Great Stuff — Four things Lutherans believe about the Law that are false … and true

Found over on Pr. Surburg’s blog:

 

mlsealIn our study of Scripture we return to the same texts, yet we often do not find them to be same.  Naturally the text hasn’t changed.  Instead we have changed in our knowledge and experiences, and so we recognize things that we had not noticed before.  We ask questions of the text that we had not thought of before.

In preparing for a sermon, I had occasion to read again 1 Thessalonians 4:1 in which Paul says:

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1 ESV)

As I read this, I was struck by the way it speaks to – and contradicts – four assumptions with which Lutherans have read Scripture since the middle of the twentieth century.

First, Lutherans have assumed that in texts like this the Law only serves to show people their sin.  Beyond this, since Lutherans have assumed that this is the only use of the Law that really matters for Christians, they have tended to believe that this is Paul’s true purpose in speaking these words.  Paul tells them to walk as they should and to please God (and to do so more and more!) in order to show them that they really can’t do this.  He seeks to show them their sin so that they will then embrace the forgiveness that is found in Christ.

Now only the Holy Spirit determines how the law is used, and so Paul’s statement may be used by the Spirit to show a person their sin (second use), or to restrain and kill the old man so that the new man is able to determine how the individual acts (third use), or the Spirit may do both of these at once.  Yet it is simply not true that Paul’s true purpose is to show them that they really can’t do this and are sinners.  Quite the opposite he writes these words because he wants them to do these things and he even believes that they are doing them (more on this in a moment).

Second, Lutherans have assumed that pastors who preach this way will drive people to despair.  The law always accuses and in speaking exhortation they only show people how they fail to do these things.

However, while the law accuses the old man, the new man rejoices to hear these words because they are exactly what he wants to do.  The Spirit can and does use words like this to restrain and hinder the old man, so that the new man can direct the actions of the individual.  Paul is not worried here about driving the Thessalonians to despair.

Third, Lutherans have assumed that pastors who preach this way will lead people into presumption and self righteousness.  If Christians are directed to focus on what they do, then they will take pride in them and lose sight of justification by grace through faith on account of Christ.

However, the result of such preaching can be righteous living.  When the Spirit uses the law to restrain and hinder the old man, the result of such preaching may be that the new man causes the individual to walk as he should and to please God.  Paul is not worried here about leading the Thessalonians into self-righteousness.

Fourth, Lutherans have assumed that when Paul says, “just as you are doing,” this can’t really be true.  Lutherans are so finely tuned in their perception of sin and its influence that they are not willing to grant that Christians actually live in ways that can be described as “walking as they should and pleasing God.” Sin pervades the individual so completely since the Fall that it is not possible to speak in this way.

However, it is an unavoidable fact of this text that Paul says they are doing it.  Similar language is found frequently in the Psalms when the psalmist asserts that he has lived in ways that please God (e.g. Ps 17:3-5).  Naturally such language does not mean that the old man is completely vanquished and gone, and ultimately it can only be true today of those who are in Christ.  Yet it does demonstrate that it is thoroughly biblical to talk about people living and doing in ways that please God.  In regeneration the Spirit creates the new man and this actually makes a difference.

These four points have been persuasive since the mid-twentieth century because they are mutually reinforcing.  More significantly, they have been persuasive because they are all true. They are all true.  However, they are not the only things that are true.  In each case, because we are dealing with Christian who is new man and old man at the same time, there is also another side to the story.  Error creeps in when we lose sight of the fact that both sides described in each point above are true.  So the law does show people their sin. It can drive to despair.  It can lead to self-righteousness.  The person’s actions are never entirely pure because they still have the old man. But likewise the law found in exhortation can help produce the result that the individual actually does what God wills.  Instead of despair it can bring joy, as the person says, “Yes! That’s exactly what I want to do.”  Instead of self-righteousness in can result in righteous living.  It can produce conduct that the Bible is willing to describe as reflecting God’s will.

In the context of Methodism, Baptists and American evangelicalism, it is understandable that some Lutherans are hesitant about embracing the second set of truths on each point.  At some level, it sounds similar to what these traditions have to say. It should not escape our attention that one reason these traditions are persuasive is because they take up language that is found in Scripture. It is placed in a faulty theological framework and it is emphasized in a one sided way, but error and heresy is often a truth pushed too far or viewed in abstraction from other biblical truths.  To emphasize and balance both sides of each point is not to be a “neo-Methodist” – it is instead to be a biblical and confessional Lutheran.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Four things Lutherans believe about the Law that are false … and true — 177 Comments

  1. Pastor Rossow,

    “Aletheist is right. It does not matter until you describe yourself as an Adjunct Professor of Theology…. you are a Reference Librarian who has taught a few online classes”

    I’ve taught roughly between 15-20 classes all told – all in beginning Christianity. Such things honestly don’t matter to me and I am not going to wrangle with you about my status. No one, including the head of the department, would have any issues with me describing myself as an Adjunct Professor of Theology. If it really mattered that much to me in the context of discussions like this, you would have undoubtedly heard about it a long time ago (I’ve been posting here for years).

    The reason I posted it now was because I knew Dr. Hein had taught at CSP Chicago for years and was interested in making that “we have this in common” connection with him. I’ve also read a lot of his stuff over the years, particularly in apologetics and would like to eventually do an apologetics course here at CSP (I’ve tried to get Dr. Rosenbladt’s help here as well, and he has been very helpful to me). In any case, I realize there is a big difference between a full professor and an adjunct. Others reading here, I assume, likely know that.

    In the future, I will know not to bring up the matter of what I do here at CSP unless asked directly.

    Let’s not make this about me. Let’s not forget that several of the commentators have been chastised (very lightly) by Dr. Marquart, and I would submit, Dr. Holger Sonntag. What they are saying is not really being addressed by you – instead you are focusing on minituia such as “is Nathan *really* an adjunct professor” and my bringing up the matter.

    Again, you are ignoring Marquart and Sonntag.

    “It is clear that Luther and the Confessors use exhortation and admonish interchangeably. That is not debatable.”

    See more here from Dr. Sonntag:

    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38683&cpage=12#comment-1054761

    “You cannot say “I am now going to use the third use and it alone.””

    Sure you can. That’s why its the 3rd use. Whether or not the Holy Spirit will use it in the same way as you is a separate question.

    “We all agree that that the law applies to the regenerate.”

    That is not the issue though. FC VI says far more than that.

    “Those who want to carry on and on about the third use want more talk of good works in the church. Lutherans want more talk of the Gospel in the church.”

    Lutherans want to talk about both biblically, while always highlighting and grounding all in the Gospel.

    That’s my last word. Again, I encourage all to read Pastor Sonntag’s “God’s last word”: http://bit.ly/141MFOa

    +Nathan

  2. Nathan: “It is clear that Luther and the Confessors use exhortation and admonish interchangeably. That is not debatable.”
    See more here from Dr. Sonntag:
    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38683&cpage=12#comment-1054761

    I noted previously that the same verb in German can be translated into English as either “exhort” or “admonish,” so they are indeed interchangeable. What matters here is what we really mean by either term. In the linked comment, Dr. Sonntag references FC SD VI:12 and suggests:

    [“Exhorting/admonishing”] is then distinguished from the “instructing” on the one side and “reproving” on the other side, all in that same paragraph and all done by the law. Consequently, the “second use” of the law is here only represented by the “reproving” work of the Spirit that comes into play when the Christians are lazy due to their flesh. The other two verbs express the “third use.”

    I do not think that the text itself clearly distinguishes which verbs are supposed to be understood as pertaining to each particular use of the Law. In any case, the subject of the two relevant sentences in FC SD VI:12 is the Holy Spirit; He is the One who “uses the law” for teaching, exhorting/admonishing, and reproving – not the preacher.

    Nathan: “You cannot say “I am now going to use the third use and it alone.””
    Sure you can. That’s why its the 3rd use. Whether or not the Holy Spirit will use it in the same way as you is a separate question.

    Can you? Can the preacher really use the Law in three different ways, or – in accordance with FC SD VI:12 as just discussed – is it the Holy Spirit who does this? As Pastor Rossow said in the comment right after the one that you linked, “There is only one law,” and whenever someone preaches it, the Holy Spirit then applies it to different hearers in different ways (see also FC Ep VI:7 and FC SD VI:15-17).

    Nathan: “We all agree that that the law applies to the regenerate.”
    That is not the issue though. FC VI says far more than that.

    But that is precisely the issue; at least, the particular one that FC VI was written to address, as stated in SD VI:2-4.

    The one party taught and held, that it is not necessary that the regenerate should learn from the law the new obedience or the good works in which they ought to walk, neither should this doctrine be urged from it … In opposition to this, the other party taught, that although genuine believers are truly led by the Spirit of God, and consequently, after the inward man, they do the will of God out of a free spirit, yet the Holy Spirit uses the written law for their instruction … In order to explain and determine this dispute, we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, that, although true believers and Christians who are really converted to God and justified, are released and liberated from the curse of the law, they should nevertheless exercise themselves daily in the law of the Lord …

    Yes, there are a bunch of additional sentences in FC VI, but this indicates the specific point that they are all intended to support. FC Ep VI:3 summarizes it well (emphasis added):

    We believe, teach, and confess, that the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ, and who are impenitent, but also among those who truly believe in Christ, who are truly converted to God, who are regenerated, and who are justified through faith.

    Notice that what “is to be urged with diligence” here is simply “the preaching of the law” to both unbelievers and believers, not any particular use(s) of the Law, alone or even in combination with others.

  3. Pastor Rossow,

    Yes. Have you read Luther’s Antinomian Disputations?

    aletheist,

    I will address your questions, but first I would like you to answer a specific, and related, question of mine. Is Paul intentionally using the Law differently in Romans 1-3 and Romans 12 ff?

    Pastor Rossow,

    If you would be so kind, please answer that question for me as well.

    +Nathan

  4. Nathan: aletheist,
    I will address your questions, but first I would like you to answer a specific, and related, question of mine. Is Paul intentionally using the Law differently in Romans 1-3 and Romans 12 ff?

    I honestly do not understand this question or its relevance to what we are discussing here. FC VI does not make any kind of comparison between these two passages. Besides, Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so anything that Paul intends and does in his letter to the Romans is also intended and done by the Holy Spirit. Can we say the same with certainty when someone preaches today? Why is it necessary or desirable to draw any more conclusions from FC VI than what its authors explicitly intended – that “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ”?

  5. aletheist,

    “Why is it necessary or desirable to draw any more conclusions from FC VI than what its authors explicitly intended – that “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ”?”

    Exactly. And what does the Epitome indicate here? That the accusatory function of the law is not what is in view in FC VI. The question I asked about the various sections in Romans has everything to do with the matter. You honestly do not understand why I ask the question?

    +Nathan

  6. Nathan: And what does the Epitome indicate here?

    It indicates that “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ.” Period.

    Nathan: That the accusatory function of the law is not what is in view in FC VI.

    No, what I quoted from FC Ep VI does not say anything at all about “the accusatory function of the law.” In fact, FC VI as a whole (Ep+SD) never uses any form of the word “accuse.” Perhaps that is because accusing is not a distinct function of the Law at all, but rather something that the Law always does, as the Apology repeatedly states. Such is the very nature of the Law, no matter how it is “used.”

    Nathan: The question I asked about the various sections in Romans has everything to do with the matter. You honestly do not understand why I ask the question?

    I already stated, “I honestly do not understand this question or its relevance to what we are discussing here.” Even if Paul is “intentionally using the Law differently in Romans 1-3 and Romans 12 ff,” he is doing so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; i.e., the Holy Spirit is using the Law differently, which I am not disputing. The issue is whether a preacher today can legitimately “use” the Law in different ways, or if he simply preaches the Law and the Holy Spirit takes it from there, which is what FC VI describes.

  7. aletheist,

    Thank you kindly for helping me to better see what the real differences are here. I have also posted part of what follows at my blog.

    Again, you ask:

    “Why is it necessary or desirable to draw any more conclusions from FC VI than what its authors explicitly intended – that “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ”?”

    I answered that above, but this post is also highly relevant here: //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=39228&cpage=3#comment-1069242

    I will tell you bluntly how I see things here. For the life of me, it seems that Pastor Hein’s third use is exactly the same as the second use and the text can’t bear this (see below). Again, at the deepest level, it seems to me that the new man, and his essential righteousness had in communion with Christ, has been eliminated by you and Pastor Rossow. Now you are eliminating the human proclaimor of the law as well (we note the Holy Spirit does use means, and their are people who need to administer the means of grace).

    “It indicates that “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ.” Period.”

    I note the “Period”. The desire is that the conversation ends here. That is all there is to say.

    No.

    The sixth article of the Lutheran Book of Concord is indeed about how the law should be urged on Christians. But in what way? What does it mean to urge the law on the Christian here?

    I submit that this can be seen by looking closely at the fifth and sixth articles of the Formula of Concord, about “The Law and the Gospel”, which parallels Paul’s use of the law in Romans 1-3, and the “Third Use of God’s Law”, which parallel’s Paul’s use of the law in Romans 12 ff, respectively.

    FC V is about how the law is revealed and taught to men (here we note it is mentioned that the law is unchangeable as well – V:17) so that people (believers to!: see V:2: “unbelief of the converted… is pardoned and forgiven”) may be led to the knowledge of their sins by the Law. It is all about the Holy Spirit and the Church using the law in its second, or spiritual use: accusing, condemning, convicting, reproving, rebuking, etc. en route to repentance FC V is about the preaching of repentance using the law of God, not the Gospel (the message of the cross can also convict). In other words, it is related to justification and continual justification. Note again, the second use of the law – its primary use – is to be continually applied to believers (as well as being needed to convert unbelievers), who here are understood to, as they stand before God, always remain totally sinners and totally saints (100% each).

    This would be like what Paul is doing in Romans 1-3.

    FC VI is, as the sainted Kurt Marquart says, about the laws “practical application to daily life” (think of Luther’s “Table of Duties” and the “Large Catechism”): how the law is used with people born anew by God’s spirit that they might live and walk in it. It is about the preaching not of repentance per se, but of obedience, addressing the old and new natures in the Christian. With the Gospel serving as the ground (“by the mercies of God”), the third use of the law encourages the Christian, according to his new man, to walk in the good works that God has appointed for them to do (“good works …encouraged from the law” – VI:2). The new man in the Christian, motivated by this instruction and admonishment / exhortation (VI:6 ; 12: “He encourages them to this”), is eager to live according to God’s law, in which he delights, so much so that sometimes he will wield the law himself, accusing, threatening and even physically punishing the flesh, the old man, within him (I Cor. 9:27). Therefore, the law need not “confuse the regenerate with its coercion” (VI:5).

    This would be akin to what Paul is doing in Romans 12ff (based on all the Gospel that comes before it, and including the discussion of the two natures in the Christian, chapters 7 and 8) and Ephesians 4-6

    Of course in discussing the Christian’s new obedience, the second use of the law – the law’s primary use! – cannot be irrelevant to this (neither is it the focus of article VI – as it is not dealt with in the Epitome of the article) but has some significance (see VI: 12 -14, 21-22). The written law continues to reveal to the believer how his good works always fall short, and how the Gospel, in the blood of Christ, covers the sins of those who believe. What is important to note here is that the strong believer, ever aware of this Gospel truth, will eagerly join in the rebuking and condemning of the old Adam in him. In sum, while the presence of the second use of the law in the article does address old Adam’s pharisaical tendencies, and shows him how his works are imperfect and impure and cannot stand before God – it also points out to the new man in the Christian how the fruit of obedience can and should become more pure (see VI:17, 18, 24), as sin is driven out and the old Adam is “forced to obey Christ” (VI: 24). In other words, all of this serves the primary purpose of the article – the new obedience of the Christian – by addressing and countering old Adam’s Epicurean tendencies. In other words, it is related not just to our passive sanctification, but the active sanctification (see the end of Romans 6 in particular here)

    To add more detail: the law in its second use threatens persons with God’s wrath and temporal and eternal punishments (“God’s wrath, death, all temporal calamities, and the punishment of hellfire”- V:20). Here, we note that the law is used specifically to reveal sin and, with the Gospel, to produce repentance unto life. In the case of the third use of the law, the law is used specifically to address the Christian as partially saint and partially sinner (Romans 6-8 unveils this reality in detail), urging the new man in the Christian on to obedience, as old Adam is driven out more and more. The threats, rewards, and punishments discussed here are more akin to the first use (VI: 19), with its focus on temporal, often immediate, carrots and sticks. As Luther says, the Holy Spirit makes the law enjoyable and gentle to the justified, and therefore, the preacher should not make the law overly harsh among the justified but should change into the gentler tone of exhortation.* Again, we note that here we have Christians taking steps themselves to tame, even through “blows”, the wild and disobedient old Adam within.

    This is what the Holy Spirit encourages, and this is what proclaimers of the Word should encourage, imitating Paul, as he seeks to keep in step with the Spirit.

    +++

    *Luther also says that too much condemning law can lead into despair and to kill completely – the law “should be reduced through the impossible supposition to a salutary use”

    +Nathan

  8. Nathan:

    For the last time, and then I am bowing out of this discussion. I hold the following and I regret that you have not been able to understand these things in my previous posts.

    1. The Second Use of the law accuses all sinners, including Christians of their sins and works repentance.

    2. The Third Use of the Law instructs Christians about good works of faith. It indicates the parameters within which works of faith are good and God-pleasing and beyond which our projects are not to go.

    3. The term “Use” in the above describes how God uses his Law – not the preacher, or Paul, or Dr. Marquart, or any Servant of the Word. The preacher’s intentions are irrelevant in a discussion about the right division between Law and Gospel proclaimed at full strength and how God promises to use them in the life of sinners.

    4. Since the Law always accuses – it simply does! This holds regardless of whether or not God chooses to reveal anything to any Christian at any particular time about the works of faith.

    5. Regardless of what any have written or said concerning the ministry of the Law, the Lutheran Confessions never use the word “encourage” to describe any spiritual use of the Law. Only the civil use of the Law can encourage an outward righteousness by the lure of personal benefit.

    That is it . . . hope this provides some final clarification of my position, Nathan. I am done here. Blessings!

  9. Dr. Hein,

    Great to hear from you again. A couple quick points:

    The 3rd use of the law is said to encourage the Christian (see above).

    “The term “Use” in the above describes how God uses his Law – not the preacher, or Paul, or Dr. Marquart, or any Servant of the Word. The preacher’s intentions are irrelevant in a discussion about the right division between Law and Gospel proclaimed at full strength and how God promises to use them in the life of sinners.”

    This would seem to contradict Luther, Walther, and Marquart. Further, don’t many modern confessional Lutheran pastors, according to what they take to be the desires of the Holy Spirit, try to convict of sin and then reveal the Savior? Intention is always a reality, is it not? Do you recommend any resources that would go someway in making this assertion you are making credible?

    I understand if you will not be coming back. I won’t be today at least. : )

    +Nathan

  10. @Nathan #7
    I am glad that my comments have helped to clarify the issues. I understand that the writings of Luther, Walther, and others can (and often do) provide helpful context for and applications of what we find in the BoC, but ultimately it is the latter to which we subscribe unconditionally. My point here is simply to be careful about going beyond what FC VI actually states about the third use of the Law.

    For example, when I said “Period” above, I was merely answering your question, “And what does the Epitome indicate here?” By “here,” I assumed that you meant the specific sentence that I had quoted: “the preaching of the law is to be urged with diligence, not only among those who have no faith in Christ … but also among those who truly believe in Christ.” I even acknowledged that “there are a bunch of additional sentences in FC VI, but this indicates the specific point that they are all intended to support.” So my desire was not “that the conversation ends here,” but that we pay close attention to what the text explicitly says (and does not say).

    Of course, the text does not just say that the preaching of the Law is to be urged among both unbelievers and believers; it also explains why. However, conspiciously absent are specific instructions about how the Law is to be preached; in particular, there is no indication that the Law is to be preached in a different way to the two types of hearers. That seems to be a fundamental disconnect throughout this discussion; the three uses of the Law as identified in FC Ep VI:1 and FC SD VI:1 are not three different ways of proclaiming the Law, but three different effects that the Law has on those who hear it. In fact, the only One who is said in FC VI to “use” the Law at all is the Holy Spirit (SD VI:2 and VI:12).

    In summary, I agree with all five points in Dr. Hein’s last comment. Regarding #5, which you apparently dispute, FC VI does not say that the third use of the Law “encourages” the Christian. I do not know which translation you are using, but neither Henkel nor the online Triglotta has the word “encourage” in the three places that you cited; SD VI:2 has “urged,” SD VI:6 has “urging,” and SD VI:12 has “exhorts” (i.e., “admonishes”).

  11. Nathan,

    In Romans 3 and Romans 12 Paul is using the law for the same purpose. He is preaching the law to show us how we have fallen short of God’s glory.

    As proof of this, I have always heard both passages, at least once I learned how to speak and understand, as a regenerate person from my baptism that I received on the 8th day of my life. I have only heard the law as a regenerate being. The law always accuses me and sends me to the Gospel.

    Romans 3 convicts me of my sin and shows how I am like all mankind in that I am a sinner. Romans 12 shows me that I have not offered up my life to God as a living sacrifice as I should.

    Both of these passages leave me wanting the Gospel and turn me to the Gospel. Romans 12 does this in its very words, “by the mercies of God.” Romans 3 leads me to the “but” of v. 21.

  12. Nathan,

    You have cherry picked a passage from Luther where he says the law is to be spoken more kindly to the regenerate.

    This is not the way Luther speaks in general about the law. As Walther and Pieper say, two very good students of Luther, the law should never be toned down or mixed with the Gospel.

  13. One correction to my last comment: In fact, the only One who is said in FC VI to “use” the Law at all is the Holy Spirit (SD VI:3 and VI:12).

    Nathan: With the Gospel serving as the ground (“by the mercies of God”), the third use of the law encourages the Christian, according to his new man, to walk in the good works that God has appointed for them to do (“good works …encouraged from the law” – VI:2). The new man in the Christian, motivated by this instruction and admonishment / exhortation (VI:6 ; 12: “He encourages them to this”), is eager to live according to God’s law …

    I noted above that both Henkel and Bente/Dau have “urged” in VI:2, “urging” in VI:6, and “exhorts” in VI:12. Now that I am at home, I can check other translations. Tappert has “urged” in VI:2, “exhortation” in VI:6, and “admonishes” in VI:12. Kolb/Wengert has “presented” in VI:2, “exhortation” in VI:6, and “admonishes” in VI:12. Only McCain has “encouraged” in VI:2 and “encourages” in VI:12; it has “urging” in VI:6.

    That sends us back to the German. The verb in VI:2 is treiben, which means “to push” or “to drive” (e.g., cattle or a plow); so “urged” seems much more accurate in context than “encouraged.” The verb in VI:12 is our old friend vermahnen, an archaic form of ermahnen, which (interchangeably) means “to exhort” or “to admonish.” There are actually lots of different German words that can legitimately be translated as “to encourage,” but neither treiben nor vermahnen/ermahnen is one of them.

    Pastor Tim Rossow: Nathan,
    Did you ever answer my question about reading Bente? If you did I missed it.

    Actually, he did.

    Nathan: Pastor Rossow,
    Yes. Have you read Luther’s Antinomian Disputations?

  14. aletheist,

    Thanks for doing that spadework. My main point is that if the inner man delights in the law of course, the Christian insofar as he is that new man is going to want to hear more about the good works God has planned in advance for him to do – and to be supported in his desire to do good works, told they are not done in vain, etc…

    Pastor Rossow,

    I have read Bente and Pastor Sonntag has already explained better what attenuation does and does not mean.

    I think it abundantly clear that Paul is not meaning to accuse persons in Romans 12. Paul’s use of the law and the Spirit’s use of the law need not always coincide in each hearer. When you say things like you do here, it seems to me that you are stating that Scripture really is not clear here, and I find this dangerous. I know you are not some liberal ELCA pastor (who thinks Paulson and Forde are awesome – I know they are out there because I know one very well) who is eager to deny God’s eternal law in its specifics (i.e. love is more determined by natural law, and this relates to what I feel and my bound conscience more than any “written word of God”), but I do see your position as a marker along the road which turns into the icy slope.

    I assume that you can at least understand that – that it seems clear to some of us at least that the trust in God’s word and its clarity is being subtlely denied here (again, not to say that you intend to do this or are even conscious of doing this). I think this is why reading men like Sonntag and Surburg is so helpful. Pastor Surburg recently put together a post compiling his writings on sanctification, new obedience, exhortation and the Law : http://surburg.blogspot.com/2014/12/surburgs-thoughts-about-sanctification_10.html

    If you have not carefully and slowly and meditatively read those articles, I heartily encourage (urge : ) ) you to consider doing so.

    I understand that you three men, when you read “God’s law is useful…” at the beginning of FC VI think that only means the Holy Spirit, but I think that is unsubstantiated and unsupportable. I believe it is a 20th century position made popular by Elert, who, of course in response to Barth (working from a Kantian framework), also intended to highlight the “law within” and focus on the Christian in an existential sense. Obviously, the foremost person who speaks the word of God in the world today is the one who reads the Scriptures, but also pastors as they preach, and even laypersons as they share God’s word as well. At least, this should be the case: if anyone speaks, let him speak the oracles of God, per Peter.

    This is especially important for pastors. As even a brief look at Walther’s Law and Gospel will show (but his pastoral theology is more specific here about how to preach specifically), Walther talks about properly dividing the word of God not in any abstract sense, but with particular people in mind. He talks about knowing one’s congregation and what they need. Obviously, when it comes to individuals, this application is taken to an even more personal level. Again, I don’t see how there is any way that the idea that God’s law is useful or should be useful only to the Spirit can be supported – but I am waiting to see if someone can give me some good reasons, preferably coupled with a good history lesson, of why I am wrong.

    Pastor Sontag’s paper, God’s Last Word, is really all about this. Have any of you men read it yet? Have any of you read the Antinomian Disputations?

    I am not asking those questions to accuse you! : )

    I will check back here in a few days. Going to take some time away from here now.

    +Nathan

  15. Pastor Rossow,

    And I am not cherry-picking Luther. What he says in the Antinomian Disputations fits his sermons like a hand in a glove. I regularly read his sermons and attenuation and domestication of the law is all over them. Its clearly not what Paul is intending to do in Romans 1-3.

    +Nathan

  16. Nathan: I understand that you three men, when you read “God’s law is useful…” at the beginning of FC VI think that only means the Holy Spirit, but I think that is unsubstantiated and unsupportable.

    As I already pointed out – twice, since I had to correct one of the citations – FC VI only indicates in two places (VI:3 and VI:12) Who “uses” the Law; and in both cases, it is the Holy Spirit. What is “unsubstantiated and unsupportable” is going beyond the text to suggest that anyone else “uses” the Law in accordance with FC VI. I am not invoking Elert, Barth, Kant, or anyone else; just FC VI itself, which never says that anyone other than the Holy Spirit “uses” the Law in the three ways that it identifies; and again, those are different effects on hearers, not different methods (or intentions) of proclamation. For Walther (and Luther and Melanchthon and so on), “properly dividing the Word of God” means rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel, not “using” the Law in distinct ways.

  17. I am sorry that I have not commented much here.

    I am preparing for a three week trip to Africa the day after Christmas, am making Christmas liturgical preparations and we are dedicating our new youth and music rehearsal building two days after I get back from Africa so I am trying to get as many of the furnishings and appointments done as possible before I go.

  18. Here’s a couple of things I believe about Marquart.

    First, I have not listened to the program suggested by Nathan. It is hard to get an hour of free time. I look forward to listening to it because secondly, I think that Marquart is in the top five of Lutheran theologians of the last generation (Nagel, R. Preus, David Daniel – former St. Louis prof, now state librarian for Czechoslavakia, Horace Humell and then Marquart). I had all of them in class except for Preus but did know him personally doing some stuff for him for the Luther Academy.

    All of them have their quirks though. That leads to my final point. Marquart had odd views on the charismatic movement, in favor of it. That colors my estimate of his theology of sanctification.

  19. Good God, Rossow.

    Marquart was the most orthodox Lutheran theologian The LCMS has had in the past fifty years. How dare you attempt to besmirch his sterling reputation by suggesting he was “quirky” on the charismatic movement and in “favor” of it.

    That’s total BS.

  20. Jack,

    I am not besmirching his character. How can you say that? I said he was one of the best theologians of last generation.

    Did you ever hear him teach about the charismatic movement? I did.

  21. aletheist,

    We certainly disagree. Clearly, more work needs to be done in this area to more clearly reveal the truth.

    “What is “unsubstantiated and unsupportable” is going beyond the text to suggest that anyone else “uses” the Law in accordance with FC VI.”

    Again, I refer you to this: //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=39228&cpage=3#comment-1069242

    This will be my last comment on this post. And, one of my resolutions this year is to read fewer blogs and do less blogging, so you will hopefully not be seeing me here as much…

    +Nathan

  22. Pastor Rossow,

    If you find articles Marquart wrote explicitly stating the views you have in mind here, please let us know about them. My impression of Marquart was always that he was quite against the charismatic movement. I know he wrote an article addressing it in the early 70s, but that is all I know about.

    +Nathan

  23. Nathan: aletheist,
    We certainly disagree. Clearly, more work needs to be done in this area to more clearly reveal the truth.

    Where, exactly, do we disagree? What specific “truth” needs to be “more clearly reveal[ed]”? My points were simply these:

    1. FC VI never says how the Law is to be preached to believers; only that it is and why.
    2. FC VI never says that anyone “uses” the Law except the Holy Spirit.
    3. In German, “exhorting” means “admonishing” (same word); it does not mean “encouraging” (different word).

    As far as I can tell, the Church Postil of Luther that is referenced in FC SD VI:9 and quoted by Pastor Surburg is fully consistent with these three statements. In fact, it does not really say anything more than or different from what FC SD VI:9 itself says: “Therefore, because of these lusts of the flesh the truly believing, elect, and regenerate children of God need in this life not only the daily instruction and admonition, warning, and threatening of the Law, but also frequently punishments, that they may be roused and follow the Spirit of God.” Am I missing something?

  24. All,

    aletheist posted his latest comment on my blog as well. As such, I felt I should respond again. The conversation has continued there, under the post “Seeing the Clear Difference Between Paul’s Law Preaching in Roman 1-3 and 12 ff”

    +Nathan

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