Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lex Semper Accusat: A Response to TurretinFan

I was recently pointed to the blog of TurretinFan, the anonymous blogger of Aomin fame, for his recent attacks on proponents of two kingdom theology. There was a bit of a back and forth between himself and R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California. In a recent post, he even claimed that "Escondido Theology" (the theology of Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark, David VanDrunen, Darryl Hart, and others) was a cause for conversions to Roman Catholicism.

What is the problem with these theologians? Well, apparently they are too Lutheran. Regardless of whether or not TurretinFan's interpretation of historic Reformed orthodoxy is correct on the issue of two kingdoms (which for some reason always has the word "radical" attached to it), TurretinFan has been attacking at least the historic Lutheran doctrine which he apparently does not understand. I know that TurretinFan is capable of reading, understanding, and refuting arguments well. I have seen him do so on several occasions. However, when it comes to Lutheranism, TurretinFan has not done his homework. A recent post has made this apparent.

In this post titled "Lex Semper Accusat? Does the Law Always Accuse?", TurretinFan claims that the statement that "the Law always accuses" is "theologically inaccurate." The first argument made by TurretinFan is that Christ was not accused by the law, but fulfilled the law. Disregarding the fact that Christ certainly did fall under the accusation of the law (isn't this the purpose of the cross?), one must ask: did the Lutheran fathers use this statement in such a way as to ignore the fact that Christ did not break the law?
Of course not! The statement Lex Semper Accusat is used in a very specific context. This statement appears in the Lutheran Confessional documents in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession several times. Here is one such example of its use:

"The Law worketh wrath. He does not say that by the Law men merit the remission of sins. For the Law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify, because conscience terrified by the Law of God flees from the judgement of God. Therefore they err who trust that by the Law, by their own works, they merit the remission of sins."- Apology IX.38.

Clearly, Melancthon is speaking in the context of fallen man and his justification before God. His statement has no reference to Christ, prelapsarian Adam, a Christian in the glorified state, or any such exception. Using TurretinFan's logic, one would have to call Paul's statement theologically incorrect that "all have sinned" because of the sinlessness of Christ. This however, is beyond the scope of the authors intended meaning.

The second point that TurretinFan makes is that the Law cannot always accuse because it has other functions.
But is this really the point that this statement is making? Do we Lutherans believe in one use of the Law--an accusatory one? Again, I say: of course not! Our Confessions are as explicit as can be on this issue.

"Since the law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men...secondly, that men may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate...they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life"-Epitome of the Formula of Concord VI:1

So then what does the statement mean? It means that even when the Law is functioning in its other two manners, it is still accusing. When the Christian is looking to the Law as a moral guide for his good works, he still sees the inadequacy of his good deeds and is reminded of the all-sufficiency of his savior. This does not neglect the fact that the Christian does fulfill the Law to an extent, and truly does begin to love the Law as his guide. It is simply saying that he is still simul iustus et peccator.

TurretinFan's "refutation" of the slogan lex semper accusat is based on a misunderstanding of the statement, as well as ignorance of Confessional Lutheran theology. I certainly welcome challenges to Lutheran doctrine, but challenges which are well informed.


Nate said...

This is great stuff. I'm not sure why these reformed guys are so adamantly against the lex semper accusat. The law still requires perfection, so as long as we aren't intrinsically perfect the law still points out our sin. Is that really so hard?

Delwyn Campbell said...

Even under the Law of Moses, the sacrifices were God's response to the fact that the Law always accuses. The sacrifices were prophetic acts of Gospel. The Law would have operated quite well without the existence of the sacrifices, the effect would have just been more ruthless.