Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. has come up with a very good working list of points to help a person identify what he is calling Radical Lutheranism. Others like Pastor Mark Surburg have used the language of “Soft Antinomianism”. Some, like one of our conference speakers, Pastor Brian Kachelmeier have used a “Grace only” phrase to point out some of the distinctions between what the confessions say vs. what the radicals are saying. These points deserve consideration. As we at Steadfast have the time, we may try to point out some examples of this list and then show the error and the proper teaching from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Until then these are presented for your discussion and use.
Here are the points that Pr. Wilken rightly points out:
The teachings of Radical Lutheranism can be recognized by any combination of the following ideas:
1. Sin is reduced to self-justification. The only thing sinful about any thought, word or deed is that it is an attempt to justify oneself before God.
2. The Christian’s struggle against sin is replaced with a struggle against feelings of guilt.
3. The Christian’s struggle against sin is described as, at best futile, or merely an attempt at self-justification.
4. The Holy Spirit’s uses of the Law are usually abandoned one by one (usually in the order of 3, 1, 2)
5. Contrition over sin is assumed, even in unbelievers. People are generally assumed to have a knowledge of, and guilty conscience over their sin.
6. The Law is confused with the pain and trouble of living in a fallen world. The Law may be described as any bad situation or evil occurrence in life.
7. The distinction between Justification and Sanctification is blurred in statements like “Sanctification is simply the art of getting used to justification.”
8. Christian cooperation in Sanctification, clearly and carefully taught in the Lutheran Confessions, is equated with cooperation in Justification.
9. Christian cooperation in Sanctification is depicted as resisting, rather than cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
10. Encouragement or instruction in Good Works is considered de facto legalism.
11. The Law itself is viewed as the source of legalism, rather than man’s sinful misuse of it.
12. Scripture’s warnings against falling away from the faith are minimized or ignored.
13. Scripture is often searched to find the sinner, rather than the Savior.
14. The sins of Biblical figures are exaggerated or sensationalized.
15. Teaching is often guided by a reaction to the errors of moralistic evangelicalism, rather than God’s Word or the Lutheran Confessions.
16. Man’s sinful condition is described as though a person’s sin qualifies him to receive Grace, rather than Grace being without qualification or condition in man.
17. The effects of the Law are attributed to the Gospel.
18. The Law may be avoided to such and extent that the Gospel is pressed into service to do the Law’s work (produce repentance, instruction in good works through “Gospel imperatives”).
19. The Gospel is sometimes replaced with “We’re all sinners, who am I to judge?”