30 December 2007

Puzzlement

I continue to scratch my head at how people who read and know the Scriptures well continually discount the forensic element of the Biblical revelation. If one thing is clear from the Scriptures, it is that we will stand before our Lord Jesus who will indeed pass judgment upon us. He warns us that we will have to "give an account" for every idle word we speak. The "courtroom" metaphor runs throughout the Gospels and the NT epistles as well. The very language of "justify" is forensic lingo. The word "Advocate" (which the Sacred Scriptures apply both to our Lord and to the Holy Spirit) is legal through and through. To simply read the Scriptures while discounting this semantic domain is to ignore one sizable chunk of God's message to humanity in His Son.

Which is not to say that the forensic element exhausts the Gospel - no way! The Scriptures teach us to speak of the Gospel as the bringing of the dead to life, the finding and reclaiming of the lost, the reconciliation of those at enmity, and certainly many other ways too. Nevertheless, among the ways that God has spoken His Word to us through His Son is the whole complex of "court" language. "Forensic" is one way that the Holy Spirit confronts us with the problem of our sin that we might despair of "fixing" it and learn instead to live from the merciful pardon of God extended to us in His Son. To unite some of the images: that pardon is what brings the dead to life!

And one of my all time favorite passages from St. John Chrysostom builds upon such language and images to preach some high octane Gospel:

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned.

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

166 comments:

Jimbo said...

don't forget Zechariah 3 and the High Priest Joshua... oh, and also that there and other places Satan is the accuser

Chris Palo said...

Fr. Weedon,

May I assume that your comment is directed towards the Orthodox who do not solely confess the forensic as the only interpretation of Christ's saving work?

Even St. John Chrysostom holds to the both...and. In the tenth prayer of St. John Chrysostom which we say before receiving the Eucharist we say "May this Eucharist be unto me for the forgiveness of sins and for life everlasting."

To couch Christ's saving work in one category or to even categorize it is way off base. No one, at least I think no one, looks at a gift given to them by a friend and examines what purpose the gift is given. So why should we feel so compelled to categorize and examine the gift to the point that the gift becomes less meaningful?

Just MHO.

Kenny said...

I continue to scratch my head at how people



Who specifically...Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans? Or is this the bait. Pastor Weedon, you do know that the Orthodox employ all the interpretations of salvation holistically and not in isolation correct? In fact you must.

Kenny

orrologion said...

I wonder if there may be some misunderstanding of biblical and patristic uses of forensic language by a lack of our understanding of biblical (OT and NT) and patristic jurisprudence. How might a judge adjudicate differently in OT and NT and patristic times as compared to medieval to modern European models?

As one secular example, modern European and American systems of adjudication are quite different. Innocence is not assumed in the European system and the court officers work not for either the state, the plaintiff or the defendent but for the truth and for justice. Differences such as this could lead to radically different assumptions when reading forensic language in ancient texts from very different cultures with very different mores and norms regarding law, justice, judgement and righteousness.

William Weedon said...

Indeed, Jimbo. And so many, many more.

Kenny, the tendency is actually quite wide-spread and runs across confessional lines - I've heard it from Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans and a number of others. My most recent comments were after reading an Orthodox post that several of my friends recommended, but the downplaying of the judicial imagery is certainly not a uniqueness of Orthodoxy - in fact, it's something I think we'd find to play a bigger role in CURRENT Orthodoxy than in the past.

Christopher, those are very good points. But however we come to understand the complex of ideas around the judicial imagery, the notion of pardon from the judge is a central one.

William Weedon said...

Christopher Palo,

Do you really know of any of the confessional Churches that limit our Lord's saving work to what can fit in the forensic metaphor? I can honestly say that I've not encountered that on any hand. What I have noted (as I mentioned above) across the board is a modern tendency to discount the forensic metaphor in its entirety - and as I said, that ends up pulling a big chunk out of the fullness of the Biblical witness to our Savior. So let me state it quite categorically that as a Lutheran I have NEVER felt constrained to express salvation solely in terms of the forensic metaphor - nor do I see where our Symbolical books even come close to doing so.

Fr John W Fenton said...

Pr Weedon,

You wrote:

My most recent comments were after reading an Orthodox post that several of my friends recommended...

Would you be willing to direct us to this post?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The article in question, I suppose, must be Fr. Stephen's, over at "Glory to God in all Things."

What's the problem with it? Fr. Stephen never rules out the forensic metaphor; he just says that by itself it is inadequate. He is warning againt using forensics as the principle, over-arching metaphor, the organizing, controlling priciple for the rest of the imagery, into which it must be fitted. I will guess that you agree with this -- and that you didn't always.

So where is the problem?

Or do I have it backward? You disagree with Fr. Stephen, but you didn't always?

Anastasia

Susan said...

the whole complex of "court" language.

Yesterday, as we discussed Gal 4:4 in Bible class, Pastor pointed out that even the "adoption as sons" is courtroom language. Forensic language. A legal transaction.

William Weedon said...

Fr. John,

It was the article by Fr. Stephen. Anastasia and Ed Wolfe had recommended it highly, and since I value their opinion, I read it last night.

Anastasia,

The sweeping nature of his first point is what I found untenable. Scripture reveals that yes, among many other things, the universe IS a Law Court and we will stand before the Judge and our whole life will be examined. I know that Fr. Stephen doesn't disbelieve that, so I was puzzled at why he would seem to discount the whole complex of imagery. Indeed, as you stand before the Judge before whom all thoughts are known, no desires are hid, you DO have a problem and the solution to that problem is very much at the heart of why our Lord Jesus came among us, suffered, died, and rose again for us.

I do want to stress, however, that this particular perspective and downplaying of "the forensic" strikes me - from my reading at any rate - as being more modern than Orthodox. You can find it elsewhere besides modern Orthodoxy and there are many writings of earlier Orthodox that manifestly have no problem with the imagery being used without constant qualifiers. FWIW.

William Weedon said...

Susan,

I had that exact same thought yesterday as I was reading the Epistle! :)

Michael said...

the whole complex of "court" language.

Yesterday, as we discussed Gal 4:4 in Bible class, Pastor pointed out that even the "adoption as sons" is courtroom language. Forensic language. A legal transaction.



Susan,

No question this type of language is used to describe an element of salvation. But, I would ask...When God "redeemed" His people out of Egypt ("redeem" having a legal meaning)...who did God pay for this? In fact was there any payment at all?

I believe that the answer is found in the use of the theological metaphor to supply an adequate expression of the event. In reality God paid no one, no legal transaction whatsoever. He went into Egypt by force and took His people back. He paid nothing for them, yet Gods chosen people were in fact rescued or redeemed.


Michael

wm cwirla said...

"Or is this the bait?"


Works like a charm, doesn't it? Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Thanks for an insightful post, brother William. Your comments are timely when this important justification metaphor is being downplayed among "Lutherans."

Anonymous said...

when this important justification metaphor is being downplayed among "Lutherans."



Downplayed in place of or in favor of what?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, brother Bill.

For further consideration I *highly* recommend the reading of Oswald Bayer's little book "Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification." Among many other points, Bayer makes a very good case for all of life being ordered forensically, so to speak.

The first chapter of this book is alone worth the price.

Tom Fast

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But Susan, and William, this sort of comment about adoption perfectly illustrates Fr. Stephen's point! To treat our adoption as a legality and no more is but to skim the sufrace of the matter and to miss all the deeper realities.

Our adoption by God no *mere* legality! It is a matter of flesh and blood, and it gives us an even closer relationship to God than to our adoptive parents -- even closer than our relationship to our biological parents. St. Nicholas Cabasilas explains (The Life in Christ, pp. 127-128):

This is the reality of our adoption as sons of God. Unlike human adoptions, it does not consist in the mere name, nor does it confer honour merely to the extent that those who have been adopted share the name of those who have been naturally born…In this case…there is a real birth and a sharing with the only-begotten Son, not of the surname only, but of His very Being, His Blood, His Body, His life…

Why then should I call this sonship fictitious, when it makes us more alike in nature and more closely akin than natural sonship? ... What is it that makes men our true fathers? It is the fact that our flesh is derived from theirs, and our life is produced from their blood. This applies to the Saviour as well. We are flesh from His flesh and bones from His bones. Yet there is a considerable difference between these two participations. In the case of the natural sons, their blood no longer belongs to their parents, though it was theirs before it became that of the sons. So kinship arises from the fact that what once belonged to the parents now belongs to the offspring. But the effect of the sacred rite [the Eucharist] is that the blood by which we live is even now Christ’s Blood, and the flesh by which the Mystery establishes us is Christ’s Body, and further, that we have members and life in common with Him.

[END QUOTE]

St. Nicholas Cabasilas goes on to explain that if something belongs to one person part of the time and to another person the rest of the time, then it is not as truly shared as when it belongs to both people simultaneously. The Body and the Blood of Christ (unlike the body and blood of our natural parents) belong both to Him and to us at one and the same time. That makes us, even at the bodily level, closer to Him than to our own parents.

All this is what we miss if we simply say our adoption is a legal matter and leave it at that.

Anastasia

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who has noticed the delicious irony found in the fact that there are several folks here who are marshalling all kinds of evidence to "justify" their theological position in the matter at hand?

:-)

Tom Fast

Anonymous said...

Let me make myself clear. I think it is a very good thing that folks are gathering evidence to argue their case either for or against the original post. I fully support such efforts and am in no way making a judgement against it. I'm only noting the irony of it all. By all means, keep it going. It is a good conversation to have.

We may not all agree that "justification" is central. Surely we can all agree that justification is inevitable.

Tom Fast

Susan said...

Michael wrote: "In reality God paid no one, no legal transaction whatsoever."

God says He redeemed. God says He justifies. If I don't understood who got paid, I'm not going to fret over it too much. If I don't understand, but still am saying what God says, then I figure I'm on solid ground.


Anastasia wrote: "To treat our adoption as a legality and no more..."

I don't recall anyone saying that it should be treated as "no more than" a legality. But some of us in the Lutheran church have noticed an avoidance of legal terminology, even when they are terms God Himself chose to use. It's like people have determined to go on to "bigger and better things" than simply forgiveness. Then there are others of us who think forgiveness IS everything, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation and other other gift from God. As my pastor says, where there is forgiveness of sins, there cannot be anything BUT life and salvation and being in God's presence and adoption and the new creation and so much more. But the forgiveness of sins is whence all those other gifts flow.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Susan wrote: "I don't recall anyone saying that it should be treated as "no more than" a legality."

Okay, you didn't mention whether your pastor got deeper than the mere legality. If so, that's great. If not, he missed the main point of it.

Yes, forgiveness is central, but, like adoption, it is so much more than a legality! To treat it as a legality only or even as a legality primarily is to miss the iceberg and only see the tip.

Yet nobody (that I know of) is dismissing legal language altogether, since, after all, St. Paul (among others) uses it and it is undeniably biblical.

So I still don't see where the problem lies that prompted this post.

Anastasia

William Weedon said...

Susan, I think, puts her finger on the heart of the problem: we are continually told that we are talking "just" forensically whenever we speak forensically, but it is NOT the whole of the story for us and has never been. I'd encourage those who paint us with that brush to study "Dear Christians One and All Rejoice" where the Lutheran confession of the Gospel was put into rimed verse, and note what images predominate.

I will try to get back to some other responses, but it will be later. Was at hospital all day, then nursing home, and now service looms this evening. A most blessed and joyous New Year and Feast of the Circumcision to you all!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The gist of Fr. Stephen's post is that "forensic" does not describe the ROOT of our problem. Our problem isn't just disobedience; it's WHY we disobey. That that, as he points out, is an existential or ontological issue. The legal stuff is symptomatic, not causative, of our human problem.

In my very limited exposure to Lutheranism, that seldom if ever gets explained. People do seem to speak 'just' forensically, simply by default, by mentioning only the tip of the iceberg. You may believe there is more to the iceberg than the tip, but I do wish you'd say so more often.

Anastasia

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Some quotes to ponder:


"In Lutheran theology the article of justification is the central, chief article by which the Christian doctrine and the Christian Church stands and falls; it is the apex of all Christian teaching...In Scripture all doctrines serve the doctrine of justification. Take the doctrine of Christ's Person and Office. Moved by his love toward men, who were unable to keep the Law obligating them and who by their own works earned only the curse, God, the great Philanthropist, sent his own Son, not merely as a teacher of morals, but to perform a very specific function, to fulfill the Law and to give up his life in the stead of man in order that men might be justified by the suffering and obedience of the Son of God, without works of their own. Thus Christology serves merely as the substructure of the doctrine of justification." (II.512-514)


"Justification is purely a judicial act." (II.524)


"[The Formula of Concord] stoutly maintains the actus forensis in justification, and it excludes from the righteousness of faith the indwelling of Christ and its sanctifying effect..." (II.530)

"The forgiveness of sins constitutes the entire justification, not merely a part of it." (II.537)

F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

When you were a professor of Lutheran dogmatics at St. Catharines, did you teach your students that Pieper hit the nail on the head in regard to the above passages, or that he perhaps at points was overstating his case, and challenge them to compare Pieper's words here with some parts of the Symbols that are in tension with what he here maintained?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

I put out the quotes for pondering purposes. What led me to cite these particular quotes are the words "merely," "purely," "excludes" and "entire...not merely a part" respectively. I think F. Pieper's Lutheran _bona fides_ is well-established: professor of systematic theology, president of the Synod etc.

What I thought or taught as a professor of Lutheran dogmatics is not, strictly speaking, relevant to the issue at hand. I had noted the passages above as striking--but then, I was already "corrupted" by having read the holy fathers.

Neither I, then, nor you, now, truly represent the broad consensus of what the term "Lutheran" means--whether that term be measured by its leading theologians or by the actual experience of its parishes. And if one seeks to determine what that word means as measured by the BOC--well, precisely that is the matter to be shown. On that score, Pieper holds as good a spot or better than did I and than do you.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Past Elder said...

My puzzlement is, since when did legality become "mere"?

In the civil realm, it your observance of "mere" legalities that leaves you free to pursue the works of good citizenship, which you will find rather harder to pursue from jail or prison.

In the divine realm, God has shown us what he requires. That is the Law. And we have repeatedly shown him our inability where not outright unwillingness to fulfil it. So it is a "mere" legality that makes a Saviour needed at all, otherwise, a top notch moral guide is all we need, which is exactly what Jesus has become for many. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and without which whatever we can do for ourselves is to no avail. No mere legality, no Saviour. And without the fulfilment of mere legality, no merit whatever in our actions even when good.

And that is the genius of "Lutheranism", that it puts this front and centre. Not as the only thing -- though sadly some indeed seem to do that -- but as the thing without which none of the rest matters or is even possible. The central article on which the entire Christian faith stands or falls, as it is said -- not that this is the entire Christian faith, but it is that upon which the entire Christian faith rests.

Likewise adoption. I'm adopted, in the earthly sense, so let me tell you about that. My court decree of adoption, another "mere legality", declares that I am to all intents and purposes no different than if I had been physically born of the parents who adopted me, to the extent that my very birth certificate is re-written just as if my physical birth had been to my adopted parents.

And this is in the divine realm what happens in Baptism -- we become no longer sons of Adam though indeed we physically are, but sons of God no less that if physcially begotten of him. That of course in no way contains all that will be my life as a son, but it is the central article on which being a son stands or falls, so zu sagen. Baptism rewrites our birth certificate in the divine sense.

Deeper realities? There are no deeper realities. This is not something available, like some sort of gnosis, to those capable of years of study and spiritual direction. It is an utterly simple message. Maybe its very simplicity is the stunbling block. The "mere legality" is not something that can be abstracted to the point of near irrelevance while some supposed deeper reality is pursued.

There is but one reality, into which there is no admission but the legality of Christ's fulfillment of the Law to remove my condemnation under the Law making me a son of God by adoption, justified by faith on account of Christ. I cannot imagine there being any clarity on the rest of this one reality unless the cardinal point on which it all hinges is utterly clear.

Glueckliche neues Jahr! Or if I may be allowed, Feliz Ano!

(My Anglo keyboard doesn't allow me to get the n right, and we PRs typically leave off the "nuevo" since everybody knows it's new which is why we're wishing a happy year!)

Anonymous said...

And when I saw 26 (and counting) instant responses to this one, I knew exactly what kind of fish I'd find in this barrel. :)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

To be fair to Pieper, you must recognize what theological context he is speaking in. When he writes, he isn't much concern with Eastern approaches, but rather the Western Scourges of Pietism and Rationalism - as well as the historical practice of Roman Catholicism, where ones good works (which could be placed in the realm of Sanctification) are wrongly introduced as a source of salvation.

In this context Pieper gives a narrow definition of Justification - as the act of Christ making the sinner just - which opens up the door for Sanctification, union with Christ, et al the rest. The purpose of the firmness of this distinction is to set up a barrier against Western heresies.

Remember, even the fathers can be quoted out of context - the vilest of heretics often would quote the early fathers, making them say what they don't. Don't do the same to Pieper - of course Pieper doesn't sound in all places like the various fathers, he wasn't fighting their battles - he was fighting the battles as shown forth in "The Structure of Lutheranism".

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory,

But what did you used to teach on the matter when you were a Lutheran theologian and professor?

It wasn't so much, I'd argue, what you imbibed from other sources as it was a taking of the Symbols with utmost seriousness, so that when the Apology readily grants that "justify" can mean to declare righteous or to make righteous, because Scripture speaks both ways, this is something that could not be ignored. Further, there is always the danger in dealing with Pieper of not checking the English translator - you recall the butchering job that was done on perpetual virginity between the English translation and what Pieper himself actually wrote.

Surely you will recall that a theologian of recognized stature in Missouri wrote a book not too many years ago called *Just Words*, the main burden of which was to demonstrate that the metaphor of justification does not exhaust the Biblical data on salvation and to explore the numerous other ways that the Holy Spirit in the Sacred Scriptures speaks of our salvation. J.A.O. Preus II is hardly out of the mainstream of Missouri.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Brown,

Your remarks suggest a couple of thoughts to me.

1. You call attention to the importance of context for understanding a text--that a text cannot be rightly understood except in its context. _Mutatis mutandis_, that's exactly our point about the relationship of Holy Scriptures to the rest of Holy Tradition.

2. Pieper does not think that justification is "the act of Christ *making* the sinner just." He goes out of his way to deny that. Justification is to declare the unjust and ungodly to be just. "Again, [justification] cannot be found within man, but only outside man, namely, in the objective Word of the Gospel. Again, it is not an _actus medicinalis, sed forensis_, that is, one who is in himself unrighteous is declared righteous..." (II.505)

3. Perhaps you or someone else could do the research and write the definitive Lutheran book on the Lutheran understanding of the Orthodox.

Pr. Weedon,

To take the Lutheran symbols with utmost seriousness is to see them as a bridge which leads to the ancient church. I am grateful for the bridge. I do not live on it or under it.

My citations of Pieper, once again, were merely meant to make people ponder. You yourself used to admit that you are not very representative of Lutheranism. I agree with you.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Father Gregory,

(It sounds weird saying that for the simple reason that my dad's name is Gregory, but be that as it may. . .)

In brief response to your numbered points:

1 - That's a straw man attack of a Lutheran understanding of Scripture - at most times room has been allowed for a better, more contextual understanding of the Word, as a look at the historical background involved in any modern Lutheran Commentary will show, or as the Lutheran citation of various Fathers in the Confession will show.

2 - What you are mistruing is the fact that Justification does not happen in a vaccuum, and what is being discussed is the logical order and necessity of salvation. Justification is a declaration - step one - God acts. However, at what point does Lutheran theology ever promote an impotent God whose Word has no effect. When God declares one righteous, he is made righteous by God - the new man give, et al. All this is is a logical discussion of a sequence of an event - and if I say "The ball must be dropped from the hand first, and only then will it fall" I am not denying gravity, rather simply describing the logical order in which an event occurs - even though at the moment of letting go the ball is already falling.

Remember the western tradition likes logical descriptions - get the logical order right in the Theology.

3. Well, if you head to my congregation's website you can see what I've written on Church history - I believe I have posted through the year 1000 and almost up to the Reformation - but in terms of writing a definative book on Orthodoxy, well, I'm quite content to read Ware - he's dated and not Lutheran, but I think he does a fine approach and is a good read.

Have a good 2008

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

The decision not to answer the question is perhaps an answer in itself. Also worth pondering.

Did you notice in the passages you cited from Pieper that he did not remain with the forensic metaphor to express himself? I am thinking particularly of his words about forgiveness being the lot, the whole content of the Gospel. But forgiveness does not come from the forensic complex, but from a relational one.

The semantic domains, of course, bleed over into each other because they meld together in our thinking, as the inspired Paul also wrote: "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Two different semantic domains, but the same content. And the content that Pieper and Paul too is concerned about is the gratuitous gift that is our Lord Himself, a gift that explodes every wrapper we try to hold in Him. He's bigger than all our semantic domains, but in love He chooses to reveal Himself to us through such language, and one of the ways He seems to favor (given its preponderance in the NT) is the court lingo. And that was "the chief point" I was seeking to comment on at the head of this long string of posts.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Brown,

1. My first point said nothing against Lutheranism. Hence, it wasn't an attack, and hence it wasn't a straw man.

2. I am not mistruing anything. I am quoting Pieper, who says "not this (medicinal, internal) but this (forensic, external)." Doesn't Chemnitz speak in his _Examen_ on the significance of what he calls "exclusive particles"--expressions which sharpen the significance of another phrase by rejecting its contrary? Well, Pieper speaks in the mode of an exclusive particle here.

Concerning the west's love of logical descriptions, Wordsworth well said,
"Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect."

3. I didn't suggest the need for a definitive book on Orthodoxy, but a definitive book on the Lutheran view of Orthodoxy.

Rev. Weedon,

I have answered the question in the way I wished to answer it.

The "forensic complex," as you call it, is a species of the relational complex.

But these discussions quickly become interminable. That is because the chief problem between the Church and Lutheranism is not verbal or logical. The chief problem is existential. I am content to leave the matter with these words of Khomiakov:

"The difference [between the Church and the western confessions] is so great that it is hardly possible to find one point on which they might agree. It even happens that, the more similar in appearance are the expressions or external forms, the more essential is the difference in their significance."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Interminable indeed. I won't comment on Khomiakov other than to say: sounds silly beyond words to me. But we don't need to discuss it. You and I could write the script back and forth again and again. I didn't initiate this post to argue with you or any other Orthodox, which is why I did not bother to cite Fr. Stephen at the first. It was merely to observe how what in the Scriptures is a key and central way of speaking of our salvation in CHrist (or of your salvation in Christ, if you must) is discounted today across a rather broad spectrum and how that perplexes me.

Hope you enjoy the Feast of the Circumcision and your Lord Jesus stepping under the Law to fulfil it for you in utter perfection and so to be for you your entire righteousness!

Anonymous said...

Oswald Bayer writes: "Those who justify themselves are under compulsion to do so. There is no escape. We cannot reject the question that others put to us: Why have you done this? What were you thinking about? Might you not have done something else? In the other's view of us, and also in our own view, we always find ourselves to be the ones who are already being questioned and who have to answer. Complaints are made against us. We are forced to justify ourselves, and as we do so, we usually want to be right. Before the court of law, what constitutes our whole life is disclosed with particular clarity. THE WORLD OF THE COURT IS NOT A SPECIAL WORLD OF ITS OWN, BUT JUST A PARTICULAR INSTANCE--A VERY STRIKING ONE--OF WHAT IS BEING DONE ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE. [emphasis mine]"

That "everywhere" apparently includes posts and responses on the internet about the place of forensic justification in the life of the Church. The responses to this post seem to be evidence, albeit anecdotal, in favor of Bayer's statement.

Thanks again, Pastor Weedon, for a fine post.

Jim Huffman said...

First, Fr. Gregory, thanks for citing the Khomiakov quote. I hadn't read the collection it's found in, but want to now.

I think it's important -- in a discussion such as this, and likewise in larger considerations -- to not be fooled into imagining our mental constructs to be the reality of a church body, a faith tradition or whatever. Imagining that what we read is what a group is, and especially imagining that our own take on a particular theology or system is the correct one, thus making ourselves inner popes. In other words, we mentally construct an edifice, and (again, mentally) discard what doesn't fit with the edifice, imagining those throw-aways to be inauthentic, when in reality, they may be of the very essence of what the group or system is about.

This is a particular temptation for those like me who have slight intellectual pretensions, because we imagine that our intellectual work is of the essence of things, when the reality is that a confession consists of the whole sphere of worship and creed and hymnody and indeed the whole ethos surrounding and embodying the particular confession.

Anonymous said...

Susan said:
God says He redeemed. God says He justifies. If I don't understood who got paid, I'm not going to fret over it too much. If I don't understand, but still am saying what God says, then I figure I'm on solid ground.


When the Lord says I am the vine, do you worry about the fact that God is actually a vine as in vegetation? Or do you seek the deeper meaning of the language (whether it was a metaphor or anthropormorphism or any other language device)employed?

So in keeping with Scripture alone, God redeemed His people from Egypt. Who did God pay or what transaction if any took place or what civil court held session that we are told of? None, correct? And we know this by Scripture. Why press the metaphor to be the end all, the hallmark, the banner of the deeper context. It is a device of language...the language is not the relationship. Why turn Gods love, mercy and relationship into a court room at every turn.

No one denies the forensic terms are used to help us (with our limited language)look into the mysteries of faith and salvation.

Michael

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Past Elder,

You are right that there are no other, usually deeper and richer, layers of meaning in Christian doctrine that take years of prayer and spiritual direction to acquire. Instead, for anyone who wants them, they are there for the reading -- or the hearing. Your average confirmation class kid could easily grasp most of them if they were presented.

William,

What Fr. Stephen is denying is that the forensic framework is the central one, or the most fundamental or most adequate one in which to cast Christian doctrine. You may disagree with him, but I imagine you are quite familiar with the reasoning, aren't you? So it really needn't be any puzzlement.

Anastasia

William Weedon said...

Anastasia,

It is A chief manner of describing salvation presented in the Sacred Scriptures - and I don't see in Fr. Stephen's treatment anything that acknowledges that. Perhaps he wrote about it elsewhere? In the post you referenced he simply discounts the forensic language as a means of getting at what ails the human race. The puzzlement, however, was not limited to Fr. Stephen, but to any and all who want to downplay to the point of making irrelevant the Biblical teaching and patristic heritage on presenting salvation in forensic language, given the fact that folks who do are not ignorant of the Sacred Scriptures and the way this manner of speaking predominates so much of them.

William Weedon said...

To take Jim's point: then examine how the doctrine of salvation is expressed through the whole of Lutheran hymnody. No doubt you will find the forensic metaphor is frequently used; but less frequently than many might suspect and that it is by no means the only way that salvation is sung, confessed, and prayed. As I pointed out above, study above all the hymn "Dear Christians, One and All" - for this is Luther and the Lutheran Church's fullest expression in hymnody of what has been done for us in Christ - note the sweep of the whole hymn. Take up your LSB and go hunting for the ways that salvation in Christ is sung. You will find that the death/life language so in vogue right now is not at all neglected: "it was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended!" But you will find that the Biblical language of pardon also plays a powerful role. It's balanced without anyone trying to artificially make it so; it's just the way Lutherans confess the faith in our worship.

Fr John W Fenton said...

I understand the irony of those justifying their views on justification. :0

I understand Pr Weedon's initial reticence at referencing Fr Stephen's post because of Pr Weedon's desire to engage a larger discussion, and not necessarily discuss a particular post.

What I don't understand is, now that Fr Stephen has been mentioned and folks are supposing what he means by what he wrote, why he hasn't been asked directly on his blog. It not only seems like the courteous thing to do, but also the best way to continue a meaningful discussion.

fwiw

William Weedon said...

Fr. John,

For myself the answer is simple: because the question is bigger to me than what a single Orthodox priest wrote about. Fr. Stephen is a man of stunning insight, but on this post he's expressed what is actually a quite common view among modern Orthodox, and, as surely you realize, among modern Christians of other confessions. As I just wrote to another person, Pope Benedict XVI could have written what Fr. Stephen wrote - he's come close to it in several books. I'm not interested in discussing a specific posting on a rather common approach in modern Christianity, but rather the broader question of the place of forensic language and metaphor in the Sacred Scriptures. It seems to me to be of such a proportion as to certainly JUSTIFY (couldn't resist) at least asserting that it is A chief way of proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ. FWIW.

Paul T. McCain said...

Pastor Weedon, it's good to know so many EO types are reading your comments; hopefully you give them much to think and ponder on.

And besides you do know that posting things like this does wonders for your site traffic.

William Weedon said...

Paul,

To quote Archy: "Stifle yourself."

Past Elder said...

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

I'm going to have to turn in my doctorate. It must be beyond my grasp. As a recovering academic, it would be a "slip" to engage in who said what about who said what, so I'll just say this: if the reason I need a Redeemer is that I am a sinner under condemnation from the Law, how else but forensic should the primary description be of my redemption?

Can't help but think of a favourite line from Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading: academics -- they themselves no longer think, but only think about what others have thought.

To say it another way -- I just don't find being guilty as hell as charged and someone posting my bond and vouching for me all that hard to grasp. When you're guilty as charged, which I am, it ain't that hard to get a hold of, and is real good news, not "mere" at all, when you'd otherwise be in the slam waiting for your sentence to be carried out.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Rollitos!

orrologion said...

Perhaps I am a little addled when it comes to language having used and misused it, and trained on the Bard's inegenous uses of words in constantly unexpected and new ways, but forensic, legal or merit language need not actually be about legalities and accounting. If I sacrifice myself for a cause, I didn't sacrifice myself to anyone or anything, for instance. A secret service agent sacrifices himself for the President by throwing himself in front of a bullet; but he isn't sacrificing himself to the assassin, to death, to America, etc. It's simply a way of speaking. Beauty pagent judges and 4H judges and judges for various academic and humanities prizes are not judging in the same way an American judge in a capital case judges. I would bet the same can be said of OT and 1st century judges such as Pilate or the Emperor. Judging isn't always about determining the facts, but about stating what is fair and wise sometimes even regardless of the facts, guilt or innocence. It seems quite clear that whatever 'debt' we owe or 'guilt' we have, they have been forgiven. We tend to try and make sense of this by determining how the debt was paid off or the guilt atoned for, but the word forgiven is quite clear - so clear, we can't really accept it. If Christ has forgiven our sins then no one paid for it - if someone paid for it or atoned for it then we aren't forgiven, we are paid for. The fact that Christ died for us doesn't mean he paid our debt or our guilt, it means he sacrificed himself by taking the bullet meant for us, for us.

Where it then gets confusing is in how we react to that. We react to that read of the words used in Tradition (written and unwritten per Paul) based on our understanding of what salvation is - what we are saved by Christ for. This also gets into how we understand our pre- and post-lapsarian states, our pre- and post- Incarnation and pre- and post-Paschal states, our pre- and post-faith or baptismal states. There is a long line of assumptions that we all simply take to be "what the Bible says" or "what the Fathers say", "what Church history tells us", etc. In the end, if you want to be a Lutheran or a Roman Catholic or Orthodox you will fit the facts to meet your desire. If you want to be a minister or a priest, to go to seminary or to see that your seminary training was not a waster, if you want to minister in a 'canonical' or 'non-canonical' or 'confessional', etc. church, you will fit the facts to meet your desire. If you want to have a peaceful family where you and your wife and all your kids go to the same church, receive from the same cup, sing the same songs and quote the same things from the Bible, history or patristics, then you will fit the facts to meet your desire. Our logic is often fitted to our gut as is being pointed out by political psychologists (I'll post the link to the NYTimes article).

In the end, these arguments are useful insofar as they help our heads catch up with our hearts/guts. I think we can all agree that conversations such as these - even those in catechesis classes and one on one - do not convert anyone. Unfortunately, we all like to think they do because that means we are special and unique and 'powerful'. We can all agree that it is only ever the Holy Spirit that converts - whether that be a Lutheran who wants to be Orthodox or RC or Assemblies of God and is seeking for arguments to make that a plausible action to take, or vice versa; or from belief to unbelief, Christianity to Buddhism, etc. Let's just keep this in mind as we pretent to offer airtight arguments for what our gut is telling us and against what someone else's gut is telling them. We are a load of miserable, blind sinners that can't tell our nous from our reasoning brain from our soul from our spirit from our heart from our spleen. It's a wonder we believe in anything - well, actually, it's a miracle and we'll be judged according to what we have been given - at least, that's what the Fathers say.

More prayer, less talk; or, we should all talk less to each other about God and more to God about each other. It is also absolutely necessary to preach the Gospel - when necessary use words.

I knew exactly what kind of fish I'd find in this barrel.

There have been a couple of comments like this and I think it is worth noting that the reason so many lurkers comment on this type of post is that they don't have any business posting on purely Lutheran posts. Friends of Pr. Weedon we are, but keep to ourselves when our input isn't pertinent. I'm sure we would all stop posting in toto should Bill ask us to.

orrologion said...

Another way to put the question regarding our use of forensic, legal, sacrificial language in the OT and NT is to ask ourselves whether we are judging their use based on our understanding, or on what has been revealed through Christ. That is, do we explain Christ's sacrifice through the lens of the OT sacrifices, or the OT sacrifices through the lens of Christ's sacrifice? And do we bring the mind (lens) of the early Church to our reading of Christ's sacrifice, or do we skip over their errors and pronounce our own infallible reading of Holy Scripture? I think we err greatly and assume we are less degenerate and sinful than most of us believe our race to be if we assume we come to any text free of bias, understand most of what is shared and alluded to, and can actually comprehend what "it clearly states".

So, figure out what you want to be, and figure out a way to be that.

The NYTimes article I mentioned previous is “Counseling Democrats to Go for the Gut” by Patricia Cohen in the July 10, 2007 Arts section. The article discusses the psychological findings of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” (PublicAffairs) by Drew Westen, a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlana.

For more, see:

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2007/07/justification-for-what-we-already.html

and/or:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/arts/10west.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Anonymous said...

"And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."

William Weedon said...

God bless you, Christopher, for your wise and utterly sane words. To summarize your point about the language, I'll quote my dear Dr. Nagel: "When any word [or any metaphor!] is in Christ it is a new creation; the old has past away, the new has come!" We don't force what has been accomplished and is being accomplished in and through Lord into ANY single way of thinking about it - we recognize that He fills them all and spills out of them all and makes them all witnesses to the Gift that He is.

Pr. Lehmann said...

I'm not saying anything new, but I'm going to say it anyway.

There is no "mere" in the judicial way of speaking of the atonement. If there is, then I suppose I'll live with it anyway, because I'm "merely" speaking in one of the ways Paul speaks, and since he's "merely" an apostle writing "merely" under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I guess that'll be good enough for me.

The fact is that the forgiveness of sins is enough because it's everything. We don't have to go about saying, "Well, you get the forgiveness of sins in this passage but you get adoption as sons in this one." When you receive the forgiveness of sins, you receive life and salvation. You receive EVERYTHING. To speak of the Gospel judicially is not to exclude adoption, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or whatever other biblical metaphor for salvation you want to mention.

Rather, when we confess the forgiveness of sins, we are confessing EVERYTHING, because when you have received forgiveness you have received EVERYTHING.

The reason that many balk at this sort of language is that they don't like what Paul is saying. They don't like that we are damnable sinners who need to be forgiven. They don't like that God is a righteous judge who will send us to hell if we remain outside of His Son.

The scandal of justification is none other than the scandal of the Gospel itself.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Did you learn that from Pr. Weedon, Pr. Lehmann, that God sends people to hell? Or did you learn that in seminary?

Do the other Lutherans here agree with this statement?

Anastasia

Anonymous said...

pr. lehmann

God was forgiving/forgave Adam and Eve before, during and after the fall. Sins were forgiven even before Christ died and rose...were they not?

Or do you mean to say that God could not, would not, and did not forgive until Christ died and rose?

I wasnt aware that it was God who "sends" us to hell either, interesting

Susan said...

A quote from David Scaer in a 1999 Modern Reformation article:

The article on Christ in the Augsburg Confession anticipates justification, and the article on justification is thoroughly Christological in that it directs Christ's benefits to believers. Lutherans had little or no quarrel with Rome's Christology. The problem was that, by insisting that salvation was by faith and works, Rome was taking away with one hand what it had given with the other.

A wee bit more of the article is available and the whole article is contained in a book which will go on sale later this month. (Sorry about the "commercial," but the quote just seems so appropriate.)

William Weedon said...

Anastasia,

Pastor Lehmann learned that from our Lord. You have only to ponder His words in Matthew 18:34-35; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30, 41. There are many others, but that's certainly enough to make clear that our Lord speaks of sending people to hell.

Dear Anon,

If God has loved us in Christ from before the foundation of the world, the key word is always "in Christ." In Him there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins. All the sins that God forgave in the OT were forgiven in view of Christ's sacrificial death; likewise all those that are forgiven now. All things are out from the Cross. "He made Him who had no sin to BE sin for us that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

William Weedon said...

Susan,

Well, Scaer. You know how it is with him. All theology is Christology. It's always all about Jesus. God bless Dr. Scaer!

Anonymous said...

Fr John W Fenton said...
I understand the irony of those justifying their views on justification. :0

Father Fenton,
I plead guilty to the smart-alec nature of my comments. That aspect of my comments wasn't helpful. Thank you for calling me on it. I really was *trying* to make what I consider to be an important observation. The point being that there is an enormous amount of forensic language and activity in the Holy Scriptures and there is so much of it going on in our daily lives, that it seems next to impossible to over-emphasize the forensic nature of the Gospel and our need for the forensic justification which the Gospel brings. That was the point I was trying to make. Whether or not my observation is helpful to this conversation is an entirely different matter. Obviously, I think so.

On a very related note...I seem to remember that you recently wrote a paper concerning the atonement. You took issue with the Lutheran understanding of the wrath of God and the nature of the atonement. I either read this paper or portions of it. It is foggy in my mind right now. Does my memory serve me well here? If so, is this paper something you have posted on the web so that others can read it. I'd like to read it (again?) as I'm trying to get my mind around what many in the modern Orthodox church believe about such things. TIA for your help.

Tom Fast

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon,

Thankyou. I was thinking that being forgiven isnt "everything", that is, we need to be more than forgiven. Both death and sin needed to be defeated. I understand that all is connected but it seemed that if one concentrates only upon being forgiven, then all the other aspects of our salvation become a sort of footnote.

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

Forgiveness is everything if we remember that forgiveness isn't a "thing" but God Himself coming to us in grace and mercy in such a way that our sins are wiped out but we are not. Because forgiveness is God's loving advent to us, it is everything indeed, for He is all. Does that make any sense?

Susan said...

Pr Weedon wrote: "Forgiveness is everything if we remember that forgiveness isn't a 'thing' but..."

Not only that that is real, but that it is DECLARED. In other words, it's irrelevant as to whether I feel it or experience it or sense it. It is true because God has declared it to be true. So even when I don't feeeel like I'm experiencing it, the forensic nature of it means that it is nevertheless valid and effective, and that I am experiencing it.

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon,

It makes sense yet is death the problem or sin? Does forgiveness include restoration of nature? It seems Christ needed to be born (nature united), die (forgiveness) and resurrect (death defeated) to heal our nature completely. If anyone of these are missing, we are not fully redeemed...no? Thats why Im thinking forgiveness isnt "everything".

William Weedon said...

I think to ask: do we die because we're sinners or are we sinners because we're dying is to miss the point of the unity of sin and death.

If we think of death as separation from God, turning away from God to ourselves, isn't that the very essence of sin? So, I think I'm remembering this correctly, Fr. Reardon wrote that death is sin made visible. And of course, it works the other way round too. Sin is actually death in hiding.

If God alone is our life and we die without that life and sin is cutting ourselves from that life - then forgiveness of sin IS the overcoming of death, for God comes to us in grace and mercy to bring us into communion with Himself and that IS life - eternal life.

William Weedon said...

Susan,

I've been trying to hunt down the quote and my memory is failing me. I thought it was in Koenker, but if it is I can't locate it. I *thought* he said something along the lines of:

The Law of God condemns me even when I feel righteous; and the Gospel of God forgives me even when I feel guilty.

That glorious objective nature of the gift is an absolute anchor for the storm-tossed soul!

William Weedon said...

Oh, Anon, I don't dispute for one second that the healing of human nature required the lot: incarnation and paschal mystery and everything in between! The paschal mystery itself discloses the unity of the forgiveness of sin and the victory of His life over our death.

Susan said...

Pr Weedon quoted:
The Law of God condemns me even when I feel righteous; and the Gospel of God forgives me even when I feel guilty.

Oooooh. Thanks for pointing that out!


Anonymous (at 6:31 pm) wrote --
It seems Christ needed to be born (nature united), die (forgiveness) and resurrect (death defeated) to heal our nature completely. If anyone of these are missing, we are not fully redeemed...no?

But none CAN be missing. Jesus' death is not something separate from His resurrection. His resurrection was an unavoidable consequence of the atonement. The wages of sin is death. If the problem of sin has been overcome, there can be no death. Jesus' blood atones for sin, so there is no longer "the wages of sin," so there is no death, so it is impossible for death to have held Him. EVERYTHING good from God (resurrection and new life and adoption and healing and every other "metaphor") is an outgrowth, a result, a consequence, of the forgiveness of sins. That's why some of us believe that "forgiveness is everything."

William Weedon said...

Amen, Susan. And one can't help but think of how the Apostles spoke in Acts with forgiveness in the crowning place:

Acts 5:31
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 10:43
To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 13:38
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thank you, Jim, for seeing the point of my last post. If the crisis is existential, then no amount of verbal juggling will change it.

I, for one, find no delight in what I see happening in the place which nurtured me and first taught me of Christ. (The recent video by one of Rev. Weedon's neighbors is just the latest sympton of the disease.) That place means much to me; but in the end, it is not Church, and in the end, I am where I am because I found the fullness of him who fills all things, the bride and body of Christ, the Church, right where she's always been.

From a historical point of view, to remain in the protestant confession is to endorse the rightness of the Roman confession in its dispute with the Church. The Reformers were right in recognizing the flaws of the Roman confession--flaws which, historically, arose after it separated from the Church. In their time, reunion with the Church would have been nearly impossible, given the historical circumstances (particularly the Turkokratia). That circumstance has now changed. And that is why, for me, to take the Lutheran confessional writings seriously was to find them a bridge to the Church. While I took them as a basis for verbal juggling, all was well. (Only when I tried to live them out existentially was I painfully made aware that the body they describe--not only a parochial but also a trans-parochial entity-- doesn't exist.)

On the Last Day, there will be no test of formulae (as important as those formulae are), no "what did you know about Me?" There will only be "Come, beloved" or "I never knew you," and that will be revealed by whether we fed the poor, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, finding Christ in the least of his brethren. May the Lord be merciful to me, a sinner and unworthy man, on that dread Day!

To my Lutheran friends: try to be the best Lutherans you can be. Try to live as if the body described in the Lutheran confessional writings actually existed where you are. Rebuke in your midst, for example, the errors it rejects--not in bombastic posts on anonymous blogs, but by following the procedures agreed to in your midst. Live as if pastors had the right to excommunicate. Press forward in the appropriate way with those who practice lay absolution etc. (Please forgive me for bringing these things up--I do so only to illustrate what I mean by trying to live as if the body described in those confessional writings actually exists, instead of mere verbal juggling. The Black Knight in _Holy Grail_ went on talking, even after his arms and legs were gone.)

To my Orthodox brothers and sisters: when Lutherans quote from our fathers, even though they do not understand them; when Lutherans display icons in their houses, churches, and blogs--they raise little signposts to the Church, whether they mean to or not. If the crisis in the western confessions of faith is as Khomiakov set it forth over 100 years ago, then perhaps the best thing we can do is to heed the words of Patriarch Jeremias II to their ancestors: "Therefore we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians of the Church in a different manner. You honor and exalt them in words, but you reject them in deeds. For you try to prove our weapons which are their holy and divine discourses as unsuitable. And it is with these documents that we would have to write and contradict you. Thus, as for you, please release us from these cares. Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship's sake. Farewell."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory, I think you have demonstrated with utter clarity what the loss of Scripture's forensic teaching finally brings about. May the Lord indeed have mercy on all poor souls who imagine they must or can pass muster on that dread Day by what their deeds have wrought! Did you not notice that in that wondrous parable there is not one act of kindness remembered as done by those set on the left? How is that possible? And conversely not one sin is remembered of those set on the right? How is that possible? Why does God remember and reward only the kindness of the sheep and nothing of the kindness of the goats? Ponder that, my friend, lest it bring you in the end to despair instead of the certain and joyful hope that God would have you live and die in and so live forevermore.

Jim Huffman said...

Fr. Gregory,

I appreciate your kind words. But please understand that while I'm primarily talking to Lutherans about our view of Lutheranism (because that's where I am now), I'm also addressing the words to Orthodoxy and views on Orthodoxy, especially my own views of Orthodoxy.

I have a high and respectful view of Orthodox, but it's a view almost completely uninformed by contact with Orthodox parishes. In my area (North Carolina) Orthodoxy is a guard post of ethnicity, mostly Greek. A friend who is both Greek and Orthodox kindly discouraged my visiting the local GO parish because -- as she put it -- "they're all about maintaining Greek culture." (Even she -- who thinks it's a problem -- refers to it as "the Greek church").

All of which I say without meaning to attack. It's just that when Orthodox parishes -- in broad swaths of the US -- are seen as ethnic enclaves to which even friendly visitors who don't share that ethnicity are discouraged from visiting, it's a problem. I read and respect Schmemann and other such men, but I don't know a way out of this box.

Paul said...

Pr. Weedon said:

I think you have demonstrated with utter clarity what the loss of Scripture's forensic teaching finally brings about. May the Lord indeed have mercy on all poor souls who imagine they must or can pass muster on that dread Day by what their deeds have wrought!



I suppose Im lost here. Is our relationship with God that of a man out on parole before a magistrate and with Jesus as the man's attorney pleading his case because the man was arrested for some alleged crime? And this plays out over and over again?

Is this our God? Is this the forensic understanding of Scripture that we should be holding to?

Is our relationship with the Father based on how much knowledge (correct i.e.) we have of Him or what we have done to/for the least of our brothers?

Don't the parables speak to the heart of the person within the story and what they *did*, i.e., what actions they took which revealed their hearts... not what they knew?

Paul

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

Huh?

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

orrologion said...

Paul, it was exactly those questions that started bothering me the more I read Scripture. The Law & Gospel distinction was dear to me and I loved Walther, but I always had a hard time seeing it in the Bible - though I fully trusted it was there due to the explications given by Walther, the BoC, etc. When I just started reading the Bible regulary beginning to end - ashamed to say I had never done it - i just found too much that didn't fit into the declared righteous for Christ's sake paradigm. I found much more of the when you clothed and fed the least of these, you clothed me - enter in the Kingdom. At the same time, there wasn't an 'earn your way to heaven' option there either. I found that the paradigm of works or faith (cuz that's what it really boils down to regardless of a proper stress on sancrification) seemed to be an overlay.

In the end, we bring our desires and preferences and intellectual biases and categories to the Bible and see what we want to see. I've been working on a project interviewing 'progressive Christians' for a UCC church and have been amazed at their use of Scripture - very different than what I see. Unfortunately, when you mix sola Scriptura (giving Church history and tradition [context] no real place at the table) with an assumption that the Bible is clear and understandable by any and all together with our sinful tendency to worship false gods (idols, yes, but also our ideations of God and religion)... well, most of us end up worshiping something/one other than the true God staying in or converting to churches that reflect who/what our true gods are (spouse, family, culture, language, aesthetics, the poor, the smart, the important, schedule, paycheck, being right, being elite, being different, etc.)

Susan said...

Robb (aka Father Gregory) wrote --
On the Last Day, there will be no test of formulae, no "what did you know about Me?" There will only be "Come, beloved" or "I never knew you," and that will be revealed by whether we fed the poor, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, finding Christ in the least of his brethren.

A couple of weeks ago, Pr Fenton asked on his blog, "Why are you not Orthodox?" And I think Robb touched on a portion of my answer. If I were to become Orthodox, I would be turned toward my works and my efforts. And my efforts will damn me. So IF the Orthodox Church truly is the Church as he says, I'm lost and hopeless whether I am in it or out of it. As I hear him, Pr Hogg is offering to me a religion where I wish for a God who is merciful to sinners. I need a religion where God's work has been done, finished, completed, and is certain, and where His holiness is declared and imputed to me with all surety. Because if Robb is right, I'm lost whether I agree with him or not; I cannot go to Judgment Day and stand on my merits.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Susan, there has been a huge misunderstanding. Orthodoxy does not expect anyone to stand before Christ, the Judge, on merits! As you say, in such a case, we'd all be sunk.

Anastasia

John Hogg said...

FWIW, I'm not sure that either of the two of you who responded to what my dad wrote really read what he said. He never said that we stand before Christ on the basis of our merits.

He said, "and that will be revealed by whether we fed the poor, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, finding Christ in the least of his brethren."

He didn't say that our good works or the lack thereof are what saves or condemns us at all. He said that it is revealed in them, which is very Scriptural. Reread the passage of Scripture that my dad was quoting.

Or reread St. James.

In Christ,
John

William Weedon said...

Susan,

You nailed exactly what captivated my attention as well.

Christopher,

You know your St. Paul and your Chrysostom better than that, I should think. Go back and read Romans and Galatians and then read the great Golden-mouth's homilies on the same. Throw Philippians in there too.

Paul,

Where on earth did you get such a notion from about "forensic"? God has a law. He has given it to us by writing upon our hearts (Romans 1) and upon the stones of the Ten Commandments and above all by our Lord's explication of the same in Matthew 5. This Law boils down very simply to the command to love. Not with some piece of you and for part of the time. In His Law God commands that you love Him with all you've got all the time, without fail, and that you thus love your neighbor as yourself. Do you do this? The Law promises eternal life to those who do, but the Holy Spirit is very clear that "whoever keeps the whole law, and stumbles in one point is guilty of all." Have you stumbled at one point? You are guilty of all. And thus the Law shuts up every mouth and silences it before God, taking away everything by which we may boast. "No one will be justified by the works of the law" says St. Paul and Chrysostom concurs as you can see in the original piece on this thread. But don't stop there - read him everywhere on the matter of faith and justification! As the Apostle taught us, by the Law is the knowledge of sin. But then God reveals to us a righteousness that is apart from the law - that is, from our keeping of the law - even though the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures bear witness to it. This righteousness is the gift of His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. This gift of divine amnesty God extends to all and wish for all to receive it, that is, to believe and trust in all that His Son has accomplished and done for us so as to be our righteousness. As the prophet Jeremiah foretold: "The Lord IS our righteousness" and the Apostle Paul wrote: "Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption." Those who believe in the Son have eternal life; those who do not, will not see life, but the wrath of God abides (sic!) on them. They've rejected the only means by which they might be rescued. The Lord gives you forgiveness of sin, and with that He also gives the gift of ceasing from sin by the advent of the Holy Spirit. They don't come separate, they come together. But the ceasing from sin which the Holy Spirit begins in your life will not be complete this side of the grave (though it is to grow constantly) with the result that we must, to quote St. Augustine, "remain under God's pardon to the end lest we attribute too much to ourselves." As a Lutheran Christian, I have the joy of a Christ who has borne my sins and the sins of all the world, who became a curse for me upon the tree, who was made sin for me that in Him I might become the righteousness of God. In Him I am given a righteousness perfect, entire and whole, and pure gift, for He gives me Himself and I get to grow in Him every day until I die and all remnants of my old nature are left behind for good.

That's what I believe as a Lutheran. How does it fit with your idea of forensic? Our Creator who is our loving Father couldn't show His love for us any more deeply than in the gift of His Son to fulfill for us a perfect righteousness and confer upon us the joy of becoming by grace what He is by nature.

Fr. Gregory,

Just think about the questions I asked. Please.

John Hogg said...

It is, at the same time, true that:

"It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves"

and

"Whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow Me cannot be my disciple"

If you see the second of the two as works-righteousness, you are not reading the Scriptures in accordance with the mind of the Church, the body of Christ, and are missing the theology of the Cross, as well as the understanding of what it is to become one with Christ by grace.

Our salvation is a free gift, the very self-gift of God. But the God who gives Himself to us and "abides in us and we in Him," is the same God who is humble of heart, and who took the form of a servant and was not ashamed of death, even the death of a Cross.

To say that taking up our cross matters is not to embrace works-righteousness theology. For when we turn away from our Cross, whether for love of money, pleasure, or even our own family (cf. Christ's words in the Gospel), we turn away from the God who freely gives Himself to us (cf. 1st John).

Glory to God for His patience with us, and with me most of all, that He continually and lovingly calls us to Himself, awaiting our return.

In Christ Jesus,
John

William Weedon said...

Dear John,

Why would you think anyone would see the second as "self-righteous"? To deny self, take up the cross and follow Christ - that is the very cruciform shape of the Christian's life in this world - but it is NOT the Christian's righteousness. That righteousness is Him alone, which is why we follow Him in the first place. The death of self-will is the very nature of being His disciple, of sharing in His life. He teaches us to pray together: "Thy will be done" to His all-holy Father and that always means "not MY will be done." And the greatest expression of that Divine Will as it is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures is that we cease all confidence in ourselves and trust entirely in Him who was sent to be our Righteousness, Life, and Salvation.

William Weedon said...

And I should add, that is what frees us to love, to truly love, our neighbor. Then I'm not "using" them as a way to win the approval of God, but simply loving them as freely as I have been loved in Him.

John Hogg said...

Why would I think that? Because when my dad mentioned Christ's words, people said that he was suggesting that we stand or fall based on our own merits. Really, what he said was no different than what the Bible itself teaches.

I don't think I, or any of the other Orthodox here, have suggested that we have a righteousness of our own, apart from Christ's.

Nor have we suggested that we love others as a way to win God's approval. Where are you getting that idea?

That would be silly. You can't bargain with God. What on earth could we do or have or be to make deals with God? Everything, absolutely everything, is His already, including the love that we give and receive.

We don't embrace the Cross or our neighbor so that we can earn something from God. We embrace it because Christ abides in and through His grace makes us what He is by nature.

When people speak of being made, by Grace, like Him, sometimes I think we understand that wrongly, and have an exalted image of what that means. But God was not in the thunder, but in the still small voice. To be made like Christ, is to be made, by grace, meek and humble. To be made like Christ is, finally, to be nailed to a Cross.

There is no other way. St. John the Theologian speaks of this beautifully in his first epistle.

In Christ,
John

William Weedon said...

John,

No time for a detailed response at the moment - Eucharist and then a house blessing coming up. But I would invite your thoughts on these words that Dr. Luther wrote to an Augustinian Friar named Spenlein in 1516, cited in Walther's *Law and Gospel* p. 109-110:

I wish to know the condition of your heart, whether you have at last come to loathe your own righteousness and desire to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ and to be of good cheer because of it. For in these days the temptation to presumptuousness is very strong, particularly among those who strive with might and main to be righteous and godly and do not know of the altogether immaculate righteousness of God which is freely given us in Christ.

As a result of this they are searching for something good in themselves until they become confident that they can pass muster before God as people who are properly adorned with virtuous and meritorious deeds, - all of which is impossible.

While you were with us, you held this opinion, or rather this error, just as I did. For my part, I am still wrestling with this error and am not quite rid of it yet.

Therefore, my dear brother, learn Christ - Christ crucified. Learn to sing praises to Him and to despair utterly of your own works. Say to Him: Thou, my Lord Jesus, art my Righteousness; I am Thy sin. Thou hast taken from me what is mine and given me what is Thine. Thou didst become what Thou wert not and madest me to be what I was not. Beware of your ceaseless striving after a righteousness so great that you no longer appear as a sinner in your eyes and do not want to be a sinner.

For Christ dwells only in sinners. He came down from heaven, where He dwelt only with the righteous, for the very purpose of dwelling with sinners also. Ponder this love of His and you will realize the sweetest consolation.

For if we must achieve rest of conscience by our own toil and worry, for what purpose did He die? Therefore you are to find peace in Him by a hearty disdain of yourself and your own works. And now that He has received you, has made your sins His and His righteousness yours, learn also from Him firmly to believe this, as behooves you; for cursed is everyone who does not believe this.

John Hogg said...

I ask again: Where are you getting the idea that any of us believe that we must try to stand or fall before Christ based on our own merits?

I'm honestly confused. What was it in what any of us have written that you took to be speaking of us as earning our salvation or of us having a righteousness alien from that of Christ?

I, for my part, am not saying, stating, or implying anything of the sort.

It is Christ who saves us. It is purely His doing.

At the same time, the Christ who dwells and abides in us is the same Christ who willingly suffered the shame of the Cross for the sake of the joy that was set before Him.

When St. James says that faith without works is dead, he isn't saying that our works somehow give us bargaining chips with which to make deals with God.

Nor, for that matter, is St. Paul, when he says that each of us will appear at the judgment and receive what is due to us for the good or evil done while in the body.

While they aren't preaching works righteousness or the idea that we can somehow justify ourselves before God, there words are Sacred Scripture, given to the Church by the Living Spirit who indwells her, and should be taken into account.

Our works could never save us. However, if we run from the Cross, we cannot be Christ's disciples, because to run from the Cross is to run from Christ.

Likewise, when we despise the poor or the widows or orphans, or hate our brother, or lie, or steal, we cannot take comfort in claiming that what we do doesn't matter, because Christ saves us. In order to be forgiven of our hardheartedness, we must repent.

Do you believe in salvation apart from the Cross? Do you believe in forgiveness apart from repentance?


I commend to your prayer and thoughtful reflection the wonderful writings of St. Mark the Monk on this topic:
http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2006/02/on-those-who-think-they-are-made.html

Forgive me for my many offenses and any way in which I have grieved you.

Grace and peace,
John

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon,

I thank you for your solicitude for my salvation. If you look at the post to which you've been responding, you'll note that I said our salvation will be *revealed* by, not *caused* by, what we do with Christ in the least of his brethren. That is the point of the Lord's use of "for": "For I was hungry and you fed me..." Your beef is with Him, not with me.

It was never the Orthodox Church, but the Roman confession, which spoke of merit to our works. The Church teaches that there is no merit before God. If there is no merit, then there can be no thought of gaining salvation by works. (Nor, of course, is there salvation without works. When Christ says, "I was hungry and you fed me," he is not making something up.)

Remove good works from the courtroom and transfer them to the hospital, and they are seen properly. A patient does not do physical therapy to merit anything; he does it to help improve his health. He works together with the doctor. If he does not do the therapy, he does not improve; but if he does it, he does not say "I have earned better health," but rather gives thanks to God and to those who have helped him.

But enough of this now. I reject the calumny that Orthodoxy teaches salvation based on works. Where there is no merit, there all is by mercy. I also reject the delusion that there can be salvation without works. Where there is no activity, there is death, not life.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

"Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken."--St. Mark the Ascetic

Luke 14:25-27 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Fr Gregory

(First a little side since I've been away - there is a common Orthodox attack on the idea of Sola Scriptura - as was also stated here later on. However, that is a poor understanding of the Lutheran approach to Scripture and not useful in a discussion, no more than it is to say that Orthodox are mere works righteous self-savers. That's the point).

This point boils down to the point at issue and why Lutherans cling to the forensic which is downplayed. I of myself am guilty of breaking the Law - if I am not declared innocent (forgiven) then what else matters? Nothing in my life amounts to anything.

However, when I am forgiven, what am I? I am innocent. I am free (freedom in all its forms flows from being set free by Christ). I am declared to be Righteous by God - and the God who speaks and calls all things into existence, well, His Word is still powerful - and I am made righteous. Indeed, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!

And so it is only in light of the fact that I have be justified, that I have been forgiven (only possible because I have been forgiven) that I am in any way able to do that which is pleasing to God - that I am able to do anything which reveals me to be one of God's sheep. Only having recieved the benefits of the Cross am I able to take it up in my daily life - which is important. If I deny my own cross, I deny Christ's cross and instead declare to God "I'd rather be judged guilty and go to hell than rely upon You." We know that it is not we who live but Christ who lives in us - yet if we reject our duties as Christians, we reject and evict Him who lived in us.

The whole point of forensic is that there is no need of personal merit on my part - any thing that would need to be merited is done by Christ - merit has nothing to do with me. Now, is there no such thing as merit before God. The Son pleases the Father - the Son does that which is Righteous (indeed, all righteousness is fulfilled). I think these tend towards the concept of "merit".

Of course, if one wanted to one could argue that both the Lutheran position (that Christ has done any an all things which are to be merited) and your claim that there is no point in any merit language at all are both reactions to the errs of Rome. (Would the East say "there is no merit" if not in response to Rome's erroneous claims about humans meriting salvation?)
. This is one of the cases where I think the heresy has given rise to a clearer statement of the truth of God's Word - just as errs on the Godhead gave rise to the terminology of the Trinity, or just as errors on the Person of Christ gave rise to the 1 Person, 2 Natures language.

My personal take (strongly influenced by Pelikan, of all people), is that at some point after the 8th Century the East became so tired of dealing with heresy that the trend came to reject any type of language not used prior to the date. I think that is wrong. If the East had taken that stance in 200 AD, they would not use the term "Trinity" or "Triune". If they had taken it 400, they would not have had the clarity of Chalcedon. I find that throughout her history the Church responds to heresy not by simply ignoring the language and terminology introduced but by rejecting a poor usage of it and explaining how it is rightly to be used (because 98 of the time, the terminology comes or is based on something ripped poorly out of Scripture).

Of course, if the West had to deal with Centuries of people saying, "Well, about about we call Jesus Mono-(fill in the blank)?" we might have simply said, "That's enough, no new terminology from anyone anymore!"

William Weedon said...

Dear Fr. Gregory and John,

I've been pondering how best to respond to your comments. Let me get at them by going back to a story that Fr. Gregory used to like to tell. It was about one of the desert fathers. He was by all accounts a holy and wise man. And yet as death drew near he kept pleading for more time to repent and I think his words were "I do not even know if I have begun to repent."

I think this story illustrates what disturbs Lutherans about the way that Orthodox speak of salvation. We hear that merit is excluded (our merit) and we rejoice. We hear that the merit of Christ is excluded as well (and we scratch our heads...). But we hear such things as this story about the desert father and we really wonder what has become of St. John's saying: "I write these things to you that you may KNOW that you have eternal life and this life is in His Son!"

Does the Orthodox Christian KNOW that he has eternal life? Does the Orthodox Christian live in the joy of God's certain remission of all sins in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ?

Note, that I am not denying that any Christian may fall into unbelief and turn from the path of repentance; hence the constant warning against carnal security in our Symbols and theologians. [And as an aside, obviously the teaching of the Lutheran Church is that no one can remain in mortal sin and retain saving faith - we do not belief that such "faith" that a person would claim is anything but dead and a delusion] But for the Christian who IS living in repentance and struggling daily against the flesh by the Spirit's power - can such a one know that they HAVE eternal life?

You see, when I read what you wrote, Fr. Gregory, I wondered if (and hoped I was wrong) when you stand before the Judgment Seat of our Lord if you would be reminding him of the times you fed the Lord in the poor, etc. In the parable, the righteous are unaware of them. Lord, when did we see you hungry? The good works were indeed done, and the Lord cites them as evidence that we know Him, but we do not cite them as evidence. Our only plea is that You, Lamb of God, have suffered and died for the sins of the world and you have borne fully the judgment of Your own Law against my sin and You have cleansed me with Your washing in Baptism and have promised me life forever with You in the gift of Your body and blood. You alone, O Lord, are my confidence. In Your righteousness alone, is all my hope.

Does that make any sense? Once again, to go back to the point of the original post, it seems that without the forensic imagery (how do you have judgment without it?), it is possible to lose the joy of that "not guilty" verdict in Christ that frees us from both the terror of the Law's accusations and impels as (as Pr. Brown so eloquently wrote) to the good works which are God's evidence of our faith on the Last Day.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Brown,

Briefly:

1. Reader Christopher Orr has dealt nicely with what you call 'the' Lutheran approach to Scripture. I need add nothing.

2. The Church's position is not a reaction to the errors of the Roman confession. Rome's errors are a falling away from the Church. So the Church says "no merit" because it has never claimed merit. The text of St. Mark the Ascetic, from the 4th century, testifies that long before the scholastics, the Church denied merit.

3. The Church has not developed new terminology after the 7th council because she hasn't needed to. Those errors which assaulted her since that time (Barlaamism) were western transplants which she rejected.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon said:
Does the Orthodox Christian KNOW that he has eternal life?



How could they not? Have you attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and other hours of prayer?

It seems certain that one must participate in the salvation secured by our Lord. If this participation is not free, then are we not automatons?

If a dwelling has been secured and given to/for a homeless person (free of charge), what good is this new dwelling if the homeless person does not move in? And what happens if this new tenet, once moved in does not maintain the home with the help of the one who freely gave it? It will surely fall to ruin...no?


I often wonder...Did God impose a penalty, a punishment upon Adam and Eve for their pride/disobedience, i.e. death? Or was this a natural consequence of their actions, not some legal pronouncement and penalty?

With this I consider whether or not this colors our understanding of the forensic terms we hear in Scripture?


So I keep wondering

Christine said...

Hmmm.

Well, I am Catholic but I certainly don't look to my own merits for salvation. I am more than mindful of the Lord's words that even when I have done all that I am commanded I am still an unprofitable servant.

On the other hand, except for the most extreme views are there really any Christians who don't actively live out their faith in works of love?

Martin Luther was fond of saying that faith is a "lively and active thing" and the Lutheran community in my neck of the woods may have some theological differences among the various bodies but they all join in (LCMS included) in running homeless shelters, facilities for troubled youth, hunger centers, prison ministries -- I would daresay they are fulfilling Matthew 25 quite nicely.

And what Lutheran (or Orthodox, or Catholic) parish doesn't extend itself on behalf of others in the works of mercy they offer?

Are we perhaps not seeing the greater picture here?

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

The words of the monk were, I believe, "I have not even begun to repent."

However, if you see that as despair, you are misreading it. It is, rather, humility. If you read the Brothers Karamazov, in the part where Elder Zosima tells the story of his brother who died of an illness, you'll see much the same theme, as well as the joy that goes along with it.

Basically, that story, along with the saying of St. Isaac the Syrian that, "This life has been given to you for repentance. Do not waste it on other things," underline a patristic theme present also in Martin Luther. Indeed, the first of the 95 Theses was that, "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent', He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Indeed, repentance must be the life of the believer, because to repent (metanoia) is to turn to God. And it is not unbiblical to say, with St. John the Baptist, that we should bring forth fruits befitting repentance. To say that is merely to be Biblical.

If you saw works-righteousness when you read what my dad wrote, it is the Scriptures that make you uncomfortable, and not my dad. Nowhere did he say or imply that on judgment day, we will be pointing to our own works to justify ourselves before God. Rather, he said that it would be revealed in these actions. How is that different than the words of Christ Himself?

In terms to looking to Christ, and seeing in Him our hope... look to the prayers of the Church. That is a fact that I'm reminded of every day. The daily prayers of an Orthodox Christian, as well as all the many services of the Church, are all centered around the love and mercy of God, who willingly gave Himself for our salvation.

To insist on the necessity of true repentance is not to jeopardize the Gospel, nor to make us focus on our own works. We have the free will to run from our God, who loves mankind and desires that all be saved.

Any security that comes in the absence of repentance is a false one. And repentance always bears fruits, as Martin Luther himself said (not to mention all of the sacred and divine Scriptures).

That doesn't mean that our repentance saves us, or that we should look to our measure our own works of repentance. And no one here has said or implied that.

True repentance looks not to our own sinfulness and brokenness, but turns towards God. Like the prodigal, when we find repentance, metanoia, we run to the Father, who alone loves mankind.

However, to use a different parable, once we have been forgiven our debts by the king, we should bear in mind the fate of the ungrateful servant in how we treat our neighbors. Is that not Biblical?

Could Judas hold on to the thirty pieces of silver, and still trust in the mercy of God, or would his trusting have required throwing away the 30 pieces?

If we tell ourselves that God is good, and therefore it doesn't matter if we hold on to those private sins that we really enjoy, do we not speak falsely, as St. John says, when we say we know Him?

Let us then, by God's grace and beseeching His mercy with confidence, leave behind the mud in which we wallow, and go towards the Father, who alone loves and saves us, humbly accepting in awe that that Salvation came through the Cross of Christ, into which we are baptized.

Grace and peace,
John

orrologion said...

It is very difficult for us to see things that do not fit with our preconceived notions of what either they should be or of what is possible. If the paradigm is a choice between faith and works, then all options are fit into one of those two choices: all faith or works. Yet, "There are more things in heaven and earth... Than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy." (cf. Hamlet 1.5.165-66).

This is why Church history, the consensus of the fathers (who are far more likely than sinners such as we to understand things we have not yet begun to imagine much less understand) and the unedited, un-'translated' lex orandi of the Church (since worship, song and love are the natural atmosphere for religion, not the last resort of dogma, or worse, academics and head knowledge) is so important in checking our tendencies to see only what we can see, want to see or expect - thus replacing God with our ideation of him, i.e., an idol of our own making.

William Weedon said...

Dear John,

As I mentioned above, there is no possibility for saving faith existing in the person who persists in mortal sin. You know that Lutheran theology never means by "saving faith" such a faith as makes peace with our rebellion and disobedience. So I'm not talking about "security that comes in the absence of repentance" but rather the certainty that comes precisely in the presence of true faith (which always exists in penitence). Do you as an Orthodox Christian, living in the daily crucifixion of your sinful flesh and fleeing constantly to Christ for forgiveness, face your death in the certainty that on Calvary your every sin has been expiated together with the sins of the world, and so look forward to death with St. Paul who can rejoice that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and so it is not worth comparing the troubles of this present age with the glory that shall be revealed in us?

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

It was the Apostle Paul who set up the distinction between justification by faith and justification by works. And of course the same Apostle who teaches that we are not saved BY deeds done by us in righteousness is the same Apostle who teaches that we are most certainly saved FOR the doing of good works.

orrologion said...

Yes, given the specificly Lutheran definitions of the terminology in Paul and how they interact - the Lutheran paradigm - you have accurately and succinctly shared your understanding of Paul and the Christian faith. I would suggest both the consensus patrum and an unadapted lex orandi explicate Paul and the Faith differently.

The thing about paradigms is that they are both comfortable and hard not to see beyond - for all of us regarding things well beyond religion. No one can see differently until we can see differently. The tadpole knows nothing of the terrestrial world until he is able, as a frog, to experience it and is able to name things that were before unimagineable.

This isn't to discount you and whatever strong arguments and proofs you could provide as much as to point to the fact that we all of us seek proof for what we already want, feel, intuit and/or believe. Faith and the experience of holiness (which is nothing more than the divine energies and the saints' reflection of the Risen Christ Whom they are enbodied with) comes first, only then are the Scriptures unlocked. You believe one way, I another; God guides all for all things are for the good of them that love God - even our errors - so we [ourselves actively] work out our salvation [not with a sure faith in our salvation but] in fear and trembling for [at the same time] it is God Who works and wills in us.

Blessed Theophany/Epiphany to all.

William Weedon said...

Dear Christopher,

A blessed Epiphany (Theophany) to you also.

Indeed paradigms are hard to see, and they serve as blinders not to see what doesn't fit in them. I know you think that is how Lutherans read the fathers; it is also how this Lutheran sees the Orthodox reading the fathers on the matter of justification. I know I'm not the only one who sees in the Fathers a powerful and nearly uniform witness to faith alone saving us, yet not such faith alone as can be conceived of as existing without works. I think St. John Chrysostom was quite speaking in harmony with the patristic consensus when he wrote:

And he well said, "a righteousness of mine own," not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence. Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians 3

orrologion said...

That is exactly my point, so in many ways it is moot to discuss after a certain, rather quickly arrived at, point.

The thing about the Chrysostom quote as related to paradigms is how one defines terms such as:

righteousness
gain
labor
toil
grace
saved
faith
given
righteousness of God
faith of God
given by God
gift
worthless good deeds
due to our own diligence
etc.

...and the schema one sees these terms interrelating within.

As pointed out by others, it is interesting that Fr. Gregory was criticized for having introduced salvation by works and our own merit when he never used either term. This is due to differing interpretations of terms and how they interrelate, what they 'really' mean - and we are all of the same language and culture. How much more difficult is it for we moderns to understand the use of such terms in OT, NT, patristic and medieval and modern texts.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The really intersting thing, Christopher and Fr. Gregory, is that Pr. Weedon already very well knows all these things you point out.

Anastasia

John Hogg said...

Where we disagree is not over whether or not there can be saving faith in someone who persists in a mortal sin. Repentance is not merely a requirement to satisfy God after the commission, or continual commission, of some sin that meets given requirements of seriousness.

Rather, the entire Christian life is to be one of repentance, or turning of our minds and hearts and vision to God, who alone can and does save us.

You are the one who introduced works righteousness into this conversation. You have repeatedly accused us of holding to it, or implied that we do. In fact, you said that my dad demonstrated it "with utter clarity."

You have also implied that any good we do is done in a vain attempt to please God by our own merits, repeating the claim even when we deny it, and even in the case of lack of evidence.

Susan also makes the same claim, even though it goes directly against what we have been saying.

So, since you were the one who introduced the charge, how about you show where we are in error in what we have said? I, for one, will gladly and happily retract anything that I have said that goes against the apostolic faith.

If you have nothing to support your claim, wouldn't it be good for you to stop repeating it?

We disagree not over the mercy of God towards sinners. We disagree over the cross.

In spite of all of these arguments and discussions, know that you are loved and that the frustration here is the frustration of a friend who cares about you and yours and is, and will continue, to pray for you.

I was blessed to get to meet and get to know your niece and her boyfriend this past week at the College Conference. We are all of us praying for you.

If you see harshness in my words, I am sorry. Please do read and pray over the words of St. Mark the Monk.

Grace and peace,
John

William Weedon said...

Ack! I can't keep up with this thread!!!

Let me see. Christopher, I don't think words are so frail and fragile as that. The complex of words that the Church uses is by and large that given in the Sacred Scriptures which unfold to us their meaning. The Sacred Scriptures do not need a light to be brought to them to be understood; they ARE the light by which all things are understood. Back to that old problem again - we disagree on the role of the Scriptures in the Church.

Anastasia,

What on earth are you getting at? Let me try one more time to put this into English: the whole point of the original post is that to neglect the forensic metaphor and way of thinking is to cut out an integral part of the Spirit-inspired and revealed Christian Gospel and thereby to do damage to the Gospel itself. The damage that I see in modern Orthodoxy's particular downplaying of justification and the forensic complex is that it *sounds* to me as though the Orthodox confession of salvation leaves the Christian in uncertainty regarding the judgment. And it seems to run hand in hand with seeing the Cross ONLY as the defeat of death and NOT also as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. If your sins are all on Him and He has answered for them all, then in Him you are freed forever from their shackles and their damage and the Holy Spirit sets to work to heal your human nature, a healing that won't be complete until the Day of Resurrection. As you are in Him by faith, then the great saying of John 5 can bring joy to your heart: "He who hears My Word and believes in Him who sent me HAS everlasting life AND shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."

John,

Glad you met Dorothy; she's a sweet-heart. And I always welcome the prayers. Your family remains in my prayers every day too. Did I accuse your dad of teaching works righteousness? Well, as Christopher pointed out, a lot depends on how you define terms. If your dad and you will unequivocally tell me that you uphold that a man is justified by faith alone (understanding faith as Paul does, not the so-called faith that demons can have too and which James was correctly condemning) and not by deeds of the law; that good works have zero role to play in our justification before God put exist only as the result of it; so that one relies totally and completely upon the certainty of God's promises in Christ who is our only righteousness and not in any measure, at all, in any way, upon one's deeds, then I'll gladly and with thanksgiving to God from the bottom of my heart admit that I was hearing you all wrong.

With that, signing off for the night! I've got an evening of cards with my in-laws before they head back to Md and to the Caribbean for a vacation.

Paul said...

Pr Weedon said:

the whole point of the original post is that to neglect the forensic metaphor and way of thinking is to cut out an integral part of the Spirit-inspired and revealed Christian Gospel and thereby to do damage to the Gospel itself.




"Redemption often has this extended sense in Holy Scripture, especially when used in a religious context. For example, when God "redeemed" His people out of Egypt, He did not pay Pharaoh some designated sum of money. There was no trade. There was no commercial transaction at all. God simply raided Egypt and took what was His. As we see repeatedly in Isaiah, the Psalms, and elsewhere, this is the normal meaning of "redeem" in the Bible whenever God is the subject. This is also the meaning in the New Testament.

When Jesus "redeemed" us from the slavery of sin and power of death, He did not make a payment to the Devil; He raided hell and took what was His.

Similar comments are appropriate when Holy Scripture speaks of the blood of Jesus as the "price" for our sins. The term is a metaphor with not the slightest commercial connotation. Certainly the shedding of Jesus' blood was the price for our sins, but it is quite inappropriate to inquire to whom the price was paid. When used in a metaphorical sense, the word "price" has no a mercantile sense.

We are already familiar with such a meaning of the word. When a soldier dies defending his country, his death is the "price" of his country's victory. When an athlete disciplines himself for coming competition, that exercise is the "price" he pays. We all recognize that the word "price" is used in such cases in figurative way that does indicate a commercial transaction. The price is simply paid; we would not think to ask, "to whom was the price paid?" We recognize that the question is inappropriate, and there is never a correct answer to a wrong question.

The blood of Jesus is the greatest price ever paid, but there is no correct answer to the question, "to whom was that price paid?" There is no correct answer, for the simple reason that it is not a correct question. Such a question ignores the properly metaphorical sense of the term. This is the reason that such a question is not posed nor addressed in Holy Scripture.

Much the same must be said about the "debt" of our sins, as when the Apostle Paul writes that Christ wiped out our "debt" (chreigraphon, perhaps best translated as an "IOU") in Colossians 2:14. Such indebtedness is a metaphor for the sinner's relationship to God, not some actual quantitative liability. Jesus uses the same image in His parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35), where we all recognize it in a metaphorical sense.

To describe these terms as theological metaphors does not weaken their meaning nor dilute their content. The "debt" of our sins is not less crushing for being a figure of speech. The "price" paid in Jesus' blood was not less painful for being expressed in a rhetorical trope, nor was our "redemption" less costly. These words are all metaphors to describe what lies beyond description, beyond comprehension, and beyond all theory. No words suffice to describe what God does, but we may be certain that His work conforms to no human theory on the matter.

There are no "theories of atonement" in Holy Scripture, though there are several ways to describe the atonement. I am not confident that we really need a "theory of atonement," but if we must have one, it should at least respect the correct sense of the words with which the Bible describes the atonement." (Fr. Pat Reardon)

Anonymous said...

In Ephesians 2, and read on at least to verse 10, we see the full relationship among grace, faith, and works. And there we find out that works are not means by which we reach the goal (salvation), but ARE the goal. The whole idea of salvation is to rescue us from continuing to be enchanted by and enslaved to sin.; viz., who do good works (= works of faith).

God's goal for us, the reason He created us, the reason He also created our First Parents, is that we should do good works. That is synonymous with saying, that we should have with Him a relationship of faith working by love.

Many people think salvation basically means escaping eternal punishment and arriving at a state of nothing further to worry about, ever. No more money worries. No more marital anxieties. No more being the virtual slave of a mean and unethical boss. No more anything unpleasant. Everything beautiful and delightful. But of course all these and a host of others like them are *secular* desires and concerns. This is salvation conceived in thoroughly unspiritual categories, lacking only the seventy-two virgins!

In reality, salvation above all else means deliverance from our separation from God, rescue from the death in which we reside and which resides in us, and from
which our sins arise. Salvation means being conformed to the Image of the Son, which means being transformed into someone who does works like His, in fact, does HIS own works, lives His Life, thinks His thoughts, participates in His
very Being.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." That is the destiny pre-ordained for Christians, and getting to that destiny IS salvation. Not a means toward it.

I this sense, works are very necessary to salvation

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

"If your dad and you will unequivocally tell me that you uphold that a man is justified by faith alone (understanding faith as Paul does, not the so-called faith that demons can have too and which James was correctly condemning) and not by deeds of the law; that good works have zero role to play in our justification before God put exist only as the result of it; so that one relies totally and completely upon the certainty of God's promises in Christ who is our only righteousness and not in any measure, at all, in any way, upon one's deeds, then I'll gladly and with thanksgiving to God from the bottom of my heart admit that I was hearing you all wrong."

Rx:
Im Westen nichts neues. Like mother (Rome) like daughter (Wittenberg): raising charges, then unwilling to drop them unless and until we agree to your formulae. We are content with the formulae of St. Mark the Ascetic; for example, "19. A master is under no obligation to reward his slaves; on the other hand, those who do not serve him well are not given their freedom.
20. If “Christ died on our account in accordance with the Scriptures” (Rom. 5: 8; 1 Cor. Is: 3), and we do not “live for ourselves”, but “for Him who died and rose” on our account (2 Cor. 5:15), it is clear that we are debtors to Christ to serve Him till our death. How then can we regard sonship as something which is our due?"

We remain with the ancient faith, and we will not change it. The way for your return is yet open. Christ and his Church receives everybody--I'm living proof.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Sigh. I read St. Mark's treatise often. It's really very good. But maybe Pr. Brown was right about not answering other questions. Whatever. I wish you well, old friend, and I pray that you will always look in faith to Christ alone as your righteousness and always rejoice in the Crucified and Risen Lord as your salvation - just as you used to preach so powerfully (and still may - I don't get to hear your sermons anymore).

Dear Anon,

Please note that I never denied that we are saved for good works - works of love which flow from our union with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Dear Paul,

Has any Lutheran on this discussion list denied that the forensic metaphor is indeed one (true) metaphor among other true metaphors? My contention is that it is a MAJOR way of speaking used in the NT and one that cannot be given up without mutilation of the Gospel itself.

Paul said...

Pr. Weedon said:
My contention is that it is a MAJOR way of speaking used in the NT and one that cannot be given up without mutilation of the Gospel itself.


Who here has suggested to "give up" the metaphor? Rather, the proper place and understanding of the metaphor is at issue of which I believe Fr. Gregory nailed.

Paul

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill, congratulations. You did it! You broke the covetted "100+ comment mark." Petersen is going to be jealous.

I thought Brother Lehman hit the nail rather nicely on the head with his post.

It is a puzzlement to me why the former Lutherans who haunt Lutheran blog sites and discussions don't have a bit more integrity so as not to engage in sheep stealing. We know how very much that is frowned upon in their own circles. A puzzlement indeed.

Take and read:

http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com/650095.html

Kenny said...

Paul T. McCain said:

It is a puzzlement to me why the former Lutherans who haunt Lutheran blog sites and discussions don't have a bit more integrity so as not to engage in sheep stealing.



Of course it would be unethical and immoral for any Pastor of any denominations to believe that they are where all Christians should be, i.e., their particular denomination. And what Pastor would ever want or begin to express this to others, no matter the others affiliation...would they? I mean it really is only a matter of salvation.


Kenny

William Weedon said...

Dear Paul,

I'm not sure exactly what you mean. But certainly Lutheran Christians we not only that as guilty sinners we have been declared not guilty in Christ, but that He also proceeded to make us His adopted brothers and sisters and led us into His Father's house as co-heirs with Him of all that is His, giving us as a downpayment even the priceless gift of His Holy Spirit. Lutherans preach a lot more than just "you're forgiven" - we unpack what His forgiveness brings with it: Life and Salvation!

Kenny,

Both the Churches of the Augsburg Confession AND Orthodoxy have historically renounced all forms of proselytism where Christ had already been named.

Paul (and by way of link Charlie),

This blog does seem to draw a number of Orthodox readers and commentators. They are welcome here. But I would point out that I don't visit Orthodox blogs in order to plant my doubts about Orthodoxy on those sites. I think it would be a misuse of that blog. And I think it is a misuse of this blog when Orthodox guests (especially former Lutherans) seek to use this forum to plant the seeds of doubt and fear among Lutherans. It's just out of place.

I know that some thought that I initiated this particular thread to start an argument with the Orthodox, but that is simply not the case. It was to seek a wider discussion about what happens to the Gospel's proclamation when forensic language and imagery (which predominates in the NT - especially in the writings of St. Paul) is discounted or minimized. It is true that what sparked the original post was a posting by Orthodox Priest Fr. Freeman, but as I said above, his post resonated to me with much that I'd read from former Cardinal Ratzinger and with the so-called "new" interpretation of Galatians and so many other modern writers. Despite the comments going this way and that, I'd still welcome a discussion on the topic if anyone besides myself is interested in it.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Hi, Rev. McCain--and you too, Rev. Lehmann!

Wouldn't it be great if you two got to set the rules for everybody's blogs?

Alas, such is not the case.

Unless and until Rev. Weedon makes a rule for Orthodox not to post, we probably will. Every once in a while. When the topic addresses something Orthodox.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Pr. Lehmann said...

Yet, Fr. Hogg, you have a habit of violating the guidelines that Pr. Weedon just indicated.

You always are looking to sow seeds of doubt among Lutherans, here and elsewhere. You are the prime offender.

Get thee to Constantinople and stay there for Pete's sake.

That Pr. Weedon has forbearance for you doesn't mean it's right for you to tread upon his patience.

You are, of course, free to ignore my plea, but I am free to make it. I don't think it's out of line. And you'll continue to not see me comment on your blog, if you have one.

Kenny said...

This is absolutely ridiculous.

Start a thread which addresses an issue which YOU know will draw Orthodox and others in to defend or give explication of and then say they are not welcome by others who's blog it isnt. And all this with the knowledge of Pr. Weedons not so long ago close contact even near conversion to Orthodoxy.

Seems so disingenuous.

Is this what should be expected from clergy these days....sheesh

Pr. Lehmann said...

Not exactly, Kenny.

Pr. Weedon posted about how the forensic view of justification is predominant in the Scriptures and how he is puzzled when anyone marginalizes it. He need not go outside Lutheranism to find many who will do it.

He posts that it troubles him when folks deny what the Scriptures teach and then the Orthodox come out to defend their denial of it.

What's disingenious is that the Orthodox expect that it's their right to obscure the Gospel wherever someone has the forbearance to allow them to post.

Kenny said...

Both the Churches of the Augsburg Confession AND Orthodoxy have historically renounced all forms of proselytism where Christ had already been named.



Who is sheep stealing then? Who is being pulled away against their own free will?

All clergy will defend their particular theology and when they do, they are saying that the other, whoever they may be, are in error or else if we all agreed then these blogs would not have the same content or tone or subject matter that they do.

Kenny said...

Pr. lehmann said:

Not exactly, Kenny.

Pr. Weedon posted about how the forensic view of justification is predominant in the Scriptures and how he is puzzled when anyone marginalizes it. He need not go outside Lutheranism to find many who will do it.

He posts that it troubles him when folks deny what the Scriptures teach and then the Orthodox come out to defend their denial of it.

What's disingenious is that the Orthodox expect that it's their right to obscure the Gospel wherever someone has the forbearance to allow them to post.



Who else would this thread be directed if not the Orthodox? And the reason it is is because the Orthodox in no way marginalize, discount, minimalize, throw out or otherwise ignore forensic language.

Rather the Orthodox appear to give it is due (sorry for the legal term) and rightful and properly understood place amongst all the metaphors used in regard to salvation. The Orthodox seem to appreciate things being distinct and particular without being needlessly disjointed or separated.

And so I understand the discord amongst the two (Lutherans & Orthodox).

Pr. Lehmann, you as a Lutheran would have to say that all but the Lutherans "obscure" the gospel, so why single-out only the Orthodox?

These blogs really do tend to bring out the worst, and obviously Im guilty of the same passion

Kenny

William Weedon said...

Dear Kenny,

Sheep stealing is a most unfortunate term. But what lies behind it is this: It reflects the frustration of many with what they perceive as the luring of members of one confession to abandon that confession for another by those who have already done so themselves. The luring in this case has to do with the planting of the doubt and fear that those who are not Orthodox are not truly church and that they may not trust the promises of God's Word as applicable to themselves (including the promises of God regarding Baptism and the Most Holy Eucharist) for such promises were made only to the one true Church, so the line of reasoning goes, which is coterminous with Orthodoxy.

Sometimes you will hear the plea of agnosticism about those who are not Orthodox; sometimes from certain folks you realize that they are anything but agnostic about the non-Orthodox, speaking of us as "dead" and "cut off from the body and its Head, Christ." Rather unfortunate analogies to Monty Python are employed to ridicule those who see things another way from themselves.

I hope that explains a bit the concern that those who remain Lutheran can sometimes feel when it seems that Orthodox Christians (especially former Lutherans) are specifically planting doubts and fears among those who are Lutheran Christians. For whatever it's worth, even when I was most seriously contemplating converting to Orthodoxy, I did not question that my parish here was truly "Church" and that the promises of God's Word held with certainty for my members. That was not up for grabs.

As to your latest post - how many times can I say this? Discounting forensic language is a problem that is present in my own Church, in writings of certain theologians whom I greatly respect on the whole. It shows up in Ratzinger. It shows up in this whole way of thinking that would discount Luther's take (and most of those since him) on Galatians. I've heard forensic justification severely qualified in a graduate seminar at my own alma mater. This may be hard for folks to understand, but the post is not always about "you" (whoever you may be).

John Hogg said...

Pr. Lehmann,

Pr. Weedon's post was based on a post made on the blog of Fr. Stephen Freeman, a good and godly man. Pr. Weedon himself has acknowledged that.

Instead of asking Fr. Stephen to clarify what he meant, he posted about it here on his blog, while making reference to Fr. Stephen's post.

Naturally enough, we came here and spoke up for Fr. Stephen, and explained and defended our faith.

Pr. Weedon then accused us of preaching works righteousness, without any evidence to support that claim and despite the fact that we said clearly several times that we do not believe any such thing.

You said that we are violating the guidelines set for this blog. If that is so, I am sorry. I have never seen or heard of any guidelines. Do you know where I can find them, to avoid breaking them in the future?

In terms of charges of sheep stealing:

1) It was Pr. Weedon who started this discussion based on the post of an Orthodox priest.

2) Relativism destroys the Gospel of Christ.

You seem always to be a very angry person. I'm not sure why that is, but if you were somehow hurt by an Orthodox person, I am sorry, and I mean that truly.

Christ is risen!
John

William Weedon said...

Just to note, John, I made no reference to Fr. Stephen's post until Fr. John asked and Anastasia had already answered. Nor was my post based on Fr. Stephen's; it was occasioned by it, but that is different indeed. As to the charge of works-righteousness, is Christ alone your righteousness or do you include your own good works in some way? I don't think you answered my post on that, and I said I would rejoice to take away the charge. If I might be so bold, are you familiar with Bishop Ware's outstanding little volume *On Being Saved.* I would commend it.

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

I have answered your question more than once. To be honest, though, it does bother me a little that you made the charge several times, without any evidence or anything to suggest works righteousness, and also suggested that if we love our neighbor, we are only doing so to use them to win God's approval. Don't you see how that's condescending?

I am guilty of many sins, but I have never once thought of loving my neighbors to win God's approval. I ask again: Where do you get such an idea?

Rather, my sins grieve me precisely because they draw me away from God, and prevent me from loving my neighbor.

If you speak ill of a person without proof, before you ask them to prove to you that they didn't do what you accused them of, shouldn't you apologize?

Nevertheless: I have absolutely no righteousness of my own. I say every night, even, that I have never done anything good before God.

I say again: Our difference is not over the mercy of God, but over the Cross.

I know my own sins and I know that I am a greater sinner than you. And I'm not saying that as empty, pious-sounding works, but as the truth. So for any harshness in my words, I ask you to forgive me, as one lacking in Christian piety and in humility and wisdom.

Nevertheless, the Gospel is not about making bad people good, but about making dead people alive.

Grace and peace,
John

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon,

1. You wrote that sheep stealing is "the luring of members of one confession to abandon that confession for another by those who have already done so themselves."

By that definition, St. Paul and Martin Luther were sheepstealers, then.

2. I have taken great pains, in every post I've ever made, to judge only bodies, never the people who find their home in those bodies. I have studiously tried to avoid ad hominems as well, resorting to one only once, in order to illustrate what an _ad hominem_ is, to Rev. McCain.

3. I have taken pains to avoid posting as well. I entered this discussion as the 19th post, and that only to post some quotes from Pieper which seemed to go against what you were claiming that Lutherans teach.

4. I have not told Lutherans to convert to the Orthodox Church. I have told them to live as if the body described in the Lutheran confessional writings actually existed: to be good Lutherans--and to see where it ends up. I remain on good terms with a number of my former parishioners, and when a very few have asked me about Orthodoxy, I have discouraged their seeking. One does not take up the way of the cross on a lark.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon said:

As to the charge of works-righteousness, is Christ alone your righteousness or do you include your own good works in some way?


No, Orthodoxy does not maintain that one can earn or merit salvation by their works...never has.

How many different ways can this be said?

Paul said...

Pr. Weedon said:

If I might be so bold, are you familiar with Bishop Ware's outstanding little volume *On Being Saved.* I would commend it.


Pr. Weedon, do you mean the book, "How are we saved", Bp Ware?

If so, do you agree with the book in its entirety?

Paul

William Weedon said...

Dear Paul,

Oops. Yes, that's the book. No, I don't agree with the book in its entirety - particularly when it treats of the effects of original sin; but he is very good in speaking of human synergy itself in salvation as "at every point the work of the Holy Spirit."

No more for tonight folks. First, the Divine Service, and then another house blessing.

Pax!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I am utterly amazed the the similarities I see between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox sometimes. Simply astounding.

Which side in the discussion (in general) says, "your terminology is bad, you must use ours"? Um. . . both. Which side says, "You are attacking us" followed with a "no we weren't, we didn't mention you at all"? Um. . . both. Which side says, "Boy, you are rude and harsh. . . but I certainly never would offend a fly"? Both.

Even in the terms of disagreement there is much similarity.

L: We like Justification and this language - for it rests salvation solely upon Christ and His work. You guys don't, and therefore you stink. (to which the East replies)
E: We don't rely on our works - we just don't like your terminology - and besides, let's focus on the life of repentance anyway.

and for comparison:
E: We love talking about works of Love and revealing the love of God in our actions. You guys don't, and therefore you stink (to the point where you aren't really in/part of/the Church.
L: We do too teach that one ought to do Good works - we just don't focus on that. Who wants to talk about Good Works when you can talk about what Christ has done. And besides, your terminology for sanctification is horrid.

It's like there's an echo, ringing in this small little portion of cyberspace, except the nouns change.

Rather than pull on a Western tradition or an Eastern tradition, I will pull on my Jewish heritage and say we both have a tendency to act like a right bunch of Schmucks.

There are differences in our approach, and we pick the differences we do because we think that they are the right approach, and we fear that the other's approach will lead towards falseness of some sort.

Oh, and just one thing historically on the sheep stealing thing - East and West fought over and over for religious dominance in Bulgaria - it passed back and forth between the two three or four times. We don't always play nice, on either side, and it is whitewashing folly to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Does Petersen know you are about to surpass even his lofty mark? I think you may hit 150 comments! Go! Go! Go!

Can't we round up some more Eastern Orthodox types to pile on here?

Susan said...

Kenny (and some others) wrote --
Who else would this thread be directed if not the Orthodox?

I know exactly whom Pr W was talking about in the original post, and they're Lutherans. That's why it surprised me so much when Orthodox folks started responding so vigorously to this thread. Thursday morning in Bible class (at a Lutheran church) we covered topics remarkably similar to this thread because my pastor, too, has been grieved to see colleagues belittling justification and looking for "new and better ways" of speaking about our relationship with God.


Pr Weedon wrote --
I initiated this particular thread to seek a wider discussion about what happens to the Gospel's proclamation when forensic language and imagery is discounted or minimized. I'd still welcome a discussion on the topic if anyone besides myself is interested in it.

That's where I thought this thread would go. But maybe the Lutherans who read your blog already agree with you, so that could why there's not much discussion to be had on the topic in the way that I had expected.

William Weedon said...

God bless you, Pastor Brown. Your post made me laugh - and I certainly recognize my culpability in your description.

Robb and John, please forgive me for trying to force out of you a confession in Lutheran terms. No Lutheran should expect an Orthodox to confess the faith the way a Lutheran does (and vice-versa).

Commentator said...

125! I made it go to 125 comments. Wahooo!! Yippeee. Hooray!!!

Pr. Lehmann said...

Kenny asks, "Why single out the Orthodox?"

Answer: They're the ones I see misbehaving on Lutheran blogs, and they're the ones who have attacked my friends.

I am more fierce than a wounded pitbull when I perceive my friends are being attacked. And when the attack is so consistent and the Gospel is at stake, I'm even more fierce.

Pr. Weedon is one of my dearest friends. I love him more than just about any person alive. I know he doesn't need me to defend him from these attacks, but well, he's my friend, and that's that. I've personally seen the pain that Orthodox twisting of the Gospel has caused him.

I just want you to all leave him alone. It's really that simple. I know he values the friendships he has with some of you and that he enjoys conversing with some of you (Anastasia in particular comes to mind). I'm just pleading that you let us (AND HIM) be a Lutheran in peace.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Well Pastor Weedon, it made me laugh and hit me between the eyes too, so I figured I could safely write it. Blessed Epiphany.

Dixie said...

Just to do my part to hit 150...

Pastor Weedon said in his first comment above:

My most recent comments were after reading an Orthodox post that several of my friends recommended, but the downplaying of the judicial imagery is certainly not a uniqueness of Orthodoxy - in fact, it's something I think we'd find to play a bigger role in CURRENT Orthodoxy than in the past.

And the friends who recommended the post...Orthodox friends, Anastasia and Ezekiel.

And note the criticism that the de-emphasis of the forensic metaphor is a modern day manifestation of Orthodox theology.

Try as one may to think the initial post was really little about Orthodoxy and more about a problem in Lutheranism it doesn't jive with what has been written. Although clearly I can't read peoples' minds...but I do expect them to be able to read mine! ;)

I completely understand, Pr. Lehmann, your interest in shooing the Orthodox away from Pr. Weedon, as he is your great friend and Orthodoxy has grieved him in the past. But that was the past. Surely with Pr. Weedon's feet firmly planted in Wittenberg these days, there is no need for concern.

If Pastor Weedon wants to silence the Orthodox on his blog he has the power to do so. I don't think he feels he has anything to fear from us and I suspect he enjoys bantering with the Orthodox a bit as well. Plus, he'll have a hard time making the 150 comment mark without us! :D

Blessed Theophany to all.

William Weedon said...

Dixie,

Blessed theophany to you! The original post was about something I perceive to be a weakness in Orthodoxy BUT not just in Orthodoxy, and certainly a problem that we face in Lutheranism too. Frankly, it leads to me wonder if there's some sort of a cultural shift that makes people in general uncomfortable with "Law" language when speaking about God - a problem earlier generations seem not to have had.

William Weedon said...

Charlie,

God bless you for your kindness. And for the T shirt. And for the tats. Too sweet!!! LOL! I can't wait to put some of them on. I wonder if they have an earring I can get to go with? :)

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

While I appreciate the apology "for trying to force out of you a confession in Lutheran terms," that was never really the issue.

The issue was, rather, you accusing us of relying on our own merits (despite us never saying that and even denying it), and also saying that if we love others, we're only "using" them in a vain attempt to please God, instead of loving them freely.

You speak with great passion of the evils of planting seeds of doubt, which you perceive us to be doing, and how you recognize us as having the Gospel...

And yet, you say that we teach "with utter clarity" works-righteousness, that you question our salvation, and in another thread, you said that the most charitable construction that you could put on the Orthodox practice wrt the saints was that it at least looked like idolatry.

So I'm confused. Is it okay to "plant seeds of doubt," by discussing legitimate differences of faith, or isn't it?

In Christ,
John

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Pr Weedon,

I think you hit the nail on the head for the Lutheran (classical Lutheran, that is) love of the forensic language - it shows the God's Law applies to everyone, and in the "you haven't done all that you should, you fail" sort of way. This for most isn't an image that gives offense because of the Gospel, but how it portrays the Law - that which utterly condemns us, so that even St. Paul writes that he is, not was, but is the chief of sinners.

Now, because of this, when we hear the move away from forensic justification, I think we also fear that it means a move away from the objective law that we fail to uphold - opening the door for works righteousness. It's not just not liking a terminology or language used for the Gospel in favor of other language - but a de facto attempt to circumvent God's Law.

Does works righteousness of a necessity follow from abandoning a forensic view - not necessarily - but the forensic view is a good and proper safeguard - for one is constantly reminded that the key to life is Christ's righteousness and salvation, not our works (which are the result of Christ's death and resurrection applied to us).

That's the jump we tend to make - if one tears down the levee that is established against works righteousness, then you are going to be flooded with self-loving pseudo-works. Which is our historical experience, so to say.

I think you are right - I think moving away from forensic Justification (in circles that have used that language) is really more about Law than Gospel.

William Weedon said...

Whatever, John. I think no matter what I say, it will end up being heard the wrong way.

I tried to write WITHOUT passion about the evils of planting seeds of doubt. If you fault me with defending Lutheran doctrine on a Lutheran blog, well, that's just silly. Can you show me any Orthodox blogs that I've visited and posted on repeatedly in order to invite doubt about any practice or teaching of your Church? No, I don't think you can and I would not advocate any Lutheran, visiting Orthodox blogs and posting on them about interminably about the faults I see in Orthodoxy.

And similarly, it is out of bounds for you or any other to post on this blog seeking to undermine the trust of Lutherans in God's promises by suggesting (or just saying) that we are not the Church, or that the Lutheran Church is a fiction. That we are delusional or whatever. You're welcome to that opinion - silly as it strikes me - but please go post about it ELSEWHERE. Maybe start your own blog?

A personal word to you, and to all my Orthodox friends, if I may. I will say again that I think that without the forensic metaphor, your defense against works righteousness is most tenuous, and I would urge you to be vigilant in your heart to guard against it. It wants to spring up in all human hearts; the opinio legis is inbred in us all. We all want to "be in the right" - hasn't this thread proved that? But the Law will never allow any of us to be in the right, for it stops every mouth and holds everyone of us accountable to God and without excuse before Him. Me too, my friend. May He have mercy on us all.

William Weedon said...

Eric,

YES. Exactly.

Dixie said...

Frankly, it leads to me wonder if there's some sort of a cultural shift that makes people in general uncomfortable with "Law" language when speaking about God - a problem earlier generations seem not to have had.

My guess is that what you percieve to be a cultural shift in all of Orthodoxy (and elsewhere) isn't a real shift in orthodoxia at all but may be a shift in emphasis in Orthodox convert circles (and elsewhere in Protestantism) as a response to error of "I don't have to do anything" antinomianism.

William Weedon said...

Dixie,

But how does that explain the downplaying of the forensic language in Lutheran or RC circles and all at the same time?

Certainly, antinomianism is a total scourge and Lutheranism tends to be rife with it (don't even get Pr. McCain started on the topic!); but I think it's a pretty wide-spread shift away from legal terms to life/death language or relational lingo.

Pr. Lehmann said...

"I don't have to do anything" isn't antinomianism. It's the Gospel.

William Weedon said...

Now you know better than that, Pr. Lehmann. It's not the gospel when "I" is still the subject of the verb - even with a negative.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Good point, Pr. Weedon.

The point I was trying to make is that "I don't have to do anything" is not antinomianism. Antinomianism is the idea that I will do whatever I want, despite what the Law says.

"I don't have to do anything" can simply be a way to point out that Christ has done everything.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note of thanks to the folks discussing on this blog entry. The post and the comments have been most edifying.

It is good to be reminded of how beautiful proper Scriptural teaching in the Lutheran Church is.

Blessed Epiphany to all.

Paul said...

Pr. Weedon said:

I will say again that I think that without the forensic metaphor, your defense against works righteousness is most tenuous, and I would urge you to be vigilant in your heart to guard against it.




Well, of the Orthodox which I know (over the last 22 years), I have yet to have had a conversation on this topic in its many forms, where the Orthodox in question ever mentioned the importance (or used extensively) and need of forensic language and at the same time had any notion of, or showed any sign of a works righteousness faith. never. Of course the terms are Scriptural and are always employed in salvation talk, but they are understood to be used in conjunction with all the other metaphors (which should not be minimalized either) to reach a "wholistic" grasp of this mystery

So I suppose the issue/problem is truly a Lutheran concern.

Paul

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon, I'm looking through this thread to see where I might have "sowed seeds of doubt." Is this what you had in mind:

"To my Lutheran friends: try to be the best Lutherans you can be. Try to live as if the body described in the Lutheran confessional writings actually existed where you are. Rebuke in your midst, for example, the errors it rejects--not in bombastic posts on anonymous blogs, but by following the procedures agreed to in your midst. Live as if pastors had the right to excommunicate. Press forward in the appropriate way with those who practice lay absolution etc. (Please forgive me for bringing these things up--I do so only to illustrate what I mean by trying to live as if the body described in those confessional writings actually exists, instead of mere verbal juggling. The Black Knight in _Holy Grail_ went on talking, even after his arms and legs were gone.)"

If it is, I fail to see how saying "Try to live as if the body actually existed--not with mere words, but with actions" can sow seeds of doubt, at least in people who had no doubt already. If someone said to me, "You say you're married? Try to live as if you're actually married...", it wouldn't make me doubt whether I were married. Or if someone said to me, "You say that the Orthodox Church is the body of Christ? Try to live as if it were"--that would not make me doubt whether the Orthodox Church is the body of Christ. Whence, then, the doubt?

Fr. Gregory

PS To Rev. Lehmann--it wasn't me that posted anonymously on your blog. You can (and do) accuse me of many things. Anonymous posting shouldn't be one of them.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I do think this discussion (as it has morphed and ended up pertaining to the differences between Lutherans and the East) does demonstrate a difference - how now one ought to deal with heresy.

I think the East has an approach that attempts to combat heresy by simply cutting it off - if one says what has not been said before, one is automatically wrong. Therefore, anything new is automatically out of the question and written off.

Lutheranism (and the west) hasn't taken this approach. Rather, simply than saying that something is heretical because it is different from what has been said before, there is a desire on the part of Lutherans to show from Scripture "why" it is heretical and ought to be avoided.

Now, this was the common heritage of both East and West. One need only look at the Trinitarian debates or the Christological controversies to see that both Greek and Latin speaking theologians showing specific causes for why a heresy is to be avoided, what negative consecutively it leads to theologically - even to the point where people are posthumously anathematized.

The west maintained this custom - and thus when language or terms are introduced strives to find what ways in which the term in question may or may not be used without damage to the faith. The East's tact is to automatically write off that which uses new terminology.

Such an approach ought to be quite understandable to any LCMS Lutheran with a sense of history. Why was the LCMS adamant at its formation in its retention of German? Because there were doubts if theology could be rightly expressed in this new language. In fact, one of the great sources of consternation is the way in which German is (poorly) translated into English. New terminology can only be incorporated with difficulty.

The East basically just cut everything off way back when. No more. The West isn't content with that - we still feel compelled to respond to new questions and terminology on the basis of Scripture. It is a difference in approach - and I think that the Lutheran approach is more akin to the approach taken in the first 6 or 7 Centuries of the Church.

Now - that is my thought - is there an example of an introduction of any new terminology in Eastern Theology, post 787, to give a date - after Iconoclasm is settled? In the West, we see this continued use of new terms - but I don't think it is really present in the East.

This would mean that there is just a fundamentally different approach to the use of language - for the West language moves, develops, and as such, there are new linguistic benefits or deteriments to be dealt with. For the East, the language of the Church is to be static, which a person is to immerse one's self into - and so there is no need to address modern questions, because they are the wrong questions and to answer them is pointless and misguided.

The Commentator said...

146

Anonymous said...

147

Anonymous said...

148

Anonymous said...

149

The Unknown Lutheran said...

150

Awesome debate

William Weedon said...

I REALLY think some folks need to get a life. :)

The Commentator said...

Then you need to stop posting things that goad and bait and cajole and otherwise encourage Orthodox folks with these kinds of posts. They are such an insecure lot, after all; particular the 90 day wonder clergy converts among them.

Oh, whoopeee 152

Pr. Weedon said...

Pr. Weedon said:

I ask the readers and commentators on this blog to please refrain from personally attacking others - we seldom have the full story and thus are not in a position to judge others' actions and words. My suggested rule is always to ask if you'd be comfortable saying what you are saying in the very presence of our Crucified and Risen Lord, for you truly are doing nothing less than that.

William Weedon said...

Whoever posted #152 (from Michigan): please, feel free to quote my words (and don't be afraid to use your own name), but do not post in my name. That only confuses the readers of this blog who wonder why I am repeating myself.

Paul said...

Paul...

and it seems that you are comfortable with the above attacks on fellow Christians according to your own words...


"we seldom have the full story and thus are not in a position to judge others' actions and words."

PAUL

William Weedon said...

Paul,

It took me a minute to realize what you were saying - I think I have removed the offending comment. I should have removed it right away, but this silly thread is impossible to really keep up with.

Paul said...

How about Commentators #151 post?

Paul

William Weedon said...

Paul,

That was HUMOR directed to those who were driving up the site meter for fun. So, no, that one stays. :)

Paul said...

Pr. Weedon said:

That was HUMOR directed to those who were driving up the site meter for fun. So, no, that one stays. :)




This does not seem like humor to me, rather it appears to be a right slap in the face fairly loaded with plenty of insult and spite.

Paul

William Weedon said...

Paul,

You don't think it was silly for folks to just post no responses at all except the number of the post to see the site meter rise? They were having fun and being silly - and so I said to them in jest that they needed to get a life. The comment was directed toward anyone who offered a response - just those who were clicking up the numbers. And I suspect they took it humorously as well.

I am sorry that the comment came off as offensive. Humor on line sometimes does that.

Paul said...

"They are such an insecure lot, after all; particular the **90 day wonder clergy converts among them.**"


This is humor? Well, ok. I suppose Ive fussed enough and have an answer


Paul

Paul T. McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul T. McCain said...

Paul,

By the way, guy, get a life.

: )

PTM

Paul T. McCain said...

What's the comment count up to now?

I want to see Petersen beat this comment count.

William Weedon said...

Hey, at least they're all right after the other and not in those interminable:

--------
---------------
-----------------------
------
---

etc. that David has going on over there!

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

This has been one of the best threads I've read in a long time. I laughed. I cried. I hurled.


First, something on topic:
Pr. Weedon, speaking to your original post, could you give an example of what you mean by those who "discount the forensic element of the Biblical revelation"? Parts of this thread (both Orthodox suggestion and the way Lutherans here debated) suggested that all of Lutheranism might not be totally, 100% agreed on how much the forensic aspect plays into everything. So, in your estimation, what are examples of discounting the forensic element, or overly downplaying it? When is there not enough forensic justification, and too much something else? Is this to be judged on a paper-by-paper, sermon-by-sermon basis, or on some grander scale? (Sorry if that's a bit nit-picky.) Without wagging any fingers at the Orthodox, what examples can you give to help us understand your concern with more clarity?

Now for something completely different (i.e. what has already been beaten to death):
All this talk about Orthodox Christianity, works-righteousness, and their lack of emphasis on forensic justification amounts to so much chasing after one's own tail. One of the Hogg's, I believe, pointed out that the difference between Lutherans and the Orthodox isn't works-righteousness, but the cross. He's right. If the Lutherans that are so hot and bothered by the Orthodox can dive into that one, they might just see what happened to forensic justification with the Orthodox.

As of late I've been rather struck by the way Lutherans behave whenever the Orthodox come on the radar. Too often we get all worked up by the Orthodox, because (imho) too many of us are afraid someone else will jump in the Bosporus and swim. There's a lot of fear and gnashing of teeth on the Lutheran side since some more notable people swam East. Perhaps it would be more helpful if we focused on cleaning the scum out of our own waters, rather than acting on the fear that someone might see better waters across the way. Or to put it another way, it would be best if we worked on removing the glaring reasons in our midst that cause people to even consider swimming elsewhere in the first place. We have to be real careful to not blame others for our own problems.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Harju,

You might want to examine the paper that Art Just delivered at the Symposium in 2006 - on Galatians. It was a prime example of what I had in mind.

Pax!

Pr. Lehmann said...

I remember coming home from that Symposia fuming about that paper.