27 January 2006

Just an Idea

We are not talking about a platonic republic here, Melanchthon protested in the Apology. The Church, he insisted, has a concrete and real existence in this world.

But too often hasn't Lutheranism been reduced to a mind-set, a way of thinking, assent to a set of propositions? If you agree to X, Y, and Z, then, congratulations! You're a Lutheran.

Thus, Lutherans AGREE that private confession and absolution is a good thing. But don't ask them to do it! That would be "legalistic" (i.e., it would require moving out of the realm of ideas).

Thus, Lutherans AGREE that Baptism means death to the old Adam. But don't ask them fast! That would be "legalistic" (i.e., it would require moving out of the realm of ideas).

Thus, Lutherans AGREE that the Symbols are a "true exposition of the Word of God" but don't refer to Mary with any of the titles that they do ("Blessed, Ever-Virgin, Most-holy, Pure and Holy", etc), or you're imposing personal beliefs on people (and you'd be moving out of the realm of ideas).

Thus, Lutherans AGREE that the Saints are to be honored, but do it without mentioning them, please! We don't want to be mistaken for Rome (in other words, keep it in the realm of ideas, not practice).

Thus, Lutherans AGREE that there is a third use of the Law, but God forbid that a pastor expect a person to actually follow one of the commandments! The Law is there to accuse and that's about it, remember? That keeps it nicely in the realm of ideas. Safely away from my life!

I may be being too harsh (it certainly would not be the first time), but it seems to me watching and listening and thinking about theological discourse of late, that any time the discussion moves away from the realm of mere ideas, the typical Lutheran response among many so-called "Confessionalists" is to squirm with discomfort and cry foul.

Can Lutheranism survive merely as an idea? Can the idea of Lutheranism be disconnected from the concrete forms in which she has lived her life? I am thinking of how it was reported to me that a professor at one of our seminaries can argue that both Fr. High Church and Pastor Billy-Bob Church Growther are both fine and upstanding Lutheran pastors. Why? Because they hold to the same ideas, they hold opinions that mark them as Lutheran. Lutheranism as an idea is not Lutheranism at all in my book; unlike Sasse, I agree with Elert, there is a morphe to Lutheranism, a shape that results from the impact of the Gospel. Take away that concrete shape and all you have left is the Gospel as an idea.

I am reminded of the words of St. Basil the Great: "If we attacked unwritten customs, claiming them to be of little importance (read: adiaphora), we would fatally mutilate the Gospel, no matter what our intentions - or rather, we would reduce the Gospel teachings to bare words (read: ideas)." par. 66 *On the Holy Spirit*

I am afraid the great Father nailed that one. And it is why Article XV of the AC is a DOCTRINAL article.

Thoughts?

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe you are right on, Father Weedon. I have struggled with this issue myself, and through reading and study of the Fathers, I come to the same conclusion you do.

Fr. Cota

Anonymous said...

I think this is the age old Westerner running up against the idea that the Church is a mystical union and not an actual living, breathing entity.

I know I'm blurting this out in a very bad way. But it seems to me that if you believe that the church is some mystical union of "believers" it doesn't matter what you DO it matters what they believe only. And as we have sadly seen, that can be watered down, twisted and changed so no one takes their toys and leaves the sandbox.

But, if we believe that the Church is more than a mystical body of belivers but an actual institution (to use a very bad word I'm sure) that Christ set up on earth. If she is more than an idea and actually exsists here on earth, if she is the Ark of Salvation - should we be running to her.

I'll have to come back and read others thoughts. Maybe it will help me articulate what I"m trying to say.

Deb

Anonymous said...

The Christian faith can not be lived out in ideas. If it is the case that having some good and truthful ideas is what ones Christian faith consist of, than I propose that ones salvation is also just an idea. For what reason would Jesus, the God of God, Light of Light, The Great I Am, come to Earth and permit himself to be the Lamb of our sacrifice, so that we could have our ideas and yet be too much of a coward to live them out? I say that to be Christian, you must be willing to do something, not just have an idea. Faith demands that one follow their ideas threw with an action.

Christopher Gillespie said...

Pr. Wheedon,

You are arguing that the visible church is only visible in as much as its actions are visible. Perhaps borrowing a term from the AC description of the apostolic office, the church is not purely ontological but it is church in a functional way, by its very doing.

The freedom of the Gospel makes it very easy to ignorantly avoid doing anything. We can avoid liturgy, sacraments, and the Word but at some point we will cease to be the church (by your description.)

This is consistent with the nicene fathers.

Chris

William Weedon said...

Dear Christopher,

I think it's the visible/invisible distinction that has gotten us in a bit of trouble. I also shy away from function as though a function could happen apart from the person sent to do that action and so authorized for it.

Pax!

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

Yep, it would be like Abraham saying he had faith and holding that that excused him from trotting up Moriah with Isaac and knife and fire in hand.

Dear Deb,

I am not sure the problem is with mystical union (which is really just another term for theosis) as the idea that the Church and the Kingdom are being confused. Attributes of the Kingdom (which is within you, hidden) are laid on the Church which God gave to be the very visible sign and presence of the Kingdom. Schmemann has a great essay on this topic in *Church, World, Mission*.

Pax!

Petersen said...

Dear Pr. Weedon,

I assume this is just hyperbole on your part. You're trying to show an extreme case that doesn't actually exist, except in hypothesis. But just in case that isn't clear, let me point out that this is a straw man. No one holds ideas (to use your terminology, though I would say "beliefs" or "doctrines") without consequence. Hypocrites are those who lie about their ideas to appear righteous, but they act in accordance with what they actually believe (think.)

And, of course, none of us, maybe even especially us who believe faith has works is in favor of the real danger of legalism.

Yours in Christ,

David

William Weedon said...

Fr. Petersen,

No, I wasn't speaking in hyperbole, and I WISH it were a straw man, but I don't think it is. I think the word idea is at the heart of it, because rather than holding these as matters of faith, I believe they are often being held as matters of opinion.

Pax Christi!

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Seems to me that one aspect of what you are complaining about is the age old temptation of the flesh to use the forgiveness of the Gospel as a license to not live as a Christian. Romans 6. (Shall we go on sinning…) This will always be with us as long as we preach the full Gospel and not one limited by any sort of legalism.

Every sin, every shortcut, every failure to live as God wishes has been borne by Christ even if people use that as an excuse to sin or maim the liturgy or not practice piety as they ought.

What we must also beware is confusing a period of dissolution and confusion in the Lutheran church (which we are certainly living through) for the bankruptcy of the Lutheran confession itself. Lutheran theology is not guilty of any of the things you mention. Lutherans are (and so called Lutherans ) are but not Lutheran theology.

Impatience and frustration with the lives Christians live can lead either to pietism or legalism. Really the same thing. E. Orthodoxy (which is the elephant in this room) may do a better job of sprucing up the lives of its members and preserving certain elements of moral or liturgical life at this point in history (that is debatable). That does not make them the true Christian church on earth.

My two cents.

Greg Alms

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

I am not sure what makes the topic of Orthodoxy a white elephant in the room. Orthodoxy isn't in "this" particular room at all. This post was an observation about conversations I've witnessed in *Lutheranism* and by *Lutherans* (particularly reflecting on the uproar that McCain evoked a bit ago from some modern day antinomians) - but since you bring it up, the idea that people convert to Orthodoxy because the Orthodox do a better job at "sprucing up their lives" makes me chuckle. I've never heard ANYONE who has swum the Bosporos make such a claim - have you?

I know an Orthodox man who was reproached by a Lutheran for not keeping the Orthodox fast during Lent. His response? "Oh, that stuff's just for priests and monks." Nominalism is the bane of EVERY confession of the Christian faith - Satan is never opposed to us knowing. We can know tons, and we can be 100% accurate in what we know. He is very opposed to what we know shaping how we live. That's where he concentrates his efforts. Lutherans are in his sights for that strategy, but so are all Christians, no?

What should concern us is when we can hold opinions about the Confessions being a pure exposition of the Scriptural faith, and yet not actually be content with NOT living the realities therein described. That was my point. And I don't think it was being hyperbolic.

William Weedon said...

Strike the double negative in the last paragraph, please: "and yet actually be content with NOT living the realities..."

Anonymous said...

Two points:

First, what you are addressing is not a new problem in Lutheranism. Bonhoeffer wrote against the tendency you are describing under the title of antinomianism; he wrote that if faith in Christ is a mere proposition, then St. Matthew would have sat at his tax-table and responded to Christ's call to discipleship with, "No thanks, I prefer to be saved by grace."

The book of Hebrews (I know that antilegomenae are not the place to take loci from) speaks of Abraham's faith in the same terms you do, and James argues from the position that Abraham's obedience and faith were bound up one in the other.

Second, the LC-MS particularly got into bed with fundamentalism and biblicism to combat the Seminex crowd, thus "winning the battle and losing the war." One of the results of this has been the loss of "tradition" (in the M. Chemnitz sense of levels of tradition) as a legitimate realm of discussion.

The "white elephant" of Orthodoxy seems to be so appealing to Lutherans today, I would suggest, partly because we have devalued tradition - a most un-Lutheran (and anti-Catholic) thing to do.

This seems to fuel a lot of the modern "adiaphoric controversy:" if you can't proof-text it from the Bible, then you can't argue it. This is a new development in Lutheranism, which has always valued its continuity with the historic catholic faith as expressed by the Fathers and kerygma of the Church.

In one sense, the argument of the Lutheran Confessions against Rome can be summarized: You have departed from the tradition of the Church catholic, while we have not.

I wonder if that is still our claim today?

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

"When Jesus Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." (Bonhoeffer) Yes, that IS at the heart of it. Another line from Bonhoeffer that is apropos is "justification of the sin rather than of the sinner."

Do you really wonder, though, if it is our claim today that Rome has departed from the Tradition which we have not?

Where today is the Church that can confess: "We do not abolish the Mass; the Mass is observed among us with greater reverence than among the opponents"? Where is the Church that can claim that no conspicuous changes have been made in the mass? Where is the Church that can confess: "It would be a wicked thing to remove private absolution from the church"? Where is the Church that can confess Mary as that "most holy Virgin"? Where is the Church that can confess "we observe one common mass each Lord's Day and on other festivals"? Where is the Church that can confess that the custom has been retained among us of not giving the Eucharist to those who have not been examined and absolved? Where is the Church that can confess that we teach that those ceremonies instituted by men which are not contrary to the Word of God are to be kept? Etc.

I think the LCMS at any rate seems rather intent on NOT being the Church that speaks in these Symbols. Hence the move to relegate ever more parts of the Symbols to the "descriptive, not prescriptive" category. As someone said (or near enough): "This isn't your grandfather's Synod."

Rosko said...

I have neither read nor kept up with the comments, but I really like the post you have here. Can I spread the word about it on my blog over at HT?

Br. Harry W. Reineke IV

William Weedon said...

Dear Brother Harry,

It's a free country, dude! Do as you'd like. I'm glad you appreciate the thoughts in the post. They appear to be not popular in every quarter. ;)

Zaphod Beeblebrox said...

I'm posting this anonymously to protect those who I am writing about.

I'm a new Lutheran. One thing that has been told to me by my "confessional" pastor is that the Diving Service is like a rubber band. You can twist it, bend it, and change its shape. As long as you have both the Word and the Sacraments, it is still the divine service. What does this look like in practice? Some things like sickeningly sacchrine CCM tunes are sung, and things like the Kyrie may be ommitted due to time constraints. I am told that as long as the have the Word (the OT, NT, and Gospel readings) and the Sacraments (Thank God we do that weekly), everything is cool. The sermons are routinly not law and gospel, but messages that more akin to daily devotionals. But hey! We have Word and Sacrament! It seems to me that the content of the liturgy and the Lutheran confessions are more that just a few "important things" and a bunch of adiophora that we can dismiss at will. I think this is the heart of what Pr Weedon is trying to get at. Correct me if I am wrong.

William Weedon said...

EXACTLY, Zaphod!

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Pastor Weedon,

I agree with much of what you write and I really enjoy your patristic quotes though they seem heavy on later Eastern figures!

(How about some Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Leo the Great, Augustine :> Of course it is _your_ blog, dude!)

Anyway you are correct in emphasizing the connection between faith and life. I try to get at this in every sermon I preach.

But isn't there also a danger in tending to require a certain level of holiness or insisting that salvation, really, in the end, must somehow involve what _we_ do and contribute and is not wholly and completely God's doing in Christ?

Greg Alms

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Weedon,

The church I belong to fits your list of "where is the church that..." questions down the line, with one exception. While private confession/absolution is offered and encouraged, it is not required for participation in the Eucharist. The general confession/absolution is allowed to suffice for that. This seems a good change, if it is really a change.

Eric Phillips said...

Zaphod,

The Kyrie omitted for _time constraints_? Wow, that's lame. It's not like the Kyrie is LONG or anything.

If someone says "We have Communion every other week instead of weekly, for time constraints," I will tell him I don't think that's a good reason, but at least his statement will make sense.

William Weedon said...

Eric,

At the era of the Reformation, there was a little volume put out to help pastors preach the Reformation teaching correctly. It was frequently bound together with Chemnitz' enchiridion, and was written by Urbanus Rhegius. He states (and this would have been typical Lutheran teaching of the day):

"Christians therefore should always confess to God and frequently to a minister of the word, at the very least when they attend to approach the table of the Lord.... Those who are about to commune should be diligently examined in confession before they receive the venerable sacrament, not in large groups, but individually, so that the pastor can explore whether they understand the catechism, know they they should go to communion, and what they seek in the Sacrament." (*Preaching the Reformation* p. 77)

This is the practice witnessed to in the Symbols when they say that in our churches no one is admitted to the Sacrament who has not been examined and absolved.

Anonymous said...

I've truely enjoyed this discussion. However, one thing you say Pr. Weedon struck me as off.

Quoting Rhegius "Those who are about to commune should be diligently examined in confession before they receive the venerable sacrament, not in large groups, but individually, so that the pastor can explore whether they understand the catechism, know they they should go to communion, and what they seek in the Sacrament."

Is it really the purpose of Lutheran confession to examine to make sure they understand the catechism?

Deb
p.s. love the name Zaphod. So, what is the answer to the question of Life the Universe and Everything? Tee hee.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

You wrote: "But isn't there also a danger in tending to require a certain level of holiness or insisting that salvation, really, in the end, must somehow involve what _we_ do and contribute and is not wholly and completely God's doing in Christ?"

Don't you think that a lot of how this is answered has to do with how "salvation" itself is understood? There is no question that the forgiveness of God which is reached to us in and through Jesus Christ is wholly gift. How could we in any way contribute to or have a part in this act of divine mercy? But does that exhaust the meaning of the word "salvation"?

Years ago I wrote an essay on this topic, and it might help explain a bit where I'm coming from on it. Rather than try to rewrite, I'm just going to cut and paste. It might be helpful in this discussion:

I have made no bones about the fact that I think there is
enormous congruity between what the East calls theosis and
what the Lutherans of the 16th and 17th centuries termed
mystical union. The loss of that whole mystical union way
of thinking has been a sad loss, in my estimation, for the
Lutheran Church, and it has disfigured us. The exclusive
description of justification in forensic terms has been
reduced to the imparting of information: God declares you
righteous for Christ's sake. That's indeed the truth, but it is
not all of the truth.

Let me put this way: it seems to me that we Lutherans have
come over the years to speak of forgiveness almost as a thing,
a substance, something along the lines of Rome's created
grace, but even worse, because for Lutherans "forgiveness of
sins" has come to be thought of as a mere "get out of hell free"
card. Holding it, we think it excuses and indeed wipes out the
consequences of lives of impenitence, ignoring the fact that
our Confessions are utterly clear that saving faith exists
ONLY in penitence. But the whole point of forgiveness is that
it is NOT a thing, a substance, or a get out of hell free card.
Forgiveness is the Blessed Trinity Himself coming to us in
grace, so that His coming to us may be the advent of life and
not of the judgment and death we so richly deserve.
Forgiveness is given so that "life and salvation" may come
with it, that is, that we may live in koinonia with God through
Christ, receiving the divine life and being transfigured by
that life. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a
glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image
from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(2 Cor. 3:18)

So God declares us righteous and then He goes on to make us
righteous. Obviously our final salvation cannot depend upon His
making us righteous, since that will never be completed in
this age, so long as we remain in the sinful flesh. But both go
inevitably together. As Luther explicated it time and again:
"grace" and "the gift in grace." He took grace for the
pardoning verdict of God upon a human life, but with that
verdict came the Holy Spirit himself, the Gift in grace, who
renews us precisely by uniting us to the Son and through the
Son to the Father. "That which we have seen and heard,
declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us,
and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son
Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

And the Lutheran Confessions explicitly speak of some form of
cooperation between the new self and the Holy Spirit, no
matter how weak it may be. The Large Catechism clearly
speaks in "process" language when it says "In baptism we are
given the grace, Spirit, and strength to suppress the old
creature so that the new may come forth and grow strong"
(V:76) and "Now, when we enter Christ's kingdom, this
corruption must daily decrease so that the longer we live the
more gentle, patient, and meek we become, and the more we
break away from greed, hatred, envy and pride." (V:67) The
Formula expresses the same reality in these words: "It has
been sufficiently explained above how God makes willing
people out of rebellious and unwilling people through
the drawing power of the Holy Spirit, and how after this
conversion of the human being the reborn will is not idle in
the daily practice of repentance but cooperates in all works of
the Holy Spirit that He accomplishes through us." SD FC
II:88

When the Orthodox speak of "salvation" meaning by that
BOTH the merciful forgiveness of God AND the interior
renewal of the person (in which the person cooperates with the Holy Spirit),
I fail to see how this in and of itself
contradicts what our Confessions expressly describe.
Salvation is pure gift, indeed. But it is LIVING gift, and
it enlivens, and so embraces the new man in his cooperation
with the Holy Spirit, and a mark of the new man's
cooperation with the Spirit is that he rightly attributes the
entirety of his salvation to the mercy and the grace of God,
and not to himself.

St. Mark the Ascetic once expressed it like this: "Christ is
Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of
His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and
through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to
those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When
Scripture says, 'He will reward every man according to his
works' (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves
merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ
rewards each man according to whether his works are done
with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer
bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer."
This is from his treatise in the Philokalia titled "On Those Who
Think They Are Made Righteous by Works."

***
To that, I'd only add the words of Martin Luther himself:

This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
not health, but healing;
not being, but becoming;
not rest, but exercise.
We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
this is not the goal, but it is road;
at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being
purified.
- Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles (AE 32:24)

William Weedon said...

Deb,

LOL. It sounds strange, I know. But you're thinking of "catechism" in the wrong way, I suspect. They weren't checking up on Luther's explanations. They were inquiring do you know the Ten Commandments? How have you failed in your keeping them? Do you know the Creed? Do you understand what the Lord has done for you? Do you know the Our Father? Do you know how Christians pray? Why do you want to come to the Sacrament and what is it you hope to receive there? That sort of thing.

Madre said...

Pr. Weedon said:
"So God declares us righteous and then He goes on to make us righteous. Obviously our final salvation cannot depend upon His making us righteous, since that will never be completed in this age, so long as we remain in the sinful flesh. But both go inevitably together."

I'm confused. Doesn't God's Word do as it says? I'm not sure I'd say that after God declares us righteous he then goes on to make us righteous - the declaration itself makes it so. When God declares me righteous in Christ, I am really righteous - as far as He is concerned anyway. Unfortunately, I am also a sinner in this life and flesh, but that doesn't negate God's declaration.

Or did I miss something...?

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Father Weedon,

I would agree with your entire statement. I have been re-reading the wonderful book on Luther by Maanerma(sp?)which deals with just this topic. I think Lutherans have often dealt with justification and sanctification in a dry scholastic way and used categories and distinctions in ways that are not helpful. Christ received in faith is both justification and sanctification. My good works are Christ in me; my justification is Christ for me.

My concern would be some statements I have read in Orthodox literature that do not explicate matters as you have but state baldly that man in his freedom must do his part to achieve a salvation which is a common work. (Kallistos Ware, for one)

This is something quite different than saying that God's work for our salvation is both imputed and a process and that that work is one and nothing else than Christ apprehended by faith.

My impression of Orthodoxy is that it is a point of doctrine in the doctrine of anthropology and Christology that man has the freedom, post fall, to cooperate in matters of salvation or "justification". Not post baptismal regenerated man but man as sinful man.

This teaching as far as i can tell has roots in the controversy over one will in Christ and the doctrine (Maximus) that to be truly human, humanity must have free will even post sin to choose God.

I am of course grossly simplifying things.

Greg Alms

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

Your thoughtful reply requires an answer too long for the time I have at hand, but I would like to get back to it. But just stop and ask if you are hearing the word "salvation" as equating with "justification" when they are hearing the word "salvation" as equating with "justification-sanctification-glorification" in which case there is most certainly cooperation, "though in great weakness." More later, God willing.

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Weedon,

Would that require individual confession, or at least small group confession, on a weekly basis? A monthly basis? Would visitors _ever_ be allowed to partake?

The practical complications seem overwhelming to me.

Chris Jones said...

My impression of Orthodoxy is that it is a point of doctrine ... that man has the freedom, post fall, to cooperate in matters of salvation or "justification". Not post baptismal regenerated man but man as sinful man.

Not so, Fr Alms. This is a common misunderstanding. The best corrective to this is Orthodoxy's authoritative condemnation of Calvinism, the Confession of Dositheos. This confession was adopted by the Council of Jerusalem in 1672. While it does not have the stature of a decree of an ecumenical council, it is regarded as authoritative.

Here is what it has to say on the point you raise (Confession of Dositheos, Article XIV):

We believe that man, in falling by the original transgression has become comparable to and like the beasts; that is, he has been utterly undone and fallen from his perfection and impassibility. But he has not lost the nature and power which he had received from the supremely good God. For otherwise he would not be rational, and consequently not man. He has the same nature in which he was created, and the same power of his nature; that is free will, living and operating, so as to be by nature able to choose and do what is good, and to avoid and to hate what is evil.

For it is absurd to say that the nature which was created by Him who is supremely good lacks the power of doing good. For this would be to make that nature evil; what could be more impious than that? For the power of working depends on nature, and nature on its Author, although in a different manner. Even our Lord Himself intimates that a man is able by nature to do what is good, saying, even the Gentiles love those that love them. Paul also most plainly teaches this, in Romans and elsewhere, saying in so many words, the Gentiles which have no law do by nature the things of the law. From this it is plain that the good which a man may do cannot in truth be sin. For it is impossible that what is good can be evil.

Nevertheless, this good which a man may do does not contribute to salvation thus alone without faith, since it is done by nature only and tends to form only the natural character, not the spiritual character, of him who does it. Nor does it indeed contribute to condemnation, for it is not possible that good, as such, can be the cause of evil. But in him who is regenerated, what is wrought by grace and with grace perfects him who does it and renders him worthy of salvation.

A man, therefore, before he is regenerated, is able by nature to incline to what is good, and to choose and work moral good. But for the regenerated to do spiritual good (for the works of the believer which are wrought by supernatural grace and are contributory to salvation are properly called spiritual), it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace, as was said in treating of predestination. Thus the regenerated man is not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian life, although he has it in his own power to will, or not to will, to co-operate with grace.


What does it say about "man as sinful man"? It says he is free to do "moral good", but not "spiritual good" (this good which a man [i.e. unregenerate man] may do does not contribute to salvation thus alone without faith). "Spiritual good" can be performed only by the regenerate, and even then grace comes first (it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace). It is clear that only "post baptismal regenerated man", not "man as sinful man", is able to cooperate with grace.

It seems to me that the distinction made here between "moral good" and "spiritual good" is similar to, if not equivalent to, the distinction made between "civil righteousness" and "spiritual righteousness" in AC XVIII; and that the cooperation with grace attributed to the regenerate is essentially the same as that described in FC SD II.65 ff. Compare the Solid Declaration:

it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion ...

with Dositheos:

the regenerated man is not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian life, but what is wrought by grace and with grace perfects him.

William Weedon said...

Eric,

In the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, it was not the case that people went to confession every time that they communed. But they went to confession frequently. The pastor might well commune a person who came from another parish, and did not go to confession in his parish, if he knew that the person was a regular penitent and communicant there.

Interesingly in Bach's time, Leipzig had to call a pastor whose primary task was to assist in hearing the massive numbers of Confessions being made in that city, since the regular clergy of the main churches were unable to get through all their confessions. Check out Stiller for that and other fascinating tidbits of the Lutheranism that was...

Paul Gregory Alms said...

(Forgive this long post!)

Chris,

Thanks for this very interesting quote (Dositheos). I understand that it is no good for Lutherans to simply call the Orthodox synergists ( though they call themselves that in much work I have read!) and brand them with the label "Pelagians" and act as if the matter is settled.

But it is also no good to pretend or hope that the Lutherans and Orthodox have a similar doctrine of sin and salvation. The fact is they do not. This selection from Dositheos does not illustrate the similarity in doctrines between Lutherans and Orthodox but the differences. The doctrines outlined here is in no way the Lutheran view.

To say that man

has not lost the nature and power which he had received from the supremely good God. He has the same nature in which he was created, and the same power of his nature; that is free will, living and operating, so as to be by nature able to choose and do what is good, and to avoid and to hate what is evil.

is not the Lutheran view of sin and its effects. For Lutherans the key passage is Ephesians 2 and the picture there of man without Christ as a corpse. A corpse can not incline toward the good. Lutherans have insisted (rightly !) upon the complete and total inability of man to contribute toward salvation.


What Dositheos and every other Orthodox writing I have read speaks of is a fall that mortally wounds man but does not completely incapacitate him. Sin in the Orthodox view as I understand it, cannot be said to completely ruin man's nature for it if it had humanity would cease to be human. This view springs form the Orthodox view of creation and Christology. Creation in the Orthodox view cannot be said to be completely ruined without calling into question the goodness of God's creation.

This is not some little difference in terminology between Lutherans and the Orthodox. One cannot simply say that for the Orthodox the word salvation includes what Lutherans have called sanctification and justification and that we are just talking past one another. This is a naive and dangerous thing to say and will mislead those who do not know Orthodoxy well into thinking Lutherans and Orthodox are closer in doctrine than the truth reveals.

For the Orthodox (as I understand them) free will in human beings and the ability to cooperate with grace is constitutive of human beings as such even post fall before regeneration. Man must be able to cooperate and exercise his will in order to over come the free choice which Adam made. Christ in his choosing and exercising his own HUMAN will demonstrated that true full humanity is one in which free will is able to exercise a free moral choice to incline toward God. Orthodoxy rejects, on Christological grounds, the doctrine that the human will is in bondage and is totally futile in spiritual matters.

The example of the Blessed Virgin is often applied in this regard and that in her free choice to assent to the words of the angels she is a model of synergeia or cooperation in salvation.

All of this is a fine ancient wonderful beautiful theological system. It just so happens not to be the Lutheran one. For Lutherans human nature and will is completely and totally ruined with no spiritual capacity whatsoever. Justification ( and sanctification for that matter ) is a resurrection from the dead (not the healing of a deep and terrible wound as I have read it described by the Orthodox) accomplished solely and always (daily rebirth) by Christ.

I write all of this with no animosity toward the Orthodox. I have a deep respect and admiration for the Orthodox church and theology. But I get really irritated when Lutherans sympathetic to Orthodoxy and some Orthodox themselves pretend or mislead other Lutherans into thinking that Orthodoxy and Lutheranism are really very close theologically and most of the differences are ones of history or perspective or terminology. It is not so.

If one wishes to convert to Orthodoxy go ahead and but be clear to yourself and to those who listen to you that when one does so one is rejecting justification by faith alone as the Augsburg confession knows it and, as Lutherans confess, the New Testament does also.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

How does your analysis of Orthdox teaching fit with these words of Fr. Schmemann:

"And this fallen life, wholly subordinate to the law of sin, does not, and cannot, have the power to heal and revive itself, to fill itself with life again, to make itself sanctified once more. Separation, yearning, repentance remain, and man includes them in his 'religion' and in his sacrifices, but this religion and these sacrifices cannot save man from slavery to sin and death, just as one who is falling into an abyss cannot turn back upward, one who is buried alive cannot dig himself up, a dead man cannot raise himself. Only God can save - precisely save - us, for our life needs salvation, and not simply help. Only he can fulfil that concerning which all sacrifices remain an impotent plea, of which they were all expectation, pre-figurement and anticipation. And he fulfils this in the ultimate, perfect, all-embracing sacrifice in which he gave his only-begotten Son for the salvation of the world, in which the Son of God, having become the Son of man, offered himself as a sacrifice for the life of the world." (Schmemann, Eucharist, pp. 103-104)

Anonymous said...

The spiritual capacity of post-lapsarian man is simply that we are able to see what is revealed to us by God. We are not able to save ourselves apart from God or grace- this is what actual Pelagianism is. This is not the same as saying we have no part at all that is required. Similarly, sanctification is required in Lutheran theology as the fruit of a freely received justification, and a reliance on having been justified apart from then producing good works in synergeia with the Holy Spirit is Lutheran heresy. It is the same sense of "requirement" on both sides, but Lutherans tend to simply prefer their own requirements over those of others.

You are right that there are differences and I have very little patience with Lutherans who see themselves as the bridge between Orthodoxy and Lutheranism as the "Orthodox" Western Church- with both simply not realizing their agreement.

You are also correct in pointing out that Orthodoxy is not the Church of the Augsburg Confession. The real question, though, is whether the Augsburg Confession matches up with what we know of the teaching of the more authoritative "primitive Church" (in Chemnitz's phrase). Is there continuity of community, teaching, and practice with the communities, teaching, and practices which that early Church recognized as Apostolic. If they could recognize the canon of Scripture, the subtle doctrines of the Holy Spirit, the Person of Christ, etc. why do we not trust them on most everything else they taught and practiced?

Obviously, honest men can disagree and go with God. We are free after all. :) However, we should not be afraid of asking the tough question since it is the same types of questions that come from unbelievers about the authoritativeness and truth of Christianity. Orthodoxy gets tarred with the Crusades because it is Christian, and even the ultra-liberal churches like the ECUSA and UCC gets saddled with televangelism and abortion. In the early and conciliar Church we are dealing with our common heritage, and it must be answered how an all-powerful God could let the 'true faith' disappear or go underground for a millenium and a half. Or, we must have the courage to go where the facts and the Spirit lead us, no matter the cost. In Newman's phrase, "Holiness rather than peace".

Paul Gregory Alms said...

I have the greatest admiration for Schmemann. I have learned a great dek form his writings.

He is not however authoritative for Orthodox teaching and has had his books burned in Russia and is condemned in many quarters of Orthodoxy for being a Westernizer and for introducing novelties in the faith.

What would Schmemann say to this confession of Dositheus:

but since (God) foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other. And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating <115> with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated.

William Weedon said...

I suspect he would not have thought too highly of the confession of Dositheus as a whole - it seems to embody the Western captivity (in theological terminology) which he decries. Note the use of "preventing" or "prevenient" grace vs. "particular" grace. I think also Meyendorff has criticized the CD along the lines of trying to confess the Orthodox faith in alien categories to it (i.e., western scholastic categories).

I don't recall, however, whether he would have objected to what is proposed here - which evidences some amazing parallels with the "intuitu fidei" of the Lutheran dogmaticians of the Age of Orthodoxy, no?

Based on what I have read of him (I've read all that's available in English, and wish I could read French and Russian to pick up the rest!), I would suspect he'd say something along the lines of asking the wrong question will always get you the wrong answer...

William Weedon said...

Oh, one more thought: in the West we are ALWAYS on the lookout for the bugaboo that haunts our dreams and fuels our fears - Pelagianism.

I think Eastern theologians have a quite similar reaction by and large to their bugaboo - the teaching of the Manichaeans. Thus, the determinism which they encountered in Calvinism, which sounds so Manichaean to their ears, is the background to what they are seeking to confess here.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Anon said: The spiritual capacity of post-lapsarian man is simply that we are able to see what is revealed to us by God.


I love that sentence! It manages to affirm spiritual impotence (only what God reveals) and deny it ( we are able to see) at the same time. Yikes.

FWIW, I do not think that sentence is the New Testament teaching nor the authentic inheritance of the early church. At the risk of sounding like a fundamentalist .. can a corpse see? I mean either God is completely responsible for our salvation (all of it justification, sanctification) or we have some residual power inhering in oursleves ... powers of reception, sight, cooperation. Either we are dead in sin or are simply in really critical condition.


Anon said: We are not able to save ourselves apart from God or grace- this is what actual Pelagianism is. This is not the same as saying we have no part at all that is required. Similarly, sanctification is required in Lutheran theology as the fruit of a freely received justification, and a reliance on having been justified apart from then producing good works in synergeia with the Holy Spirit is Lutheran heresy. It is the same sense of "requirement" on both sides, but Lutherans tend to simply prefer their own requirements over those of others.


No, that is not right. Lutherans do not practice theolgical bigotry, as you seem to put it, preferring our requirements and sniffing our noses at other equally valid requirements. Requiring cooperation or reception or the exercise of free will ( free will as a basic and unalterable and post-fall aspect of humanity, not a gift of regeneration but as a condition required for conversion) is not the same as sanctification produced by the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit. One states that man contributes to his salvation the other says God create in us a clean heart which produces clean fruit.


Anon said: In the early and conciliar Church we are dealing with our common heritage, and it must be answered how an all-powerful God could let the 'true faith' disappear or go underground for a millenium and a half.

Straw man alert! Who says that the true church disappeared for a millenium and a half? Not I.

William Weedon said...

What I find curious, in any case, is that so called "natural" capacities are thought of as anything other than gifts of God! To speak in the terms of the Catechism, is grace exclusive to the second article or is it also present in the first? It seems to me to be precisely a mark and sign of the fall itself that man would attribute ANY capacity to himself as HIS as opposed to recognizing EVERY capacity as gift from the Creator!

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Not to get bogged down in Orthodox minutiae but here is Meyendorff on Dositheus .. at least what he wrote in "The Orthodox Church". He may have written about it somewhere else.


The ambassador got in touch with (Dositheus) as well as with several other Orthodox prelates and requested him to give his opinion on the Confession of Loukaris. The result was a detailed and systematic refutation of the latter work, which Dositheus had approved by a council at Jerusalem in 1672. This document, known henceforth both as the Confession of Dositheus and the Acts of the Council of Jerusalem, is the most important Orthodox dogmatic text of this period. Its authority is undisputed. In the nineteenth century the celebrated Philaret of Moscow had the greatest respect for it. To be sure, Dositheus, under the influence of Moghila, occasionally makes use of a Latinized terminology, but his basic inspiration is much more fundamentally Orthodox than that of the metropolitan of Kiev. The Calvinism of Loukaris is firmly rejected in favor of the traditional sacramental realism of Orthodoxy, a doctrine of the priesthood and holy orders founded on the sacramental nature of the Church, and an Orthodox explanation of the veneration of the saints and holy images.12
(P.98)


Anyway, I think it is futile to try and make Orthodoxy confess justification by faith alone. It is simply not there, Mark the Ascetic (hardly a major figure) not withstanding. The Orthodox teach a version of synergism. Synergeia. This includes a tenet that man has the capacity apart from grace to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. This is the mainstream teaching of Orthodoxy. To imply to dissatisfied Lutherans that somehow the Orthodox are really almost the same as Lutherans on grace is dishonest, imho.

Fr, Weedon I am not accusing you of that but it can be an unintended consequence of praising the Orthodox and slamming the disarray in Lutheranism.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

What I find curious, in any case, is that so called "natural" capacities are thought of as anything other than gifts of God! To speak in the terms of the Catechism, is grace exclusive to the second article or is it also present in the first? It seems to me to be precisely a mark and sign of the fall itself that man would attribute ANY capacity to himself as HIS as opposed to recognizing EVERY capacity as gift from the Creator!



Pastor Weedon,

It is a question of sin. What did sin do to us? Of course creation is good adn perfecxt gift. But what is the effect of sin?

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

Of course the Orthodox teach Synergy! But that is not the same thing as what Lutherans usually mean by synergism.

I believe that there is a good book coming out by Gregg Roeber and Mickey Mattox that would really help this conversation. It seeks to move Lutherans and Orthodox beyond the barriers created by differing theological contructs and language to actually hear what each other is trying to say - a sort of translator of Orthodox thought into Lutheran terms and vice versa; it does this without in any way implying that the two are basically the same. What idiot would think they are basically the same? The question is where do they really differ once you remove the barrier of things like "synergia" being heard in two different ways, and "salvation" being heard in two different ways? I don't know the name of the book or the name of the publisher, but I know it is in the works, and I am certain it will be a helpful volume when it comes out.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Alms,

This conversation is very frustrating to me! With respect, it seems that you are not really reading what I have presented, but keep returning to your pre-conceived notion that the Orthodox teach that fallen man has the ability to contribute to his salvation - when the authoritative confession that I presented says the opposite.

You say it is also no good to pretend or hope that the Lutherans and Orthodox have a similar doctrine of sin and salvation. But I never said that they do. All I am trying to do is to address the narrow point of whether the Orthodox teach that man has the freedom, post fall, to cooperate in matters of salvation or "justification". You asserted that they do teach that; I have demonstrated that they do not.

Before you can decide whether the Orthodox and Lutheran teachings are "similar", you have to understand what the Orthodox teaching in fact is. But you do not understand it. You say:

For the Orthodox (as I understand them) free will in human beings and the ability to cooperate with grace is constitutive of human beings as such even post fall before regeneration.

But the Confession says:

Nevertheless, the good which a [fallen, unregenerate]man may do does not contribute to salvation thus alone without faith, since it is done by nature only and tends to form only the natural character, not the spiritual character

The ability to cooperate with grace is never attributed to the unregenerate, but is always confessed to be itself the result of grace:

for the regenerated to do spiritual good ... it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace.

The sentence you quoted from article III of Dositheus is relevant here:

the Divine and illuminating grace (which we call preventing grace) is imparted to all by the Divine goodness, as a light to those in darkness; to those that are willing to obey this grace (for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling) and co-operate in what it requires as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace.

I hasten to re-iterate that I am not saying that this is the same as the Lutheran view. But what this sentence does make clear is the absolute priority of grace, before any cooperation is possible, even in the regenerate. This is the opposite of what you have been saying.

The example of the Blessed Virgin is often applied in this regard ...

Indeed it is; but it is certainly does not exemplify any human ability to co-operate apart from grace; for the angel tells us - before the Virgin assents to the Incarnation - that she is "full of grace". "Hail, thou that art full of grace" is not just saying "this is your lucky day"; it really means that she has been granted the grace which restores her free will in spiritual things. It is this grace that enables her to co-operate.

I have discussed these passages from Dositheos, at length, on the Internet before. I recommend this thread on Bunnie Diehl's weblog, where Eric Phillips and I went at it hammer-and-tongs over whether Orthodoxy is semi-Pelagian.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Eric,

I think much of what we are hammering at has to do with perspective. I am not much in the way of labels. I do not care if orthodoxy is pelagian, semipelagian or synergist or whatever.

My notions are not pre-concieved. Is not Kallistos Ware an Orthodox bishoo? Shall I quote him?

What about my salvation? God's work or both : God and mine? I know, I know the Orthodox dont like direct questions.

But it is a question I have to asnwer for myself and my people in the pews. Are they to trust in Christ alone or in Christ and their human free will acceptance of that grace.

I have read too much Orthodox literature that says I and God cooperate in that endeavor. Now you can tell me that it is not so. Well the OCA Orthodox parish down the I-40 has a catechism that says exactly that under the paragraph on free will.

I have Lutheran ears. I freely admit that. This sentence

_to those that are willing to obey this grace (for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling)_

sounds to my ears like something prior to and apart from grace. "obey" and "will" in response to or in the direction of the grace of God. In that paragraph the obedience and willing does not spring from the grace but the grace is given only to those who obey or who are willing.

BTW, one of my purpsoes is to assert exactly that Orhtodoxy and Lutheranism are not similiar in the doctrine of free will and grace. Many seem intent on asserting that.

Anonymous said...

Alms: "The Orthodox teach a version of synergism. Synergeia. This includes a tenet that man has the capacity apart from grace to cooperate with the Holy Spirit."

Grace is Uncreated, Grace is the presence of God Himself. Grace is the Holy Spirit. How could we then cooperate with the Holy Spirit apart from grace?

As to your comment concerning my little aphorism about seeing what God has revealed to us, God created my eyes, but I still have to see, I still have to act. Lazarus too was brought back to life by the Lord, but he still had to walk out of the tomb. Was his resurrection earned by, or due to, his cooperation in walking out of the tomb? no.

Just because we contribute something doesn't mean we save ourselves. We never would have been able to do it on our own.


To clarify, I know you wouldn't say that the Church disappeared, but if it has a visible component teaching the Gospel rightly and adminstering the Sacraments, then where is the visible proof of a church body that did so?


BTW, good thoughtful discussion. Thank you. It is good to understand the paradigms of Christianity that may not be so dependent on medieval, scholastic forms, and to learn about the independent development of the salvation paradigm in the West.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

My aim in this discussion has been to assert two things:

1. Orthodox and Lutheran doctrine have two different conceptions of sin.

2. Orthodoxy and Lutheranism have two different views of justification.

The differences in both cases involve a greater degree of ability posited by the Orthodox to man. Sin for the Orthodox does not involve the total corruption that Lutherans emphasize. That is, that man can be a free responder to God's grace.

Orthodoxy also wants to say both that man is a free responder to God's grace (that assertion is involved in being a real human) and that God's grace is the cause and active agent in all salvation.

For Lutherans this sounds like having your cake and eating it too. My Lutheran instincts say either man responds freely OR God is the sole one responsible for salvation. Man's free response inherently (from our perspective) gives man some "credit". (How is that for a Western mind set word!)

I have no desire to smear or distort Orthodoxy. I have every respect for it. I am after all one of the many non-Orthodox who have trekked to St. Vladimir's to spy the Orthodox in their natural habitat! :>

Greg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Alms,

I suspect that your "either/or" is preciesly what the Orthodox would reject out of hand. It may not make much sense to the Lutheran mind, but that should not be such an insurmountable burden when you think of the number of "apparently contradictory" matters that Lutherans do hold together - beginning with the crux theologorum.

"Credit" is simply out of play with the Orthodox when the context is not purchasing salvation, but receiving a gift. Dr. Nagel was fond of saying: "For a gift to be a gift it must be rejectable." I think the Orthodox synergia is very much resonating to that, if stated positively rather than negatively. Or as Eduward Preuss said: "To believe is to take."

The Orthodox conception of "justification" is almost impossible to talk about in Lutheran terms, because (like St. Paul!) they do not divide out justification and sanctification as separate constructs.

As to the conception of sin - what both have in common is this: man since the Fall is born into a state of being cut off from the Divine Life and is helpless to remedy this with any effort of his own. Just as no effort of the Holy Virgin could EVER have enabled her using her human powers to become the Theotokos, the Bearer of God; so no effort of the human being by his own powers would ever enable him to become a Child of God. But as the Gift was presented to the Virgin, it called forth her consent (after all, you can't say "yes!" to what has not been given!), so it is with our rebirth in Christ, which calls forth our consent.

Is our consent, our "Let it be to me according to your Word!", in any way a contributing cause of the gift being given? What nonsense! It is merely our free (not FORCED!) acceptance of what is being graciously given by the Giver of Life.

I have VERY much enjoyed the discussion of these matters with you, though I think (as Chris pointed out) that you seem to have a tad of "this is how I figured it out" and not wishing to have anything shake that schema. And I am CERTAIN that you could say the same for Chris and for me! But in any case,

Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory be to Him forever!

Nathan said...

Pastor Weedon,

Of course Mary is cooperating as a true believer, right? - someone who was looking to the Messiah and hence, trusting Christ?

So here we are talking about sanctification, and not justification, right?

Everyone - Can I throw a weird question into the mix here? We seem to observe that infants and children are more likely to not reject (notice I did not use the positive category "accept" :) ) the faith. Bo Geirtz put forward an interesting illustration for this in the hammer of God through a pastor in his second story (about how infants, though dead in sin, were like a bowl that was facing up, able to be poured into, rather than a bowl facing downward - hmmm, I think... what IN US causes that bowl to get flipped?) Have any Lutherans ever mused out loud about the possibility that all might be born (or at least conceived) not just as sinners, but as "sinner-saints", and that we, though fallen and selfish, are ready for immediately ready for Word - content (imprinting, like baby chicks), to fill out that faith that is there, in some way (perhaps the Word which created all still rings in their subconscious...). I know this all sounds really bizarre and un-Lutheran (please, no "heretic!" statements - just speculating, trying to come up with imperfect "systems" [categories] that might better explain all the evidence) - and most importantly, would seem to contradict Eph. 2.

But what if people eventually get totally dead if there is no witness of the Word to nurture them upon conception - and hence Paul could speak of those Gentiles in Ephesus as dead. After all, in Romans 1, he also says that "though they knew God". Now, one could say it doesn't mean "know" as Jesus meant it in John 17:3 (ie, they just know that He exists and this isn't talking about "taking the step" of trusting Him [or "not rejecting Him" :) ) or that it doesn't really apply to all men that they "knew God" but that this is describing a society in general or people in the past (ie, descendents of Adam, Noah, etc... who eventually lost the true knowledge of God completely and then knew Him not)

Just a thought... please don't feel obligated to respond to it, as I know you might not see it as relevant to the discussion (I can't logically explain [only intutitively?] why I thought it might be other than the fact that I'm a sinner, who has not yet like Luther learned to give up all the great ideas that he had that happened to be unscriptural :))

Nathan said...

Sorry, one thought in my post didn't really get completed.

If we say that in Eph 2 Paul means that everyone is dead upon conception and that they do not inevitably become dead because of a lack of Word/Gospel nourishment upon conception, then what do we honestly do with Romans 1 where it says "though they knew God". I think the most natural reading of this passage is that everyone really did "know God" (not just "understand that He, in all His power and Deity [Godhead], existed"), but then went bad (dead) and began to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Ie, they were given true faith from their Creation (redeemed and justified in Christ from the foundation of the world), but then sin corrupted and destroyed them.

I know there is nothing new under the sun. I'm not proposing completely new innovations, am I?

Pastor Weedon - have you ever come across anything like this in any of the Fathers?

William Weedon said...

Nathan,

Interesting thoughts indeed. I would say that by and large (without digging up specific quotes) the sense from the Fathers is that human beings are DYING rather than DEAD. Scripture seems to accomodate both metaphors for the human state - one thinks of how often the leprosy is taken for the state of humanity apart from God. On the way to the grave, corrupted by sin (as a disease - remember that the AC refers to original sin as disease - and dead people don't have diseases!), and unable to do squat about it.

William Weedon said...

One more thought: implicit in the designation of original sin as a corruption (profound, deep, and unthinkable in its extent) what is being corrupted is still present.

I've thought for years for the back and forths over the free will which Lutherans and Orthodox engage in totally miss the ball by never stopping to ask: what is meant by either side?

The Orthodoxy affirm free will, it seems, to stress that humanity is not a robot and that God does not FORCE the life of the Gospel upon a single soul.

The Lutherans deny free will expressly to say that apart from God's grace man is simply incapable of truly fearing, loving, and trusting God.

It sounds to me like we're talking apples and oranges, and what needs to happen is a discussion of what the term is supposed to be confessing and what it is guarding against. FWIW