Steadfast Media Pick of the Week — Dr. Marquart on the Third Use of the Law — 13 Comments

  1. Does anybody have the Marquart quote handy, the one in which he coined the phrase “liturgical pietism”?

    (I did Google it, but it seems to have been purged from blessed memory…)

  2. Awesome. This should be required listening for any Lutheran Pastor who wants to make context-less quips on Facebook against the Third Use of the Law.

  3. Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?
    By Doctor Kurt Marquart

    An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?” I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428). The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives the other, but the Lord would have us do both! Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes: “That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114). Where are the “practical and clear sermons,” which according to the Apology “hold an audience” (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains: “The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.” “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.” Kurt Marquart Concordia Theological Quarterly

  4. Is it possible to save this as an mp3? when I try to right click it I only seem to be prompted to save the whole page.

  5. Here is the original link on the Fort Wayne media site. There is a convenient download link there. I will try to remember to add a download link to future picks.

  6. Antinomians exist. No doubt. But most of the people that Marquart (and even more so his present day fans) argue against are not at all antinomians. They are simply people who realize three things:

    1) For those who struggle daily in this life and are told by the world (in enumerable ways) how lousy they are and how much better others are, for these people Sunday morning need not be yet another day of condemnation and the chapel need not be a torture chamber.

    2) Pastors who are in love with the Third Use of the Law are usually interested in power. Not the power to forgive sins. Not the power to heal the wounded. Not the power to help and to care and to nourish. They are interested in the power to influence the world, to change society, to change the church, to control their people, to advance an agenda, and to rule rather than serve. They are puzzled and frustrated that opening their mouth to share their wisdom with the world doesn’t fix everything and make everyone fall in line. And when someone else applies the Third Use of the Law to them, they bristle (to say the least).

    3) As the comments above show, this obsession with the Third Use of the Law is not really about the people in the pews and serving them with proper preaching. It is about one group of clergy (and their wives and close supporters) who are frustrated with their inability to control another group of clergy (and the world more broadly). So they turn on their people to vent their anger and demonstrate that they are not impotent.

    Lack of faith in the promises of God and in HIS power leads men to find ways to build their own kingdom.

  7. I know from personal experience that what I say above is true. I also know what it’s like to kill yourself trying to please someone who will NEVER be satisfied with you. None of this matters for the bulk of the congregation who ignore most of what pastor says and who learned long ago that clergy come and go. But for those who actually try to submit to the authority of the Pastoral Office, this kind of preaching and teaching is painful and oppressive.

  8. Once again, Mr. Brown, I do not question your personal experience – but I sincerely doubt that your personal experience really justifies your sweeping generalisations as to what is “usually” (as in your “2)”) as well as always and with no exceptions (as in your “3)”) in the hearts and minds of Pastors who advocate the Third Use of the Law (and their wives and close supporters), nor as to what is in the hearts of minds of most of the people Marquart and his followers (to whom you, rather uncharitably, it seems to me, refer as “fans) argue against.

    And your point “1)”) seems to describe a reaction to the Second Use of the Law rather than the Third …

  9. @Jais H. Tinglund #10


    In response to your point regarding the Second Use of the Law, I would say that it is the way in which the Third Use of the Law is applied that results in the metaphorical torture chamber I describe. In other words, making men aware of their sin (my simplistic and abbreviated description of the Second Use) is always unpleasant. No way around that. This is something every sinner must face. But combining that with the message that if you’re still a sinner then you must have a different god (the approach advocated above), this is what produces torture. So I don’t think it is the Second Use I’m talking about.

    Having said all that, you are certainly better versed in the definitions and applications of all three uses. So I could be improperly articulating my message.

    As for the sweeping generalizations, I think the “usually” was charitable and appropriate. I should have used that word again in my third point. I failed to do so. My apologies. There are always exceptions.

    As for the business about motivations, I think I’m dead-on. And, strangely enough, sharing this elsewhere on the internet led me to find others (far more knowledgeable and theologically educated than myself) who agree with my assessment. But then again, they’re obviously part of one or more of those other groups of clergy and their close supporters who the Marquart fans are angry with.

  10. Was Walther at odds with the Formula of Concord on the Third Use of the Law? Some pertinent text:

    “The law has been given to men for three reasons: … (3) after they are reborn … to give them on that account a definite rule according to which they should pattern and regulate their entire life.” Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Epitome VI:1

    “Since the Fall the Law has but a single function, viz., to lead men to the knowledge of their sins.” C.F.W. Walther, Thesis 11 in God’s No and God’s Yes.

    “The one party taught and held that the regenerated do not learn the new obedience … from the law [but] spontaneously do what God requires of them.” Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VI:2 (The Solid Declaration opposes this position.)

    “Luther taught that those who would be saved must have a faith that produces love spontaneously…. The believer need not at all be exhorted to do good works; his faith does them automatically.” C.F.W. Walther, Thesis 10 in God’s No and God’s Yes.

    The “truly believing, elect, and reborn children of God require in this life not only the daily teaching and admonition, warning and threatening of the law, but frequently the punishment of the law as well….” Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VI:9

  11. @Lance Brown #8
    And when someone else applies the Third Use of the Law to them, they bristle (to say the least).

    I’m not sure why you limit this reaction to clergymen. I’ve met lay people who were much better at telling me what I should be doing for other people (‘usually’, for them) than they were at doing things for other people themselves.

    Ideally, you learn about the third use of the law …
    as a guide to God pleasing behavior…
    and apply it to yourself.

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