My Plea: Recognize Theosis

This article is a layman’s plea to confessional Lutheran pastors, theologians, and doctors to consider the myriad of challenges to the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls from a simple, strategic perspective. Otherwise, all we’re ever going to do is play whack-a-mole. That would be only a tactical defense, not a strategic one.jesus_on_cross_crucifixion-150x131

Despite what seems to be a dizzying array of ideas and movements that undermine, erode, or outright displace justification, really, there is a single thread running through them: theosis. When we see this single thread, we can be nimble in defending the flock.

My plea does not arise as a matter of ideology. We lay people, lambs that we are, need the militant shepherd.

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Sam 17:34-36)

This is not an academic or theological paper. I haven’t got the chops for that. It is a plea that you explore the core proposition to assess its merits and, if it pans out, that you use it in a coordinated way to up your game. If this is all rubbish, well, I hope I don’t waste too much of your time.

We’ll be looking at theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Osiander, Finnish School Lutherans, the Emerging Church, Trinitarian Theology or the Perichoresis Movement, the FiveTwo network, Jordan Cooper’s Christification, the Holiness Movement, and Pietism.


Eastern Orthodoxy: Archetype of Theosis

In Eastern Orthodox thinking, “The Christian message of salvation can best be summed up in terms of sharing, of solidarity and identification.”1 Sharing is a key to God as Trinity and Christ as Incarnation. In the Trinity, the persons share or participate in each other. In Christ, God and man share or participate in each other. Christ’s union with man gives man union with God.

God’s Incarnation opens the way to man’s deification. To be deified is, more specifically, to be “christified”: the divine likeness that we are called to attain is the likeness of Christ. It is through Jesus the God-man that we are “ingodded”, “divinized”, made sharers in the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:4)2

This idea has a number of names: theosis, divinization, deification, and christification, to name a few. Christification produces salvation because, Christ empties himself of deity (kenosis, Phil 2:7)3 and fills us with divinity (theosis, 2 Pet. 1:4) We are connected into this exchange because Christ took on not only unfallen human nature, but in a sense that is not only external, He took on our fallen human nature. He was touched somehow from within by sin and sin’s suffering.4

St Paul goes so far as to write, “God has made him who knew no sin to be sin for our sake” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are not to think here solely in terms of some juridical transaction, whereby Christ, himself guiltless, somehow has our guile “imputed” to him in an exterior manner.5

Notice the direct challenge to Luther’s justification.

From this, two things have happened through history. First, the idea of theosis has reappeared chronically in a variety of forms.

Second, the various forms of theosis all have the effect of us looking into ourselves for evidence of salvation rather than looking outward at God’s judgment of condemnation on Christ and his judgment of acquittal on us for Christ’s sake.

Whether warranted or not, the human tendency is to think, “If I am to believe what I am being taught, that I am being Christified, I should be able to see that, and gain from seeing it some assurance that I am saved.” We stray from the sheer Word of God that declares absolution. Instead of faith coming by hearing, we want it to be by seeing. We want a Christian life that is not “hidden with God in Christ,” (Col. 3:1), but is manifest.


Roman Infused Grace: Theosis Thinly Disguised

Two ideas in Roman theology have this self-inspection effect: infused grace, and satisfactions as part of repentance. For Luther, grace is God’s disposition of forgiveness and favor towards us for Christ’s sake. Grace exists in God, outside ourselves, and the ground of forgiveness exist outside ourselves in the merits of Christ.

The Roman notion of infused grace puts grace into us. The means of grace, rather than creating and sustaining faith and delivering forgiveness, deliver grace itself. The means of grace infuse grace into us by which we are able to perform satisfactions for sin and thereby be saved. God justifies us in view of the satisfactions we will add to the sacrifice of Christ.

This may be said to be all of grace since infused grace is given the credit, but it still puts the focus on infusion. Instead of the focus being entirely on Christ crucified, the focus turns to us. Our eye is divided from the grace of God to grace in us. Whether warranted or not, the human tendency is to think, “If I am to believe what I am being taught about infused grace and my own satisfactions as part of repentance, I should be able to see the grace infused in me and the satisfactions infused grace empowers me to perform.”


Osiander: Confusing Theosis with Mystical Union

Andreas Osiander was a German Lutheran theologian who caused a division within Lutheranism that was settled in Article III of the Formula of Concord. Using the language of the Lutheran idea of the mystical union of the saints with Christ, he taught what practically amounted to theosis. The Epitome rejects the following idea: “4. Faith not only looks to Christ’s obedience, but also to His divine nature, since it dwells and works in us, and by this indwelling our sins are covered.”

It’s as if our hearts, rather than the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (Heb. 9:11-15), were the place of salvation, and what covers sin is not Christ’s blood but his divine nature.

Under that rejected view, instead of being justified by the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us, God declares one righteous because Christ indwells that person. Once that view is taken, the self-inspection process is bound to commence. Consequently, the Epitome also rejects the following idea (and several others): “7. Faith saves on this account: because the renewal by faith is begun in us, which dwells in love for God and one’s neighbor.”

Though Osiander might not have meant to repackage Roman infused grace, try as one might to preach his doctrine, it will be practically impossible for the pew to hear the difference. Both are theosis thinly disguised.


Finnish School Lutherans: Theosis the Ground of Justification

At an ecumenical meeting between Lutheran and Orthodox theologians in Kiev in 1977, Helsinki professor Tuomo Mannermaa titled his lecture, “Salvation Interpreted as Justification and Deification.” From that beginning, the Finnish School was built.

The fountainhead formulation is: “in faith itself Christ is present.” Mannermaa quoted this from Luther’s comments on Galatians 2:16. This is taken to mean that what is grasped in faith is truly present to the subject. Christ indwells by faith.

From there, Mannermaa developed the idea that in Luther’s thought on justification, participation or theosis is not separated from imputation of righteousness. Justification depends on theosis. The events of imputation and the union mystical are simultaneous. God imputes the sinner as righteous because he unites him with Christ and Christ’s omnipotent righteousness. God sees the righteousness of Christ dwelling within the person.


Emerging Church: Incarnating Us as Little Christs

The Emerging Church was a movement in the late 20th century and early 21st century. It crossed many theological boundaries, and it embraces so many variations that it can be difficult to summarize. Generally, though, its leaders became disillusioned with established churches. They sought to deconstruct worship, evangelism, and community.

A particular take on the Incarnation became a foundation of the missional nature of the Emerging Church. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church, wrote:

Jesus’ incarnation is in itself missional. God the Father sent God the Son into culture on a mission to redeem the elect by the power of God the Holy Ghost. After his resurrection, Jesus also sent his disciples into culture, on a mission to proclaim the success of his mission, and commissioned all Christians to likewise be missionaries to the cultures of the world (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:7-8). Emerging and missional Christians have wonderfully rediscovered the significance of Jesus’ incarnational example of being a missionary immersed in a culture.”6

Emerging Church leaders like to say things like, “We are to become, as Luther said so eloquently, ‘little Christs.’”7 Whatever Luther might have meant by that, one might think the Emerging Church only means that Christ is an example and we are imitators. But consider the totalizing impact of the idea. Australian church planter and student of Christian movements, Steve Addison, provides a digest of the pervasion of missionalism.

You can be a missional church, business leader, mom, small group, disciple, or movement. Even Nehemiah was missional.

You can be a missional denomination, church plant, or house church. You can replace mission trips with missional living. You can even preach and worship missionally, or is that missionaly?

There’s a missional hermeneutic and missional ecclesiology. …

For the brave there’s “missional synergy through cordic connectivity.” …

You can relate incarnationally, be spiritual incarnationally, your soul can have an incarnational journey. There’s incarnational art and incarnational youth ministry. The Scottish parish system can be incarnational. The Shona women of Zimbabwe have an incarnational narrative Christology.

For the confused there’s incarnational counselling.8

Can something so permeating and encompassing be only a matter of doing and not a matter of being? Maybe intellectual people can keep those separate, but as understood in the pew, becoming “little Christs” does not sound like a figure of speech. It sounds like plain talk. It sounds like christification.

Not until the mid-twentieth century re-flowering of Eastern Orthodoxy were Westerners brought into fresh contact with the Eastern Orthodox concept – and we have been making intriguing and useful comparisons ever since. At a practitioner level, something very like theosis, began to emerge in the West in the early 1970s.9

That has support from statements like this from Emerging Church leader Scot McKnight: “The atonement is designed by God to restore cracked Eikons into glory-producing Eikons by participation in the perfect Eikon, Jesus Christ.”10

At the academic level, theosis is proposed as the solution to evangelical problems. Take for example the doctoral dissertation of Michael Paul Gama, Theosis: The Core of Our Ancient/Future Faith and Its Relevance to Evangelicalism at the Close of the Modern Era.11 As summarized in the abstract, “In the final chapter I seek to show how and why the ancient soteriological understanding of Christian salvation as theosis or union with God through grace is the spiritual medicine fit for an Evangelicalism in crisis.”


Trinitarian Theology: Our Perichoresis with the Father

Trinitarian Theology or the Perichoresis movement in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and other countries uses the idea of perichoresis at three stages resulting in theosis.

First, and to my great satisfaction, the movement describes the relationships of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That relationship is perichoresis.12 This term speaks of the interpenetration of the persons of the Trinity. The prefix peri means over, under, around, and through. The persons of the Trinity thoroughly permeate each other, while remaining distinct. The root choresis speak of dancing, as in our English word, choreography. Hence, C. Baxter Kruger, The Great Dance.

Second, the natures of God and man are in perichoresis in Christ.

Third, by our adoption into Christ, and through the Incarnation, we are brought into perichoresis with the Father.

If we are in perichoresis with the Father, that’s theosis, acknowledged or not.

Indeed, much of the foundational material in Trinitarian Theology is from church fathers speaking about theosis. They also use material from James Torrance, Thomas F. Torrance, Barth, Luther, Robert Farrar Capon, Madeleine L’Engle, and others.

I have exchanged emails with leaders of Perichoresis Movement churches inquiring whether their theology produces salvation by giving us union with the Father apart from the cross. Our Lutheran line goes: Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, Justification. Their line seems to go: Trinity, Incarnation, Adoption, perichoresis with the Father. It seems to rely on the person of Christ without the work of Christ. In these exchanges, I haven’t gotten straight answers.

Notice that this again, as with all the other theosis-based ideas and movements, erodes or displaces the article on which the church stands or falls: justification. In instance this is so because it sidesteps the atonement and, directly from the Incarnation, brings us into adoption.

A familiar variant on this idea is put forth in William P. Young’s New York Times number one bestseller, The Shack. C. Baxter Kruger, founder and president of Perichoresis, Inc., in The Shack Revisited, reprises the Trinitarian Theology of The Shack.


FiveTwo: Sacramental Identities

For a long time, Lutheran synods have had missional factions. Of late, a church planting network within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has received a lot of attention.

FiveTwo is a refined and updated version of the Emerging Church that deconstructs language to make Emerging ideas sound Lutheran. They like to use words like sacrament and sacramental, but in ways never before known to Lutheran thought.

How is this done? Well, if you think of Henry Ford’s replaceable parts, you could almost unplug the word incarnational from Emerging Church talk and replace it with the word sacramental in FiveTwo talk. Instead of being incarnational this or that, now we are sacramental this or that. Instead of having incarnational identities, now we have sacramental identities.

You have a unique sacramental you, that lives out the presence of Jesus in a unique, divinely called way.13

Sacramental identity is the unique presence of Christ in you, a God-combo of your Psalm 139 knitting together and your baptism-day-Holy-Spirit washing. It is the predestined, divinely patented you, ordained by your Creator Father for His purposes in the world. In sacramental terms, it is the sacramental Jesus in you, the real presence of Jesus wrapped in your bread and wine.14

So, what’s that? Humpty Dumpty can say that’s not theosis, but it is.

Where is that in the Bible? Where is that in the Augsburg Confession, the Large Catechism, or any other confessional writing of the Lutheran church? If you’re going to go looking for it, pack a lunch, or better yet, be prepared for your clothes to go out of style while you search.

This completely debases the word sacrament. In Baptism, God’s external word connected with external water administered to me by my Pastor from outside of myself saves me. In the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s external word connected with the external bread and wine administered to me by my Pastor from outside of myself delivers the body and blood of Christ to me, and with his blood, what it was shed for, the remission of sins. Theosis is the complete contradiction of sacrament.


Jordan Cooper: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis

In his earlier book, The Righteousness of One, Lutheran Pastor Jordan Cooper picked up the Luther research commenced by Mannermaa and the Finnish School. Cooper rejected locating theosis in justification, and thereby developed what he hopes will be a Lutheran view of theosis. The book left some points unclear. In his later book, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, he clarifies those points and continues to develop his idea.

A rough and ready summary of Cooper’s idea is that Luther does teach theosis, but he locates it in sanctification (in the narrow sense). Cooper’s idea has generated noticeable controversy, and if I have misrepresented his view, I hope he or others supporting his view will use an early opportunity to correct me.

With the understanding of Cooper I have at present, it appears possible that he has saved theosis from Mannermaa’s error, on a formal basis. But I am still concerned about it because of experience with Lutheran Pietism and the Holiness Movement. If my concerns are founded, his idea still will not function in a Lutheran way.

The Holiness Movement and Lutheran Pietism also locate something within the believer in sanctification. The something is variously identified as the indwelling Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit, the crisis of entire sanctification, and so on. In none of those formulations does the formal doctrine of sanctification or piety seem to undermine justification. But just try to preach those things to laity in the pew and have them put that into practice without it leaking its way back into justification.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard the saying, while I was in Americanized Evangelicalism, “We can’t judge, but we can be fruit inspectors.” Well, that’s judgment, and it leaks back from sanctification to justification. I have seen over and again in Pentecostalism the normative sign of speaking in tongues function as one’s assurance of salvation. These things seem always to leak back. What’s to stop theosis in sanctification from having the same effect, though not intended?

Somehow, you’ve got to have a doctrine you can preach and that laity can hear. Add to that the question, what problem are we trying to solve by locating theosis in sanctification? Did the confessions leave us without a way to believe, teach, and confess sanctification? Without meaning to do so, doesn’t Cooper’s theosis idea add an article or two to the Book of Concord?

And finally, once we adopt theosis in sanctification, won’t that be the common ground with theosis in things like the Emerging Church and the FiveTwo network, despite the fact that such may not be intended and probably is the furthest thing from Cooper’s mind?



What is the cause of all this hankering after theosis.

My colleague, Tim Wood, opened my eyes to one reason:

The theosis attraction is because we despise / diminish the doctrine of vocation. It’s not good enough to serve our neighbor – we want to serve God and have him thank us for it.15

Another reason is, the mystical impulse has got people bored with justification. We need to do a better job of overtly and expressly teaching the extra nos nature of Word and Sacrament and how tightly associated that is with justification.

And thank God, theosis, gives us another way to do that when we identify theotic error and exposit the contrast between that and the truth.


1. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p. 73 (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, rev. ed. 1995).
2. Ware, p. 74
3. Some drive kenosis to the point of Christ giving up his divine nature. They fail to understand correctly, as the Lutheran confessions do, the true nature of Christ’s state of humiliation. But, while this is closely related to the issue of theosis, the errors relating to kenosis must be deferred to another time.
4. Ware, pp. 75-76.
5. Ware, p. 76.
6. Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, rev. ed., p. 26 (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2006).
7. Steve Griffiths, “An Incarnational Missiology for the Emerging Church,”, January 30, 2007.
8. Steve Addison, “Just How Missional-Incarnational Was Jesus?”, March 16, 2012
9. Ben Pugh, Atonement Theories: A Way through the Maze, p. 33, (cascade Books, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2014).
10. Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, p. 21, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2007).
11. Gama, Michael Paul, “Theosis: The Core of Our Ancient/Future Faith and Its Relevance to Evangelicalism at the Close of the Modern Era” (2014). Doctor of Ministry. Paper 74.
12. It isn’t only perichoresis, but I am happy to see a rise in interest in the Trinity and in that particular aspect of it.
13. Bill Woolsey, “Five Q’s To Begin To Discover Your Unique Sacramental Identity,”, July 24, 2014.
14. Bill Woolsey, “Five Keys to Releasing The Sacramental Jesus in Others,”, July 29, 2014.
15. Use of this insight is not intend to imply that Tim endorses everything in this essay.


My Plea: Recognize Theosis — 749 Comments

  1. Eric,


    Here is my reply to your response in comment #49.

    It has been a hobby of mine to study metaphysics (reality beyond the physical, so to speak) and ontology (the science of being).

    There are two basic approaches to the metaphysics of reality – the Platonic/neoplatonic view of the participated being of formal causality and the Aristotelian view of being as a product of efficient causality.

    Here is a simple explanation that any historian of philosophy would agree to. Plato spoke of the One. Plotinus (the foremost Neoplatonist) picked up on this and identified it with god. Christian philosophers then picked up on this as God the Father.

    Since in Platonism you need a first principle that is totally distinct from the material world the One is unknowable and beyond being. However, from him emanates all things. But if it has contact with the created world by creating it, then its perfection is compromised so there is something that emanates from it which is called Nous (mind). This is the Demiurge of Plato and conveniently for the misguided Christian/Neoplatonist philosophy this is Christ or the Logos of God.

    For Plotinus and for the Christian neoplatonists the Mind or Logos principle is the foundation for all forms or the substances of all created things. All things are knowable because they are emanations of the Logos (the Son) as the Logos was an emanation from the One (the Father). For neoplatonists to be knowable is to be. This is where the notion comes from that all things participate in being in God the Son (the Logos).

    (see next post)

  2. (continued from above)

    Aristotle knew of formal causality (a thing is what it is because of its form or essence) but for Aristotle formal causality inhered in the thing itself and not in Mind (the Logos for the Neoplatonist Christians). So you can know a thing in itself apart from God.

    More so, Aristotle also asserted that there is such a thing as efficient causality. He seperates being from knowledge. A thing not only has a cause that makes it a particular thing (formal causality, the essence of the thing) but also has an efficient cause, i.e. that which gave it being.

    In this view, things do not emanate from God. He creates them. Each thing has a formal causality (an essence which all things in that class have in common) and an efficient causality (i.e. that thing which brings it into existence). For instance, I am a human. That is my form or essence. I share that essence with all other humans. It is not one thing that we all participate in together simultaneously. It is a class of things.) I also have an efficient cause – my parents. They caused my being, so to speak. They were caused by their parents and back and back until you get to Adam and Eve whose efficient cause was God.

    This is how common sense understands things. The emanation thing from the Logos is the part that I describe as weird.

    (see next post)

  3. (continued from above)

    So to your first point, it is correct to say that neoplatonists, Christian or not, understand the material world to be an emanation from the Logos, i.e. and oozing.

    To your second point, a substance cannot change. That is by definition. A substance, or essence, or form is what a thing is. If it changes the thing is not what it was before. It is a new thing.

    I have also shown that the notion of efficient causality is an improvement in philosophy that squares with common sense more than the notion of emanation from the Logos.

    In terms of how much preaching of exhortation we should do, you missed my poignant question. If exhorting creates good works and good works are the goal of the faith, should we not do all exhorting? Yes or No?

    Also you ask: “So when the creeds and the confessions and the orthodox theologians talk about “human nature,” what do you think they mean?”

    It means that a thing is human if it has a human nature. Human nature is something that inheres in each human. It is not one thing that they all share. It can inhere in distinct beings.

  4. Holger,

    (Nathan – here is the response you asked me to give)

    You missed my point. My point was not that the second use was the main point of FC VI. My point is that in an article on the third use the second use is everywhere. You cannot escape the second use.

    You can redefine “admonish” in any way that you want but it is still the law. There is only one law. You cannot distinguish the three uses and only use one at a time. There is no preaching of the third use. The second use is right there. Not only that, I don’t care if you call it “advice,” “exhorting,” or “urging earnestly” (that one actually scares me and it should you too), it is still the law and the law is incapable of creating god-pleasing good works.

    You do believe that don’t you?

    You also twist my words around to make me say that the second use is the third use or vice versa. That is not what I said at all. There are three uses but there is only one law. All three are there when I preach the law.

    Of course the regenerate need the law for their new obedience. How else would they know what to do. I advocate teaching the law to the regenerate. I think it is a good idea to do a review of the ten commandments every Lenten season. But again, the third use does not elicit god-pleasing good works. Only the gospel can do that.

    Your attempt to paint me with the Otto brush is a failure. I totally agree that the law is to be used to teach the regenerate. However, let’s not forget how intuitive it is for the unregenerate and the regenerate alike – love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

    Speaking of Jesus’ summary of the law, it sure is curious that he does not exhort. He simply condemns. I am sure you guys can cheery pick some exhorting somewhere in Jesus but really, when you think about it of the top of your head, he does not exhort.

    Again, I am not against exhorting, it just needs to be understood for what it is. It is the law.

    Because of your need to promote and emphasize sanctification, you think there is an antinomian under every periscope. There isn’t. What there is are faithful preachers of God’s law and gospel who know that the pointing people to Christ and his Gospel salves the wounds of the law and brings new life.

    As to your answer about the pastor walking into a church with a lack of good works, your answer is not helpful. Of course he should use all the resources of God’s word. No one disputes that. The dispute is “What will bring about the needed change?” It is not the resources but how they are used. The law should be used to rebuke them and instruct them (which can be done in one fell swoop – as they are rebuked they are iinstructed) and then the real power of the Gospel is to be preached so that they are regenerated and have forgiveness, life and salvation.

  5. Tim,

    I defined theosis in that post on “Just and Sinner” that I linked to a long time ago. Perhaps you have read it. I’ve also defined theosis in many of the posts on this thread, so I don’t see why you’re trying to get me to assent to a definition you made up. Besides that, it’s not a good definition, because 1) it limits itself to the fruits, ignoring the source (conformation to the image of Christ), 2) it separates the fruits between time and eternity in such a way as to suggest that we don’t do good works in heaven, and 3) it limits incorruptibility to the body, when the main reason to mention it separately from immortality is to denote our future moral incorruptibility–the non posse peccare.

  6. Tim,

    You write:
    But if it has contact with the created world by creating it, then its perfection is compromised

    That’s not NeoPlatonism. That’s Gnosticism.

    All things are knowable because they are emanations of the Logos (the Son) as the Logos was an emanation from the One (the Father).

    The Logos does emanate from the Father: “Light from Light, very God from very God.” But the whole point of the Nicene Creed’s second article is that Creation does not share in this emanation. The Logos is Begotten. The world is made. Consubstantiality stops within the borders of the Holy Trinity.

    Furthermore, the pagan NeoPlatonists meant something different by “emanation.” They were not talking about consubstantiality, but Formal derivation. For them, God has no Substance at all, and the Nous is divine only in the same secondary sense as the Arians allowed that the Logos was divine (this was not a coincidence). If we understand emanation as Formal derivation rather than consubstantiality, the only problem with saying that Creation emanates from the Logos, is that it implies that God creates necessarily, rather than freely. That is a problem, and one that not all Christian NeoPlatonists have dodged, but St. Augustine is der Mann.

    Incidentally, once the freedom of God with respect to creation is affirmed, Christian NeoPlatonists also have a de facto distinction between the Formal Cause and the Efficient Cause. God doesn’t automatically create everything conceivable; His will serves as the Efficient Cause.

    This is where the notion comes from that all things participate in being in God the Son (the Logos).

    Participation by Formal derivation is perfectly orthodox. “All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16b-17). “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). As I’ve mentioned earlier in this string, this is how Luther spoke of the creative Word in his Genesis lectures, plugging into the ancient Logos-and-logoi understanding of creation.

    for Aristotle formal causality inhered in the thing itself and not in Mind

    For NeoPlatonists, the thing is the Form, as materially manifested. There is no “Realm of the Forms,” in which it can be locked instead of being in the thing itself. The dichotomy on which Aristotle built his critique of Plato doesn’t exist in NeoPlatonism. Some interpreters don’t find it even in Plato.

    For instance, I am a human. That is my form or essence. I share that essence with all other humans.

    Okay… but then in part III of the same post, you say this: “[Human nature] is not one thing that [human beings] all share. It can inhere in distinct beings.” Help me out, here.

    a substance cannot change. That is by definition.

    I have repeatedly and sufficiently explained in what sense I affirm substantial change. If you want to discuss this subject with me, please address what I have already said.

    If exhorting creates good works and good works are the goal of the faith, should we not do all exhorting?

    That’s a pretty messed-up question. Exhortation is nothing but condemnation unless you also preach the Gospel. Nor are good works the goal of faith; eternal salvation is the goal of faith. Good works result from that.

  7. Jim,

    You seem to think that Chemnitz got his explanation of Original Sin from Aristotle, but according to SD I.54, he took his language (Substance and Accident) from “Eusebius, Ambrose, and especially St. Augustine,” and also from “Cyril and Basil.” All of these men were Christian NeoPlatonists.

    There is absolutely no need to go off into talk about degrees of being, or substance.

    I agree with you there. I was only explaining what I meant by my affirmation of “Substantial change,” since it scandalized your Aristotelian sensibilities. You can account for Sanctification in the Christian by whatever language pleases you, as long as you recognize that qualitatively it is the same thing as Glorification. We know Sanctification as a halting process, but that ends at death, and we receive its full measure in the Resurrection. We are made perfectly, gloriously, invincibly holy. Like Jesus.

    “When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. …For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (I Cor. 13:10, 12).

  8. All,

    Not much time to talk today. First, new from Pastor Surburg, and very relevant to this conversation:

    Pastor Rossow,

    I will try to write you a more substantial response in the near future. Let me just deal with a couple things now:

    “I am sure you guys can cheery pick some exhorting somewhere in Jesus but really, when you think about it of the top of your head, he does not exhort.

    Again, I am not against exhorting, it just needs to be understood for what it is. It is the law…”

    I was glad to hear Dr. Scaer insist 1.5 years ago what I have thought for years – in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Jesus’ purpose in saying “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” is not to condemn. It may condemn indeed, but this is not his purpose.

    “If exhorting creates good works and good works are the goal of the faith, should we not do all exhorting?”

    First, I agree with Dr. Phillips says:

    “That’s a pretty messed-up question. Exhortation is nothing but condemnation unless you also preach the Gospel. Nor are good works the goal of faith; eternal salvation is the goal of faith. Good works result from that.”

    I would say that the N.T. shows us the pattern for urging Christians to do good works, and that clearly shows us that the Gospel is the real motivation for doing good works and is also behind the instruction, exhortation and admonishment (particularly clear in Paul, most famous: “by the mercies of God” in Romans 12). See Surburg’s post above.


    Let me re-read SD I soon and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


  9. T.R.,

    As I have stated, I (and others) have begun to suspect that our concerns about sanctification may simply be an indicator of a deeper problem: i.e. that Lutherans that say they are Confessional have begun to speak of things as if there is only an “imputation world”. Please see my response to Jim below.


    OK – hope this helps.

    First, SD I lays out our problem:

    “[due to] this hereditary evil is the guilt [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath, as the apostle shows Rom. 5:12ff ; Eph. 2:3.

    10] 2. Secondly, that it is an entire want or lack of the concreated hereditary righteousness in Paradise, or of God’s image, according to which man was originally created in truth, holiness, and righteousness; and at the same time an inability and unfitness for all the things of God, or, as the Latin words read: Desciptio peccati originalis detrahit naturae non renovatae et dona et vim seu facultatem et actus inchoandi et efficiendi spiritualia; that is: The definition of original sin takes away from the unrenewed nature the gifts, the power, and all activity for beginning and effecting anything in spiritual things.”

    (end quote from SD I)

    Post-fall, there is a righteousness that grows in the Christian – you can clearly see it in SD II: 65 and 66 (the new powers *in* us), 68 (one is weak, another strong in the Spirit), and 71, 72 (these gifts – including virtues – are strengthened), for example:

    “65] From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments,has begun ***in us***ll this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun ***in us**** in conversion, 66] as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1. But this is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God. But if this were understood thus [if any one would take the expression of St. Paul in this sense], that the converted man cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon, this could in no way be conceded without prejudice to the divine truth. (2 Cor. 6:1: Sunergou’te” parakalou’men: We who are servants or coworkers with God beseech you who are God’s husbandry and God’s building, 1 Cor. 3:9, to imitate our example, that the grace of God may not be among you in vain, 1 Cor. 15:10, but that ye may be the temple of God, living and dwelling in you, 2 Cor. 6:16.)

    67] Therefore there is a great difference between baptized and unbaptized men. For since, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, Gal. 3:27, all who have been baptized have put on Christ, and thus are truly regenerate, they have now arbitrium liberatum (a liberated will), that is, as Christ says, they have been made free again, John 8:36; whence they are able not only to hear the Word, but also to assent to it and accept it, although in great weakness.

    68] For since we receive in this life only the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the new birth is not complete, but only begun ***in us***the combat and struggle of the flesh against the spirit remains even in the elect and truly regenerate men; for there is a great difference perceptible among Christians not only in this, that one is weak and another strong in the spirit , but each Christian, moreover, experiences in himself that at one time he is joyful in spirit, and at another fearful and alarmed; at one time ardent in love, strong in faith and hope, and at another cold and weak….

    71] But since the question is de causa efficiente (concerning the efficient cause), that is, who works this in us, and whence man has this, and how he attains it, this doctrine informs us that, since the natural powers of man cannot do anything or help towards it, 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:5, God, out of His infinite goodness and mercy, comes first to us [precedes us], and causes His holy Gospel to be preached, whereby the Holy Ghost desires to work and accomplish in us this conversion and renewal, and through preaching and meditation upon His Word kindles in us faith and other godly virtues , so that they are gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost alone. 72] This doctrine, therefore, directs us to the means whereby the Holy Ghost desires to begin and work this [which we have mentioned], also instructs us how those gifts are preserved, strengthened, and increased, and admonishes us that we should not let this grace of God be bestowed on us in vain, but diligently exercise it [those gifts], and ponder how grievous a sin it is to hinder and resist such operations of the Holy Ghost.

    (end quotes from SD II)

    So is this righteousness that grows in us just Christ and the Holy Spirit, or is it really the beginnings of our real righteousness, which yes, can only be had in communion with Christ and His Spirit?

    SD III: 25 ( says : “For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.”

    Therefore, we speak of ongoing conversion, which would belong to sanctification. “Only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith” are involved in justification. This implies that there is something more that is involved in sanctification, does it not?). Indeed, and it happens in us, in the righteousness that begins to grow in the Christian (inchoate righteousness)

    Let’s look at SD III more closely:

    “19] For, in the first place, the word regeneratio, that is, regeneration, is used so as to comprise at the same time the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake alone, and the succeeding renewal which the Holy Ghost works ***in those*** who are justified by faith. Then, again, it is [sometimes] used pro remissione peccatorum et adoptione in filios Dei, that is, so as to mean only the remission of sins, and that we are adopted as sons of God. And in this latter sense the word is much and often used in the Apology, where it is written: Iustificatio est regeneratio, that is, Justification before God is regeneration. St. Paul, too, has employed these words as distinct from one another, Titus 3:5: He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost. 20] As also the word vivificatio, that is, making alive, has sometimes been used in a like sense. For when man is justified through faith (which the Holy Ghost alone works), this is truly a regeneration, because from a child of wrath he becomes a child of God, and thus is transferred from death to life, as it is written: When we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ, Eph. 2:5. Likewise: The just shall live by faith, Rom. 1:17; Hab. 2:4. In this sense the word is much and often used in the Apology.

    21] But again, it is often taken also for sanctification and renewal, which succeeds the righteousness of faith, as Dr. Luther has thus used it in his book concerning the Church and the Councils, and elsewhere.”

    [NOTE: see Pastor Sonntag’s chapter in the Pless Festchrift on this]

    23] For true [and not feigned] contrition must precede; and to those who, in the manner stated, out of pure grace, for the sake of the only Mediator, Christ, without any works and merit, are righteous before God, that is, are received into grace, the Holy Ghost is also given, who renews and sanctifies them, and ***works in them love to God and to their neighbor***. But since the incipient renewal is imperfect in this life and sin still dwells in the flesh, even in the regenerate, the righteousness of faith before God consists in the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without the addition of our works, so that our sins are forgiven us and covered, and are not imputed, Rom. 4:6ff”


    Jim – does this love created *in us* come from a renewed heart – a heart that is really righteous in Christ – not just by imputation?

    Back to SD III:

    28] In like manner also renewal and sanctification, although it is also a benefit of the Mediator, Christ, and a work of the Holy Ghost, does not belong in the article or affair of justification before God, but follows the same since, on account of our corrupt flesh, it is not entirely perfect and complete in this life, as Dr. Luther writes well concerning this in his beautiful and large exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, …..


    This means that the Christian the Christian’s real renewal is partially perfect and complete in this life. The Confessions do not just deal with us as simultaneously saints and sinners, but as partially saints and sinners. There is real ontological change that happens by the power of Christ’s Spirit.

    Back to SD III:

    “32] It is also correctly said that believers who in Christ through faith have been justified, have in this life first the imputed righteousness of faith, and then also the incipient righteousness of the new obedience or of good works. But these two must not be mingled with one another or be both injected at the same time into the article of justification by faith before God. For since this incipient righteousness or renewal ***in us*** is incomplete and impure in this life because of the flesh, the person cannot stand with and by it [on the ground of this righteousness] before God’s tribunal, but before God’s tribunal only the righteousness of the obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, which is imputed to faith, can stand, so that only for the sake of this obedience is the person (even after his renewal, when he has already many good works and lives the best [upright and blameless] life) pleasing and acceptable to God, and is received into adoption and heirship of eternal life.”


    [Note well that *in us* above]

    SD III:

    “….. 35] Hence, even though the converted and believing [in Christ] ***have incipient renewal, sanctification, love, virtue, and good works***, yet these neither can nor should be drawn into, or mingled with, the article of justification before God, in order that the honor due Him may remain with Christ the Redeemer, and tempted consciences may have a sure consolation, since ,our new obedience is incomplete and impure.


    [Note our new obedience is incomplete and impure because our incipient righteousness *in us*is incomplete and impure

    SD III:

    “38] 2. That this remain the office and property of faith alone, that it alone, and nothing else whatever, is the means or instrument by and through which God’s grace and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel are received, apprehended, accepted, applied to us, and appropriated; and that from this office and property of such application or appropriation love and all other virtues or works are excluded.

    Me: The statements where false teachings are condemned can also help us:

    SD III:

    “…50] 6. Item, credentes coram Deo iustificari vel coram Deo iustos esse simul et imputatione et inchoatione, vel partim imputatione, partim inchoatione novae obedientiae (that is, also that believers are justified before God, or are righteous before God, both by imputation and by inchoation at the same time, or partly by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and partly by the beginning of new obedience).”


    [note the conflation of “inchoation” and the new obedience]

    SD III:

    “51] 7. Item, applicationem promissionis gratiae fieri et fide cordis et confessione oris ac reliquis virtutibus (that is, also that the application of the promise of grace occurs both by faith of the heart and confession of the mouth, and by other virtues). That is: Faith makes righteous for this reason alone, that righteousness is begun in us by faith, or in this way, that faith takes the precedence in justification; nevertheless, renewal and love also belong to our righteousness before God, however, in such a way that it is not the chief cause of our righteousness, but that our righteousness before God is not entire and complete without such love and renewal. Likewise, that believers are justified and righteous before God at the same time by the imputed righteousness of Christ and the incipient new obedience, or in part by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and in part by the incipient new obedience. Likewise, that the promise of grace is appropriated to us by faith in the heart, and confession which is made with the mouth, and by other virtues.”


    Consider also this: are we justified by Christ’s merit by His obedience apart from His essential righteousness? Of course not….

    SD III:

    “55] Accordingly, since in our churches it is acknowledged [established beyond controversy] among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession that all our righteousness is to be sought outside the merits, works, virtues, and worthiness of ourselves and of all men, and rests alone upon Christ the Lord, it must be carefully considered in what respect Christ is called our Righteousness in this affair of justification, namely, that our righteousness rests not upon one or the other nature, but upon the entire person of Christ, who as God and man is our Righteousness in His only, entire, and complete obedience.

    67] Concerning what is needful furthermore for the proper explanation of this profound and chief article of justification before God, upon which depends the salvation of our souls, we direct, and for the sake of brevity herewith refer, every one to Dr. Luther’s beautiful and glorious exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians.

    (end SD III quotes)

    And here, Trent has important words:

    So: it seems like we do not live in an “imputation” world only, correct?

    Conclusion (as stated earlier): When the confessions talk about our “inchoate righteousness” … they do talk about a change that occurs in us. This is what we must uphold. It’s not just Christ in us or the Holy Spirit in us. It is what the Spirit and Christ bring about in us in terms of renewal of our heart and mind and, issuing from that, conduct of life from the inside out.

    Again, I had asked: “would you… say that as our faith in Christ grows (perhaps defined exclusively as the Christian grasping ever more firmly the righteousness of Christ?) it does not become more righteous, but like a tree it simply produces more fruit? Would that sum up your position well?”


  10. In sum:

    Our relationship with God is based upon the essential righteousness of Christ, sacrificed for us. Within that relationship, God would make us, by His Holy Spirit, also essentially righteous [where we reflect the love of Christ (God)]. This work He begins in our baptisms and brings to a completion in the resurrection.



  11. Said another way: What is progressive sanctification?

    Can we speak of real renewal and growth in sanctification – as regards the essential righteousness of the Christian (yes, had only via Christ in the relationship that *is* eternal life)? Or can we only speak of more works or fruit?

    Again, I do not harp on this because I want you to recognize how holy I am. No way. I am emphasizing all of this because it is not clear from the way that some here are speaking that they uphold these things or, at the very least, consider them worth mentioning.


  12. @Pastor Tim Rossow #4
    Rev. Rossow,

    This comment is in response to your assertion that Jesus does not exhort, but simply condemns. I am currently reading Luther’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (Excellent stuff, by the way! I am constantly struck by how much easier it is to read Luther himself than to read most of the books written about him and his theology). Luther seems to think that although Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is preaching to the Jews of His day, to condemn their self-righteousness, Jesus is also preaching to Christians to encourage good, God-pleasing works; Luther writes, “This sermon is intended only for those who are Christians, who believe and know that they have their treasure in heaven, where it is secure for them and cannot be taken away.” (He does say “only” in this quote, but he also writes elsewhere, “Note…that the target and object of this sermon were principally the Jews” [location 786]. Perhaps this can be reconciled as preaching to Christians against these Jews?) Luther also goes on to say that the righteousness Jesus means when He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” is not imputed righteousness:

    “Righteousness” in this passage must not be taken in the sense of that principal Christian righteousness by which a person becomes pious and acceptable to God. I have said before that these eight items are nothing but instruction about the fruits and good works of a Christian. Before these must come faith, as the tree and chief part or summary of a man’s righteousness and blessedness, without any work or merit of his; out of which faith these items all must grow and follow. Therefore take this in the sense of the outward righteousness before the world, which we maintain in our relations with each other. Thus the short and simple meaning of these words is this: “That man is righteous and blessed who continually works and strives with all his might to promote the general welfare and the proper behavior of everyone who helps to maintain and support this by word and deed, by precept and example.” (I’m sorry I don’t have a page number, since I am using the Kindle edition, which is difficult to cite, but this is Vol. 21 of the St. Louis edition of Luther’s Works. I think the first quote is from location 645, and the long quote comes soon after.)

    Would you agree with Luther that this is an example of exhortation and not merely condemnation? I think it would hardly be fair to call the Sermon on the Mount “cherry-picking.” Of course, you could answer (and I would agree) that the Law does both, but I find it interesting that Luther sees this sermon, which may seem at first blush to be the harshest Law, as encouragement for Christians to do good works. (Indeed, throughout this commentary, Luther portrays this sermon primarily as a message of comfort for Christians suffering persecution by the world and those who hate the Gospel.)

  13. Eric Phillips :
    You seem to think that Chemnitz got his explanation of Original Sin from Aristotle, but according to SD

    Pr. Phillips,

    No, I am saying he is using Aristotelian language. I think Chemnitz “got his explanation of Original Sin” from the Holy Scriptures. Most certainly he is familiar with the teachings of the fathers you named, but that doesn’t really say much about the philosophical language he employs here in the SD.

    Thanks for your response. Yours will be the last word, since I have just started a new quarter at the sem and I am up to my eyeballs in work. So, I won’t be coming back to this thread.

    @Nathan #9


    I read your post and appreciate the time you took in writing it, but I am sorry that I do not have the time to continue this discussion. However, I did want you to know that I did read your post.

  14. Jim,

    You protest, “No, I am saying he is using Aristotelian language.” This tells me that you did not look up my citation from the SD, so I will have to quote the whole thing.

    However, as to the Latin words substantia and accidens, a church of plain people ought to be spared these terms in public sermons, because they are unknown to ordinary men. But when learned men among themselves, or with others to whom these words are not unknown, employ such terms in treating this subject, as Eusebius, Ambrose, and especially Augustine, and also still other eminent church‐teachers have done, because they were necessary to explain this doctrine in opposition to the heretics, they assume immediatam divisionem, that is, a division between which there is no mean, so that everything that is must be either substantia, that is, a self‐existent essence, or accidens, that is, an accidental matter which does not exist by itself essentially, but is in another self‐existent essence and can be distinguished from it; which division Cyril and Basil also use. (SD I.54)

  15. Katy,

    Great citation.

    You see, what you’re up against here is people who isolate Luther’s “genius,” his “central idea,” the thing that makes him unique and exciting, and label that idea as “the Real Luther.” So when you show them other things that the actual Real Luther said–boring, non-earthshaking things that lots of other people had already said–they say, “No, that’s not the Real Luther.”

    It’s one of the fruits of the Luther Renaissance in the early 20th.

  16. Jim,

    I hope that those quotations are beneficial to your study and meditation.


    I’ve got an old 15 volume set of Luther’s sermons edited by Lenker from around the early 20th century. The volumes were an effort to introduce Luther and his thought to a wider American audience (I think these are the ones that have been reprinted by Baker publishing house recently, but I could be wrong).

    Its almost always like this in his sermons to. I started reading an Advent sermon to my boys last night to help them fall asleep (don’t worry – after the Picture Bible and a chapter from a Nancy Drew book) and it was the same kind of thing. Stuff that sounds similar to Paul in the epistles but sounds unlike the preaching you will hear from many a modern confessional Lutheran.


  17. If there was an answer to this from Pr Rossow, I missed it.

    You keep saying that we need to exhort. How much should we exhort? A lot? A little bit? A modest amount?

    If the goal of preaching and administering the sacraments is to get us to be better people and exhorting does this, shouldn’t we use all of our sermon time to exhort?

    You say that exhorting makes us more righteous then let’s just exhort period so that we can b more righteous.

  18. Katy,

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

    For the sake of discussion I could grant you your point but then I would say that this is the exception and not the rule for Jesus, if indeed you and Luther are right.

    I also have a middle position and a more strict position on this.

    You already mentioned the middle position. Even if you and Luther are right, the law always condemns.

    Before getting to the more strict position, note also that Jesus is simply calling those with active righteousness blessed. He is not exhorting even in your understanding.

    I think overall it is an open question. As you guessed, I tend to see this as law, pure law. Here is why.

    1) I do not see myself here. I am not a peacemaker, righteous, pure in heart, but I am poor in spirit. The end of the book of Matthew supports this. Christ will tell beleivers on judgment day that they served him and we will say when? That is because Luther teaches us that it is dangerous to look at our works and see them. They are fruits that grow naturally despite us and not works of the flesh.

    2) This is Jesus coming out of the gate. First comes law leading to repentance then comes Gospel (him hanging on a tree).

    3) This section has all of the tightening of the law in it. You have heard it said…I tell you… So, to understand the beatitudes as law is in keeping with the rest of the section.

    4) Not only that, this section has the sharpest, shortest, most piercing word of law in all of Scripture that silences us and turns us away from our putrid works of the flesh both good and bad. 5:48 – Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.

    I love the Gospel. The Gospel is my life and only hope. I celebrate the Gospel everywhere I find it. Like Luther – I search the Scriptures for every last morsel of Christ and his Gospel. The opening chapters of Matthew are not a very rich mine for the salve of the Gospel.

  19. Eric @ #6,

    You say:

    “Participation by Formal derivation is perfectly orthodox. “All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16b-17). “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).”

    Please describe again what you mean by formal derivation.

    Here is what I understand formal derivation to mean. There is the form (idea, substance, etc.) called “humanity” and there is a form for “squirrel.” At creation God created Adam and Eve with the form/substance of humanity. He created squirrels with the form/substance of squirrel.

    Adam and Eve have the same substance (humanity) but they each have it in and of themselves. The fact that they each are created according to the substance of humanity does not mean that they participate in each other’s substance. They are each distinct beings within the same substance.

    The substance humanity is not some ethereal thing that exists in God or the Logos. Substances can only exist in things. To protect the substances Plato posited that they exist in some non-material world. That is the weird thing. It is not necessary. Aristotle comes along and has the insight that substance/form only exists in a thing. That is the only place you can find it and that makes sense and keeps us from having to think of substance as residing in some ethereal world or in God.

    You are right. The Nicene Creed keeps man seperate from God. That is good. It does not assume either Platonic or Aristotelian metaphysics. In the end however, the Aristotelian approach squares with common sense and supports the empiricism of the incarnation. The Platonic stuff is brilliant and fun but it takes us to places that constantly threaten orthodox Christian teaching such as theosis. I do not become God and God does not become me. That is dangerous talk. God is in me for sure but we do not share formal reality. My form is not derived from God. It is created by God. That keeps us distinct.

  20. Eric,

    By definition a substance is what makes a thing what it is. Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Wittgenstien, every philosopher agrees with this. That is the definition of a substance.

    So, if you change a substance, you change the thing. It is not longer what it was before.

    Christian theology maintains that I am me in my mother’s womb, in my years outside the womb and when I die and go to heaven. I always remain me.

  21. @Pastor Tim Rossow #20


    Sure, give me the reference. What’s going on here, though, is the difference between God-in-Himself (according to His transcendence) and God-in-the-world (according to His immanence). You will certainly be able to find Plotinus saying that the One doesn’t contact the world _in Himself_, but you will also find him saying that the other divine hypostases (Intellect and the World Soul) and the world itself, and indeed all things in the world are the One, each according to its own ability and role. This is why NP is sometimes characterized as Gnostic and sometimes as Pantheistic, which if you think about it are contradictory accusations.

    The Christian distinction “begotten, not made” revolutionizes Plotinian Metaphysics, in which “begotten” and “made” are really the same thing, and the only purely qualitative difference is that between Being and the One Beyond Being.

  22. Tim,

    I appreciate your last few posts. We may yet have a productive exchange.

    First, a note on terminology: I’m going to use Greek terms in this post instead of Latin ones because of the infamous confusion between the Greek hypostasis and its etymological Latin translation, substantia. This confusion led Charlemagne’s theologians to accuse the East of tritheism, upon receiving a poorly rendered translation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and it’s causing confusion here too, as in this sentence: “The fact that they each are created according to the substance of humanity does not mean that they participate in each other’s substance.” Here’s how I would say that: “The fact that they each are created according to the ousia of humanity does not mean that they participate in each other’s hypostasis.” Or if you want to stick to latinate terms, substitute “essence” for ousia and “person” for hypostasis.

    With that in mind, when you say “The substance humanity is not some ethereal thing that exists in God or the Logos,” I disagree because in the phrase “substance of humanity” the term must mean ousia, or essence, and the essence of humanity is the Form of humanity (nothing can be without Form), and the Forms are Ideas in the Mind of God, and the Divine Logos is the Mind of God. (Actually, “exists” isn’t the right word to use there; we’re talking about esse here, not existentia). So there is no “non-material world” in NP thought—either pagan or Christian—and Dr. Eric Perl, the prof from whom I learned this stuff, didn’t think there really was in Plato either. He considered that to be a polemical misconstrual on Aristotle’s part. At any rate, whether the observation was originally Aristotle’s or Plato’s, NP agrees with you that “substance/form only exists in a thing.” But essence precedes existence. There has to be a Form before it can define a thing.

    It is true that the Nicene Creed assumes neither Platonic nor Aristotelian categories, in the sense that that opposition is meant. But this is because there was no well-defined separation between Platonism and Aristotelianism in the 4th century. NeoPlatonism was eclectic: a fusion of both. Scholastic Aristotelianism, defined as its own thing, contra-Plato, was a thing of the past and the future. Philosophically speaking, the Arian controversy was hashed out between two schools of NP thought. You keep saying that Platonism contains dangerous ideas. Well, yes. Arianism was one of those, and it was purged. But Aristotelianism also contains dangerous ideas. “For example, many of Aristotle’s interpreters throughout the centuries, including Martin Luther, were convinced that in Aristotle’s thought there was no room for the immortality of the individual human soul. But Christian Aristotelianism, of course, rejected this element. You can’t fairly evaluate the Christian version of a philosophy if you keep focusing on the pagan original.

    You say, “God is in me for sure but we do not share formal reality. My form is not derived from God. It is created by God.” This is where the distinction between Formal derivation and “oozing” comes into play. The Forms are derived from God, but they are not the Form of God, because God has no Form. He is, if you will, the Formless Former. Beyond Being. The Forms are Ideas in the Mind of God, and since Christian NP in most of its forms (esp. the Augustinian kind to which I hold) asserts the freedom of God in creating, there isn’t even a “Principle of Plenitude” requiring that every Idea must be used. Formal derivation does not imply consubstantiality. That’s why the Arians denied consubstantiality to the Son (well, it’s the philosophical reason, anyway). The Nicene Creed affirms it of the Son and the Spirit, and but agrees that it does not extend to the World.

    Finally, you write, “if you change a substance, you change the thing. It is not longer what it was before.” That is true. When mankind fell, and lost Original Righteousness, he was no longer what he was before. But he had not been replaced by evil, or by another ousia. To the extent that He still had being, He was still what God had created. And when the Image of God in us is renewed by the Gift of the Holy Spirit and fed through Word and Sacrament, we begin to return to that good Form.

  23. @Pastor Tim Rossow #18
    I didn’t and don’t deny that the Law always condemns. I also hold that the Law is always Law, even when applied in its third use. The third use of the Law is not Gospel-lite; it is instruction for the Christian in works that follow from faith. (In this I am not attempting to argue with you; I am simply confessing my faith, and I see us in agreement here.) I, too, love the Gospel above all else; it is infinitely precious to me. The doctrine of justification as confessed in the Lutheran Church and the clear proclamation of the Gospel which I find everywhere I turn in Confessional Lutheranism are the chief reasons why I would never consider going East or anywhere else in Christendom. But the Holy Spirit is also slowly but surely teaching me day by day to love His Law—though I both love it and obey it in enormously great weakness, and must beg His forgiveness every moment of every day. God knows that I am not pure in heart, or anything else, either!

    Regarding exhortation, Jesus may not be exhorting in the exact passages I referenced, but Luther even uses the word “exhort” and related forms numerous times (my Kindle search reveals 10 times) in this work as he expounds Jesus’ teaching. I’m sorry if I didn’t state that clearly enough. For example, at location 1205, Luther writes (and I know this is out of context), “That is why Christ is exhorting and warning the disciples so diligently here, to be sure that this salting is never neglected.” When it comes to Luke 5:16 (“Let your light so shine before me that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”), Luther writes, “See the earnestness with which He puts the exhortation. He would not have to do this if there were not great urgency and need” (location 1351). He goes on to exhort preachers of the Gospel to hold steadfast to pure doctrine and not be discouraged by persecution. But he doesn’t do so in a harsh or condemning way, but in an encouraging and comforting way. I think Luther is portraying Jesus as the Good Shepherd whose rod and staff comfort us sheep—the rod and staff beat up the wolves (Pharisees, papists, etc.), and they nudge errant sheep along the right path. Very pastoral.

    The next few paragraphs, though, are particularly relevant to this discussion, so I will let Luther speak while I get out of the way; I, who am nobody, have nothing but my amen to add to what he says here:

    The statement “that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” is in accordance with St. Matthew’s way of speaking; he usually talks this way about works. Neither in his Gospel nor in those of the other two evangelists, Mark and Luke, do we find such a great emphasis upon the profound doctrine of Christ as we do in St. John and St. Paul; instead, we find them talking and exhorting about good works. Of course, it is appropriate that in Christendom both should be preached, yet each in keeping with its nature and value. First and highest is the proclamation about faith and Christ, then comes the emphasis upon works. The evangelist John discussed the chief article thoroughly and powerfully, and hence he is properly regarded as the highest and foremost evangelist. For this reason, Matthew, Luke, and Mark considered and emphasized the other issue, to make sure that it was not forgotten. On this issue, then, they are better than John, while he is better than they on the other one.

    But you dare not look at the statements and instructions about works in a manner that separates faith from them, the way our blind theologians mutilate them. You must always connect them with faith and incorporate them in it, making them a result and a concomitant of faith, praised and called “good” for its sake, as I have often taught. Here, too, when He says, “that they may see your good works,” you must not merely think of the sort of faith-less works that the good works of our clergy have been until now, but of the sort of works that faith performs and that are impossible apart from faith. What He calls “good works” here is the exercise, expression, and confession of the teaching about Christ and faith, and the suffering for its sake. He is talking about works by which we “shine”; but shining is the real job of believing or teaching, by which we also help others to believe.

  24. Divinization: The Vain Wish Of The First Sinners, Not God’s Goal In Shaping Human Creatures

    Excerpt from:
    Kolb, Robert (2009-02-05). Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith (Christian Theology in Context) (pp. 127-129). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

    Many twentieth-century scholars missed Luther’s underlying understanding of God’s Word as his creative agent for determining reality. Therefore, they debated fruitlessly whether Luther’s doctrine of justification was ‘effective’— God’s ‘actual’ rendering sinners righteous in deed— or ‘forensic’— God’s ‘merely’ saying that they are righteous. First the ‘Holl school’ 93 and recently the ‘Finnish’ school of Tuomo Mannermaa challenged the so-called ‘forensic’ interpretation of Luther’s doctrine of justification. Holl recognized that Luther had emphasized the performance of good works and tried to tie the sanctified life to the act of justification. Mannermaa associates Luther’s view with the Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis or divinization , in arguing that justification is more real than ‘merely’ a divine verbal observation. 94 Both interpretations wish to avoid regarding justification as the creation of a legal fiction—believers remain really sinners but God simply refuses to consider them as such. Gerhard Forde rightly recognized that such attempts are both historically inaccurate and theologically unnecessary when he observed that the more ‘forensic’ Luther’s teaching becomes, the more ‘effective’ it is, because nothing can be more real than that which God’s Word declares. Furthermore, Luther’s distinguishing God’s restoration of human righteousness and the effect it has on human performance of new obedience dare not be confused with a separation of the two, as though there were no moral consequences of receiving new identity and new dignity as God’s child.

    Always conscious of the continuing mystery of sin and evil in the lives of the baptized, Luther nonetheless distinguished the question of human moral performance from the identification of the source of the believer’s righteousness in God’s sight and the believer’s trust. Mannermaa argues that faith in Christ brings believers to full participation in the person of Christ. ‘Because faith means a real union with Christ, and because in Christ the Logos is of the same essence as God the Father, therefore the believer’s participation in the essence of God is also real.’ 95 This view ignores the nature of the ‘union’ of bride and bridegroom that Luther employed so frequently (in which the two participants in the union do not become ‘one essence’ but retain their distinctiveness), and his understanding of the preposition ‘in’ when Luther uses the Hebraic concept of two distinct entities being ‘in’ each other (that is, in a close association which does not merge them but brings them together in intimate relationship). It also ignores Luther’s strong doctrine of Creator and creation, which emphasized the distinction of the Creator and the human creature and the goodness of being human as God’s creature. Luther viewed ‘divinization’ as the vain wish of the first sinners, not God’s goal in shaping the human creature. Luther believed not that ‘faith communicates divine attributes’ to believers 96 but rather that Christ’s word of forgiveness restores the perfect attributes of God’s human creation. Schwarzwäller succinctly and aptly summarizes the flaws in this new interpretation of Luther’s doctrine of justification on the basis of its inadequate methodology, its flawed reading of Luther’s texts in historical context, its faulty logic in equating several distinct terms, its insufficient theological understanding of Luther’s doctrine of creation, God’s Word, and related teachings, and its linguistic misinterpretation of much of Luther’s key terminology. 97 Indeed, Luther very occasionally uses the medieval mystical term ‘divinization’, but he always clearly distinguished Creator from creature. He defined trust, not an indwelling presence of the divine, as the central human characteristic that brings all else in human life into harmony with the Father who created his people and rescued them from evil through Christ’s death and resurrection.

  25. TR,

    That is a very insightful quote. I shared one of those notions with Nathan, I believe it was off line. Just because I have intercourse with my wife I am not her and she me.

    Also, this gets to my point to Nathan 50 comments or so ago. Where are the big-hitter scholars quoted in Cooper’s book? I did not see any. Here is a big hitter – Kolb, and he rightly trashes the idea that there is a teaching of theosis in Luther.

    I did a read of the Galatians quotes from Luther in the Marquart article this morning. None that I could find even come close to anything like theosis.

    One of them even said this: God is stubborn. Where faith is concerned, man must be stubborn and not yield a point to reason. God is unchanging. Faith is unchanging. In this regard, faith makes a man God. LW, Vol. 26, p. 100.

    I kid you not. This is one of the quotes that Mannerma uses from Luther to prove that Luther held to a doctrine of theosis. This is ridiculous. This is so clearly an analogy.

    The quote that comes the closest to anything resembling theosis that Mannerma cites from Luther is from a sermon in 1515. Luther was a Romanist through and through in 1515. It is not until after 1521 that you can begin to see writings that are thoroughly “Lutheran.” (Yes, even the 95 theses are chock full of Romanism.)

  26. If I have time I will go through the Mannerma citations of Luther one by one. For now I have to get back to preparing Bible study for tomorrow (after a response to Katy).

  27. Katy,

    Again thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    You are sort of making my point with your first Luther citation. “Jesus was exhorting and warning the disciples…” That is one of the points I am making. Exhort can mean chide and warn. Exhort is not always “encourage” and certainly in Christian theology it cannot mean “encourage good works” with the sense that it has the power to do that. The law only has the power to chide and rebuke. It cannot create a single god-pleasing good work.

    Concerning growing in sanctification, by faith I believe that Christians grow in sanctification but as soon as they start to look at their works they are sinking in quick sand. That is the point of this whole thread. I would ask you to give me a percentage. How much more of a Christian are you (how much better are you at good works are you) this year over last? What percentage have you achieved?

    That is an absurd question. Please don’t answer it. Instead, look to Christ and know and trust that your entire life is covered by his blood.

    In your lengthy Luther quote, which is excellent and thanks for sharing it, there is nothing in it to deny that exhorting is chiding or warning. The nudge you talk about is still by definition a push, albeit a gentle one. A push is a push. The Gospel draws us. The law pushes us. Being pushed is necessary but it leaves us at a point where we do not have the power to do the good works. When I exhort my congregation to do more good works, I have not brought them even an inch closer to doing them in a god-pleasing way. It is the gospel that does that and I think Luther makes that very clear in those two paragraphs you cited.

  28. @T. R. Halvorson #28

    Two observations about the Kolb quotation:

    1) We all agree that it’s a mistake to inject divinization into the doctrine of Justification, and even the EOs agree that God and the Christian do not become “one Essence.”

    2) It’s interesting that the part that sounds particularly relevant to our conversation, which Pr. Richard chose for his title, is supported by no Luther citation from Kolb. What Kolb actually does say about Luther’s use of the term reveals that when he uses it, he doesn’t do so negatively. This is in keeping with the quotations we’ve seen on this thread.

  29. Tim,

    The law only has the power to chide and rebuke. It cannot create a single god-pleasing good work.

    Nobody is saying that it can do it by itself. The power comes from the Gospel.

  30. T.R. and Pastor Rossow,

    What do you think of all the stuff that I showed Jim? I’m asking you guys that stuff to. You know, because I am absolutely obsessed with my own righteousness! (believe me – this is not a problem – believe me, I have a long way to go, as my wife will attest…)

    Pastor Rossow,

    I want to echo what Eric just said. Still, I am seeing that perhaps I – and us – don’t really even believe this based on the way we often act on the ground. And that this is a good thing!

    Let’s say I have a 16 year old boy in the house. He says he doesn’t want to go to church. I tell him “son, you know I want you to go to church with us because you want to, but even if you don’t, you also know that as long as you live under this roof, you are going to come with us”.

    He goes. No penalty (other than mom’s obvious disapproval and disappointment) needs to be mentioned in this case.

    Now: was that a good work? What that a fulfilling of the 3rd commandment? Does the blood of Christ cover his negative attitude and his lack of love and zeal for the Lord?

    I think you would say yes. Now, it would have been better if the boy did not need to be told – if he, in Christian maturity, could have said: “Lord, I don’t feel like going to church, but I know that is old Adam within me. I’m sorry I don’t feel like going” – and then chooses to go.

    (think of a similar example of a man dealing with his daughter and what she is going to wear to the church service)

    That would have been more like the kind of good work that we all think of as a good work. So long as he wasn’t “counting” it as a good work, I suppose (as if recognizing something as a good work automatically means that it was done by our own “natural powers” with the intention of buying off God and justifying ourselves?).

    But who among us – knowing that our works do not justify or belong to justification – is counting in this way?

    I think your trying to filter everything through the sheep/goats passage isn’t helpful here. I would challenge you to find any Lutheran before the last 10 years making such a statement!

    Again, I hope to carve out time for more substantial responses in the future. Very busy right now though.


  31. @Pastor Tim Rossow #31
    The quote was for the benefit of everyone; I simply said it was relevant to the discussion. I will leave the hard-hitting debate to those who have more authority, knowledge, and skill than I. Luther gets the emphasis right in this quote: first justification, than the fruits of justification, and the two must not be divorced. In this quote he is chiding those who would preach works without faith–but it is equally true that, as St. James said, faith without works is dead. Both must be preached so that the Christian knows what to do with his life now that he is free in Christ to do good works.

    Let me finish my thought about Eastern Orthodoxy by way of illustrating why this is important to me. I said above that I never seriously considered going East, and that is true. But it has occasionally crossed my mind in moments of desperation when I find that all the biblical data doesn’t always match the types of statements and preaching I sometimes hear in the LCMS. Sometimes, “Law (second use) and Gospel” doesn’t seem to fit the biblical data; it seems forced onto a text, like a too-small shirt. However, when one recognizes that the law has a third use as well, and that every piece of Law in Scripture isn’t always primarily meant as second use, then “Law and Gospel” does make sense. (Side note: of course, the EO adds way too much to the biblical data, and that alone would keep me on this side of the Bosphorus–that and the fact that they muddle Law and Gospel.) I don’t know too many LCMS pastors who would deny in theory, at least reluctantly, that there is a third use, but many of them seem to deny it functionally. I actually spoke to a group of LCMS pastors about a year ago, and they all agreed that one should never deliberately employ the third use in a sermon–though maybe, once in a blue moon, one might use it in a counseling session.

    Anyway, my point is that I appreciate the work Pastor Cooper and others have done because it makes room for all the biblical data. It gives me relief that I can understand the Bible as it naturally reads–that it’s not all some code that must be cracked by reading the Law as second use 100% of the time. It helps me believe in both the truth and perspicuity of the Bible. And it keeps me from thinking about going East when I read something that doesn’t fit into our twenty-first century, reductionistic version of Confessional Lutheranism–because I can go back to the Lutheran fathers and see that they weren’t reductionists either.

    Oh, I will answer your question about whether I am a better Christian. I am a better Christian–not because I have better or more good works, or because of anything I have done, but because God, through the working of His Holy Spirit by the Word, has given me stronger faith and a deeper understanding of what He has preserved for me in Sacred Scripture, and brought me to ever more profound repentance and trust in Him. That Word has been taught to me in part via podcasts, etc., by Pastor Cooper and others who share his views. But of course, I don’t look to my faith, either–I look exactly where you said to look, to the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

  32. Oh, I forgot to mention: in the context, the exhorting about salt is not being used the way you say, as a rebuke. It is an encouragement to keep preaching the Word rightly. Perhaps the misunderstanding my fault because I did not quote the context.

  33. Katy,

    Those pastors who only use it once in a blue moon are using it every week. When they accuse people of their sins they are also teaching them what is right and wrong and they are admonishing and telling them (exhorting) what they are to do.

    They are also using the third use every time they teach confirmation to youth or adults when they go through the ten commandments.

    The third use teaching is intended to make clear that once you are saved, the law still applies.

    What the blue-mooners are reacting to is statements like we have seen on this thread: “The goal of the gospel is to create good works.” “The goal of the Christian life is to do good works.” Once you make that your goal and you think you have a powerful, exhortinig third use able to create good works then might as well give up on the Gospel. It is superfluous. The law is good enough to accomplish the so-called goal the faith.

    They are reacting to a model of preaching that says preach the law to convict, preach the gospel to forgive then finish with the law to create those good works because if you do not exhort there will be no good works.

    If you end on the law that is where people will stay. And, since the law always convicts, you have ended by convicting your people and putting them under the burden.

    I assure you that the blue-mooners do not deny that the law is still relevant for the saved. They are simply trying to use forms that make the Gospel predominant. I would rather sit in their pews than the pews of those who cry out “WE NEED MORE SANCTIFICATION PREACHING IN THE LCMS!” That is a scary cry. If we lack good works, we need to be reproved and then have the Gospel slathered on us like butter and frosting on a Cinnabon roll. Roll me in that stuff and watch me forget myself and serve God and neighbor. (In the Gospel that is, not the butter and the frosting although they would give me a good sugar/carb high that would put me in a good mood and I would probably serve my neighbor then but of course those good works would not be god-pleasing because they are not of faith but of a sugar buzz.)

  34. @Pastor Tim Rossow #37
    Well, of course the Holy Spirit uses the Law when it is preached any way He chooses with any hearer He chooses. That is not the point. The point is that, whenever the Law is preached by the preacher only in such a way as to kill (i.e., the preacher is deliberately preaching second use), and then he formulaically preaches Gospel right afterward, then I don’t take my sin seriously or struggle against it. I think, Ah, there’s the Gospel, and I don’t have to worry. Thank God for His forgiveness! Now I am free from the accusation of the Law. And I go on not to struggle against my sins. It’s not that I’m not believing the Gospel; the problem is that I haven’t been told that I now need to struggle against my sin because I am forgiven by the Gospel. This is not theoretical; this is autobiographical. This is a problem I had in the LCMS under Law/Gospel preaching (and before that, growing up in the ELCA) until I started learning more about the third use of the Law. Fortunately, my pastor has begun to sprinkle an appropriate amount of third use in his sermons (though he chiefly uses second use, as any good pastor and preacher should do), and that has helped me stay accountable and reminded me to work in the vineyard and not just lollygag around waiting for my denarius at the end of the day.

    I’m sure there are other Christians out there who respond better to the Gospel than I and who automatically do good works without instruction. Alas, I am not one of these. I am a great sinner, so absorbed with myself that don’t even know, without pointed and deliberate instruction, how to show my gratitude to Christ for His love and forgiveness by loving and forgiving my neighbor. I feel the sharp pang of the Law when I am convicted of my sins; then I feel the comfort of the Gospel; and then I go right back to doing the sins I committed before because I know I can get forgiveness again next Sunday. Being deliberately instructed in good works has helped me enormously and given me something to do with my life, and it has freed me from that awful cycle I mentioned above that made me wonder if I was missing something. (And yes, theosis as it has been defined here by Pr. Cooper and Pr. Phillips, is helpful to me in this, because it reminds me of that for which I am striving by the grace and aid of the Holy Spirit, and that which I will finally receive in perfection on the Last Day.) But no doubt I am just exceptionally sinful, and this doesn’t apply to most Christians. If so, I will readily confess in the words of St. Paul that I am the chief of sinners–and therefore the blood of Christ is all the more precious to me.

    I think I am done commenting here, so you can have the last word if you like. I have said all I have to say on this subject, and to say anything more would require me simply to repeat myself.

  35. “My pastor holds me accountable with the third use.”

    That is pure second use.

    On another matter, I get your point about formulaic preaching. There is no need to be formulaic. I am just talking that way for illustration.

    Again I just want to stress that the identification of the third use is to make sure that no one claims the law does not apply to the Christian once he is regenerate. He still must be held accountable to the law for sure.

  36. Tim,

    I’m pretty sure you’re the only one on this thread who has said, “The goal of the gospel is to create good works” or “The goal of the Christian life is to do good works.”

  37. Nathan at #34,

    That is the first use of the law. That is the civil law. A father in a non-Christian home of devout krauts can tell his child you will go to German Club tonight or you will be kicked out on the street.

    There is nothing spiritual going on there. The parent is teaching his child good habits by using threats and punishments.

    A Christian parent is welcome to use threats of punishment to teach their children good habits of going to church.

    Good habits are indeed good but they don’t belong in a discussion of sanctification.

  38. Katy,

    Your comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you for putting more flesh on the points I have been making. Your experience is not unique. Again, I bring up my friend who converted to E.O. – he should not have, but he could not reconcile things (the contradictions he saw between the New Testament and much modern Confessional Lutheran preaching – he did say he always thought Weedon was good, who we know also almost went EO!) like you were thankfully able to.

    Pastor Rossow,

    “Those pastors who only use it once in a blue moon are using it every week. When they accuse people of their sins they are also teaching them what is right and wrong and they are admonishing and telling them (exhorting) what they are to do.”

    It is true that persons can learn what is right and wrong from the second use. On the other hand, please answer this question: do you think the predominate use of the law in the Epistles, for example, is second use? I see second use in spades in Romans 1-3, but I would say most everywhere else we are dealing with third use, with some second use interspersed (I Cor. 6, for example). The apostles are intending to give instruction on how to live, and sometimes strongly exhorting and admonishing, albeit without the threats of eternal punishment for specific sins or sin in general. Oftentimes, Paul raises awareness of the “dual-nature” of the Christian, to help us better understand what is going on.

    Pastor Rossow you talk about how intuitive love is, but I’d suggest its intuitive after we hear what it looks like and we recognize the truth of it. Hence Martin Luther gets into some nitty-gritty in the LC…. I would suggest that Katy, in spite of her humility in saying she must be the kind of Christian who becomes lazy and lacks direction when she only hears the Gospel, actually speaks for most of us.

    Katy said:

    “My pastor holds me accountable with the third use.”

    And you replied: “That is pure second use.”

    I don’t think so. If the Pastor was not intending to reveal her sins to her, and, as Luther says, “bring her down to hell” (convincing that these are the damnation warranting sins that Christ died for), then how is it second use?

    Pastor Rossow,

    That is not the first use of the law. That is the third use because it is applied to those in the household of God and the reason for obeying the law – and even securing obedience through strong exhortations or even discipline – is the mercies of God in Christ. In the realm of the first use the only reason given is that it is God’s law- or perhaps in our day, that it is “natural law” that all men should recognize – not because of the redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus that has called us out of the empty way of life.

    Regarding comment #43. It was not on a private string with me. Obedience is certainly a goal of the Gospel, as Luther says at the end of the LC. It helps if all of this is thought about in terms of the relationship of parent and child. I do not love my kids because they obey, even as I certainly want them to obey. God did not create us simply to be useful to His purposes and designs, though He certainly desires this of us. He really does desire simply to *be* with us as well. Its that simple really and we don’t need to complicate matters uneccesarily.


  39. Pastor Rossow,

    One more post this morning and then I am done for the day…

    From I Timothy:

    “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

    In this passage, which we Lutherans associate with the first use of the law (to curb the “wild and disobedient”), Paul simply – clearly – does not have the household of God in mind. He does not mean those, who, in real communion with Christ, have the beginnings of real righteousness in their hearts. Of course Christians will uphold the first use of the law in society – whether it is seen as closely tracking with Divine Law or not – because God desires external peace and order in the world, even as He seeks to change things from the inside out through the Gospel.


  40. Nathan,

    There is not “Now I am going to preach the third use of the law.” The law is the law. All of its uses are present every time you preach the law.

    If you do not understand that the phrase “my pastor holds me accountable” is the second use of the law then there is nothing I can say to help you.

    Luther uses the terms “exhort” and “admonish” interchangeably. They are one in the same. When I hold you accountable I am admonishing you.

    Nathan, you are not a pastor. You have never stepped into a pulpit. You do not know what you are talking about. You have never been accountable to God for administering law and gospel. (That’s the law by the way, and it scares me to death but I still mount the pulpit weekly, and weakly for that matter, with confidence because of the sweet Gospel.)

  41. I think I need to comment just to clarify the phrase being debated. When I say “hold me accountable,” in this case I mean “remind me what I should be doing.” Maybe I didn’t use the best phrase, but that is what I meant by it. Yes, this reminding can function as second use–as in “You haven’t been doing this, Katy, and you are guilty of sin before God.” OK, granted. Lex semper accusat. But I meant it just as much or more here in the sense of “Now that you are absolved and reconciled to God, these are the good works God has appointed for you to do.” I’m pretty sure that counts as third use, and the way he is preaching them is in that function.