Friday, April 26, 2013

Luther on the Necessity of Preaching on Sanctification

"For a Christ who died for sinners who, after receiving forgiveness, will not quit their sin nor lead a new life, is worthless and does not exist.... There is nothing in their preaching concerning sanctification of the Holy Ghost and about being quickened into a new life. They preach only about the redemption of Christ. It is proper to extol Christ in our preaching; but Christ is the Christ and has acquired redemption from sin and death for this very purpose that the Holy Spirit should change our Old Adam into a new man, that we are to be dead unto sin and live unto righteousness, as Paul teaches Rom 6.2 ff., and that we are to begin this change and increase in this new life here and consummate it hereafter. For Christ has gained for us not only grace (gratiam), but also the gift (donum), of the Holy Ghost, so that we obtain from Him not only forgiveness of sin, but also the ceasing from sin. Any one, therefore, who does not cease from his sin, but continues in his former evil way must have obtained a different Christ, from the Antinomians. The genuine Christ is not with them, even if they cry with the voice of all the angels, Christ! Christ! They will have to go to perdition with their new Christ." Martin Luther Concerning Councils and Churches, as quoted by C.F.W. Walther in The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, 121-122

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Critique of the Theology of Paul Washer

Here's the program.

On today's program I reviewed clips from sermons by Calvinistic baptist preacher Paul Washer. I discussed why I believe his theology to be dangerous.

Here is the message of his that I referenced which I referred to as preparationist.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Forde's Article "The Lutheran View of Sanctification"

Much of the contemporary debate on sanctification stems from Gerhard Forde's essay "the Lutheran View of Sanctification", published in the volume Five Views on Sanctification, and republished in The Preached God (these are the page numbers I will be referencing). This article has not only influenced the liberal to moderate circles of which Forde himself was involved, but conservative Lutheranism, and even certain Reformed writers.

Forde's main thesis is that sanctification is simply "the art of getting used to justification." (226) Forde's contention is that sanctification and justification are synonymous realities that need not be carefully distinguished. "In fact, the Scriptures rarely, if ever, treat sanctification as a movement distinct from justification." (229)Divorcing the discussion of sanctification from justification allows one to fall into moralism and lose the unconditional nature of the gospel. Forde equates the majority view of sanctification with moralism. He argues that we "make the mistake of equating sanctification with what we might call the moral life." (227) The two primary errors in this approach are that it makes sanctification about works, and it conflates civil righteousness with that which one needs to stand before God.

The problem with Forde's definition of sanctification is that it doesn't exhaust the Biblical and Confessional testimonies on the subject. There is a sense in which sanctification involves a greater understand of grace. As the knowledge of one's own sin increases, so does one's understanding of the forgiveness of sins. In this sense, our sanctification involves "getting used to justification." Yet, at the same time, there are ethical and moral implications to sanctification. On this point, Forde falls into a false dichotomy. Either justification and sanctification are synonymous, or God's unconditional grace is lost. Forde argues that "the distinction between justification and sanctification is a strictly dogmatic one made because people got nervous about what would happen when unconditional grace was preached, especially in Reformation times." (230) This sweeping statement contains no reference, and presumes a motivation on the part of those who utilize the distinction which isn't always there. The distinction between justification and sanctification is not a post-Reformation dogmatic tradition, but is inherent in Church teaching from the first centuries of the Church.

The early church distinguished between the forgiveness of sins that one receives through baptism, confession, and the Eucharist, from the inward work of God wherein the Christian's actions are changed. The terminology was often in terms of theosis rather than sanctification, but the same distinction between forgiveness of sins, and the destruction of the sin nature applies. This distinction applied throughout the middle ages and into the Reformation period itself. Unfortunately. Forde's essay has barely any footnotes or references, and so I am unsure where he sees this supposed shift in the dogmatic tradition between identifying sanctification as justification. I presume that Forde sees this error arising as early as the Formula of Concord which distinguishes between justification and sanctification precisely in the manner that Forde criticizes,

"Therefore, even if the converted and believers have the beginnings of renewal, sanctification, love, virtues, and good works, yet these cannot, should not, and must not be introduced or mixed with the article of justification before God." SD III.35

Though Forde seeks to divorce sanctification from morality, placing it solely in the civil sphere, the Formula connects sanctification with virtue and good works, which would certainly be considered "moral issues." In fact, Websters Dictionary cites "virtue" as a synonym for "morality." Unless Forde has an extremely unusual definition of morality, he disagrees with the Formula on this point. Paul himself equates sanctification with certain moral issues as well,

"Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Forde sees a genuine problem within the contemporary church that he seeks to correct: moralism. However, Forde's solution is not tenable, as it ignores certain aspects of Scripture, the Confessions, and the catholic tradition. Rather than denying sanctification (or at least central parts of sanctification), the solution is to teach a more robust doctrine of justification. The problem with many evangelical churches is not that they don't equate sanctification and justification, but that they lack a proper understanding of justification. If justification is simply a one-time event, an entrance term at the beginning of one's life of faith, then sanctification takes the central position, and grace can be lost in the mix. We need to emphasize justification as the central reality of the Christian's life. Justification is not just an "entrance term" but defines our entire life in Christ. Justification is continual, not as a process, but as the continuous life giving declaration that our sins are forgiven. This occurs through the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Eucharist. This solution to moralism, rather than Forde's, is consistent with Scripture, the catholic tradition, and the sacramental theology of the Lutheran Church.

One of the primary issues with Forde's article is that he doesn't do any real exegetical work, and doesn't explain how his position is consistent with various passages of Scripture. He even brings up the question, "Does the Bible not follow the declaration of grace with certain exhortations and imperatives?" (232). But rather than answering this valid question, Forde retorts, "So the protestations go, for the most part designed to reimpose at least a minimal conditionality on the promise." (232) These types of pithy and dismissive responses characterize Forde's work on this issue. Rather than dealing with the Biblical data, he dismisses any opposition as a denial of unconditional grace.

Forde basically limits all talk of sanctification to one solitary passage in Scripture, Romans 6. On this text Forde states, "Actually, all evangelical treatment of sanctification should be little more than comment on this passage." (233) Rather than taking the Biblical data as a whole and consequently analyzing it, Forde takes one section of Scripture, isolates it, and then determines it to be the sole determinative text on sanctification. Ironically, the text doesn't even use the term "sanctification" as does the above quoted statement from 1 Thessalonians which would refute Forde's primary contention. While Paul does certainly point Christians back to the gospel in Romans 6 as the means of sanctification, that doesn't deny the fact that ethical exhortation is a necessary part of the Pastoral office. Romans 6 cannot be pitted against Romans 8, or Romans 12-15. These texts simply don't fit into Forde's system which equates morality purely with civil righteousness. If Paul were talking about civil righteousness, why would the discussion begin with the phrase, "in view of God's mercies" (Rom 12:1)?

One final issue I have with this essay is that Forde reverses the existential order of Law and Gospel. For Forde, the gospel, the message of God's unconditional grace, comes first, and consequently one understands sin. "We begin to see the truth of the situation when we realize that because God had to do that, we must have been at the same time sinners. God would be wasting his breath declaring people to be righteous if they were not actually and wholly sinners!" (238) Our understanding of sin, in Forde's view, arises from the unconditional nature of the gospel. If God's grace is unconditional, then I must be a sinner and have nothing to do with my own redemption. This reverses the traditional approach that the Law shows sin, and consequently the gospel shows God's grace. Ironically, Forde agrees here with Krister Stendahl's critique of the traditional Lutheran view, wherein he argues that "solution precedes plight."

It has to be said that Forde does allow for progress in sanctification in some sense. He says, "there is a kind of growth and progress, it is to be hoped, but it is growth in grace - a growth in coming to be captivated more and more, if we can so to speak, by the totality, the unconditionality, of the grace of God." (240) But this growth is really a growth, not in good works, but in understanding justification better, or, "getting used to the fact that if we are to be saved it will have to be by grace alone." (240) He describes this as a process wherein God is coming down to us. It is a downward movement, rather than upward moral progress. In this context, he is willing to say "it is not that sin is taken away from us, but rather that we are taken away from sin - heart, soul, and mind, as Luther put it." (242) In some sense then, Forde is willing to say that Christians begin to hate sin, and even stop "particular sins" (242) The good works of the Christian are real, and they show themselves through earthly things, through vocation, and love of neighbor. He rejects the idea of deification, or any "upward movement" of the soul toward God.

I am glad that Forde can speak of progress, yet the way that growth is explained is one dimensional. Growth demonstrates itself almost exclusively in having a greater understanding of justification. This simply does not comport with the Biblical data. It is certainly true, but not to the exclusion of other aspects of growth in faith. Forde is also right in his eschatological emphasis, and his focus on vocation. However, again, he is teaching truth to the exclusion of other realities. The Christian does move toward the goal, just as the goal moves toward him. Paul is willing to say that he presses on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:14) This is not a purely downward movement. Also, vocation is not all there is to say about the Christian life. It is certainly a central theme in Scripture, and Luther's writings, but there are other important themes as well. Involved in growth is communion with the Trinity - participation in God that works itself out through prayer, the sacraments, the divine liturgy, etc. While good works are performed "downward" there is also an upward movement of the soul toward God. This is even confessed in our liturgy. We are to "lift up our hearts" to the Lord.

Frankly, of all the work of Forde that I have read, this article is the weakest. Forde adopts certain important Biblical themes, but in doing that he denies others. He doesn't deal seriously with the Biblical text, the Confessional tradition, or even cite the theology he is critiquing. I am personally amazed that this article has had such a broad impact on the church.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Universal Objective Justification- My Position on the Issue

I have avoided getting into this debate because it becomes unnecessarily heated. However, I have been asked quite a few times about the issue since I made the announcement that I had come to the conclusion that UOJ is a valid Biblical concept. This is, in brief, my perspective on the issue:

There are certain terms that are used in Scripture multiple ways. Sanctification for example can be used to refer to a past event in Christ, or an ongoing action performed by the Spirit. A failure to acknowledge this had caused this whole recent sanctification controversy. The word Law is used at times to refer to the Old Testament, other times it is used to refer to commands.

Justification is the same. Most of the time, the term refers to what the sinner receives through faith alone, but other times it can refer to a past event (the resurrection) or a future event (eschatological vindication). N.T. Wright has often spoken about this; justification is a past, present, and future reality. For all of my disagreements with Bishop Wright, I think he is right on this point.

Christ's resurrection is his vindication by God. This is described in 1 Timothy 3:16,

"He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory."

The term for vindicated in 1 Timothy is "edikaiothe", one of the words in the "dik" word group, having to do with righteousness.It is the vindication of who he is, of his sinless life, victory on the cross, and accomplishment of salvation. Through humanity's solidarity with Christ, humanity itself is vindicated. I would place this in Irenaeus' framework of the Adam/Christ parallel, wherein Christ serves not only as a representative of the new humanity, but the solitary person in which the new humanity begins and realizes itself. Thus, by participation in humanity, all in a sense participate in what Christ did to humanity through his life, death, and resurrection.

Reformed scholar Richard B. Gaffin has done some work on this, connecting Christ's vindication in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 5. Paul speaks of Christ's resurrection as our justification (Rom 4:25). Through humanity's solidarity with Christ, his vindication becomes the vindication of humanity, or the justification of humanity. Gaffin of course connects this only to the elect, believing in limited atonement. Since I don't agree with that, but think his exegesis is spot on regarding this, this would mean that all of humanity has been justified through Christ's resurrection.

I would then point to Romans 5:18, "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men." The most obvious way to read this text is to take the Adam/Christ parallel at face value. Adam brought sin and death to all. Christ, encompassing all of humanity in himself, brought justification (vindication) and life to all men. I take this "one act of righteousness" to be his resurrection which is identified with justification in 4:25.

I think theologians are right to recognize that Paul utilizes the term justification in at least two different senses. It can refer to what happened to all men in Christ at the resurrection (objective justification) and what happens to those who have faith (subjective justification). And as I pointed out previously, it can also refer to one's eschatological vindication, though that isn't part of this particular dispute.

Personally, I don't see this as a Confessional issue. I think Lutherans can have genuine disagreement here so long as both sides agree that Christ's death and resurrection were done on behalf of all people, and that the benefits of Christ's work must be received by faith. People are too quick to throw condemnations around in this debate, which is why I have largely avoided it. But, that being said, I do think that the concept of UOJ is valid and helpful. It is especially useful in explaining the Lutheran approach to universal atonement in opposition to both the Reformed and Arminian views.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Further Clarifications on Sanctification

It has come to my attention that there have been some more people who have responded to what I have said about sanctification. I don't want to attack any brother pastors who are faithful workers for the kingdom of God. So, I will not do that. But what I do want to do is clarify some things, because a lot of this comes down to misunderstanding.

First, I want to say that I don't think anyone should be checking their progress on sanctification. We grow in grace as the Bible tells us we do; that does not mean that we need to be looking at ourselves, hoping for progress. You won't find it. And there is a good reason you won't find it; the more you grow in grace, the more sensitive you are to your sin. Thus, others might see change in you, but you won't.

Second, progressing in the Christian life isn't about "becoming less sinful." Rather, it's about the raising up of the new man and the killing of the old. This is a work that is done as the Law kills, and the Spirit brings life. Thus, the affections and actions of the new man are more and more prominent throughout the Christian's life. We still have a sin nature, which effects all that we do. However, the new nature gains victory over the old, and rules more and more. This causes us to obey the desires of the new man over the old. This isn't opposed to viewing conversion as a daily reality, because it is. However, that daily repentance has actual affects in our lives.

Third, I'm not stuck on the term "progressive sanctification." The Lutheran Dogmaticians distinguish between the "narrow sense" of sanctification, and the "broad sense" of sanctification. The narrow sense is described as growth. Thus, progressive sanctification seemed to be an appropriate term because it basically stayed within the Dogmatic Lutheran tradition. If you are afraid of confusing this with the Reformed or Wesleyan doctrines of sanctification, then I understand if you don't use the term. I have no issue with that. I personally prefer speaking of Christification, because that gets at both the Patristic sense of "theosis" in the Christian life, as well as the Christological nature of growth. Sanctification isn't about moral progress; it's about a deepening communion with God which demonstrates itself through increasing works of love.

Fourth, I don't condone judging the sanctification of other people. I heard someone say that I equated cursing with not being sanctified; not saved. I don't do this at all. I choose not to use profanity. I don't think it is a wise think for a Christian to do, because it can give a bad witness to the world. That being said, I don't ever get on the case of my friends who do. The only time that I would is if foul language is being used in the pulpit. What I was criticizing in my post was not specifically cursing, smoking, or drinking, but doing those things in excess, and doing them in an arrogant spirit of "I can use my Christian liberty to do whatever I want and do it in your face." In other words, I am going to do these things just to offend people.

Fifth, I don't think that we are sanctified by our own efforts. We are sanctified by God as he comes to us through word and sacrament. He raises up the new man within us, and kills the old. But, at the same time, the new man actually does good works. As Augustine says, "God saves us, though not without us." We cooperate with God's grace, because he has renewed our wills and given us an affection for himself, and his commands.

Finally, I don't think that the Law sanctifies. Sanctification comes as a result of the gospel. The Law kills, but the Spirit gives life. But that doesn't negate the fact that we should tell Christians to do good works. Paul, the Confessions, Pieper, Walther, etc. both talk about encouraging people to do good works, and the Gospel as the sole means of sanctification. These are not mutually exclusive ideas.

And one additional question that I need to answer is, "Why is this teaching important?"

The first response I would have to this is simply that the Bible teaches it, so we should believe it and believe that it is important. Second, there are some abuse the gospel and say "The Christian isn't progressively sanctified by the Spirit, thus I might as well just live in sin because I'm saved anyway." There are people who live this way; I have met some of them. This guards against that error. Third, this should affect our prayer life. We should pray that the Lord would increase our love, and our hatred for sin. We should also pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, that they too might grow in grace. Fourth, it also is an encouragement when we look to our brothers and sisters and see how they have grown. It is a chance for us to rejoice in God's goodness, that he really does work within his people!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Eternal Generation of the Son and the Communicatio Idiomatum

Here's the program.

On today's program, I answered two listener questions. The first was about Unitarian interpretations of John's gospel; this launched into a discussion of the eternal generation of the Son as well as the communicatio idiomatum. The second question was about assurance in the book of 1 John.

Here is the essay from Lee Irons that I referenced.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Forde's Essay "Whatever Happened to God? God Not Preached"

I have been accused, through my previous posts on sanctification, of not properly representing Gerhard Forde. Well, this seems somewhat odd to me since none of my posts even mentioned Forde. However, this has caused me to go back and reread many of his works; I have decided to give an analyses of certain prominent ideas in Forde's Theology.

Gerhard Forde was a highly influential ELCA theologian, who battled both against the encroaching liberalism of the ELCA and the inerrantist convictions of the LCMS. He coined the phrase "Radical Lutheran" and spent his career primarily writing on the doctrine of justification.

The essay I am taking a look at is titled "Whatever Happened to God: God Not Preached" The reason I am discussing this particular essay is that it expounds upon one of Forde's central themes, which he discusses in greater detail in his work Theology is for Proclamation. This essay can be found in the book The Preached God: Proclamation in Word and Sacrament.

Forde's primary contention, in both this essay and the above-mentioned book, is that there is a distinction between systematic theology and proclamation. He asks, "whatever happened to God? God has fallen victim to explanations, to theology itself--theology about God-not-preached." (38)He critiques various theologies which attempt to explain God away, answer the problem of suffering by altering the doctrine of God. Forde is spot on in his critique of the theologies of Moltmann, Pannenberg, and others who attempt to argue that divinity suffers as a philosophical explanation to the problem of suffering. Weakening and emasculating God do not solve such issues, and ultimately are not in accord with the Biblical witness or the catholic tradition. Not all theological and philosophical questions need to be answered; what is needed is proclamation of the cross of Christ.

What concerns me in this essay, however, is that Forde never explains exactly what constitutes systematic theology, or what constitutes a theology that speaks "about God" rather than preaching God. Forde does acknowledge that systematic theology can be a good thing and helpful, as he equates his own writing here with systematic theology. He writes that "the purpose of systematic theology is not to subvert proclamation but to drive to effective proclamation." (42) My question is: Is systematic theology purely that which speaks about proclamation? Or is the Lutheran scholastic approach to theology also considered a valid method of theologizing? Because of the way that he speaks negatively about atonement formulations in other work, I worry that he is rejecting the entire Lutheran dogmatic tradition. I want to know how far this goes.

Forde is right that there is a distinction between God proclaimed, and God explained. There certainly is a difference between me giving a sermon on the communicatio idiomatum and telling my congregation "Your sins are forgiven!" Preaching should not be abstract theologizing; it should always be connected to the people and focused on the cross. However, Forde divorces these two methods of speech beyond what I think is viable. In Forde's words, "Proclamation means finally to stop talking about it, and actually to give it. It means not talking about God, but speaking for God." (43) The question I have is: Can we really proclaim something directly without simultaneously speaking about something? When I proclaim to my congregation "Your sins are forgiven" there is implied objective content behind what I am saying. Behind the proclamation is the teaching that Christ is God and man, died on the cross for sins, and rose from the dead.

I fear that Forde, taking a cue from Barth, privileges act over being. He constantly speaks of of Christology in these terms: "What happened to God is Jesus." (48) Talk of action, of doing, takes precedence over talk of being, or of something that is a metaphysical reality. Forde writes, "Since theology has tried to penetrate the mask of the hidden God by peddling some general metaphysical 'truths', faith becomes not trust in the proclamation but strives toward sight, to become a kind of gnosis." (53) I wonder if this includes typical discussions of the attributes of God. If this is the case, how are the ancient metaphysical explanations of the Trinity valid? Or are they? Forde's contention is not in accord with the catholic tradition, which has typically adopted the Greek conception that being has priority over act.

There are a couple curious statements that temper what Forde is suggesting. He states for example that "there can be didactic preaching, there can be preaching as ethical discourse" (45) which he calls "legitimate forms of discourse in the church." (45) This demonstrates that there can be some type of theologizing, and even ethical instruction from the pulpit. He even says that, "Not every sermon, certainly not even the entire sermon, will or must be proclamation. But it is what the theologian, the preacher, must eventually be aiming at." (45) It is curious and surprising that Forde would approve of preaching a sermon without proclamation.

In this essay, Forde makes some valid points as to the necessity of proclaiming the forgiveness of sins; however, he oversimplifies the distinction between giving an explanation and proclaiming. One cannot happen without the other. He also is unclear about what he views as "systematic theology" and exactly what type of theologizing he is rejecting. I fear that he is rejecting much of the catholic and Lutheran tradition through his privileging act over being, declaratory speaking over objective metaphysical content.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sanctification and Good Works

Here's the program.

This past week has seen an eruption of posts on the Lutheran blogosphere on the topic of Sanctification. Because of my involvement in this discussion, I decided to focus the program today on that topic. I clear up some misconceptions and demonstrate the Biblical and Lutheran approach to sanctification and good works.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Progressive Sanctification- A Pauline Doctrine

There are two senses in which Paul speaks of sanctification. Often it is used in the past tense, referring to the fact that God has made us completely holy in Christ:

"And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11)

At other points, Paul speaks of sanctification as something that is progressive. It involves growth in intrinsic holiness, which is a fruit of the perfect holiness we have in Christ,

"so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification." (Romans 6:19)

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely" (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

"Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Paul speaks in many places about growth in the Christian life,

"Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16)

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment." (Philippians 1:9)

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29)

"Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

"[speaking of the love that they have for one another] But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:10)

"your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

Paul argues that we should be active in killing sin,

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." (Romans 6:12-13)

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

Paul makes it clear that we should be intentional and active in doing good works, living holy lives,

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." (Romans 12:1-2)

This phrase introduces the imperative section of Romans from 12-15 which contains numerous exhortations unto various good deeds.

"Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1)

"let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:25-26)

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1)

"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:17-24)

"But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11)

"So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, alone with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)

Paul tells Titus to teach his congregation to do good works,

"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people." (Titus 3:1-2)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sanctification in the Formula of Concord

As a follow up to my previous posts, here is the Formula of Concord's teaching on sanctification:

"These words say absolutely nothing about our will, nor do they say that it effects something, even in the newborn human being, of itself, but they ascribe that to the Holy Spirit, which cleanses human beings and daily makes them more upright and holier." SD II.35

"Through the ministry of preaching he brings us into the Christian community, in which he sanctifies us and brings about in us a daily increase of good works." SD II.38

"Although those born anew come even in this life to the point that they desire the good and delight in it and even do good deeds and grow in practicing them, this is not (as was mentioned above) a product of our own will or power, but the Holy Spirit." SD II.39

"As soon as the Holy Spirit has begun his work of rebirth and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that on the basis of his power we can and should be cooperating with him, though still in great weakness." SD II.65

"Because in this life we receive only the first fruits of the Spirit and our rebirth is not complete but rather only begun in us, the struggle and battle of the flesh against the Spirit continues even in the elect and truly reborn." SD II.68

"these same gifts [renewal and conversion as explained earlier in the paragraph] are retained, strengthened, and increased." SD II.72

"Likewise, too, although renewal and sanctification are a blessing of our mediator Christ and a work of the Holy Spirit, they do not belong to the article or in the treatment of justification before God but rather result from it since, because of our corrupted flesh, they are never fully pure and perfect in this life." SD III.28

"This does not mean on the other hand, that we may or should pursue sinning or remain and continue in sin without repentance, conversion, and improvement." SD III.22

"He renews them and sanctifies them, and he creates in them love toward God and the neighbor." SD III.23

"It is correct to say that in this life believers who have become righteous through faith in Christ have first of all the righteousness of faith that is reckoned to them and then thereafter the righteousness of new obedience or good works that are begun in them. But these two kinds of righteousness dare not be mixed with each other or simultaneously introduced into the article on justification by faith before God. For because this righteousness that is begun in us--this renewal--is imperfect and impure in this life because of our flesh, a person cannot use it in any way to stand before God's judgment throne... Even following their renewal, when they already are producing many good works and living the best kind of life, human beings please God, are acceptable to him, and receive adoption as children and heirs of eternal life only because of Christ's obedience." SD III.32

"Therefore, even if the converted and believers have the beginnings of renewal, sanctification, love, virtues, and good works, yet these cannot, should not, and must not be introduced or mixed with the article of justification before God." SD III.35

"Thereafter, once people are justified, the Holy Spirit also renews and sanctifies them. From this renewal and sanctification the fruit of good works follow." SD III.41

"Many construct for themselves a dead faith or illusory faith, which exists without repentance or good works. As if true faith and the evil intention to remain and continue in sin could exist in a single heart at the same time! That is impossible." SD IV. 15

Some Clarifications on Sanctification

There was quite a reaction to my previous post. Much of the reaction was positive, but some of it extremely negative. Apparently my post even created a meme!

Well, I'm not going to respond to that type of goofiness, but there are some questions that I have been asked regarding my view of sanctification that I would like to address.

Are you saying that part of our righteousness before God is based on our sanctification?

Of course not! I'm not sure how anyone who reads what I have written can possibly assume this, but I have been asked this by a few people. Our standing before God is always solely based on the alien righteousness of Christ. I have always, and will always proclaim this. Our sanctification is always imperfect, and our works would always condemn us apart from God's grace.

Are you promoting the idea that Christians should try to be sinless?

Again, I'm not sure how anyone would assume this after reading anything I have written or listening to my program. No one will ever be sinless in this life. Every work we do is tainted by the old Adam that still clings to us. That doesn't, however, negate the fact that we do genuinely good works, even though they are tainted by our sin nature.

Should I be looking for constant progress in the Christian life?

This is one of the reasons why I became a Lutheran, because I couldn't handle the navel gazing puritanism that I encountered in my previous experience. We often don't see progress in the Christian life. We often seem as if we are getting worse! But in reality, this is an effect of the Spirit, showing you more of your sin. Your sensitivity to sin is itself part of sanctification. Even if we can't see it, God is changing us on the inside, raising up the new man and killing the old. We always look to what God has done in Christ for us instead of in us for assurance. That doesn't mean, however, that the work of Christ in us can never show itself through visible action.

Should we look for assurance in our sanctification?

Again, if you have paid attention to anything I have written on this subject you would know that I don't promote this idea. Our assurance comes from the objective work of Christ, and God's gifts given to us through word and sacrament. Our assurance does not come from the state of our hearts, because we still struggle with sin.

However, there is such a thing as false faith and false assurance. Both Scripture and our Confessions mention it. If you live with no repentance in continual willful sin, you shouldn't have assurance, because you don't truly have faith in the gospel. We are supposed to (according to our Confessions) believe in the doctrine of mortal sin. That's why we practice church discipline; faith doesn't exist without repentance.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Progressive Sanctification- A Lutheran Doctrine

Contemporary Lutherans seem almost afraid of the word "sanctification" or of the concept of the third use of the Law. It is feared that any talk of progress in the Christian life leads into Evangelicalism, Reformed Theology, or even Pietism. Preaching must always utilize a Law-Gospel paradigm without any exhortation unto good works. Remind the people of their sin, then of there savior, that's all. I even heard a Pastor recently say that the Christian can do no good, only evil.

I didn't see this when I first became a Lutheran, because I was only concerned to hear about the gospel rather than being beaten by the Law each Sunday like I was at Reformed Churches. Yet, after some time in Lutheran churches, and in Lutheran circles I began to see that progressive sanctification is neglected, often denied altogether. As I read through Luther, Chemnitz, Walther, Krauth, Pieper and others, I saw a great incongruity between what these classical sources said and what was being taught as Lutheran theology. These classical sources talked a lot about good works, progressive sanctification, and even give advise as to how to avoid specific sins. I fear that if these figures were around today they would be labeled "legalists" or "pietistic."

This type of teaching has practical consequences. I know of Lutheran pastors, theologians, and lay people who use as course language as they can, drink excessively, watch pornography, blow smoke in people's faces who don't approve of the act, just to proclaim their "Christian liberty." I don't think this is what Luther or Paul had in mind when they discussed the concept. I seem to remember someone answering the question, "Shall we sin that grace may abound?" with the answer "by no means!", or as the Cotton patch paraphrase puts it: "Hell no!" I think many Lutherans today would answer that question by saying "of course!"

Progressive sanctification is taught in our Confessions. For example,

"This faith is the true knowledge of Christ; it uses the benefits of Christ, it renews hearts, and it precedes our fulfillment of the law." Ap. IV.46

"To be justified means that out of unrighteous people righteous people are made or regenerated, it also means that they are pronounced or regarded as righteous." Ap. IV. 72

"Faith truly brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts." Ap. IV. 125

"Therefore Paul states that the law is established, not abolished, through faith, because the law can be kept only when the Holy Spirit is given." Ap. IV. 132

"We openly confess, therefore, that the keeping of the law must begin in us and then increase more and more." Ap. IV. 136

"Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new impulses and new works." Ap. IV. 250

"Furthermore, we also say that if good works do not follow, then faith is false and not true." SA 13.3

"Here, then, we have the Ten Commandments, a summary of divine teaching on what we are to do to make our whole life pleasing to God. They are the true fountain from which all good works must spring, the true channel through which all good works must flow." LC First Part, 311

Note that Luther is willing to even admit that living by the Ten Commandments is pleasing to God- a phrase which I have heard condemned by a prominent Lutheran pastor.

"Meanwhile, because holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life." LC Second Part, 57

"But the Creed brings pure grace and makes us righteous and acceptable to God. Through this knowledge we come to love and delight in all the commandments of God because we see here in the Creed how God gives himself completely to us, with all his gifts and power, to help us keep the Ten Commandments: the Father gives us all creation, Christ all his works, the Holy Spirit all his gifts." LC Second Part, 69

"When we become Christians, the old creature daily decreases until finally destroyed." LC Fourth Part, 71

"Now, when we enter Christ's kingdom, this corruption must daily decrease so that the longer we live, the more gentle, patient, and meek we become, and the more we break away from greed, hatred, envy, and pride." LC Fourth Part, 65-67

These quotes could be multiplied, and I didn't even begin quoting the Formula. Good works are an essential part of Lutheran theology, as can be demonstrated here by the Confessions themselves. The believer is made a new creation by the waters of Holy Baptism. The Holy Trinity dwells within the Christian, causing him to love God and neighbor. This causes the Christian to obey God's commandments, and to daily increase in love of God and neighbor.

All of this should cause us even more to have a robust doctrine of sanctification. Through baptism, we truly are made new creatures. That should give us hope in the fact that we can begin to obey God's commandments, though imperfectly. Rather than using phrases like "weak on sanctification" or "sanctification is just getting used to justification", why don't we actually adhere to what our Confessions teach? Sanctification is a progressive reality, we are made to be like our Lord as our sinful natures are put to death and the new man arises.

The difference between the Lutheran and Reformed is not that the Reformed believe in progressive sanctification and personal holiness, but Lutherans don't. Rather, traditionally, the dividing line has been in terms of the prominence of certain teaching. In Lutheranism, justification predominates over sanctification, and the second use of the law over the third. Good works and sanctification always have to be taught in view of justification, in view of what God has done for us. However, that is not grounds for rejecting sanctification altogether.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sermons from Holy Week

Here are all of my sermons from Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Easter Sunday

Palm Sunday

Here is my sermon from Palm Sunday. Holy week sermons will be available soon.

Luke 19:29-40
As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why are some saved and others not?

Here's the program.

Today's program was spent discussing issues in Reformed Theology. I briefly addressed Steve from Triablogue's comments, and then went into a discussion from the program Christ the Center. The Reformed podcast Christ the Center had Dr. Lane Tipton of Westminster Seminary Philadephia to discuss an essay of B.B. Warfield titled the Plan of Salvation.

In this discussion, Tipton made claims about Lutheranism that are inaccurate; he argued that Lutherans believe in conditional election to salvation based on non-resistance to God's grace. I spent the majority of the program demonstrating why this is not true and addressing the question "Why are some saved and others not?"

The essays of Walther I referenced can be found here.

You can listen to the program I responded to here.