS ALL, & FORGETS NOTHING. You take others with you, either way. From a pewsitter, I would rather hear a Pastor, recite & explain, (word for word, NOT IDEA PER IDEA) one of Luther’s sermons, than the drivel I have heard the last 15 years. Do that, and then ask Pastor Rossow if he knows something you don’t or were not taught at Sem. He does, & you should submit & obey to what you know not or have not been taught rightly.

  13. On this topic see: David A. Lumpp, “Luther’s ‘Two Kinds of Righteousness’: A Brief Historical Introduction.” Concordia Journal (1997): 27-38.

  14. The conference ended yesterday so here is my promised summary now that I have heard a lengthy presentation on 2KR. I thank you for the several critical and several positive comments above – here is my assessment after listenting to several hours on 2KR.

    Dr. Biermann and others have developed a full and mostly confessional approach to Lutheran theology via 2KR. It is an interesting approach that has energized Dr. Biermann and others and motivates them to present Lutheran distinctives under this new paradigm. It aggressively knocks down the straw man of gospel reductionism (more on that later) and that would be a good thing if you think the straw man cannot be taken down by other traditional Lutheran categories.

    The straw man is this. Biermann says that when he was at the seminary he was taught that we confront people with thier sin and then forgive them and send them on thier way and that we have nothing more to say to them. He calls this the new Gospel reductionism. (Classic Gospel reductionism is eliminating the law – the sort of thing that motivated the ELCA’s recent apostasy.) I would argue that we already have the doctrinal means to knock down this new Gospel reductionism, i.e. Chemnitz on the third funtion of the law in the Formula and even before that, the articles on Good Works in the AC and the Apology.

    More problematic to me is that 2KR puts faith and works on the same footing. The Christian life is a matter of faith and works – that is right in the title of this new approach: two kinds of righteousness, 1) saving/imputed righteousness and 2) the actual righteousness we do. Now Biermann and his students will say that the first is the cause of the second and therefore they are not on equal footing but it is undeniable that from a semantic point of view they are two peas in the same pod. (BTW – semantics is meaningful since afterall, words mean things, especially the words of the name of a novel approach to Lutheran theology such as 2KR.)

    I prefer over 2KR, as did Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, and Walther, the traditional paradigm of Law and Gospel. Here the semantics also tell the story. The name of the paradaigm speaks volumes. It is Law and then Gospel, not Faith and Works as in 2KR. Lutherans need to be known as the Scriptural church of law and gospel, not the church of faith and works. The Law convicts of us our sin (its primary function) and the Gospel comes along and does something totally different, it gives birth to us all over again. As newly born children of God we are like Adam and Eve in the garden who fully serve God in this new life. Good works are a natural part of the new life. They flow from it. They cannot help but come. But of course, we sin daily and so need to daily confront the old man with the primary use of the law and then claim by faith again the new life of the Gospel – singing a joyful tune on our way to our vocations.

    Now it is this vocation thing that the 2KR’ers say needs more empahsis and along with it all the acts in obedience to the law. They are indeed important but not so important that they are to be raised to the level the 2KR’ers do. The Gospel is everything! If we do not uphold this truth we slip into some sort of Judaizing. The third use of the law is an afterthought (literally in the order of loci in the Book of Concord) and that is a good place for it. It is a thought for sure, and an important one, but it is an afterthought which must always live in the shadow of the greater truth: “The Gospel is everything.” I know it is a paradox to say that the third use of the law is a legitemate theological truth and also say “the Gospel is everything.” Scriptural theology and Lutheran theology is paradoxical and I am happy living with this mystery. 2KR does not intend to do away with this mystery but it diminishes it.

    Biermann disputes the assertion that he is displacing Law/Gospel with 2KR but in the end he does. He teaches it as a more primary paradigm than law and gospel. He teaches it with more enthusiasm than law and gospel and he believes it is a fuller paradigm, than law and gospel.

    Were good works not properly taught in the seminary in the mid 1980’s? Biermann is probably right on this count. I was there in the mid 80’s with him, but what Biermann seeks to accomplishe with 2KR, Norman Nagel accomplishes with an extremely rich presentation of law/gospel that has such an emphasis on the Gospel (the Gospel is everything) that one gets carried away with service to Christ and neighbor so caught up in the Gospel that he does not even realize that he is losing his life to others.

    Besides, one can have an appropriate emphasis on good works without using the 2KR motif. Over on the Cyberbrethren blog Paul McCain and others have been doing just that without using the 2KR pradaigm.

    Here is something really scarry about 2KR. It overly inspires and excites those who think the goal of the Gospel is to make better Christians. A couple of enthusiastic comments were made at the conference by those who beleive this. I can’t blame Biermann totally for this – afterall, it may just be a mistaken conclusion which is the fault of the hearer and not the presenter but it happened, and I was not surprised because the very title 2KR puts faith and works on the same footing. This is my very point. The Gospel has no goal. We do not preach the Gospel for some sort of goal. We preach the Gospel to speak new life into unbeliervers and against the surviving old Adam in believers. The Gospel is its own goal. When you start adding a goal to the Gospel you lose the Gospel.

    But what about all of the vocational training that we need as Christians? 2KR does a good job of highlighting ethics and vocation but these are not uniquely Christian things of the Gospel. Good parenting and godly ethical decisions can be made by pagans. For sure, we ought to do more teaching of the Large Catechism in our congregations and we ought to preach annually on the 10 Commandments but these things are secondary to the Gospel. We need to train consciences and habituate people into good behavior but this is not the chief work of the church nor uniquely church work.

    Let me close with some other reflections on Dr. Biermann. He brought some great admonishment and exhortation to the brothers on many important issues and for this I commend him. He criticized lay readers in the Divine Service and encouraged the laity to practice thier vocation and the pastors to practice theirs. He also made it clear that the pastor is God’s absolution man, i.e. that the forgiveness of sins is the work of the pastor. He extolled the use of the sign of the cross and also criticized those who have a functionalist view of the ministry and twist Walther into teaching this. On the down side he talked about belonging to a small group in the congregation he attends. I noticed on the internet that the congregation he attends is built around the small group model and also has contemporary worship. Do the seminary and Dr. Biermann now endorse these things?

    Overall Dr. Biermann was articulate and engaging. The lectures were time well spent. I still remain quite troubled about this over-emphasis on 2KR and hope that it is fad and not a new pradaigm.

    I apologize that this response is poorly written. I have only so much time and need to give priority to the congregation I serve but wanted to share my final thoughts as soon as poosible.


  15. I finished reading Dr. Biermann’s article on 2KR today. I also read some of the other articles that were present in the Concordia Journal April/2007 edition. They raised some good concerns about the issue of antinomism. The down side I noticed is that repentance and the forgivness of sins, seems to get lost in the vertical/passive rightousness, while the christians horizontal/active righteousness is emphasized. I almost got the sense that is a Lutherans version of the purpose driven life. I think the short answer to their concerns is found in Luther’s small and large catechisms. The table of duties in the small and Luther’s commentary on the ten commandments in the large, is still the standard. The teaching of these in today’s context has problably been lost in a lot of LCMS churches today over the last 50 years and this is problably what their trying to address, but using the wrong tools. Good topic and thanks for posting this.


  16. Biermann did his dissertation on this topic and one of the works he drew from extensively was the later edition Luther’s Galatians commentary.

    I am a CSL student. This is what I think of 2KR:
    There are all kinds of righteousness but 2 is an organizing principle (coram Deo and coram hominibus or coram mundo.) By all kinds of righteousness I mean there is such a thing as virtuous (righteous) cooking, virtuous fathering, virtuous mothering, virtuous car driving (I am using the word virtue because one thing that Biermann wants to do is introduce a language of virtue ethics.) But 2 is a good number because these virtues or righteousnesses, whether brought about through the regenerate spontaneously and joyfully (a righteousness corresponding to the 3rd “use” or function of the law, a righteousness which God regards and rewards (though not with eternal life but perhaps with a higher degree of glory in heaven)) or brought about from fear of consequences (a “righteousness” that is strictly coram mundo), cannot be empirically seperated in this live. When we turn in and look at our motives we can’t say,”Hey, that was a good work there, I did that one spontaneously, but that other thing there…well I was just afraid of getting in trouble.) Why can’t you divide them? Because of the simul, justus et peccator that is. We always have bad moties. Let God call the works out for what they are on the Last Day. Trust in his promises.

    So…what this means for preaching is that you just PROCLAIM Law and you proclaim Gospel. What you don’t do…what you don’t do is insert the 1 John 4:19 into every Sermon where you have to deal with Law in a text. You don’t say hey women are to be submissive to their husbands because God first loved us. That isn’t Gospel proclamation. Neither is it really the Law. You just say, “Women submit to you husbands. All you can do is say Amen to this.” You say, “Do good works.” Why, because they have to? And you have to preach it.

    Biermann’s is reacting to a foil, which given the preaching I have heard is not imaginary. His foil is often called Hyper-Waltherianism, or Law/Gospel reductionism. This foil is demonstrated when pastors bind themselves to this idea that Law/Gospel is always a chronological paradigm for preaching. Law first alwyas…and then say something like, “But you can’t really do this because you are dead.” (Furthermore, you don’t have to EXPLAIN spiritual death in ever sermon. Proclaim the law, preach repentance, the law will kill at the end of the day. You can’t control its use.) Then and only then…you tell them Jesus did it for them. and like magic Lutheran preaching. What you can’t do according to this reductinist paradigm is say something like, “Good works have been prepared for them to do so DO THEM.” You certainly can’t end a sermon that way. But John ends one of his letters, “Little children keep away from idols.” Bring on the law, turn it up full blast and turn up the Gospel full blast, jam the stereo with the treble and the bass on 11!

    Hyper-Waltherianism is a misnomer though. Walther had no problem preaching sermons on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and saying things like, “If you keep on in deliberate sins you will drive out the Holy Spirit.”

    Just listen to Biermann’s sermons on itunesU. He preaches Law/Gospel which is different than explaining Law/Gospel and calling that a sermon. The point is that explaining “gospel-motivation” won’t actually make people more righteous. The Gospel both declares and makes people righteous coram Deo and coram mundo. But remember…you have people in your pews who are always sinners and if you motivate them to do good works out of fear, well that’s a good thing. I want them to mow their laws and be good parents even if they are motivated out of fear. You don’t have to go to Luther’s work from 1518 to find him using the Law to motivate good works. Just go to the Confessions. Here is a quote from the Large Catechism on the Close of the Commandments: “For this reason, I said that we should keep [the close of the Commandments] before the eyes of young people and drum it into them, in order that they learn and remember it in such a way that we may see why we are constrained and compelled to keep these Ten Commandments.”

  17. stub,

    Everything you exhorted us to do (I agree with about 80% of what you said – more on that below) can be done without resorting to announcing that there is now a new school of theology – “The St. Louis School,” with a new and better paradaigm – 2KR.

    You actaully did not mention 2KR after your first line and you left the concept totally behind after your first paragraph.

    I agree totally with your critique of the lousy law/gospel preaching. The problem is not in the paradaigm of l/g but in the instruction. What you are critiquing is what I call “descriptive preaching.” It is nasty stuff but 2KR is not the answer. Preachers need to heed Walther’s advice adn stop describing law and gospel and start killing people with the law and making them alive with the gospel by preaching faith into thier hearts. This is not a matter of 2KR. Biermann certainly uses 2KR as a tool to correct this problem but it is a sufficient cause but not a necessary cause. He presents it as though it is a necessary cause.

    Now to the 20% I disagree with. 1) motivating people to do good works out of fear is an OK thing but it is not a uniquely Christian thing. Notice Luther’s examples are always with children. This is because children are to be trained and habituated. Does our 2nd function of the law motivate some dolts by fear? Yes it does but that is happenstance and ought not to be paradaigmatic with us. 2) Ethics is not a Christian science. (I have an MA from St. Louis U. in philosophy. Seminary professors should stop dabbling in philosophy – this goes for Voelz and his silly post-modern hermeneutics and Biermann for his virtue ethics 2KR.) Luther does not do ethics. He trains children. Virtue ethics has shown some promise in the secular world but is not inherently Christian. Ought we to do natural law theory or virtue ethics? I think neither. They are both sympathetic to the revealed morality of the Bible but it is wrong-headed for us to think that we will find some sort of perfect ethics. I am fine with the vocation of ethician and it is fine if a Lutheran wants to be an ethician but theologians ought to steer clear of ethics. The public square will never accept your correct priniciple of ethics, i.e. do it because you are supposed to do it (God said it in his word). You are right, this is the sort of habituating Luther did with children but it is a far cry from ethics. Every seminary ethics class ought to be replaced with an extra class on the Small and Large Catechisms.

    I look forward to your response. This is a wonderful conversation to have.


  18. “The Christian life is a matter of faith and works – that is right in the title of this new approach: two kinds of righteousness, 1) saving/imputed righteousness and 2) the actual righteousness we do.”

    The Christian life is a matter of Jesus and His works for us. When we are in Christ we do His works. The only righteousness we have is in Jesus Christ.

  19. Pr. Rossow,

    I’m glad that you brought up this topic. Last year I went to the Loehe anniversary convention at Ft. Wayne and ran into some brothers I knew from undergrad to whom 2KR was something of a boogie man. I was surprised and found the whole attitude a bit funny.

    1. You are right. I did mention 2KR and didn’t come back to it. But, now that I think about it, in all the systems classes I’ve taken with Biermann (3 plus he co-taught my Lutheran Mind class) he really only devoted a couple of class periods to it. What’s more, it didn’t come up explicitly very often after Lutheran Mind. Furthermore, I never had it presented to me as a replacement for Law/Gospel as a preaching paradigm. Instead, it was taught as a prologomenon to Law/Gospel and as a paradigm within which Law/Gospel is intelligible. For Walther, while Law/Gospel because they are God’s words makes experience intelligible, experience makes the application of Law/Gospel intelligible. What one could call “natural theology” has its proper place then.
    To explain further, 2kr doesn’t need to be explicitly explained or even proclaimed. In that sense it isn’t a preaching paradigm. Rather, it makes sense of how to preach Law/Gospel. It says that while Law and Gospel are mutually exclusive coram deo (the Gospel drives out the heavy handed husband of the Law and give it no place in the conscience), there is only law in this world (coram deo). This just allows one to preach the whole counsel of God. So, say you are preaching on the pastoral requirements in Titus, Gospel doesn’t in anyway drive out the Law as long as the discourse is coram mundo. So, if you are a drunk, if you’re kids are unruly, if you are not above reproach, you shouldn’t be a pastor. Period. No Gospel. Just don’t be a pastor. Now, things get complicated for the conscience of a someone who hears these words and is a pastor. Suddenly he the law strikes his conscience and he realizes that his whole vocation, what he has been given to do is in question. The Gospel drives out the fear that he is not righteous before God, but the Law must stand coram mundo. If there is scandal he should be deposed. If you preach on this text from Titus you can’t make the law kill everybody. You can insert law not in the text, but why not just preach a free text at the point. If you preach the text it might only kill the visiting Pastor. And that’s okay. Perhaps then, its not okay to preach on the epistle at the Hauptgottesdienst and indeed it was the practice prior to the advent of pietism to preach on the Gospel in the Hauptgottesdiesnt. But that is another issue. When does one preach catechetical sermons?

    2. By emphasizing habituation in children you ipso facto concede to the necessity of virtue ethics. Aristotle is bad when he is applied to the formation of faith (thence comes fides caritate formata,) but habituation is necessary. Fake it till you make it is just a crass way of putting this. One gets time to preach catechetical sermons because people are habituated to coming to midweek services. This is just conjecture, but the Titus text I mentioned earlier seems to show that Paul who is clearly conversant with Greek poetry is also conversant with lists of virtues. What Paul doesn’t do is he doesn’t say, “Pastors should be deontologists and not utilitarians” or vice-versa. Melanchthon was a theologian and also a pedogogical theorist and an ethicist. So why can’t a theologian be an ethicist. What’s the big deal. Virtue is an emphasis in God’s Word. Coram mundo love, not faith is the greatest good. Furthermore, theology is the mother of all sciences. Natural theology, rhetoric, language study are all of service. BJS pushes classical pedogagy. Why? You would rather deal with virtuous people. It’s a good thing. I know I like dealing with virtuous people. I don’t like dealing with people who abuse their freedom just to offend people and then to shout “no pietists allowed.” If Stephan had a no pietists allowed policy you wouldn’t be here right now.

    Use for example the text in the 3 yr coming up as an example of how to preach from 2kr presuppositions. Imagine that the last part of the Gospel wasn’t in the reading, but that the reading ended with the pericope on divorce. There is no Gospel in the text for informing people who are married and considering a divorce. None. Do not stick Gospel into that coram mundo relationship. Now, what about people who are remarried after a divorce that wasn’t in response to adultery. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about their present realtionship, but I do know what the troubled conscience needs to hear. What about those who are divorced and not yet remarried? Once again, I don’t really know. This is worth talking about though. Maybe the pulpit is the right place to inform people that according to their vocation it is their duty to inform government that they shouldn’t be giving divorces for any old reason. The culture needs to be witnessed to that this is not the way its supposed to be.

  20. stub,

    Again you have offered a very thoughtful and well reasoned response. It is an honor to theologically joust with you. It is a pleasure to converse with a Lutheran who can intellignetly use the word “deontology.” Here are a few comments in response.

    First, I am glad to hear that 2KR does not show up much in other classes. I win the match. 🙂 I guess it is not really a new paradigm after all.

    Secondly, the more I hear about 2KR the more it sounds like a law version of “Gospel handles” a teaching of which I am also suspent even though it was created by my namesake. In case you are not aware of it Gospel handles is an approach to preaching which says, if a given preaching text has little or no Gospel in it, you take a word, phrase or concept from the text that allows some sort of bridge to Gospel found elsewhere in scripture and then use it as a means to import Gospel into the sermon. Essentially this amounts to pre-texting, as I was taught hermeneutics and is a silly practice. I have a better, simpler approach. If a text has no Gospel, don’t preach it. Use a different text. (I have yet to find a pericope like this but if I ever did, I would just skip it.)

    So now you are telling me that if I can’t find any Gospel in a text, not to worry, use 2KR to preach the law guilt free. (That line has an amazing ironic twist in it, doesn’t it?) Guilt free of what? I have no interest in preaching apart from the Gospel and neither did Luther. Isn’t it just a pain that in every stinking sermon of his, or at least it seems that way, that he brings it back to Rome’s problem with works righteousness and then preaches/teaches the pure Gospel? He is worse than Jack Cascione bringing everything he writes back to Waldo Werning’s denial of the Trinity. (Sorry for that insertion of quintagenerian and beyond LCMS humor.) “We preach Christ crucified.” “These are the scriptures that testify about me.” BTW – I realize you are not saying that we are free to preach sermons without any Gospel. (I am correct in that aren’t I? Please tell me I am.)

    So 2KR allows me to preach the whole counsel of God does it? As a pastor, I am really not called to care much about life coram mundo. Of course, everything I do is coram mundo and has coram mundo ramifications but that is different than being minded about coram deo as a pastor. Here is where 2KR is overly concerned about the supposed law/gospel reductionism (i.e. turns it into a straw man). I have never had a problem talking in a sermon about parenting in a Small Catechism sort of way and when the text does that. These two things together make for a sort of suficient and necessary cause for preaching coram mundo stuff. But quite honestly, the scriptures so seldom do coram mundo stuff that preaching it is rarely called for, thus 2KR doesn’t come up much as you admitted. I preached on the Ephesians 5 text a few weeks ago and my people were surprised at how “practical” of a sermon it was. (Actaully they weren’t because after 16 years of my law/gospel reductionist preaching 🙂 they have been catechized to rightly not expect/demand “practical” sermons.) But even though roughly a third of the sermon was geared toward how to be a good husband and wife, law/gospel reductionism got the last laugh because the last sixth of the sermon (roughly) followed the text and made it clear that this was all actaully about Christ and the church and in the end was not “preactical” after all. 🙂 So I see your Titus and raise you by an Ephesians. Let’s see you match that my little 2KR friend.

    You make so many excellent points that this response is geting rather lengthy. Oh well, it’s 4 AM and I can’t sleep anyway. Had a little too much “no piety allowed” last night with a visiting clergy friend who is staying the night with us. I shall carry on and even though I may bore the other readers, I think I still have your attention.

    A few more thoughts. 2KR is a problematic version of the two reigns dichotomy/paradox. I beleive that everything you do with 2KR can be accomplished with a healthy dose of the two reigns (i.e. two kingdoms) doctrine and it does so without the dangerous confusion of faith and works that lurks in 2KR. As pastor, I am really not all that concerned about the left hand reign stuff even though I live under the left hand reign as do all my parishoners. I shall leave the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on types of righteousness to the fathers, magistrates, almoners, merchants, etc. I will be concerned about the first righteousmess. (Oh, I almost forgot, I will also be concerned about ceremonial righteousness, i.e. the liturgy, because that kind of righteousness serves the first kind and highlights it.) Now I do speak of the other umpteen righteousnesses insofar as I preach the ten commandments and I do also seek to habituate the junior confirmands and I regularly encourage the fathers of the congregation to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the two catechisms and to teach them to their families but I was doing that before I even knew the 2KR model and you can break it to Dr. Biermann (do it gently and with love) that I actually was encouraged to do these things by those damned law/gospel reductionists – the straw men that apparently got into his clothes while he was at the seminary and until the 2KR model dawned on the earth, were still stuck there like so much straw in your nose, ears, and other orifices after baling hay on a hot July day. So the doctrine of the two reigns helps us to be truly Lutheran and make sure that the lion’s share of work that we do is of the right hand authority rather than being lured by the siren call of 2KR to delve too deeply into the left hand reign with our friend Mr. Calvin sans Hobbes.

    Here is what I believe to be a dirty little secret but no one will fess up to it except for a 2KR student who told me this once but now denies he ever said it. It has been proposed in part as a way to build bridges with the Reformed. If that is even in part true, I desire no part of it. I will run from it as fast as I can. I noticed in Biermann’s presentation that even though he sounded many confessional themes (for which I am grateful – pastors conferences have become wastelands but he brought theological integrity to ours) there was an overtone of evangelicalsim. As I mentioned in a previous comment he belongs to a church that does the faulty practice of contemporary worship and is built around the faulty model of small groups. He even mentioned that he belongs to a small group. It is quite possible that these things are unrelated to the aforementioned desire to build bridges to the Reformed but I am convinced they are related.

    Another thought, and this may the most important thinf I will say – properly preached the traditional law/gospel paradigm results in an overflow of actual righteousness. We preach faith upon faith (not in a descriptive way but actually preaching faith into the hearers heart) and at some point, out of our control, faith overflows into love. This is the mature Luther’s teaching on good works, not 2KR. When the law is preached to its fullest and the Gospel even more fully, the hearers will overflow with faith which is good works. That over flowing faith will find its way intuitively into expressions of heart/soul/mind love for God and love for neighbor as oneself. One does not need much if any training in virtue (I need to correct you – the Bible has little or no emphasis on virtue; Paul’d Philippiand thing is seen by exegetes as exceptional and not normal) to know how to put God and neighbor first. When caught up in the overlfow of faith it just happens.

    I rarely get into that law/gospel zone but I still keep trying each week. Norman Nagel got there everytime he entered the pulpit and twenty five years later I still have faith overflowing into love (intuitively – Lord when did we see you naked?) from sermons he preached into my ears. BTW – I first learned 2KR from Nagel. I even read the 1518 sermon in 1984. Nagel taught it properly. He taught it as a stepping stone to Luther’s mature view of righteousness as I summarized above. Thank you Dr. Nagel. I have not even begun to unpack everything your taught and preached. (I am nearly in tears right now.)

    I must sign off. I need to do some work on my sermon. That is what I got up to do at this early hour. And then I saw your incredibly thoughtful response. Thank you so much for your conversation. I hope there is much more to come. I am growing in understanding through this. I want to comment on Melancthon as a pedagogue. That will have to wait.

    Believe it or not, the sermon I am preparing is very 2KR’ish. But it got that way textually and not through a “2KR handle.” We have mined from the pericopes a year long emphasis on spiritual exercises. I am preaching on habituation of spiritual exercises according to the epistle from Hebrews 2:1. We usually have some sort of annual preaching theme that we spend hours mining from the pericopes (not forcing it or using the text as a pre-text). So for the next hour I will read the book of Hebrews and look for the other texts that I know are there, about habituation (10:25 being the most memorable, which I habituated to memory in jr. high). Oh what rich irony.

    Thanks again for the interlocution. More to come…


  21. Stub and Pastor Rossow,

    You guys need to put on a conference and show the rest of the LCMS how it is done, just make sure to leave out the evangelism workshop. Great stuff!!!!!


  22. Thanks Michael. I really did learn alot from this discussion by drawing out an even clearer understanding of the importance of the Law/Gospel paradigm.


  23. Pr. Rossow, you’re not catching the gyst of 2KR at all. In fact, I’d say that your rendering of Law/Gospel is virtually identical with the ELCA’s, and might ultimately lead to similar heresies if preached from one generation to the other without correction. Pr. Wagner tried telling you earlier. The point of 2KR is that God accomplishes both kinds of righteousnesses through the preaching of His Word. Both are God’s work. That point is crucial for explaining why moral error is a reason for church division. It is a denial of God’s work and Word. Many would say that disagreement on the Gospel alone is cause for church division (disagreement on the law is just dandy), and they talk a lot like you do. Biermann wouldn’t deny the role of the Law-Gospel dialectic in preaching repentance and forgiveness; he simply thinks that the Church is authorized to speak another, distinct discourse, as well, and he is right. Luther thought the same, which is why Luther could stand up, rail in the spirit of the law for an hour, and sit down. He may not have fussed over a specific designation called 2KR, but he preached in a way that reflects it, convinced that he could go after prince and rabble alike, with hardly any accompanying discourse that we moderns would identify as “Gospel discourse,” and it was all golden for him. Have you read the Kolb/Arand book? Can you prove your charge that this was a way to get closer with the Reformed? Do you really think that not finding 2KR in an index of Luther’s work proves that it isn’t there? Truly, spend a summer reading nothing but Luther’s sermons, and any illusions that he conceived of Law/Gospel the way that we tend to do today will be dashed. It isn’t there.

  24. Oh, and by the way . . . there is a difference between apostasy and hersesy. The ELCA is heretical, not apostate. Julian was an apostate for denying the reality of Christ and becoming pagan again. You might argue that embracing homosexuality is pagan (it is), but that’s a different thing from saying that the ELCA has conscientiously decided to ditch Christ and become earth worshippers. The ELCA has fallen to heresy by denying the Word of God on a crucial point. It has not, however, apostasized. Even if that word is so fun to say.

  25. To all,
    Upon looking into the subject of Law/Gospel and two kinds of righteousness, I for the first time logged onto the Steadfast Lutherans website. There I read the different comments/discussion of the subjects as they relate to preaching. I doubt that you all will read these comments as I come into the discussion only lately. But I must say that all of the comments are what I have heard for several years from preachers and laity alike as to what the Bible and the legitimate needs of the people require that we explain to them from the pulpit in preaching.

    All of the comments that I read in your emails are valid. We must preach in the Law/Gospel power of God’s Word in all subjects, and we must learn from the prophets’ writings and the apostles’ epistles that the life of the preaching of God’s Word in the prophetic/apostolic testimony and the Spirit of Law and Gospel (especially from the pulpit) will take various styles. When fellow preacher insist that another preacher must always preach in the first 1/2 or 1/4 with Law and then the last 1/2 or 3/4 with Gospel, end it with Gospel and never with the “third use of the Law” then they run the risk of falling, indeed, I believe have fallen into, the trap of taming the Word of God so that it would not cut deeply the heart. They are at that point not listening to the Word but listening for an outlined structure to be evident in a sermon, and if it does not contain that structure, they leave “unfulfilled” or “not filled.” What would our modern theologians that insist on this structure every time a sermon is preached say if they were to listen to the sermons, one after another, of the apostle Paul (each and every one of them), the apostle Peter, the apostle John, of the pastor James, of Jude and of the writer of Hebrews, that is, their epistles, which were initially read as sermons to the churches? Would they mark off points because some of them clearly end with the third use of the Law? Would they leave the assembly “not filled” because some of them start with clear, unalloyed, pure Gospel? Would they be confused and frustrated because some of them go from Gospel, to Law, to Gospel, to third use of the Law, to Gospel? Would they claim that some of those sermons were unable to encourage them in the faith because they were 90+% Law? To believe in the holy Christian Church is to abide in the communion of saints rather than to give a congregation or a preacher a whirl. And if a preacher/congregation’s Preaching Office speaks sometimes more Law, other times more Gospel, other times equally so, other times concluding with pure Gospel, other times concluding with third use of the Law and one sentence of Gospel, so be it, for so the Holy Spirit, who speaks from heaven through the Church to the Church and to the world (many New Testament passages could be quoted to support that fact) leads it to be so, for He knows what the members of the flock need Sunday to Sunday, Wednesday to Wednesday, day to day, and He will speak thus through the called pastor(s) who also know their flocks. But for a person to leave “unfilled” one Sunday because the outline of that Sunday’s sermon did not follow what was expected or hoped for, is that not a case of having a sanctified “itching ears” bug? Just a question.

    Furthermore, I have to underline what some of the commentators like Mark, Stub and Dutch, have alluded to or explicitly mentioned, that our brothers and sisters of the congregations need to and want to hear what we would call “third use of the Law” in our sermons relating to their relational and employment vocations. I know because they have asked me over several years to do so. But what I interpret as dismissal responses to those commentators’ responses I would suggest might be motivated by being overwhelmed by the task of effective, biblical preaching. It is easy for a preacher (and I know because I am one) to convince himself that he has effectively preached the Word of God, the Law and Gospel, and ministered to the needs of his parishioners by such preaching in the strict 1st Law, then Gospel, then a touch of third use of the Law, then Gospel order and not gotten into any instruction into the “life issues that our Reformed brothers get bogged down into in their sermons.” “Besides” we tell ourselves (because there are enough people including other pastors that remind us of this), “we only have the rule of 15 minutes, make that 12, better yet make that 10 minutes, to deliver a sermon, otherwise we lose them.” We say these things to ourselves because we do not really want to labor for hours every week in study and preparation to prepare a balanced, full, effective sermon. Who wants to entertain the idea that their sermons are lacking in something after so much labor? We know the frustration. Our experiences, like those mentioned by Dutch, and the statistics both show that our people need and want “instruction in righteousness,” living in Gospel righteousness from day to day. What is wrong with our parishioners wanting us to get specific in that instruction from the pulpit? We don’t want to be labeled a pietist, or a prude, or perhaps we ourselves feel that we do not have it together in our lives (which is usually true) in order to practically instruct others of how to live as believers, or maybe we fear the reactions to such practical instruction, or maybe we preachers in our formal education were not taught how to give practical instruction in righteousness in our sermons to the people. Nevertheless, the New Testament epistles to Timothy and Titus command us to do so, and the other epistles show how to do so by example. So we must somehow learn how to do so and then do so in our sermons. Spouses and parents, single men and women want us to do so. Blessings to you all.

    Reverend Rob

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