28 November 2011

It strikes me

that against certain well-known Roman polemics against Lutheranism, Luther's words cited into today's Treasury reading (and cited also in the Book of Concord) are simply priceless:

Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us be born anew of God.  It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and power; it brings with it the Holy Spirit.  O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.  It is impossible for it not be doing good works incessantly.... Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever... Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.  [Treasury, pp. 961,2]

4 comments:

William Hyland said...

Powerful quotation.

Perhaps these words should be better known, not just by the polemicists you mention, but by more Lutherans as well, who sometimes, in my experience, invite caricature, by their own remarks, of their own tradition in this matter?

Unknown said...

I continue to be amazed that Christian people look at something like this and do not see how terribly wrong it is. Faith is indeed a divine work in us, but it does not change us! God works change in us when He makes us new creatures “by water and the Spirit” and then gives us the gift of faith. Faith does not kill the Old Adam; we cannot have faith while the Old Adam is still alive. God kills him when He drowns him in the waters of Baptism. How can the gift give the giver? Faith does not bring with it the Holy Spirit, as if the Holy Spirit is not a Person with a will and power of His own, but is simply something dragged along by the gift He Himself has given. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in every child of God according to our Lord’s promise and His own most gracious will. He gives that child faith; that is, trust in God, and all of the many gifts that make the children of God radically different from the children of this world. It is not faith that does “good works incessantly”. We, the children of God, having put on the complete armor of God, including the shield of faith as just one of the components, do good works, because we have faith, because the Holy Spirit dwells in us with all of His wonderful gifts, and because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

Luther wrote all this himself in another place, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.” Luther can contradict himself, even in the Confessions. But Scripture cannot contradict itself.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

George,

Do you also then disagree with the Small Catechism on Holy Baptism? That the old Adam should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die? And that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever?

Unknown said...

Rev. Weedon: First, if I drown the old Adam one day and a new man arises who lives before God in righteousness and purity forever, then forever is a rather short time if I have to do it again on the following day. So, you see, we read these words, memorize them, ponder them, but do not realize that they make no sense whatsoever.

In defense of this position, Luther quotes Romans 6. Romans 6 has nothing to say about any “daily drowning of the Old Adam”. It does speak about walking in a new life, περιπατησωμεν verb - aorist active subjunctive - first person, so that we may walk in newness of life. St. Paul is not saying that, because Christ died and we were buried with Him, and are now raised to new life, we should (must) live a new life, but that we “may”, because it would be impossible to walk in a new life without being the new creatures He made us.

Far be it from me to argue that we are perfect in our obedience to God after being baptized. Our Confession are particularly good about explaining the relationship between our imperfection and the need for sanctification in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Third Use. But what I am adamant about is that the Repentance we undergo when God takes us into His Kingdom, is not the same repentance we undergo daily, or sometimes far less than daily, as we live our lives as children of God. The new man (by the way, Old Adam is not a word you will find in the Bible, you will find such terms as “old man” and “flesh” in the discussion of a variety of topics, ranging from justification, salvation, and sanctification) becomes the new man once, but his sanctification is a process that takes place continuously under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, parents, teachers, friends, in joy and sadness. But mostly in joy, because that is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

My major disagreement with Luther on Baptism is that he could not bring himself to say, “by water and the Spirit”, which is what our Lord told Nicodemus. Granted that the expression, “by water and the Word”, occurs in Scripture, but when used as the formulation for the fundamental teaching about Baptism, it takes us away from what really happens. Maybe that is why Luther wrote many confusing things about the Holy Spirit and sanctification.

So, yes, I disagree with Luther in the quotation you cited. Everybody should.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart