Marks of Radical Lutheranism

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?”

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Marks of Radical Lutheranism — 20 Comments

  1. I have an observation and related question. I note that #14 appears to contradict, wholly or in part, #’s 1 – 3. How do the proponents of this view square this circle? Or is this a comprehensive list in which certain adherents of soft antinomianism might not manifest all of these points?

  2. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    Thanks for posting this. It is very helpful!

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    This again proves why Pastor Todd Wilken is one of the smartest LC-MS media guys since Walter A. Maier, Sr. (his producer Jeff Schwarz gets equal praise from me!)

    I was surprised in the last couple of years to find some elderly lifelong Lutherans who took great exception to my preaching and teaching, because I did not agree with some of the 19 points made by Pastor Wilken above. When I showed them the correct teaching in the Book of Concord, Apology IV and Formula of Concord, Articles IV, V, and VI, they ignored it. When I showed them the correct teaching in Walther’s Law and Gospel, they said “Walther is wrong.” And these are folks who pride themselves on being conservative Lutherans of the LC-MS type.

    I don’t know the source of their criticism, but I suspect it is Internet blogs, videos, etc. that push this stuff–because these persons have computers at home and iPhones handy all the time, and I know they listen/read to “Lutheran” stuff on the Internet.

    This is just one more reason why you all need to support Lutheran Public Radio, Issues, etc., Brothers of John the Steadfast, Concordia Publishing House, The Lutheran Clarion, etc. Except for CPH, all the other organizations rely on donations, publicity in local congregations, “buzz,” and good will.

    If the “good stuff” is not available for free or a decent price, the “bad stuff” will drown out the good.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. I think it would be more constructive to cite sources of this contrary teaching, show us the text in print, in blogs, in sermons posted online, etc. I, personally, have never run across these errors from clergy. Among fellow Lutherans? Sure. But that only leads to discussion and correction. those are good things.

    Please put some substance to the “radicalism.” Otherwise, it comes down to “I have hear it said…” and only plays to alarmism.

    Did we learn nothing from the idiocies of fake news and “alternative facts”?

    Thank you.

  4. I am not quite clear but rathet curious as to what point 13 is meant to describe.
    Could you elaborate?

  5. #6 on the list almost a perfect description of the explicit doctrine of CCM radio. (I have argued it be more honestly labeled, “ARPM = American Religious Pop Music”.) If you listen to the stations critically, the doctrine can be found in the music, but it is overtly taught by the DJs.

    The “Law” is; Bad things happen to me.
    The “Gospel” is; Jesus wants to help me “get through” it.

    My guess is that this is a key source from which this particular false doctrine is being picked up; These songs are being introduced into the Church through the “Contemporary Service” (or, “Entertainment Worship”), and then the people start listening to them on the radio (because we sing them in church!), with their children (because it is “safe”, “positive” and “uplifting”), and that is how the Lutheran laity–along with many pastors and other “leaders”–are catechized into the gospel according to Erwhon, KLove, etc.

    soli Deo gloria,

  6. Harold,
    So many more people are saved by that hot bowl of soup instead of sound doctrine on Law and gospel.

  7. @Grendelssohn #8

    I see what you’re saying, but from #15 it sounds like these statements are coming from those who reject American Evangelicalism. But without knowing who or what, it’s all a toss-up I guess.

  8. I guess the mode of operation on here is to delete and slander anyone who does not sycophantically praise Pastor Scheer’s crusade against unconditional grace. I guess it shows clearly that all his talk of morality, law-keeping and love is just that: nothing more then pious talk from a self-righteous sinner.

    Please continue to try convince yourself that you can make yourself righteous by your own willful actions and choices. I am eager to see how that works out for you.

  9. Pelagius was a moral reformer and like all moral reformers he didn’t want a theology that allowed people to relax. So he said that man must use his God-given strength to climb the ladder. Sin is not original, it is only a bad habit that humans have gotten into. It is passed on by imitation not by heredity. What we must do is bend every effort to better ourselves and reverse the course of immorality and corruption the world has taken. To arms against evil!

    That was Pelagius’ call. But the church from the beginning has resisted this call-at least in the precise form in which Pelagius put it. Why? Because, as St.Augustine-with St. Paul- said, it makes the cross of no effect. It is a call to man’s pride and pride is the deadliest of sins-especially when it thinks itself to be busy with religious affairs. It is a call which completely disregards the fact that it was man’s moral pride and religious fervor that killed God’s Son. It sets men climbing the heavenly ladder indeed, but it has no grace. It only grinds real humanity in the dust. In other words, it does not take the Grace of God as revealed in the cross at it’s word. There is no room left for mercy and love. The cross is only an example of moral striving. It is a complete misreading both of divine action and the human condition.

    – Gerhard Forde

  10. I venture to opine that as Puritans, Goodwin and Sibbes would not emphasised the dual nature of the Christian as much as confessional Lutherans would. In Puritanism, sanctification is as much the work of the Spirit as it is the work of man. Such “synergism” of course is not to be confused with the monergism of justification with faith as the “organic instrument”. This quite unlike confessional Lutheranism where sanctification is as much the monergistic work of God as justification is.

    For Forde, sanctification is simply the existential aspect of justification. Sanctification is included in justification as a total gift. Unlike Puritanism, sanctification is not an immanent moral PROGRESS, but the movement of the GOAL towards the “starting-point” of the Christian’s journey or pilgrimage. Under this scheme as so able articulated by Forde as Luther’s modern-day interpreter, it is impossible to think the self as a continuous existing subject. He cannot remain intact. Grace is not ontological, i.e. infused into man, but eschatological, i.e. re-claims man. So, Puritanism follows Romanism in principle on the issue of gratia infusa. Strictly speaking, the Christian as simul iustus et peccator does not exactly sit comfortably with the Puritan vision of the Christian life.

    With infused grace, believe it or not, the priority is not the Sacramentum (Jesus as Sacrament), or at least the emphasis, but the Exemplum (Jesus as Exemplar). For infused grace by its very nature is meant to provide divine aid to the Christian in the life of faith, hence imitation is the key.

    But with simul iustus et peccator, the Word and Sacraments takes precedence as the means of grace to kill the old man and raise up the new man as TOTAL states. Absolution is not given to beef up our resolve to live the life of faith but precisely to kill the old man in us and raise up the new man. The Lord’s Supper is given not so that we can increase our stockpile of grace but to kill the old man and raise up the new man in us. This is why it’s called rightly, the “medicine of immortality”. Only thing that it is administered not to a sick person, but a dead one.

    This is predicated upon the bondage of the will. Infusing grace would not help because the sinner would not receive help. The sinner must be delivered FROM sin and be destroyed together WITH sin so that only then the sinner can be set free. Such is the dire situation sinners are in. Which means that the Sacramentum principle must first have its effect of freeing the bound, and only then can the freed look to Jesus as Exemplum.

  11. Pastor Scheer – well so much for the “lets not call name” scantomony eh? Evidently, when your distoritions are slightly confronted with some truth you resort to child-like sarcasm and self serving smears. The fact that you would post a comment #18 shows that you know little about Dr. Forde or even read his writings.

    In order to have a radical gospel there must be preached law in its proper spiritual use: to accuse. Dr. Forde in actually advocate for a more radical law (lot watered down with the delusion you can keep it through your own efforts as you promoted) used in its proper sense.

    You desire to create a straw-man to beat up severely distorts your truthfulness or else your scholarship is so poor as to be dangerous.

    You evidently seem much more concerned with waging a left-right, “liberal-conservative” battle over what kind of law must be kept to save ourselves (yours: changeless vs “liberal”: changeable and endless). Again, your desire to make the sinful world more to your liking evidently trumps any inkling you may have had to do Christ’s work of proclaiming the Gospel to dying people.

    This is sad but evidently this is the times we live in.

  12. Old Adam Lives!

    If the Holy Spirit through preaching or reading the bible brings forth a conviction in ones life to change a behavior so be it. But to open the scriptures and look for laws to live by….well good luck. You will become proud and judgmental of those who outwardly struggle with sin more than you or you will come to despair and dread your miserable life “The Anfechtung.” The just shall live by faith and faith is apart from the law. If you want to keep the law you must keep the whole thing or you are toast. I am spiritually too weak to look at the law for a “guide to Christian living” I can only live this Christian life by being told, through great preaching, that my sins are forgiven and I am free to love and serve my neighbor. Yes free to love that neighbor because I don’t have to perform before God for his approval. I have his approval through baptism! I am his son and I am no longer under the law.

  13. You need to go back to your catechism. God’s Law is given to us out of love. For the Chirstian, the third use of law IS both the active love of God the active love and service to our neighbor. We do lead sanctified and renewed lives in Christ: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These good works, these fruits of faith, are described by God’s Law.

    This is not a life by which we are saved but it is the life for which we are saved. The scriptures do, in fact, tell us how to live. The whole life of a Christian is spelled out. A life not under the Law is not a life excused from obeying the Law. Grace is not license.

    What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
    What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

    Habits of sin need to be broken and we are part of the breaking, we can give up, quit the race, turn away – grace is not irresistable. Habitual sin undermines faith.

    But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices

    God’s Law still has a place in our lives. renewed and sanctified, we don’t live this life under our own power and our keeping of the Law is not to our credit but our lives are to be led, before mankind, to the glory of God.

    To that end, we each other (the Church):”And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” “we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

    By the Law, we see the holiness and righteousness of God, our sin, and the love of God for the world. You seem to be ranting close to the antinomiansim that Pastor Scheer speaks of. Mind you, I am still looking for the sermons, blogs, writings and preachings of the confessional Lutheran pastors who might be falling into this. Some of the things you say hint that such things are being taught somewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.