Editor’s Note: The following comes from Pastor Joseph Abrahamson of the ELS. He is the well-known author our Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies series. He has been assigned a paper that will require him to research Gerhard Forde’s works. He is providing these as his notes from which he will assemble his final paper. These are a work in progress.
Gerhard Forde’s 1970 article “Lex Semper Accusat?”
Forde’s antinomianism is clear in this social justice piece. In the article Forde is explicitly distancing himself from Confessional Lutheranism and historic Christianity.
The title translates “Does the Law Always Accuse?”
38] Paul says, Rom. 4:15: The Law worketh wrath. He does not say that by the Law men merit the remission of sins. For the Law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify, because conscience terrified by the Law flees from the judgment of God. Therefore they err who trust that by the Law, by their own works, they merit the remission of sins. [emphasis added]
“The reformers, it should be noted, did have devices by which they sought to establish a more positive attitude to law. This came in their distinction between the uses of the law. The accusing function of law related to its theological use, i.e., its use for man’s relationship to God. Here the law always accuses. That is to say that man can never use the law to earn his way to God, to establish his own righteousness in the final judgment.” (34, italics original)
“The situation was quite different in relation to human society, however. Here one encounters the law in its civil use. Here the law is understood as a force, backed by the power of the state as God’s representative in civil matters to restrain evil and to preserve human society. In this it could be argued that there was at least beginnings of a more positive evaluation of the place of law. Christians must have respect for law as the means through which God intends to preserve and extend human society.” (34-35)
“Some of the reformers, of course, liked to speak also of a third use of the law, the law used as a guide to conduct for the redeemed Christian. Since, however, this is a rather specialized use, pertaining to the Christian life alone and not to the attitude toward the laws of society in general, it can perhaps be left out of account here. I say perhaps because some would no doubt dispute this”(footnote 2, p. 25, italics original)
“This is what is written and so it must be: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47)
“There is no escape from the law in this way [theology, philosophy, liberalism, or revolutionary ideas]. But there is an end to law far more real than that, the end that comes with the breaking in of the new in Christ, the end of the old Adam and the creation of the new. It is when man realizes that there is really and truly an end, a goal, a telos, that he can begin for the first time to listen to the law, to let is speak to him and hear what it has to say. When one sees the end, the goal of it all, has happened and is on its way through God’s initiative one can begin to see the law in a positive light. For then one sees that the law is not forever; it is for this age, for this world.” (48)
“If the law is eternal, if there is no distinction between this age and the next, there is no way to speak of the goodness of our actions in and for this age; everything is judged by the moral absolute.” (48)
“When it [law] has an end, however, a real end, one can see its positive use. In view of the end in Christ we can see that the law is intended for this world and that a new kind of goodness is possible, a goodness in and for this world, a ‘civil righteousness.’ Faith in the end of the law establishes the law in its proper use.” (49, italics original)
“[T]he proper use of the law [is] for taking care of this world, in the name of purely natural and civil righteousness and not in the name of supernatural pretension.” (49)
May 5, 2015 by Scott Keith “Do You Really Think You Can Use God’s Law?” The Jagged Word a 1517 Legacy Project Blog
August 14, 2017 by Steven Hein “About Preaching Good Works” 1517 Legacy Project Blog
Jordan Cooper April 9, 2011 “Lex Semper Accusat: A Response to TurretinFan” Just and Sinner Blog
Mark Surburg, September 4, 2017 “Mark’s thoughts: About Steven Hein’s “About Preaching Good Works”” Surburg’s Blog
Dr. David Scaer “Lex Semper Accusat – Really?” Symposia 2018 Concordia Lutheran Seminary-Fort Wayne, Indiana
Pastor Abrahamson’s blog can be found here.