02 November 2011

To reinforce

from tonight's Bible Class. We're in Jeremiah, and did chapter 9.  Eleanor sometimes visits our class.  She had the most disturbing comment to report this evening:  some fellow Lutherans had actually said to her "I'm forgiven so it doesn't matter what I do."

THIS IS NOT LUTHERAN.  This is purely devilish.

The first of the 95 must ever be remembered:  When our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to repent, he meant that the entire life of the Christian should be repentance.

Which is to say, the entire life of the Christian, powered by the forgiveness of God, is an ongoing war against the sin that remains in our flesh. There is no peace treaty with that sin because of forgiveness.  The exact opposite.

You have a house infested with poisonous snakes and you make a treaty of peace with them?  Heck no!  You go after them with a vengeance each time one shows its ugly head.  You do so in the joyful confidence that the final victory WILL be yours, not theirs!

It is absolutely true that this battle continues to our grave.  The evil desires continue to pop up from our corrupted flesh and will.  But the grace of the Holy Spirit is given us for this battle to wage on.

Do we do it perfectly?  Of course not!  We literally LIVE from the forgiveness of our sins.  But because we do, we're snake hunters.  We watch for the wretches to show up and then we attack with a vengeance.  We know they mean us death, and so we bring them to death.  We most certainly do NOT feed them, coddle them, or excuse them with saying:  "But I'm forgiven, so they can stay."

I had always turned to the Apology's repeated assertions about the impossibility of faith existing outside of repentance, but Pastor Curtis pointed out that the Smalcald Articles are even clearer.  Read for yourself III:III:40, 43-45.  Luther is utterly clear.

Rant over.  And thanks to Eleanor for bringing the matter up - for it surely is a wound that needs addressing on the body of Lutheranism.

29 comments:

Becky said...

I hate that I had to miss it. Worked late again. Hmmm, maybe it's time for one of those law sermons you mentioned a couple of weeks ago. BTW, did you happen to catch President Harrison's mention of the same (law sermons) last week?

Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

Are you really surprised though by this? Lutheran churches have not been immune to the cheap grace which is vomited from the pulpits of mainline Protestants and Baptists.

But, at the same time, doesn't such a phenomenon exist also by the false teaching of justification? If faith is all that is needed for salvation, then why would repentance be even considered? Lutherans have put such a chasm between sanctification and justification that the two are now completely divorced from one another which was never the teaching of the church before Martin Luther innovated that on his own.

Devlish this may be, but this is the logical conclusion to Martin Luther's reformation. 500 years in and it is starting to unravel. Reap what you sow.

Unknown said...

Pastor Curtis is wrong, but Luther is utterly clear. The problem is that, depending on which English version of the Smalcald Articles (or The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, II. Free Will, or Human Powers
34], where this section of the Smalcald Articles is quoted) you read, the translations range from wrong to misleading.

First, in German, the word “repentance” is a noun, not a verb. Even if you don’t know German, you can tell by the fact that the word is capitalized. So the article does not speak of “our repenting”, but what Repentance (the noun) does. From the text, just two paragraphs earlier, it is clear that Luther is writing about the “one time Repentance” which, together with the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes it possible for us to become members of the Kingdom of God: “This repentance is not piecemeal [partial] and beggarly [fragmentary], like that which does penance for actual sins, nor is it uncertain like that. For it does not debate what is or is not sin, but hurls everything on a heap, and says: All in us is nothing but sin [affirms that, with respect to us, all is simply sin (and there is nothing in us that is not sin and guilt)].”

And what does it, this one time Repentance do? The German word “währt“ is translated as “continues“. But the German carries the meaning of “being effective” rather than simply continuing. But even if you disagree with the precise meaning of “währt“, if you read what follows carefully, you will realize that Luther is saying that the one time Repentance is good for the rest of your life. “…because, through the entire life it (the Repentance, not we) contends with sin remaining in the flesh, as Paul, Rom. 7:14-25, [shows] testifies that he wars with the law in his members, etc.; and that, not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Ghost that follows the remission of sins. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins, and works so as to render man truly pure and holy.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Unknown said...

Chris: What many of our Lutheran pastors do not teach is that there are two “Repentances”. The first is the one which brings us into the Kingdom of God, as St. Peter spoke during his first sermon, Acts 2:37, “37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." This repentance is one time event and is not repeated as Baptism is not repeated.

The second kind of repentance, maybe better called contrition, is the one most Christians practice daily, especially when we say, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The main reason why a Lutheran would say, "I'm forgiven so it doesn't matter what I do," is that his pastor has not taught him about the Holy Spirit. This, together with Pietism is a major problem in our church. But most Christians realize that “they are a new creation,” one who would never speak such blasphemy. As St. Paul writes, 1 Cor. 12: 3, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Lutheran teaching of justification is the one the Church has always taught, beginning with the early Church Fathers. (Romans 3:19) “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law,…” and (Romans 3:21), “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” and (Romans 8:33), “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God Who justifies. Who is to condemn?” Sadly, it is not taught very clearly in some of our congregations, leading to a lot of mischief.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Chris,

No, it by no means follows from the doctrine of justification which sharply distinguishes but absolutely does not divide sanctification and justification. The one is God's work for us and the other God's work in us; they may not be divided without dividing the blessed Trinity!

George,

No question that repentance (this work of the Trinity within us) is what continually works to sweep out the old sin. But also no denying what the Formula says: that we cooperate in these works of the Spirit, though in great weakness. What I think you are absolutely right on (if I am hearing you correctly) is that the "sweeping out" of the remaining sin isn't the cause, but the result of sanctification - of the indwelling of Christ by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Pax!

David Garner said...

I've heard it said among Lutherans that the Gospel preached rightly and alone will always lead to antinomianism, and the Law preached rightly and alone will always lead to despair. In good Lutheran preaching, both are necessary, and in fact as you state both are a staple of Lutheran theology ("rightly dividing Law and Gospel" anyone?). One of the real problems we found in some of the Lutheran Churches we attended was the very idea at work in your post, but taken in a different direction. Law and Gospel were conflated such that the Gospel always led to doing good things, without pointing out that under the Law one cannot really do good things, and the Law always led to trying to do good things without pointing out that no good works are possible apart from the Gospel. And ironically, one of the things that attracted us to the Orthodox parish we attend now is the fact that they do a very good job of keeping this straight. We do not do good, so we strive to do better, knowing we cannot actually achieve perfection but nonetheless making real attempts to keep the Law because of the Gospel which frees us from its demands. It is our imperfection that drives us to want to do better, and it is our trying to be perfect that most clearly shows us our imperfection.

I don't think the problem is somehow endemic to Lutheranism. I think the problem is simply people not understanding what the Gospel is, what it accomplishes and how it applies to us. If anything, more Protestantized Lutherans tend to be bisected from the Sacramental life which is where the Gospel is lived out and where the Law is made most manifest. That's not a problem in your parish (or at least not a problem with how you preside over it), nor in other Lutheran parishes we've attended and to which we have belonged. But it is a problem in others. Having said that, we Orthodox have our own back doors to sweep around and I have my own personal demons to contend with, so I'm not about to start pointing fingers at traditions other than my own and people other than myself. We all do well to remember what you have said here, and I very much appreciate this post.

Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

You're ignoring the main crux of my argument--mainly that the Lutheran church's teachings of the three solas, particularly sola fide, leaves out any role of sanctification. This woman who proffered the suggestion that it doesn't matter what one does since all is forgiven (assuming one has faith) is the logical conclusion of sola fide. Why else would it be called "by faith ALONE?" Doesn't alone exclude anything else?

As misguided as this woman's belief is, though it may not be taught by the Lutheran church strictly, it is still the inevitable logical conclusion that sola fide leads to.

I recently read an article about one of Ashton Kutcher's mistresses who is a self proclaimed "religious" Lutheran from Texas. But, as Christ says, "By their deeds you will know them." With regards to this young woman I'm sure she thinks it is still permissible to go on her self destructive life but still go to church on Sunday while still having faith.

Sola fide, justification by faith alone and repentance cannot exist together. Sola fide is an invention of Luther as is justification by faith. Repentance has gone by the wayside in modern Lutheranism and pretty much in every other confession of Christ, even among the Orthodox jurisdictions. But if we are saved by faith alone, then why did both the Forerunner and Christ Himself preach "Repent!"?

ezerwoman said...

I appreciate a little book from my grandmother's collection. It is titled "What a Young Girl Ought to Know" from the Truth and Purity series written by Mary Wood-Allen, M.D., in 1898. She writes:

"You are created by God; therefore you are His child . . . No failure to recognize God as your Father changes His relationship to you. No conduct of yours can make you any less His child. 'Well,' you may say, 'if that is so, what does it matter, then, what I do? If disobedience or sin cannot make me less God's child, why should I be good and obedient?' Because, dear heart, your conduct changes your attitude towards Him."

William Weedon said...

Chris,

Pardon me for being rude but that's just a bunch of bull. SAVING FAITH, according to the Lutheran Symbols, ONLY EXISTS in repentance. Did you never read the Apology when you were a Lutheran? Take to heart these words:

Faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Spirit and reject repentance. As we have said before, faith exists in repentance. XX:90

If it doesn't live in repentance, it's NOT the faith that saves. That is Lutheran doctrine, Chris. Not this stuff you're making up!

William Weedon said...

Or as the Apology says it elsewhere:

Ap IV: 142 Likewise, the faith of which we speak exists in repentance. I mean that faith is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels God’s wrath against our sins and seeks forgiveness of sins, seeks to be freed from sin. In such terrors and other troubles, this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. 143 Therefore, it cannot exist in people who live by the flesh, who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them.

Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

How is "saving faith" bull? I was always taught that man was saved by faith alone? Isn't that the same thing as "saving faith." Make the distinction for me. I'm not making this up. Either I was taught by bad Lutheran pastors or this is what is being taught in Lutheran seminaries.

You can quote as many Apologies as you wish, but that doesn't mean they make sense? How can repentance, which is action, be compatible with sola fide. Either sola fide must be scrapped or repentance. You may certainly say that you should have both faith AND repentance, but why the need for a "sola" which means ALONE? Doesn't the word "alone" mean alone? Perhaps, a needed emendation of the Lutheran credo is needed. Instead of sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura (by grace alone, by faith alone, by scripture alone) why not gratia, fide, scriptura (by grace, by faith, by scripture). Perhaps that would clear up the confusion.

William Weedon said...

Chris,

That's like saying that Orthodox doctrine is whatever a priest happens to spout off because you heard a priest say it. Lutheran doctrine is clearly defined for the whole world to read in the Lutheran Symbols - and in those Symbols, not just once or twice but repeatedly saving faith - that which alone justifies - is described as existing solely in repentance; and it is explicitly denied that a person who continues in sins contrary to the conscience can actually possess saving faith. THAT'S Lutheran doctrine. It is absolutely true that faith alone is the means of apprehending the promise of God regarding justification; but it is also absolutely true that such faith that truly apprehends the promise cannot and does not make peace with the sin from which it has been justified; instead, it declares all out war on it and seeks to have it diminished. Here are the words of Luther to which I alluded in my original post. Again, Lutheran DOCTRINE:

"40 In Christians, this repentance continues until death. For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members (Romans 7:14–25) not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins [Romans 8:1–17]. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy.

43 So it is necessary to know and to teach this: When holy people—still having and feeling original sin and daily repenting and striving against it—happen to fall into manifest sins (as David did into adultery, murder, and blasphemy [2 Samuel 11]), then faith and the Holy Spirit have left them. 44 The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so it can be carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants [Psalm 51:11; Romans 6:14]. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present. 45 For St. John says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning … and he cannot keep on sinning” [1 John 3:9]. And yet it is also true when St. John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” [1:8].

Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: My fundamental objection is to those who teach, “The first of the 95 must ever be remembered: When our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to repent, he meant that the entire life of the Christian should be repentance.” It isn’t surprising that this did not make it into the Book of Concord, as did many other things Luther wrote that are not true. We huff and puff over correctly distinguishing between Law and Gospel, but we fail to distinguish between the Repentance which takes place as the gift of the Holy Spirit when we become children of God, and the repentance that takes place when we, who already redeemed, confess our sins (or actually a tiny fraction of them) to our merciful Father. To confuse the two is simply to teach false doctrine, as those do who burden their flock with the teaching that Smalcald III, III has anything to do with the daily repentance or contrition of the redeemed.

Does this leave room for, Rom. 14: 17, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” or Rom.15: 13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Not if you are too busy repenting all the time.

If we believe that the “remaining sin” is ever totally swept out, we do not understand the Gospel. Sanctification is not a process that starts with 0% at conversion or Baptism and ends with 100% sometime before our death. Even to guess at “degrees of Justification” is folly. It is possible that a person whom we conceive to be a saint will suddenly commit an unspeakable sin. Sanctification is the doctrine which speaks of what God does in His children so that they will want to do His will. It is not a doctrine that tells us how we become “better”, or how to commit fewer and fewer sins. The hardest thing to believe is that our degree of sanctification is irrelevant as far as our justification is concerned.

Do you suppose that the next morning, when the Prodigal Son saw his father he again fell down and said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son”? I assure you he did not, because they were still celebrating! But woe to him who disregards the gown, the ring, and the sandals, which our Father gives him, or to him who takes them away from those who have them.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

I think Luther is the best interpreter of Luther. See especially LC V:66-70. There's his daily repentance and we note that this is most certainly a gift and grace and act of the Holy Spirit in which we cooperate in greatest weakness. But that there is progress cannot be denied without denying the Lutheran Symbols themselves. Because the progress is ever weak and faltering, the immense comfort of the forgiveness reigns. The robe, the ring, the joy of the Father's presence - these are what the Holy Spirit uses to help kill in us the impulse to still do my own thing. Just because he came home doesn't mean he didn't itch for a prostitute now and again - but we can hope that by the Spirit's grace that itch was not scratched but rather crucified.

To me, repentance and joy are not two different things. Rather, we enter the joy of our Lord by living in the grace of repentance. Our entire life gets to be a turning from sin, death, devil; a turning to our beloved heavenly Father. Our entire life is a putting off of the sins of the flesh; and a putting on of the life that is in Christ Himself, the Spirit's life within us!

Trent said...

Pastor Weedon,
You can protest all you want with quotes from the Symbols, but to me that’s not the issue. The issue is, the opinion expressed by the woman to you is unbelievably pervasive within Lutheran circles, even Confessional ones. I have heard it my whole life and still hear it from my Lutheran friends.

So the issue is not what the Symbols say but WHY has this become such a strong belief within Lutheran circles. From my perspective, Lutheran doctrine has been internalized by either Pastors or the way those Pastors have been understood by their flock in such a way that brings them to this conclusion. I’m not even sure it may be intentional, but non-the less, large numbers of Lutherans have come to this same conclusion. In addition, they have come to this conclusion independent of one another. I heard it in the multiple parishes I was a member of in KS, I heard it from members from the parish I was a member of in Virginia. So the question is why?

I have my theories, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Trent

William Weedon said...

Trent,

1. I don't care if 99% of the Lutheran parishes in the world proclaimed that; it's still NOT Lutheran doctrine! Lutheran doctrine is that which is contained in the Book of Concord and if pastors are not faithfully proclaiming that, it still remains Lutheran doctrine and the standard to which they were all pledged. Those Symbols are clear that negatively: genuine faith cannot coexist with mortal sin; and positively: genuine faith only exists in repentance.

2. The cause in its most essential form is the will of the devil, who delights in nothing more than deceiving people who live in unrepentant sin into thinking they've got a free ticket into heaven so that he can take them as his own in the end. The mechanism by which the devil pulls this off is already unmasked in our Symbols: it is the substitution of knowledge for faith. People are led to believe that faith is possessing certain pieces of information, rather than divinely wrought trust in the promises of God!

My take. Now, you want to share yours?

William Weedon said...

From C.F. W. Walther, founding father of the LCMS:

Thesis X on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel:

"You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you preach that "dead" faith can justify and save in the sight of God - which that believer is still living in mortal sins. In the same way, do not preach that faith justifies and saves those unrepentant people because of the love and renewal it produces in them."

Similarly in his lecture:

There are many papists, even among the priesthood, who actually believe that the Lutheran Church is a disgraceful mob that says, "The mere act of admitting something to be true makes a person righteous and saves him," so that he goes to heaven - not matter what kind of life he leads.

This is, of course, THE standard textbook in the Synod for teaching how to preach...

William Weedon said...

sorry, "while" not "which."

Trent said...

I agree that its not Lutheran doctrine, I hope you did not get the impression that I was implying that it is.

My far from scholarly opinion is that it’s the way in which certain pastors and their laity have fell prey to “Lutheran reductionism”. The people in the pews don’t hear about the sections of the Symbols either taught or preached about that you have posted. Also, it’s my humble opinion that the continual emphasis of certain biblical verses to the exclusion of others has given the average layperson an unbalanced understanding on this and related issues. Certainly I understand why those certain verses where emphasized, because it was those issues that were at the core of the Reformers disagreement with Rome. It was my experience that verses that emphasizes faith and justification was emphasized in sermons to almost the exclusion of verses that emphasize love, charity and good works, “faith working through love”.
For example, if you take Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only.”. I would bet that the ratio of Eph to James as quoted from LCMS pulpits is probably 1000-1 (at least). This is not to suggest that Eph by itself is not 100% true, but by doing so, people have fell prey to reductionism and just extrapolated themselves into some bad positions. Another proof is the annual Lutheran Witness question (its almost as certain as “death and taxes” ☺) that says, “The Athanasian Creed says, “And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire”. I thought Lutherans didn’t believe in salvation by works or what we do matters? This question shows, again, that an unbalanced presentation gives people the impression, over time, that would of course lead to confusion about statements from the Athan Creed.

Just listen to this clip by Dr. Rosenbladt, I think its clear why so many have come to this opinion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhCfYCRnv2E

I also want to say that, IMO, this phenomenon is not unique to Lutheranism, but reductionism found in various Church bodies manifests itself in different ways. I think Fr. Schmemann’s whole point about the dangers of reductionism should be taken to heart by all. Balance is always the key. The Monophysites believed they were just sticking up for Christ’s Divine Nature to the utmost degree because earlier Arius can come from their lands and had denied homoousios. Well, they were defending his Divinity, but they lost their balance and over emphasized it to the point of becoming heretical.

Humbly,
Trent

William Weedon said...

Trent,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. Reductionism is a problem. What I find of great interest is how the Reformers did NOT change the traditional epistles, though Luther himself noted that they were heavily weighted toward works. Walther wrote that the pastor must not give up an opportunity to preach on Ephesians - but he was talking about the epistle for Lent 3: Ephesians 5:1-9. Walther wrote that pastors must especially drive home verses 5 and 6 and stress to the congregation how seriously our Lord God means what the Apostle wrote there.

Speaking of reductionism, it strikes me that a whole other area that is a major contributing factor to this is the whole loss in most Lutheran thinking of mystical union. You cannot miss this in Gerhard or in Chemnitz. It's huge. And the advent into our lives of the All-Holy Trinity is precisely incompatible with the attempt to retain the right to sin with impunity. A consuming fire He is and remains and He devours all that is not love! Chemnitz in Examen:

"But men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and through the use of the Word and the sacraments become more and more united with Him and seek from God the gift of perseverance and wrestle, lest the wantonness of the flesh drive out the gift of perseverance." I:607

Could it be clearer???

William Weedon said...

More from Chemnitz:

We also expressly condemn the blasphemy of Simon Magus, who taught that men who are freely saved by faith are free to do whatever they want. For it has been frequently repeated by our men that we plainly and clearly teach that it is necessary that there be in the regenerate a knowledge of the articles of faith, contrition, a good intention, that love must be begun and that good works must follow.

We earnestly detest also the blasphemy of Basilides, who taught that we are saved in such a way by grace through faith that any and every action, and indeed, every passion, could be indiscriminately indulged.

We condemn also the gnostics, who said that they were saved by knowledge alone and that, because of the excellency of faith, they became so spiritual that it was impossible for them to fall from grace, no matter what they might perpetrate. (EXAMEN I:466)

William Weedon said...

One final bit - Gerhard's Sacred Meditations, XII:

When faith weds us to Christ, it unites us with Christ and for that reason faith is the mother of all strength in us. Where faith is, there is Christ. Where Christ is, there is a holy life, namely, true humility, true gentleness and true love. Christ and the Holy Spirit are not torn asunder. Where the Spirit is, there is holiness. Therefore, where there a holy life does not exist, neither does the sanctifying Spirit. Where the Spirit is not present, neither is Christ. Where Christ is not present, neither is true faith. Whatever branch does not derive sap from the vine is unable to be united with life. Neither do we derive life and sap outside of Christ.

Unknown said...

Chris, when you write, “…it doesn't matter what one does since all is forgiven (assuming one has faith) is the logical conclusion of sola fide.” You are absolutely right, but so is “sola fide”. How can this be? The Law is logical; the Gospel is not. As far back as the prophet Isaiah God told His people, Isaiah 48:6, "…From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. 7 They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.' 8 You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ear has not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.” On the basis of this, and many other passages in Scripture, we know that nobody could have figured out that there would be such a thing as the Gospel. Therefore, we and all Christians conclude that we can only affirm that about the Gospel which God has revealed to us. Lutherans believe this revelation comes only through the Scriptures, and that even then it cannot be believed without the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox and Roman Catholics add Tradition to Scripture, something Lutherans should not oppose, provided Tradition does not conflict with Scripture. This is, in fact, what my brother, Prof. Kurt Marquart and our step-cousin, Fr. John Meyendorff, probably the most highly educated theologian of the last century, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, agreed to.

Well, Scripture is unequivocal and unambiguous in proclaiming that salvation is “by grace, through faith.” Therefore it is logical to say that a Christian need not repent during his life, or to do any good works whatsoever. But the Gospel is not logical. Our Lord spent about three years proclaiming what He called, “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” This Gospel tells us that after our Lord had done whatever is necessary to atone for our sins, God would bring his people into His Kingdom by killing them in this world in the waters of Baptism and resurrecting them as new creatures. These new creatures have the will of God written in their hearts, and therefore, they will repent, in acknowledgement of their imperfection, and they will do good works, but not out of fear or obligation, but freely, because it is now their desire to do the will of God. At the same time they know that neither their repentance nor their good works affect their membership in the Kingdom of God.

It would be nice to be able to say that these new creatures are perfect in their love of God, but both Scripture and experience tell us that this is not so. Nevertheless, God mercifully forgives our sins and His Spirit continually works in us to keep us in His Kingdom until He takes us into His Presence. Not provided we do so and so, because then we could indeed boast of something. But the Holy Spirit tells us through St. Paul, Romans 3: 27, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

George,

Very well said! Thank you!

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

Pastor Weedon, it is obvious that some only hear what they want to hear. There may be some in Lutheran circles who would *mistakenly* say that faith is all that matters and it doesn't matter how you live. But I sure as heck don't know anyone (and I know a lot of people) who would be comfortable with that statement.

I remember in Confessions II at seminary learning this formula: "Are good works necessary for justification? No. Are good works necessary? Yes."

The Epistle for All Saints from 1 John 3 sums it up nicely I think: "Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure." John doesn't write: "Everyone who thus hopes in him and is active in good works purifies himself." He simply refers to faith (Hebrews says that faith is hope in things not seen). One is pure in the sight of God through hope in the Crucified God.

David Garner said...

It seems given some of the comments I too was raised in the Lutheran tradition in a way many Lutherans would not recognize (which I have noted before on my own blog). I still believe what I was taught best comports with the Symbols, but it seems there is disagreement on that point.

Pastor Beisel's comment that good works are necessary, but not to justification, best encapsulates the way I was taught the faith as a young Lutheran. I've heard an Orthodox parishioner comment similarly: "you are not saved because of your good works, but you will not be saved without them either." This is one reason among many I was comfortable becoming Orthodox without thinking I had "abandoned the Gospel."

For what it's worth, I also happen to think this is the position best encapsulated by the wider catholic Church throughout the ages, with certain obvious exceptions (such as the medieval Roman Church and far too much of modern Protestantism, both of which could be argued to be not catholic at all). Lutherans, who view themselves as catholic in a true sense, would do well to note this. As to whether this view is truly "Lutheran," I'll leave it to Lutherans to work out. My personal view is it is manifestly Lutheran as measured by the Confessions.

Jim Huffman said...

Any thoughts about how this teaching comports with the declaration in the Brief Statement: "The orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name nor by its outward acceptance of, and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications."

I'm not trying to make an assertion about this, but I wonder if there's a pervasive undercurrent of teaching that may have permeated synod culture.

William Weedon said...

David,

The way I always heard it put was: "Faith alone saves, and the faith that saves is NEVER alone."

Jimbo,

No question that it is one more evidence of the sickness that rages in Missouri. It's one of the reasons I said in the original post it was a wound on the body of Lutheranism. Certainly if there is one thing ANY Lutheran should be able to articulate it is the nature of saving faith! The fact that these kind of sad sentiments (such as was quoted to Eleanor) are out there is a travesty of the first degree.

mlorfeld said...

I would suggest that this has come about by the Gnosticization of the Lutheran Church. It seems over the last 70 years the average Lutheran heard that the whole point of being a Christian was so that they can get to heaven.

Of course, I am not suggesting we toss the preaching of heaven out... but to point out that there is more to Jesus delivering the salvation he achieved on the cross to us through Baptism than merely having our sould fly off, harp in hand, to heaven. The mere fact that the beginning of eternal life for the Christian starts when they are Baptized... not when body and soul are violently wrenched apart in death should be cause for a monumental shift in our thinking/preaching (that is, from one of the things I have found lacking in previous generations).