Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lutherans have a weak view of sin?

On a recent episode of the Reformed radio show "Christ the Center", Professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Lane Tipton, discussed the differences between Lutheran and Reformed views of union with Christ and sanctification. According to Tipton, giving justification primacy in the ordo salutis,(as in Lutheranism) necessitates a view of semi-Pelagianism. Only Calvinists can lay claim to Augustine's anthropology. If justification precedes other soteriological benefits, regeneration must occur as a result of justification. If this is true, faith becomes a possibility of the natural man apart from the Spirit's work. Tipton even went on to compare the Lutheran view of sin with that of the New Perspective. Is this really true? Do Lutherans hold a low view of sin, and approach semi-Pelagianism? What do the Lutheran Confessions say on the topic?

Augsburg Confession Article V: "For through the Word and Sacraments, as though through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God in them that hear the gospel."

This is exactly the opposite of what Tipton suggests Lutherans teach. The Holy Spirit is given to create faith, not because of faith.

Augsburg Confession Article XVIII: "Of free will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, an to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the word."

Again, the Holy Spirit must precede any good in man. This would include faith.

Small Catechism II:3 "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, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth"

Epitome II:19"Therefore, before the conversion of man there are only two efficient causes, namely the Holy Ghost and the Word of God, as the instrument of the Holy Ghost, by which He works conversion. This Word man is to hear; however, it is not of his own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Ghost that he can yield faith to it and accept it."

These quotes could be greatly multiplied. The entire Article II of the formula of Concord is on the subject of free will. The assertions of Dr. Tipton are unfounded. The Reformed do not lay sole claim to Augustinian anthropology. If one is in fact to read Augustine's anti-Pelagian treatises, they are far from "Calvinistic." For Augustine, all grace is routed in baptism.


Kyle Scheele said...


John Calvillo said...

"The reality of one's justification is then played out through partaking weekly of the Eucharist, and receiving Christ's forgiveness through the words of absolution. The Reformed would shy away from these statements, and see sacraments as covenant badges, not means of justification."

So how would a Lutheran answer the question as to whether or not a sacrament, say the Lord's supper for example, is necessary for salvation? I've heard Lutheran professors say that the grace received in your baptism is all you need. What is the nature of the grace received in the Lord's supper? I know Lutheran's consider it the same grace, not a different one. But what is the point? If all my sins are forgiven in my baptism, are my sins just forgiven again when I take the Lord's supper? Or is it those sins are unforgiven which take place between taking Lord's supper. This would seem to make the sacraments into a kind of work. I have learned so much from your blog. I would really like some help here.

Jordan Cooper said...

John, this is a great question. The Lutheran Confessions use the term "necessary" regarding baptism but not the Supper. I agree that the sacraments would become something like a work if forgiveness was not available between times when one would take the Supper for great sins. This is not what we believe. When you ask if the sins are "forgiven again" when one takes the Supper, I suppose this is in some sense true. When John writes to his readers that they will be forgiven of their sins upon confession, does this deny that their sins are forgiven through faith? No, of course not. The reality of forgiveness works itself out in tangible ways, through confession, absolution, and the Eucharist. God does so that this reality is always present before us. The Augsburg Confession states that the sacraments are "signs and testimony of God's will toward us" (AC XIII). This does not mean that they are merely signs, but they do remind us of God's favor on our behalf.