Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sanctification as Progressive in Lutheran Orthodoxy

People have often attacked the utilization of the term "progressive sanctification," as a strictly reformed or Wesleyan view. I have shown in the past that this concept is clearly taught in the Lutheran Confessions and the Pauline epistles. This teaching is also one that is taught in various Lutheran theologians throughout the centuries. It really is a given in Lutheran Orthodoxy. Here are some examples of Lutheran theologians using the term "progress" in reference to sanctification:

"Accordingly, constant progress in sanctification is the form of a true Christian life." Adolf Hoenecke,Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics III, 421.

"It is important to remember, however, that the word sanctification has aquired a definite and restricted meaning, and now refers to the progressive growth in holiness which follows in the life of the believer after his justification by faith alone." Joseph Stump, The Christian Faith, 276.

"Now it belongs to the very nature of life to develop, to increase, and to make progress. And it is this development or growth of the new life that we now wish to consider. It is called sanctification."- G.H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, 147.

"Justification being purely an act of God, is instantaneous and complete; sanctification being a work in which man has a share, is progressive." - The Way of Salvation, 148.

"Renovation [a synonym for sanctification in Lutheran orthodoxy] is therefore considered to be a continually progressive action both on God's part and on man's." Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 506.

"our renovation progresses from day to day." Quensdedt as cited in Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 506.

"Unlike Justification, Sanctification is gradual and has its degrees...Through this struggle the child of God constantly advances toward perfection." - Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, 202.

"Is Renewal or Sanctification instantaneous? The struggle as described in Rom. 7 very clearly points to a gradual process. In Col. 1:9-11, an increase of spiritual gifts is prayed for those who had already experienced a renewal (3:9, 10). So on the positive side." Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, 253.


the Old Adam said...

"The Lord sanctifies…and the Lord justifies."

Give it up already. Don't you have enough to worry about?

"The Holy Spirit will bring to completion that which He has started"

Don't you believe that?

You can rest easier in it.

Anonymous said...

How about engaging the actual texts of the post and the claims of Lutheran orthodoxy, Old Adam?

J. Dean said...

I find it funny how people like "The Old Adam" claim to be good Lutherans yet tend to ignore the things said in confessional Lutheranism that they don't like to hear.

For example, Walther: " To this sectarians and enthusiasts respond: “You suggest therefore that good works are unnecessary?” Our reply: “GOOD WORKS ARE INDEED TO BE DONE; but not to reconcile God, not to redeem oneself, not to earn forgiveness of sins and become God’s child; rather, in gratitude to Christ and God for the redemption we have received. After all, what I do in order to receive a reward is not really a good work at all.”

Note that Walther makes it clear, even in the context that works do not merit salvation, that good works are nevertheless to be performed.

Or how about Pieper? "Sanctification and good works are necessary (but not for salvation). When the Scripture speaks of the necessity of good works, it means that we must perform them."

And again from Pieper: "Either sanctification and good works follow justification, or there will be no sanctification and good works at all."

It's one thing to say that good works do not save you; it is quite another to turn a deaf ear to even the mention of good works. Otherwise, you're calling St. Paul himself a legalist, as he exhorts multiple times to good works in his epistles.

mahlon said...

Thanks you Bro. Jordon for your post. From what I understand about the Biblical doctrine of progressive sanctification, it was Augustine who was the first major church father to bring out one of the first major expositions on it.

In the book: "Five Views of Sanctification", Augustine is mentioned quite a bit in informing how major Christian groups came to adopt the term. For instance, Dispensationalism's teaching on sanctification from the pen of John Walvoord was influenced by Augustine (he contributes a chapter in the book where he espouses a view with Augustine's name attached)

In the SBC we teach progressive sanctification and also believe it begins simultaneously with one's justification. The grace afforded in Justification is a one time event that begins at saving faith, with sanctification proceeding in an onward and upward trajectory (not as a smooth slope but more like a jagged mountain range).

Am I correct to assume that since Luther had been a monk in the Augustinian order, that maybe that is why we see the idea of progressive sanctification being articulated in his writings?

It is seems reasonably clear that the Reformers and Luther all drank from Augustine's little creek which in turn flowed from the wide river of Paul's letters. I learned in seminary that essentially, Protestantism gleaned its soteriology from Augustine and the R.C.C gleaned from him its ecclesiology. I'm enjoying your blogsite and always appreciate your comments. Let me know if anything I wrote needs corrected, since your understanding of Patristics, Luther and the Reformation are superior to my own.

the Old Adam said...

Funny how "good Lutherans" ignore the clear text of Scripture in favor of words that can take away our freedom in favor of the law.

The law can never make us better…only worse..according to St. Paul. And when you default to law, you need no faith.

"For freedom Christ has set us free."

You guys are running around chained to the peg of biblicism and a s0-called "3rd use" which is totally superfluous and which leads to legalism and a lack of freedom.

Take a peek, once again, at Luther's Heidelberg Disputation and see what he has to say about using the law.

Anonymous said...

Steve Martin (theOldAdam) has also denied the third use of the law in comments here. My own LCMS pastor has rightly identified such a view as false. It is not what Lutherans have taught from the sixteenth century onward.

Steve Martin is ex-ELCA and now a member of the breakaway LCMC (just to give you an idea of where he is coming from theologically).

I hope my comments will not be interpreted as an attack in any way. But the views expressed in comments by Steve Martin/theOldAdam are not representative of orthodox, confessional Lutheranism.

Jordan Cooper said...

Thanks Nicholas. Steve certainly comes from a different strand of Lutheranism, as he admitted to disagreeing with both the Confessions and Scripture on certain points.

BW said...


Take a peek at Luther's Antinomian Disputation and Theses and see what he has to say about the Law's function in the lives of the justified.

Jordan Cooper said...

The second Antinomian disputation is especially clear on this.

BW said...


Yes, reading the Antinomian Disputations and Theses ended any and all debate for me about whether or not Luther taught a 3rd Use, he clearly did believe in one. I've had some Lutheran pastors tell me he was only teaching New Obedience from the New Adam in a person in those writings, but I am not buying it. It just seems like a big stretch.

the Old Adam said...

You guys are NOT free.

You have that "3rd use" hanging over you which Luther said, "hinders a man towards righteousness".

Not only that, you do not need any faith, since now you are relying on prescriptions to get the job done.

You make believe that Lutherans NEVER argued this errant doctrine form the start..which they DID.

You are so arrogant as to believe that YOU ALONE are the only TRUE Lutherans.

This self -righteous attitude comes from your Southern Baptist doctrine of the Word (biblicism) and your being tied to this "3rd use" of the law…which is totally redundant and only leads to self righteousness, or despair.

You erroneously believe that man is able to use the law for his purposes.

That it keeps some semblance of civil order and that it expose and drives to Christ is enough. It is enough.

With that, I'll leave you to bang your law books at each other.

J. Dean said...

Old Adam,

Did you even pay attention to the Lutheran (not Baptist, LUTHERAN) sources that Jordan cited?

Are you aware that Luther himself believed in the third use of the law?

Are you aware that Paul himself CONSTANTLY referred to the third use of the law in in his letters?

You are going against Scripture, against sound doctrine, against historic Lutheranism, and against Christianity. You are holding to a false understanding of the law, period.

mahlon said...

Although I am Southern Baptist, yet I find the following article in the Book of Concord to be most illuminating: The Third Use of the Law.

Even if someone may deny the third use of the Law as practice, nonetheless in principle the third use of the law cannot be avoided by Christians. Think about it: 1). Christ in His incarnation fulfilled the law or showed how it was to be perfectly lived. He fulfilled the Covenant of works in His life, paid for the Covenant of Grace by His death and proved He was who He said He was in His resurrection. We follow Him as our example who fulfilled the Law.

2). The Law of God is written anew in our hearts by way of the New Covenant. That law on the tablets of the heart is the same in content as the law on the tablets of stone. The New Covenant gives me power in the imputed righteousness of Christ and as a partaker of Him by His Spirit to be deemed a full-filler of the law.

Is not the the whole point of the third use to show that what is written before me as a guide the very same thing that the Spirit has placed in me via the New Covenant? Luther I think is spot on in that the remnants of the Old man in my thought-life and emotional life must needs die daily. (Luke 9:23-24; 1 Peter 4:1-3)