I had the opportunity this week to hear again from one of my dear fathers in the faith. He is the man who finally got me to see that there is a difference between law and gospel, and so is the man responsible for my being (as much as I am) a Lutheran, rather than a LINO.
In a discussion of sanctification, he opened my eyes to a battle I had never even known was raging (but which does, in retrospect explain some of the confusion I had at seminary when listening to different professors.)
Apparently, there is a faction in our synod that teaches that, while justification is a gift freely given (monergism), we must cooperate in our sanctification (synergysm.) Of course, this is complete nonsense. We believe teach and confess that “the Holy Ghost sanctifies and keeps me in the true faith.“ It is the work of the Holy Ghost to sanctify, just as the Father creates and the son redeems. To say that the first and third work without our help, but that the third person of the Trinity needs our assistance to do his work is ridiculous. In addition, this teaching would say that we are sanctified as we grow in perfection/grace/whatever. (I probably can’t explain it very well, because I don’t believe it.) The truth is, God makes us pure and holy in his sight. The fruit that we produce is not the result of our efforts, but a natural outgrowth of the faith we are given. If one believes that the new man is justified and holy before God (which is what sanctified means – made holy) while the old man is in league with the devil and the world, I’m not clear how one can hold to a Lutheran understanding of forensic justification while still maintaining a synergistic view of sanctification. As I said to this wise professor after he had explained the synergistic view, “Isn’t that what Rome teaches?” Indeed it is. (And to a lesser extent, the reformed.)
So beware, fellow pilgrims, of those who are teaching a synergistic view of sanctification. They may appear in some very strange places…