The Cracked Foundation of Forde’s Radical Lutheranism

Gerhard Forde says, “Sanctification, if it is to be spoken of as something other than justification, is perhaps best defined as the art of getting used to the unconditional justification wrought by the grace of God for Jesus’ sake.”[1]

There are two layers in that statement.

  • Layer One – Sanctification is the art of getting used to justification.
  • Layer Two – Justification is “for Jesus’ sake.”

We need to be aware of both layers. In much of the discussion about sanctification, radical Lutheranism, and antinomianism, the second layer is neglected. Instead of examining what justification Forde is talking about, we assume he means the same thing we would have meant had we made these statements.

Our impression of whether the proposition in Layer One is true is affected by implicitly supplying our own doctrine of justification. We test whether it is true that sanctification is the art of getting used to what we mean by justification. We neglect to test whether sanctification is the art of getting used to what Forde means by justification.

Suppose, though, that in Layer Two, the justification Forde is talking about is not what you think justification is. Suppose there are two justifications: Justification A and Justification B. Then look at the case:

  • Sanctification is the art of getting used to Justification A.
  • Sanctification is the art of getting used to Justification B.

Or to formulate it another way:

  • Sanctification is the art of getting used to justification as I understand justification.
  • Sanctification is the art of getting used to justification as Forde teaches justification to be.

Layer Two is not agreed and stable, because Forde shifted the foundation about justification. Forde changed the doctrine of atonement, which concomitantly changed the doctrine of justification.

We need to be aware, therefore, that by adopting Forde’s idea of sanctification in Layer One, we are affected by an alien doctrine of atonement and a false doctrine of justification at the foundation in Layer Two. The foundation no longer is “for Jesus’ sake” in any sense that previously was agreed.

In the history of the Church, there have been multiple theories or explanations of the atonement. The question is, how did the work of Christ on the cross deal with my sin? Some of the answers proposed are: moral influence or moral exemplar; Christus Victor, conquest, or the dramatic idea; several ransom ideas; several incarnational ideas; a new federal headship; mystical theory; recapitulation theory; satisfaction; penal substitution; and the kaleidoscopic theory.

Yes, it’s a mess. And Forde made it worse. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s recall the truth, to have in mind what he rejected and changed.

The Lutheran church believes, teaches, and confesses Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. We believe that Christ’s death is a penal substitution for us and a satisfaction of God for our sins. He takes our place of judgment under the verdict of guilt for transgression of the law. Transgression of the law is not technical violation of regulations. It is hatred of God against the First Table, and hatred of our neighbor against the Second Table. It is not simply making mistakes, but iniquity. Because of the magnificence and unique identity of Christ’s person, his substitution into our place is able to exhaust completely the verdict, judgment, and wrath of God on all the sin of all of us, and render to God all the obedience that was due from us.

As Luther explains the Second Article of the Creed, Jesus

has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

That is why, in the Sacrament of the Altar, the pastor may speak a blessing like this:

Our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, who has now bestowed upon you His holy body and blood, whereby He has made full satisfaction for all your sins, strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto everlasting life.

That saying, “full satisfaction for all your sins,” is a succinct expression of the penal substitution and satisfaction ideas of the atonement that Forde rejects. Forde’s doctrine would stop your pastor from proclaiming that to you at the Communion rail.

When your pastor declares to you, “For Jesus’ sake, God forgives you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the phrase “for Jesus’ sake” is crucial. The cross of Christ is crucial.[2] The incarnation of Christ without the cross would not atone. The cross without the blood of Christ purchasing and winning me from all sins, death, and the power of the devil would not atone. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

Because the cross actually reconciles, therefore the Gospel is the “word of reconciliation.” It is the word that announces that reconciliation has happened. It proclaims what the blood of Jesus has done for us. As Paul says,

God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

In Forde’s theory, Christ’s death is not a penal substitution and not a satisfaction. He critiques and explicitly rejects penal substitution and satisfaction.

In Forde, grace and mercy always had been offered, even without the work of Christ. Our trouble is that we would not believe that, says Forde, and the job of the cross is to convince us. On the cross, Christ did not purchase and win me as Luther says. Instead, the cross is the means by which Christ reveals the grace and mercy of God, so that I will know of it, and rely on it instead of myself. The cross reveals a free-standing mercy that declares a general amnesty apart from anything being done to turn away the wrath of God or satisfy justice.

We might have thought that Forde’s program leads us to acquire the art of getting used to Christ purchasing and winning me from all sins, death, and the power of the devil. But the foundation layer of his claim has shifted. What we are really talking about is acquiring the art of getting used to a general amnesty, a bloodless mercy, an atonement without sacrifice, a verdict of acquittal without imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

Paul says God is “just and the justifier” (Romans 3:26) of those who believe. By saying that, in the work of atonement and justification, God is just, Paul makes plain that mercy did not simply sweep aside justice. Christ satisfied justice, and therefore it is just for God to justify us.

In fact, since justice is satisfied by Christ crucified for us, it would be unjust of God not to justify us. He would have to disregard the righteousness of Christ to refuse to justify us. Paul wants us to rest our assurance of salvation, in part, on the knowledge that God certainly would not be unjust. God is just – depend on it – and therefore, given that the righteousness of Christ is given to us, dependably, God justifies us. It was mercy that He gave his Only Begotten Son to die for us, but once the Son did die for us, it is also justice that God forgives us all our sins.

Forde’s theory changes that. Where Paul says God is “just and the justifier” of the one who has faith in Jesus, in effect, Forde says God is “merciful and the justifier.” He replaces just with merciful. Well, God is merciful, and God is the justifier, so in a manner of speaking, that is true. But replacing justice with mercy in Paul’s formulation robs us of justification being “for Jesus’ sake.” Instead, it is for the sake of something that would have been true before Jesus came and before he died. It is for the sake of that general mercy and grace that always had been offered before and apart from the work of Christ. Therefore it no longer is “for Jesus’ sake.”

Forde divorces justification from the propitiation worked by Christ, but Paul marries them.

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)

Forde makes it out as if it would be sinful for God to have wrath. He insists that God must be at least as nice a guy as we are. We would remit sin without blood, so God must. Jack Kilcrease distills it this way:

Forde asks “But what of God? Can God not simply forgive?” In other words, not only is God’s sovereignty constrained by the concept of the eternal law, but the doctrine of substitution represents God as an ogre who can only forgive as a result of Jesus’ death. For God’s mercy to be truly merciful, according to Forde’s definition, it must be the result of spontaneous forgiveness. A God who demands that sin be punished would actually not be merciful, since by definition mercy is a relenting from judgment, not a pardon resulting from judgment’s fulfillment. Therefore, Forde states: “The question remains: if God has been satisfied, where is God’s mercy?”[3]

In Forde’s own words,

Why could not God just up and forgive? Let us start there. If we look at the narrative about Jesus, the actual events themselves, the “brute facts” as they have come down to us, the answer is quite simple. He did! Jesus came preaching repentance and forgiveness, declaring the bounty and mercy of his “Father.”[4]

This spontaneous up-and-forgive atonement leads to justification of a sinner not because his sin is atoned before the sinner believes it, but because the sinner acquires a righteousness that is a property or substance in his own person. Sin is distrust in God as being merciful. Righteousness is trusting God as being merciful. That is what faith does. It trusts God as being merciful. So faith is righteousness. It is righteousness because it keeps the Law. It is as if there were one law: “Thou shalt trust mercy.” Once I keep that law, I am righteous. The proclamation of God’s up-and-forgive mercy creates what it demands, a new creature that believes it, and the believing justifies. It justifies without needing any credit for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me.

In this scheme, there is no objectivity to justification. Justification is not something that exists outside of myself, that I receive by faith. Justification never exists before I believe. Believing does not receive justification so much as it is justification. God is pleased with me, not because of Christ and his atonement, but because of me and my faith. The center is on me, not Christ.

When faith is created, when we actually believe God’s unconditional forgiveness; then God can say, “Now I am satisfied!” God’s wrath ends actually when we believe him, not abstractly because of a payment to God “once upon a time.” Christ’s work, therefore, “satisfies” the wrath of God because it alone creates believers, new beings who are no longer “under” wrath. Christ actualizes the will of God to have mercy unconditionally in the concrete and thereby “placates” God.[5]

This is at once antinomian and legalistic. Because Forde does not want the Law to condition or restrain God’s sovereign mercy, Forde changes the solution to the problem of sin from penal substitution to revelation of up-and-forgive mercy, and in the process, sin itself also is changed. You could talk about the problem Forde’s atonement solves with nearly no reference to the Law, unless there is a law that says, “Thou shalt trust mercy.” Then, justification happens because we keep that law when we trust, not because Jesus shed his blood. The antinomian part is the disregard of the Law aside from “Thou shalt trust mercy.” The legalistic part is that our fulfilling the law that commands trust justifies. “In Forde, faith fulfills the law and therefore ‘satisfies’ God.”[6]

Now, what about Layer One? Is sanctification simply the art of getting used to a general amnesty, a sweeping way of justice, an up-and-forgive mercy? Is it the art of getting used to the justifying virtue of my faith? Is it the art of comfort with my fulfillment of the law, “Thou shalt trust mercy?”

That can’t work. It’s a disaster. There is no consolation for my conscience and no assurance of faith without what the blood of Jesus did for me before I knew it and before I believed it. The writer of Hebrews shows what Forde robs from me.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The veneer of faith that Forde’s atonement laminates onto my conscience leaves me with a sanctification nightmare because it leaves me with a justification horror. It bases everything on an atonement that does not atone. My conscience cannot be cleansed without the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and so I cannot get used to Forde’s kind of justification. It leaves me insecure and restless.

The state in which Forde’s radical Lutheranism leaves the conscience brings on a number of ill effects. They are the same effects that typically follow all losses of the chief article on which the church stands or falls, namely, the article on justification. The effects are simultaneous antinomianism and legalism, two sides of the same unjustified coin. Antinomianism is not conscious of its legalism, and legalism is not conscious of its antinomianism. Each thinks it is the furthest thing from the other. Therefore each is sincerely indignant when it is called error.

This is a loss of the Reformation, and a profoundly bad turn for its 500th anniversary in 2017 because it reverts to Papism. The faith that Forde defines is inside of us and keeps the Law. As such, it might as well be the Roman doctrine of infused grace.


[1] Gerhard Forde, “The Lutheran View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p. 13.

[2] That is both a pun and not a pun.

[3] Jack Kilcrease, “Gerhard Forde’s Theology of Atonement and Justification: A Confessional Lutheran Response,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, vol 76:3-4, p. 272 (July/October 2012).

[4] Gerhard Forde, “Caught in the Act: Reflections on the Work of Christ,” in A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism, ed. Mark Mattes and Steven Paulson (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 90-91.

[5] Forde, “Caught in the Act,” p. 97.

[6] Kilcrease, “Gerhard Forde’s Theology,” p. 285.


The Cracked Foundation of Forde’s Radical Lutheranism — 36 Comments

  1. T.R. I’m not familiar with this concept of “Radical Lutheranism.” Is this showing up in some of our LCMS churches, or is it something that is coming from other Lutheran bodies? I confess that I must be out of the loop on some of these things…

  2. Thank-you. We need more substantive articles like this. It’s strikes me that there is a gnostic elemnet to Forde’s thinking. There is a denial that God would or could work through physical means – that is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

  3. I have not read the book so I will have to trust your interpretation of Forde. But, if it is correct, the problem I have always had with the concept that Jesus died to show us how much God loves us or to “reveal the mercy” that was already there is that such a view turns the cross from something beautiful into something kind of sick.

    If a man dies because he stood between his beloved and a robber’s gun, that is truly love. So also, if Christ died because he placed himself between the condemnation of the law and ourselves, that is truly love.

    But if a man says to his beloved, “Here is how much I love you” and to prove it shoots himself in the head – well, that’s just sick. If Christ died merely to show how much God loves us, then it’s more like an extreme form of stalking. It’s just sick.

    the cross must actually do something to be a sign of love. It must accomplish something for us, not merely be a sign of love, or it is psychotic.

    Although, now that I think of it, Forde’s line of thought might explain the actions of those like Tchividian who is an admirer of Forde. Although I like much of what Tchividian wrote, his recent actions show more of a leaning toward permissiveness rather than forgiveness.

  4. I had an “Oh, wow!” moment at this part of the article:

    “…the sinner acquires a righteousness that is a property or substance in his own person. Sin is distrust in God as being merciful. Righteousness is trusting God as being merciful.”

    I’ve had serious objections to Forde (and even moreso to Paulson) for some time now, but this is a direction I haven’t thought in. I’d like to put some pressure on it and see how well it holds up. You are saying, basically, that the righteousness of faith is Intra Nos in Forde’s formulation, because if there is no Extra Nos righteousness for faith to apprehend, then Conversion can save only by mean of the transformation it makes in us, to believe in God’s mercy. But wouldn’t a Fordean make a reply something like this: “Our righteousness IS God’s mercy, nothing more, nothing less, and God’s mercy is Extra Nos”?

    I mean, he would still be wrong about the Atonement, but I’m not sure about this specific argument. What do you think, T.R.? And thank you for a faithful and thought-provoking piece here.

  5. T.R. This is phenomenal! You have hit the nail on the head. Thank you for articulating this so well. Considering your familiarity with the decline of Norwegian Lutheranism, I can’t help but wonder what connection there may be between this form of pietism and the pietism that swallowed the intuitu fidei error in the election controversy from 100+ years ago. The earlier error rendered the atonement a near-superfluous, crass caricature of propitiation, while the later error neatly does away with it.

  6. Excellent article! Forde seems also to reek of Calvinism, which directs us to the sovereign decree of God instead of to the cross. Is Forde a universalist also? Or does he hold that the failure to realize God’s unconditional mercy sends a person to hell forever? It seems in denying God’s wrath, he must also deny hell or any true punishment for sin.

    Thanks again.

  7. Thanks for clearly explaining what this whole controversy is about. In ELS and WELS we aren’t normally exposed to Forde. Now the picture of what is troubling LCMS in this regard is beginning to clear up for me. Sad.

  8. @Mathew Andersen #4

    “If a man dies because he stood between his beloved and a robber’s gun, that is truly love. So also, if Christ died because he placed himself between the condemnation of the law and ourselves, that is truly love.”

    Matthew, I am not sure about what you are saying here either. I know an analogy does not need to work at every level but here is what I think anyways: How is the Law which accuses us (objectively) and condemns us (objectively) like a robber’s gun? A robber steals what does not belong to him, but God’s law makes a just demand and demands a just desert.

    “But if a man says to his beloved, “Here is how much I love you” and to prove it shoots himself in the head – well, that’s just sick. If Christ died merely to show how much God loves us, then it’s more like an extreme form of stalking. It’s just sick.”

    And I am not sure if this is really fair to Forde or not (I don’t know, not having read him). My impression is that a better analogy would be that a perfect man, knowing how much his “beloved” “loves” him, says “do what you need to do,” and lets the “beloved” shoot him in the head.

    And T.R.–

    First of all, when you say this:

    “Instead, it is for the sake of something that would have been true before Jesus came and before he died.”

    I think about how the Lamb is slain “from the foundation of the world,” and so want to make sure that is added here.

    That said, I fully agree with this powerful and packed paragraph, and think this is the heart of your argument:

    “In fact, since justice is satisfied by Christ crucified for us, it would be unjust of God not to justify us. He would have to disregard the righteousness of Christ to refuse to justify us. Paul wants us to rest our assurance of salvation, in part, on the knowledge that God certainly would not be unjust. God is just – depend on it – and therefore, given that the righteousness of Christ is given to us, dependably, God justifies us. It was mercy that He gave his Only Begotten Son to die for us, but once the Son did die for us, it is also justice that God forgives us all our sins.”

    On the mark.


  9. To be charitable, Forde didn’t make worse the “mess” of atonement theories. Rather, in the tradition of post-Kantian European Lutheranism, he rejected the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

    Post-Kantian European Lutheranism (including the theology of Erlangen), which was imported into the LCMS during the first quarter of the twentieth century and later, a) rejected biblical inerrancy; b) rejected Orthodox Lutheranism in favor of a “theology” derived from Luther’s writings; c) rejected the substitutionary atonement; d) rejected the Third Use of the Law; and e) rejected Natural Law.

    Forde is part of that program. But so, too, is Erlangen.

    Forde has been promoted vigorously in LCMS colleges and seminaries, such that sermons, magazine articles, books, etc. by those who have been taught his false doctrine, are infected by it. Forde’s disciples have been frequent speakers at colloquia and other gatherings at the Fort Wayne seminary.

    It’s easy to follow the trail, if only you have the intestinal fortitude for honesty, and a genuine love for true, biblical doctrine.

  10. @Nathan Rinne #12

    Nathan, thank you, and I accept that as a friendly amendment. The temporal aspect, that Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world is important, as you say. The amendment is friendly both because it is true, and because what was done before the foundation of the world still is the slaying of the Lamb, not a Fordean up-and-forgive generic mercy.

  11. @Nathan Rinne #12

    “But if a man says to his beloved, “Here is how much I love you” and to prove it shoots himself in the head – well, that’s just sick. If Christ died merely to show how much God loves us, then it’s more like an extreme form of stalking. It’s just sick.”
    And I am not sure if this is really fair to Forde or not (I don’t know, not having read him). My impression is that a better analogy would be that a perfect man, knowing how much his “beloved” “loves” him, says “do what you need to do,” and lets the “beloved” shoot him in the head.

    wow, um, that would be almost as sick. Change the image of the gun if you like. But the point is that the cross must actually accomplish something outside ourselves for our salvation. If it is merely a demonstration of God’s love that is intended to change our minds then it is psychotic. If it does not actually do something, it if is not actually necessary beyond telling us of God’s love then it is manipulation, not love.

  12. @Elizabeth Peters #10

    Elizabeth, Forde’s theology is based on subjective religious experience. This is also a feature of Erlangen theology. Directing one to God’s sovereign decree would be Law for Forde. Forde wishes to escape the Law’s condemnation, so he negatively construes the Law because, in simple terms, it makes him feel bad. Gospel makes him feel good. Therefore, he goes to church because the Word (something that doesn’t pre-exist for Forde) is preached, the Word that gives him this experience. Subjective religious experience is the main thing. That’s why, I believe, many of Forde’s followers are so dependent upon the liturgy–it heightens religious experience–although they themselves might not be aware of that.

  13. Robert, Elizabeth,

    Another thing that happens here is that in the West knowledge has been defined not only according to the classical definition of “justified true belief” but as being something that is able to be demonstrated with publicly accessible evidence and reason. Here, much of what we call history – particularly parts of family histories, even if they are written down – necessarily is suspect, and always, as this modern scientific and technological mindset grows, on the road to being more suspect. In some ways, this creates the environment where it might make sense to locate “religious truth” in one’s subjective experience, instead of in simple and humble words that bring us knowledge. But the Christian church has always believed that the Bible brings not only us, but all who hear it, knowledge – even if many will suppress this knowledge, not grasping the deeper spiritual truth that comes with it (i.e. the foolishness of the cross, etc). Further, it is only in relatively recent times that the church has entertained the idea that the whole of the Bible is not God’s word. This is just another way that Erlangen theology – and I am afraid other modern hermeneutical practices in the LC-MS – falls very short with its focus on the individual “interpreting subject”.

  14. @T. R. Halvorson #16

    “psychotic … manipulation
    Those are interesting aspects to consider.”

    And yet I chose those words intentionally. If a human did what Forde claims God did, we would certainly call him psychotic. To set up one’s own death for no more purpose than to show someone how much you love them would be the ultimate in narcissistic manipulation. To allow those you love to kill you for no more purpose than to convince them of your love would be something akin to battered wife syndrome.

    If Christ on the cross truly stood between us and the condemnation of the Law then, indeed, that is love. If he did nothing but allow us to kill him to “prove” He loves us then that is psychosis.

  15. @Mathew Andersen #20


    Again, I agree with you. That said, my impression is that the idea is more akin to this: after the person kills the lover, they realize how evil they are. They know how good the lover was, and it dawns of them how evil they are.

    I have heard, for example, a pastor talk about how it was his wife’s turning of the other cheek and submission to him – even when he was terribly bad – which eventually led him to realize the extent of his own evil (and I can’t remember if he said it was actually, primarily through this whereby he became a Christian).

    What you say above must hold true though: “If it does not actually do something, it if is not actually necessary beyond telling us of God’s love then it is manipulation, not love.” Yes, something needs to be happening on the cross besides what it does to the One who looks upon it and is psychologically re-oriented….


  16. I removed the comment from Kruger whoever he was because in his boldness of calling everyone here names he forgot to use a valid email. There is no such cowardly boldness as anonymous fake email boldness!

  17. “If you begin with the assumption of freedom, the preoccupation is always how to keep freedom in check, how to bind; But if you begin with the assumption of bondage, the preoccupation is always how to set out the word that frees.” – Gerhard Forde

    Who was called names? How does giving an email or not makes one “cowardly”? Will you give me your personal email address Pastor Scheer? What do you need it for anyways?

    Evidently anyone who points out truth or does not simply post mere fanboy cheering to Pastor Scheer is name caller. I suppose it is not “cowardly” to put together a false narrative about Dr. Forde by stringing together selectively edited quotes followed by self-serving commentary. I guess its not cowardly at all to print slanderous and false allegation against a now deceased Doctor of the church and is in fact a courageous act in your eyes.

    Again, this kind of argumentation in favor of law-keeping as a synergistic element/requirement for salvation is simply noting more then the Old Adam refusing the crossing and hoping in vain to preserve self through some kind of appeasing act. Good luck with fulfilling the law in your own person – you will need it.

  18. 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

  19. F. Kruger, I’m confused about what your objection is. Are you not in favor of pointing out that Forde denied the vicarious satisfaction of Christ? Is that not an error worth correcting?

  20. “That is why the law must be limited to its two proper uses. Although the argument is more subtle and complicated that we can do justice to now, one should be able to see why it is perilous to accommodate Luther’s view with a so-called “third use of the law” as a friendly guide for the reborn Christian. There is no way yet into a state where the Christian can use the law in a third way. Such a view rests on presumptions entirely different from those of Luther and, for that matter, Paul. It makes too many pious assumptions. It assumes, apparently, that the law can really be domesticated so it can be used by us like a friendly pet. Does the law actually work that way? It assumes that we are the users of the law. We do not use the law. The Spirit does. And we really have no control over it. Who knows when it is going to rise up and attack in all its fury? Luther knew full well, of course, that in spite of all his piety he could not bring the law to heel. Indeed, even as a Christian one needs to hear and heed the law – and the law will attack a Christian just as it attacks the non-Christian. One does not have the key to some third use.
    We do not live in an eschatological vestibule. Christians need the law in the same way non-Christians do.

    The idea of a third use assumes the law story simply continues after grace.

    Grace is just a blip, an episode, on the basic continuum of the law.

    Luther’s contention is that the law story is subordinate to the Jesus story. The law is for Luther, as it was for Paul, an episode in a larger, not vice versa. It is only grace that can bring the law to heel.”

    Gerhard Forde

    Seems that its always that the old Adam will strive to no end to avoid the supposed horror of unconditional grace. According to this author and Pastor Scheer it the Gospel and God’s Grace that are the problem.

    The Gospel and Grace in their world must ultimately serve the law and their own self identify as a law-keeping or it is of no use to them and in fact an enemy to be fought mightily against. Which appears to be the gist of their polemical strivings against Dr. Forde.

  21. @James Warble #26

    It appears you are against me pointing out that you are ultimately in favor of salvation by works?

    However I don’t have the option of deleting your comments.

    Your glib one-line about Dr. Forde “denying” a specific atonement theory is merely a simplistic slander that conviently allows you to demonize him and dismiss a much more complex arugument by him that you coviently selectively edit to slander him.

    This author and your understanding of atonement is focused simply on the law and the law only. You can only think in terms of self and your action so you fail to understand the nature of sin. If sin were simply a “bad debt” that is “owed” God why the cross? Can’t God in His sovereignty over all things simply declare mercy for all? If would bother to read Forde more fully and beyond the supposed “gotcha” quote you would find that he says that elements of all three so-called classical atonement theories are a part of the fuller picture. But in your zeal to protect yourself from unconditional grace you either intentionally or negligently distort his true views on atonement.

    As Christ says, the Spirit blows were it wills and talking about unconditional grace to people hell-bent on preserving self and the law at all cost is wasted effort.

  22. You did not answer my question. You are poor at both spelling and syntax. You are rude both in your laziness of writing and in the things you say. You make accusations but have not demonstrated how they are true. If one denies the substitutionary satisfaction of Christ’s death on the cross, he is not a Christian and has no understanding of either law or gospel. He only knows the existential phenomenon of having his desires confirmed or rejected. This is the opposite of repentance. This is Adam shucking his skin covering in order to feign an understanding of grace apart from God requiring the shedding of blood for his own name’s sake. He’s naked now. And we all see it.

  23. #29 What does spelling and syntax have to do with anything important? Again, you simply make an assertion that is false about Dr. Forde from a small snippet quote that is taken totally out of context from the larger point he was making in the full chapter of the book. Also read his other articles on atonement theories. You can’t make these broad-brush allegations after fully reading all his writings unless your are intellectually dishonest or willfully ignorant.

    You simply make a false assertion with no proof.

    It seems you want your “atonement theory” much more then you want Christ or grace.

    As far as rudeness, the whole tone of the article and the comments are rude so this is laughable that you accuse me of this.

    The Christian is not ‘to do’ anything. Thr Christian is perfectly free. If not, then why did Christ dir for us?(read Galatians 5:1 again)

    The 10 Commandments DO NOT apply to Christians. They apply to creatures. My old self, the old Adam is bound to them. The real me, the new me in Christ…is not. Read Romans 6, again.

    Christian freedom is not too popular these days…it never has been. But take it from me, once you’ve really tasted it…you’ll never again go back into the yoke of slavery which is your own performance.

    I find what Forde writes about ministers getting nervous about preaching the Gospel in all ITS radicalness rings true. It’s not a caricature after all. All because the radical nature of the Gospel is not fully appreciated.

  24. F., spelling and syntax are relevant for at least two reasons. 1) It is rude to impose such rough and frustrating writing on others. Your rudeness in this regard both reflects and exacerbates the rudeness of your tone. 2) Such writing demonstrates a hastiness in expressing yourself at the expense of thinking it through more thoroughly. Your hastiness in this regard both reflects and further hinders your ability to make sound arguments beyond emotional and ad hominem denunciations.

    But to your claims, I find it very interesting that you accuse me (a mere new-comer troll for all intents and purposes) of falsely accusing Forde of anything while at the same time mocking the atoning work of Christ as a mere “theory.” Is that not a confirmation of my sole accusation?

    But clarify for me one thing concerning the point you actually did make. Is the Christian not still in the flesh? Can he not refer to himself as “I” while referring to who he is as a sinner, although also being righteous by faith? Does not the law still apply to the Christian (if not qua Christian, then qua human, albeit redeemed and living by faith) inasmuch as he still needs its admonition? And again, even qua Christian, does not the saint rejoice in the law despite its superfluity since it still expresses the goodness of God which he now discerns and loves? As Christ placed himself under the law to bear the burdens of others (and his Christians do too in the same freedom), how much more should the Christian (qua simul justus et peccator) also permit himself to be instructed by the law for the sake of the weakness of his own human frame in order to curb the Old Adam’s appetite and remain in repentance and grace? After all, he who willfully continues in sin after having come to faith crucifies Christ anew and denies the faith, right?

    To speak of the law only “applying to creatures” is vague. Is not the Christian qua Christian a new creation? Isn’t he created in Christ Jesus for good works? Has God not prepared these works? Where do we learn what these works are so that we might walk in them? Or does the law not apply to him? Why? Why not? Does “apply” imply being under the law? What word might better denote simply a different relationship of some sort? What relationship does the law have with the one who is free from its demands? Answer me these, and I will humble myself and overlook any grammatical errors you may make.

  25. Kruger,

    More useful than a flurry of tangentially related Forde extracts and misguided accusations (nobody in this conversation thinks he is justified by law-keeping) would be a cogent reply to the specific critique of T.R.’s article. It is not sufficient to write it off as an attachment “to a specific atonement theory,” when that atonement “theory” is in fact the clear account of Scripture.

  26. In a unusual way it is kind of a “Christ is our example” way of salvation by good works.

  27. Dear T.R., Fordes’ and his disciples also emphasised an ontological distinction between law and gospel. Do you think that their view of soteriology is essentially this: faith in the gospel and in a law and gospel distinction = salvation? Hence, the Gnosticism comes through clearly. Please let me know your thoughts on this.
    Also, have you read John D. Koch’s dissertation on the distinction of Law and Gospel which is essentially a defence of Fordes’ views. See

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