13 January 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Where there is no true repentance, but the intent remains to continue in sins, there true faith cannot exist, and faith that does not work by love but remains without good fruits, is not true, but feigned and dead faith. - Martin Chemnitz, *Enchiridion* par. 163


ptmccain said...

Some of our friends, Bill, will tell us, "Of course, I entirely agree with Dr. Chemnitz." But then they will say that we should not try to do good works, they just flow naturally from us, without our trying, thinking about them, they just come automatically. Therefore, we should not talk about works, but only Christ and His forgiviness. To talk about our works is to pull our eyes off Jesus.

I don't know how this squares with the Bible, the Confessions, or our Lutheran Fathers, but this now seems to be the way some of our friends wish to think about the life of holiness to which we are called in Christ.

I find it quite distresing, actually.

Pablo said...

More and more I see Lutheran pastors preaching a Gospel that enables instead of a Gospel that forgives your sins totally and completely. So when they deliver the law it rightly brings sinners to their knees but when the Gospel is delivered it is not "Your sins are forgiven" But "Christ has forgiven your sins so you better do this and that" All that does is throw the believer back under the condemnation of the law and gives no comfort.

William Weedon said...

Dear Paul (Pablo),

Do you have a copy of the House Postils of Luther? I highly recommend them. I think if you read them, you will observe that he does not hesitate to preach the law also to believers, urging them to good works. But at the same time there is no putting the believer back under the condemnation of the law; just taking all false security away from the old Adam. Luther was no antinomian! Nor, for that matter, was Walther. He did not hesitate to exhort to good works.

"But faith alone doth justify
Works serve the neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living."

Pax Chrisi tecum!

Paul T. McCain said...

More and more I am realizing we do have pastors out there who have taken their cues more from the speculations of their seminary professors, than actually having read The Lutheran Confessions and the "chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession" -- Martin Luther. In turn, we do have a generation of professors who were over-influenced by the Erlangen school, rather than the Luther school. And, hence, we have folks like Poblo on the receiving end of this confusion. The poor man simply does not have any solid grasp of the doctrine of sanctification, nor the third use of the Law, nor the transformative nature of the Gospel, in addition to its justifying power. Sigh.

Bill, you and I can post proper sermons all day long, but a guy like Poblo and his type will continue to come along and say, "You are just throwing me back on the Law and condemning me."

Weird. Sad. Very sad.

LibraryLady said...

This quote seems a great clarification on our doctrine of mortal sin--but this is not something we hear very often in preaching and teaching from our Lutheran pastors.

As God's beloved redeemed, we never willfully intend nor plan to sin. Isn't that why it is called 'falling' into sin?

Could it be that the misunderstanding of mortal sin is directly at the center of the whole sanctification debate?

William Weedon said...

Is that you, Helen? Yes, I think that IS at the center of tons of misunderstandings. Without the clear teaching about the dangers of mortal sin, we end up with Gospel as mere securitas. May the Lord deliver us from it!

monergon said...

Please forgive me if this posts twice...I had to sign in under the new blogger and it didn't indicated that my comment was processed.

I know "Pablo and his type" and I can tell you definitively that "his type" would NEVER say that the law shouldn't be preached or that we shouldn't come under its condemnation. On the contrary, the concern is that quite often it is seemingly watered down and preached as doable or attainable (in the eyes of God).

The law is the ministry of death...it condemns and should be preached and heard in ALL of its severity. The Gospel is the promise of salvation...it saves and should be preached and heard in ALL of its sweetness. That sweetness does indeed transform us but we are not harness that power to transform us.

William Weedon said...

Dear Monergon,

Remember that according to the Formula, sanctification is synergon, for the new man cooperates with the Holy Spirit in all works of sanctification; which is just another way of saying that the Gospel itself enlivens us, sets our wills free to cooperate with God, and that even though we do this in great weakness (and continual faltering), we do indeed do so. There is no fear that this thrusts anyone back under the law, for the Gospel's pardon sets us free entirely from the condemnation of the law while at the same time bringing us back from death to life in communion with God so that we begin to desire what He desires and to work with Him in the putting to death of the sinful self. That never becomes either meritorious or the source of our confidence, but it most surely follows as a consequence, or our faith is just sham.


Fr. Hank said...

And in all things,,,,, keep a lookout over your shoulder for the ghost of Pelegius and Old Adam (Old Eve too) doing their dance of Death.

Drew said...

I've been thinking about this very issue a lot lately. In reading through Chemnitz' Examination, I've noticed that he frequently mentions that 'sins against the conscience' and true faith (in contradistinction to mere historical knowledge) cannot coexist - the one casts out the other. He never clearly defines what exactly he means by 'sins against the conscience', and it's caused me to wonder whether I've grieved the Holy Ghost and cast Him out multiple, yes, even hundreds of times throughout my life. This all sounds so terribly Wesleyan to me (which may not necessarily be a bad thing), but I've always heard Lutherans villainize him; which seems odd, because in my reading, he and Chemnitz seem to be a lot closer than may have been previously imagined.

Or am I just out to lunch here?

William Weedon said...


It was a point that Chemnitz is utterly clear on, and not only he, but of course the Apology as well (we'd expect that since Chemnitz was the student of Melanchthon). In this, they simply reflect the Scriptures. "Let no one deceive you..."

I know in my own life there have definitely been times when I used grace as an excuse to sin against the witness of my own conscience. "God will forgive me" I said as I happily trotted off to do my own thing. I have no doubt that I drove out the Holy Spirit by persisting in this behavior, but thanks be to God that our God is persistent in calling us to repentance and leading us back to Himself.

Honestly, I look back over my life and I am utterly shocked that God would touch me with a ten-foot pole. His mercy never ceases to astound me - and so here I am. A wretched sinner who has fallen again and again, and yet not tossed away and discarded, but loved, welcomed, fed and nourished with nothing less than the Savior's own body and blood. Such is His mercy and grace, a mercy and grace that is properly used aright to lead us ever deeper into repentance and faith.

Drew said...

I think you're making a distinction that isn't in Chemnitz (although you would know far better than me!). I don't see 'persistent' sins against the conscience, I just see plain old sins against the conscience. Maybe you're right, and 'persistent' is implied, but I don't remember running across that word.

This is what I was getting at in saying that Chemnitz was unclear - he never defines what exactly 'sins against the conscience' are.

Also, would someone please explain to me what the 'Erlangen school' is? I believe it has something to do with the third use of the law, but I'm not sure.

William Weedon said...


See the Enchiridion, par. 126. There Chemnitz says: "If, then, one admits his ungodliness and knows that God is angry with him and offended thereby, but meanwhile, not concerned about this, continues in sins, is he truly penitent? Does he have contrition? [Answer] By no means. For Saul indeed confesses that he does wrong in persecuting David. 1 Sm 24:17; 26:12. David also was not unaware that murder and adultery are such sins as God abhors. Yet both indulge in their passions and nonetheless commit those sins and securely persevere in them."

That is the sort of thing Chemnitz has in mind also in Examination.

About Erlangen, the best way to get a grasp on that is to work through Elert's monumental *The Structure of Lutheranism* - in it he sets forth his understanding of the faith out from the distinction of law and Gospel. One difficulty with his presentation is indeed his uncertainty about third use of the law. I think Scott Murray has written a bit on this. But the best approach is to read Elert yourself - even if you don't agree with him on everything, you will be delighted at all you will learn. Each time I go through it I find something I missed before. It's published by CPH.