The Total Luther

Career of the Reformer III, Works of Luther #33

Luther said many things in many different situations. He even said “unLutheran” things, such as good works are evidence of true faith. If you can find quotes in Luther’s Works that support works-righteousness, does that mean Luther had no coherent stance?

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To the contrary, when looking at the total Luther, it’s evident that his theology (the cross alone; the bondage of the will, the freedom of the Christian, and the like) has a dynamic that is consistent from the young Luther to the older Luther in spite of what he may have said in a particular sermon on a particular occasion.

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Thanks to CrossAlone Lutheran District.

http://crossalone.us/

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20 Responses

  1. well, the problem is that not only Luther but also the Lutheran Confessions tell us that Good Works are the evidence that faith is living.
    But first one must understand what the Lutheran Confessions have to say about the :Law.

    1) The Confessions (art IV on Justification) inform us that the Law was written in all men. Where? According to Romans 2:15 the Divine Law of God is Divinely written in the Minds of men, that is to say in their Reason. And so this is why Reason agrees with the Decalog. It is the SAME Divinely Revealed Law.

    But then watch:

    2) Reason is veiled by the veil of Moses (II Cor 3:13) which means that Reason is of the opinion that keeping the Law of God is about something we can and must do. Reason is veiled to that Law of God that is “peculiarly” (Apology art IV) found in the First Table of the Decalog. The first table deals with what says the Confessions? The first table deals with “movements of the heart”. The first table demands faith in Christ Alone this says. We will discuss this next. So Reason IS the Divinely Revealed Law of God and it tells us that outward works are God’s Will to be done here on earth. And that , as Luther says everywhere, we must do out of the the motivation of the fear that God will punish us if we do not do this outward keeping! This fear and threat fully includes beilevers! (FC art VI ). We don’t keep this outward Law because of sanctificatiion in the proper or strict sense of that word, that is out of true love for God. We do this out of the fear of God. This , by the way, is what the LUTHERAN Third use says, which says that the 3rd use is for pagan and christian alike as well. FC art VI is quite clear on this: The Law always , always accuses us and kills us. The Law, even 3rd use, isalways targeted at pagan, “recalcitrant ass” Old Adam. New Man has no need for the Law except to use it to beat up Old Adam and make him submit.

    Apology art III “On love and the fulfilling of the Law” has a fine discussion about the relationships of outward works to faith. It tells us that this relationship is one of sinectoche. that is, the outward thing is spoken of as referring to the contents. For example, you might say “I drak an entire pitcher!” Of COURSE you did not drink a pitcher. You are saying you drank what was inside the pitcher. This is what synectoche is. So when Jesus says that the woman who wept and washed his feet was saved ‘because she loved much”, Jesus was contrasting her worship and speaking to the entire act, which was her outward work that comprehended also her inward invisible faith, and then contrasting that to the outward works of the Pharisees. So her works saved her Jesus said! Her works were not just evidence of her faith, Her works were what saved her! It would be good to think of the Lutheran formula “in, with and under” here. Lutherans do not need to separate the outward thing from the Promise contained where God has located it which is always, always “in, with and under” some visible earthly and creaturely thing. This applies to Baptism, which IS a work we are commanded to do, and that invisible thing , that Promise, that is attached in with and under that Law thing we call Holy Baptism. See?

    This is the Lutheran and confessional way to present the relationship between faith and works. it is not “either or”. It is “both /and”. But it is both/and in a way that we are saved , alone , by the works of Christ alone!

    Now there is an important context for this discussion of the Law as being about the first table demand for faith in Christ alone that we cannot do, vs the second table demand for outward works that are faith, charity, love, and thoughts and deeds that we can in fact do. And must do. This context will show why we won’t get works and faith right and will lose the Holy Gospel if we dont first understand the Law and Sin. You will find THAT discussion in the Apology art I. Watch:

    Apology I “on original sin” tells us that to understand original sin, we must first understand what original righeousness was. Most believe that original righeousness was about something Adam did. what did he do? Adam did not eat the forbidden fruit. We are asked to believe the logical theory that some insert into the text that the forbidden fruit was a test of Adam and that his not eating the fruit was an act of obedience that Adam DID to glorify God. And from this these logicians deduce, logically, that this is the exact character and purpose and nature of the Law of God, and also is the essence of Original Righteousness. This is what Calvin taught. Many Lutherans teach this too dont they? And the importance of this is that the Image of God is what? It was Adams conformity to the Law of God and to Obedience. It consisted of his Love for God that consisted of his being Obedient. And why is does that view matter? it means then that the Gospel really serves , at the end, the Law of God. The entire ;point of the Gospel is to restore us to what? To being keepers of the Law! Gospel serves the Law! Sound familiar? This is where that idea comes from.

    So what do Lutherans in art I of the Apology teach? They teach there that Original Righeousness and the Image of God was , alone, faith in Christ , alone. Alone! And this was totally lost. Now we can see how. If the Law is written in our minds and the Law is Gods Image, then the Law maybe was fallen and distorted, but there is still a spark there that the HS can fan and enflame! And that is something in us that we possess!

    But apology art I says that the Image of God and Original Righeousness was alone faith in Christ alone and that was lost. So Original sin is the absence of faith alone in Christ alone in the hearts of man. and Original sin is also one more thing. It is “concupiscence”. Note that the confessions redefine that word “concupiscence” from what the Romans defined it as being. Rome said concupiscence was mans “baser instincts” or “natural apetites” such as sex drive and hunger and the “fomes”. The lutherans redefined that word. They said that “concupiscence” is really faith! it is faith in anything BUT Christ that fills the void when faith in Christ left Adam! See? So the restoration of Image and Righeousness is ALONE the restoration of faith in Christ alone. And this restoration happens fully in Holy Baptism!

    So now we are at the position where we can , confessionally, talk about works and faith. and we can say that we are, in a very real sense saved by our works, and not just “saved ” by our works. And a good Lutheran can say also that works are “the proof that faith is living ” just as john Gerhard says in a great Lutheran hymn!

    So how is this so? For this I will ask you to ponder what the small catechism says about holy Baptism. In the large catechism , luther states that Baptism is nothing more than Repentance in a different form. This is important to always remember because this will allow us to keep sanctification in the narrow or “proper” meaning as being gospel regeneration, distinguished from the use of the word sanctification as being law+gospel, that is sanctification used in the broad meaning.

    There is a great discussion in the Apology on repentence telling is exactly that. that repentence has a broad meaning and a narrow meaning. the narrow meaning is alone gospel and so in that narrow meaning repentence is purely regeneration that alone the gospel is able to do. And then there is a broad meaning that is a law+gospel meaning (read works + faith meaning!) that is also a correct use of the term. And so now you can ponder this: baptism=repentence= what? baptism=repentence=sanctification! So there is a narrow and a broad meaning for each of those terms.

    In the narrow meaning, baptism/repentence/sanctification means , alone, regeneration. it means that that faith that is first table invisible new heart movements is done to us. We now keep the Law, as new man , from the bottom of the heart. this is as though no Law existed. This is the “;proper ” meaning of the word “sanctification”.
    The small catechism says that this is what “baptism works, delivers from and gives”. This is alone faith alone in the works alone of Christ alone!

    Then there baptism is also what it “signifies”. It is faith + Law. it is what the Formula of Concord describes as the LUTHERAN 3rd use of the Law. It is where the believer as New Man takes up the Law as a club to beat up on the Old adam, bury him . Kill him.

    So now you can understand it when I say that our works are the sign that faith is living. How? A believer looks at his good works and the sign that faith is living is that his Good Works have what effect on him? They terrify him! I repeat: The evidence that faith exists in Good works is that our Best righeousness terrifies us! They condemn us! They are a preachment of the Law to us. This only New Man can see. Why? This is why:

    Old adam flees the judgement of God about his works. How? He does more of them! romans 2:15 says that the Law not only accuses, it also excuses! So this is why Reason is of the opinion that we escape that accusation by doing more works!

    The new man, in contrast, accepts Gods judgement of his works and he is terrified. He now can truly fear Gods Judgement. So what does he do? He make the Old adam DO more good works! Visibly this looks the same as what a pagan would do doesnt it? But the believer has one more thing going on! He is seeking his own death in making old adam DO those good works! the works are for his neighbor. He does not seek “Life” or even sanctification in the narrow sense there. he seeks death. His Life is hidden , fully, in Christ alone! And so faith includes both the inward faith that is not our work and also the outward work that is a true righeousness that God demands and wills to be done on earth.

  2. OK, I admit to being a total novice on lots of this material (I’m not a Lutheran in any church-going sense of the term – I’ve read some Luther and certainly agree with him on lots of things), so I’m not seeking to make any kind of official response, and I plead a great deal of ignorance but I would like to raise a few questions….

    Good works stem from genuine faith – no problem.
    God’s Law relates to all people – that springs for me from Paul’s teaching at the start of Romans,so no worries there – not sure why we have to add (human?) ‘reason’ to that (Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is that the knowledge of God is evident to humanity, plain and simple), but we may come back to that…

    Reason is ‘veiled’ by the ‘veil of Moses’. You totally lost me. The passage is speaking about how Israel could not bear the ‘ministry of death’ (vs 7) and condemnation (vs 9) expressed in the glory shown on the face of Moses, and comparing this with the glory of the ministry of the Spirit, which, in Christ, removes any such veil. What has this to do with ‘veiling’ reason? Is it meant as some form of comparison to what you’re expressing here?

    Quote(s):
    “Divine Law of God is Divinely written in the Minds of men, that is to say in their Reason”… and
    “Reason IS the Divinely Revealed Law of God”.

    This is relating to understanding prior to a ‘veiling’?
    If so, this would appear to be the process of corruption Paul outlines in Romans 1 – would that be right?

    Works, in the example given, are genuinely expressing what is within (that is what makes a work ‘good’), and they express is trust and confidence – love for God and/or neighbour. That is the ‘work’ of faith, by grace?

    Quote:
    “Most believe that original righteousness was about something Adam did. what did he do? Adam did not eat the forbidden fruit. We are asked to believe the logical theory that some insert into the text that the forbidden fruit was a test of Adam and that his not eating the fruit was an act of obedience that Adam DID to glorify God. And from this these logicians deduce, logically, that this is the exact character and purpose and nature of the Law of God, and also is the essence of Original Righteousness”.

    This is one mammoth assumption, especially in the light of Paul’s teaching on Adam in Romans 5. Why should we accept such ‘logical theory”? Can the pre-fall existence of Adam even be judged by such deductions from our perspective? This seems a pretty poor premise upon which to build a major theological argument.

    There’s a lot more to unpack here, but before we move on to any discussion of ‘the gospel makes us keepers of the law’, I’d appreciate some clarification or discussion of the above.

    Many thanks.

  3. Re: the obedience of Adam. Here’s something that has struck me:
    “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).

    So, Adam’s obedience wasn’t just a ‘passive’ activity – not doing a particular thing (eating the fruit), but active – he was placed in Eden to be a bondsman to the duty of both dressing (working) the garden and ‘hedging’ it – literally guarding it. There was a need to protect Eden – to ‘fence’ it (literally, to ‘use thorns’). Now this puts God’s action of naming the animals with Adam in Genesis 2 in a whole new context – Adam’s task involved defining every living creature. The fiery serpent which craftily encroached upon the garden from outside was not one of these, so Adam fails to notice or act regarding this invasion, probably due to the serpent’s cunning.

    We tend to view Eden as a paradise, where everything was serene and eternity could have been spent enjoying some level of almost ethereal bliss, but the underlying message it appears is far more troubling very early on – far more akin to John Bunyan’s vision of Mansoul in his work, the Holy War. Events had already transpired to cause the serpent to focus upon God’s handiwork in Eden – to infiltrate and subvert this work. The war was most certainly in full swing prior to our fall.

    I raise this because I’d be interested to know if any of these considerations are raised and discussed by theologians when they seek to define the obedience/disobedience of Adam.

    • HOWARD So, Adam’s obedience wasn’t just a ‘passive’ activity – not doing a particular thing (eating the fruit), but active – he was placed in Eden to be a bondsman to the duty of both dressing (working) the garden and ‘hedging’ it – literally guarding it. There was a need to protect Eden – to ‘fence’ it (literally, to ‘use thorns’). Now this puts God’s action of naming the animals with Adam in Genesis 2 in a whole new context – Adam’s task involved defining every living creature. The fiery serpent which craftily encroached upon the garden from outside was not one of these, so Adam fails to notice or act regarding this invasion, probably due to the serpent’s cunning.\

      FWS Well now. This all might be true. Or not. I am not sure. I don’t have a copy of Luther’s Genesis commentary here in Brasil, but I am told that Luther says that the forbidden tree was about worship and not obedience. I would be interested in seeing the full context of that. Maybe you can track that down and get back to me. I am totally confident that whatever Luther wrote there would fully agree with what I expressed from the Luheran Confessions in the Apology, since that was also Luther’s Public and Formal Confession of Faith, which would trump even his lectures at his university as to what we should know he believed.

      HOWARD We tend to view Eden as a paradise, where everything was serene and eternity could have been spent enjoying some level of almost ethereal bliss,

      FWS We believe that it was pure bliss and was paradise because that is what Scripture says it was. End of story.

      HOWARD but the underlying message it appears is far more troubling very early on – far more akin to John Bunyan’s vision of Mansoul in his work, the Holy War. Events had already transpired to cause the serpent to focus upon God’s handiwork in Eden – to infiltrate and subvert this work. The war was most certainly in full swing prior to our fall.

      FWS Ok. This is true I think. But at the same time, Adam possessed Original Right-eousness and the very Image of God. We are told that these consisted of, as their very essence, faith alone in Christ alone. And you now have this as New Man Howard. You have this Peace of God that passes all human understanding that keeps your heart and soul, through faith in Christ Jesus. And at the same time you are literally at war with your Old Adam and with Satan having his way there. But this will end when you die Howard,. And satan will still be looking for ways to subvert things. Ok. So?

      HOWARD I raise this because I’d be interested to know if any of these considerations are raised and discussed by theologians when they seek to define the obedience/disobedience of Adam.

      FWS. Yes is the answer,. And my suggestion is to track down the Luther commentary on Genesis. One caveat. The Galatians commentary of Luther was compiled from notes taken from students. Ditto the Genesis commentary. But Luther edited the Galatians student notes before they were published. He did not do that , unfortunately, with the genesis lecture notes. So take what is written there with a certain grain of salt. The students took notes, and then sometimes the editors of those notes took certain liberties….. So always compare the genesis commentary to Luthers formal confession in the Lutheran Confessions. If there is a conflict, always go with the Confessions. In the Galatians commentary there is no such issue.

      I would also refer you to Luthers preface to his 1545 translation of the epistle to the Romans. That is a brief summary of all we have discussed here as to the definitions of the words, sin, grace, righteousness, etc etc.

      Blessings Howard!

      frank william sonnek

  4. Dear Howard,

    You asked all the right questions I think. Let me try to summarize them here and respond as best as I can.

    First of all:

    Note that my response is to say that Lutherans DO say that Good Works ARE proof that faith is living. And to summarize what I wrote, the confessions say this about personal and internal confirmation : 1) A believer , in his heart, accepts the judgement of God of his works and does not flee that judgement by trying to appease God by doing more works. 2) As a result of accepting the judgement of God upon our very best works, our very best works terrify us. 3) Therefore we turn to presenting, alone the Works of Christ, in faith alone, to propitiate God. 4) But to understand all this, one must first understand the meaning of the words “Law”, “sin” and “righeousness”, or points 1-3 make no sense. Therefore my long presentation about Original Sin and Original Righeousness and the Law. We have to start at the beginning of the Bible to understand how things end all in Christ is what our Confessions teach us Lutherans.

    Now as to our good works being proof to OTHERS that one’s faith is living. The confessions say: nonsense! The Formula of Concord, art VI titled “The [Lutheran] Third use of the Law states that there is NO difference , in the works themselves, between “fruit of the spirit” and “works of the Law”! So if this is true, how would we then judge someone’s faith according to their works??!! Note that alot of proof passages contrary to this are from the Sermon on the Mount. Were the audience members there sanctified christians? To whom was Christ addressing his comments about being light and salt?

    So now your comments/questions and my responses:

    HOWARD Good works stem from genuine faith – no problem.

    FWS Not quite. God’s Will is to have Goodness and Mercy done. It is critical to note that he makes this SAME Goodness and Mercy happen in two ways: In the first method, God drives them by the Law in ALL men, christian and pagan Old Adam identically! The Law “mortifies” (latinate for “deathing”) ALL Old Adams precisely in order to make them do Goodness and Mercy to their neighbor. In sinful Old Adam, Goodness and Mercy can only be “extorted” out of him as the Formula of Concord art VI says! But there is a second way God has Goodness and Mercy happen. He restores in Men, in Baptism, the Image of God , which is alone, faith alone in Christ alone. Now here is the part that is key: we all exist with this internal dialog of chosing between sin and goodness, or better, blind faith in christ vs faith in anything at all we can see, like our good works!

    The Confessions also add that Old Adam, even in believers, is their very essence and nature. It is ALL their reason, will, and their very soul. This is so to the extent that we cannot separate out anything that is “new man” or “sanctification” in us by what we can see even after our new birth. ALL we can see in ourselves is 100% pure Old Adam. So whatever good works we see being done in ourselves therefore should terrify us. They are ALL being driven out of our Old Adam and “extorted” out of him by the mortifying Law. Mortification is the Law in action! The practical daily implication is this: we should stop peeking under our spiritual hood to see if our Good Works are some sign of sanctification “taking hold”. And we should then fear God and learn to make our Old Adam submit to the Law and so treat our neighbor right. We should fear God’s wrath and be most certain , in faith in God’s Word, that God will send punishment to make us keep the Law and so love our neighbor and help and befriend him in every bodily need and also avoid hurting or harming him in his body or property or his happiness on earth. So works are ALL Old Adam stuff here on earth. And here on earth the Life of a christian is all blind faith in Christ , apart from works.

    Whew. Sorry for that bering so long. I hope it clarifies things… This is a point easily confused. Read this to see something new that you have not encountered before.

    HOWARD: God’s Law relates to all people – that springs for me from Paul’s teaching at the start of Romans,so no worries there – not sure why we have to add (human?) ‘reason’ to that (Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is that the knowledge of God is evident to humanity, plain and simple), but we may come back to that…

    FWS Well. Romans 2:15 says that the “work of the Law” is written in the heart. The Law itself is written where? “In the mind/conscience”. The Lutheran Confessions say “Reason” here. I think that is a reasonable way to summarize romans 2:15. And this sets up a distinction that fits scripture between the Law in the mind and a heart that is full of faith in Old Adam! Old Adam does not lack faith. He is FULL of faith in anything he can see! So as a result, in Romans 1 we see that man trusts in God alright, but a God that he can make visible in the form of substituting created things and trusting in them rather than trusting , invisibly, in faith alone, in Christ alone! Original sin , again, is the loss of that faith in christ + a faith in anything visible Old Adam can buckle his faith to!

    HOWARD Reason is ‘veiled’ by the ‘veil of Moses’. You totally lost me. The passage is speaking about how Israel could not bear the ‘ministry of death’ (vs 7) and condemnation (vs 9) expressed in the glory shown on the face of Moses,

    FWS No. I did not lose you brother! You read that passage and got it exactly right! The Veil is really God’s act of Goodness and Mercy to Old Adam. it informs Old Adam that the Law that is to love one’s neighbor can and must be done by our outward works. And it puts into him also the fear of God that drives and extorts out of him the Goodness and Mercy that ALL such Good Works are. If Old Adam saw the Law without the veil, he would be driven to suicidal despair just as Judas was. The Law will drive one to be a pharisee full of Good Works that do actually please God, or will drive one to Despair because the veil has been removed. Only in the New Man, whom the Law can no longer accuse, will a removed veil terrify but will not drive to despair! An unclean man cannot see God face to face and live. Now as New Man Howard, you are 100% clean. You can fully see the damning , condemning judgement of God that means your death and accept that judgment, and …. die! You can will the death of your Old Adam in all your good works. Why? in invisible faith, you know that your Life is safely tucked away and “hidden” as saint paul says, in the wounds of our dear Lord Jesus. See? This is why Luther said that “Life IS, as to its very essence, Mortification.” Luther says in fact, in his sermon that FC art VI says is the basis for that article that “romans 8 flesh that will perish consists of ALL that we can see and do in our bodies.” That is a statement worth pondering! And so romans 8 “spirit” is alone, invisible faith, alone in Christ alone. It cant include anything we can see or do in our bodies. How could it? that stuff is already ALL included in that other category named “flesh”. Romans 8 “flesh ” then does not just include our carnal appetites. it fully and utterly includes our earthly righeousness as well! it includes ALL we do in church that we can see and do!

    HOWARD : and comparing this with the glory of the ministry of the Spirit, which, in Christ, removes any such veil. What has this to do with ‘veiling’ reason? Is it meant as some form of comparison to what you’re expressing here?

    FWS Great! The Confessions say this based in romans 2:15 1) Reason is the Divine Law of God writen in the mind/conscience. 2) This Reason agrees with the Decalog. Why? It is the SAME Law! 3) reason is veiled by the veil of Moses (legalism?) to thinking that the Law of God can be kept as civil law can be kept.

    Here it is very very important for me to add that that word “outward” here means to keep the Law, either in the spirit of the Law or to the letter of the Law I need to add here! BOTH of those kinds of keepings are what the confessions would call an “outward ” keeping. So if this is true, then what is the opposite of “outward”? it is a “heart ” keeping. It is where we can keep the Law of God as something we do exactly as the very core and ardent longing and will and desire and passion of our heart. As first nature, not even merely as second nature! There would be no internal debate here as to what path to follow! There is only one possibility that involves no choice at all! We simply keep the Law from the bottom of our heart, and then our “doing” is then like spontaneous combustion. it just happens like light happens from the sun. the sun does not DO light. It just happens as a result of sun being sun and doing what sun does. Think of Christ in the Blessed Incarnation to get the hang of this difference.

    HOWARD Quote(s):
    “Divine Law of God is Divinely written in the Minds of men, that is to say in their Reason”… and
    “Reason IS the Divinely Revealed Law of God”.

    This is relating to understanding prior to a ‘veiling’?
    If so, this would appear to be the process of corruption Paul outlines in Romans 1 – would that be right?

    FWS: Well. yes and no. Understand that they are painting a contrast here between Reason and what? The heart. They say that reason , aka the Law is at war with the heart in Old Adam. This looks exactly like the internal dialog that goes on in you Howard that is necessary whenever you do Good. Even if it feels “spontaneous”, you can note the difference between good and evil. Why is that? In New man there is no such thing as good. because this is a category that only makes sense if there is also evil. and so this is why St Paul says that that which is not of faith is sin. The opposite of sin according to the veiled Opinion of Reason is Goodness! But for new man the opposite of Sin is alone, faith in Christ alone! Again, observe our dear Lord Jesus in the Blessed Incarnation to get the hang of how this looks in practical daily life for New Man.

    HOWARD Works, in the example given, are genuinely expressing what is within (that is what makes a work ‘good’), and they express is trust and confidence – love for God and/or neighbour. That is the ‘work’ of faith, by grace?

    FWS No. Good Works are Goodness and Mercy that is love for neighbor as one is to love ones own self. This is the Bibilcal definition . So Goodness and Mercy done IS Goodness and Mercy done independent of internal motiviation. A loaf of bread given to starving man IS truly a Good Work that God providences and that pleases him regardless of internal motive. it is not merely a “good work”. What makes a Good Work good is what God defines as a Good Work in the Bible. The bible defines this as ANY action that results in something useful for the earthly, and creaturely comfort and happiness of your neighbor. This includes what we commonly call, in the secular sense, “spiritual” goods, such as being a faithful friend, protecting someones reputation, and the production of arts, music and great literature that uplift and create an inspiration to continue in a hard world.

    Remember here that the diference is not in the substance of the acts or works. t is not that our works take on a different essential quality before God depending upon the invisible motive that is driving them to be done. Mercy IS Mercy. It doesnt matter who does it or for what reason. And we know it is Mercy , aka love, because ALL men know what love looks like. And by the way, Mercy is ALWAYS undeserved. This is not the Grace of God in Christ we are talking about is it? God’s Word says that God works his eartly Goodness and Mercy even for all the wicked and even without our prayer. You will see this in our Lord’s preamble to teaching the disciples the Our Father. Here is the practical application : We think that we are to keep the Law, and we are. So from that we think that it is us doing the Law. The reality is that the Law does us! The Law drives us to be good. it extorts goodness and mercy out of us. Sometimes this looks like being driven by a stick. other times it can look instead like a carrot! it makes us feel good to keep the Law! This is true for pagans as well. Think about that. There IS a satisfaction in being a “good person.” So for us christians the danger is to confuse this feeling Good about being Good with “sanctification”. it is certainly not. And it is Old Adam talking here! For New Man , works terrify! Why? We accept God’s Judgement about our works. and what IS that judgement? Death. And then, in faith, we keep doing those Good Works! Not to seek life or to feel good, but to seek our death in favor of the goodness and mercy of an improved creaturely life for our neighbor!

    I hope that helps!

    God bless Howard!

  5. Many thanks for the reply… I’ll give this some in-depth attention!

  6. Between work and internet problems, I have been absent.

    You are probably better off for it.

    Off to the salt mine, yet again.

    Anxious to look at your comments when I get some time.

    Thanks.

  7. Dear FWS….

    Some responses!….(I have copies of both commentaries).

    1. Genesis 2:15 – “This all might be true. Or not. I am not sure”.

    Luther most certainly agrees. In the Genesis commentary, he speaks of Eden being both a ‘temple and a castle’, and of Man both working and guarding the garden.He is not too clear as to why garden, at this stage, needed protection (he alludes to some troubles which would come later, following the fall), but he clearly recognizes the requirements stated by God to Adam.

    2. The tree of knowledge of good and evil –
    “I am told that Luther says that the forbidden tree was about worship and not obedience. I would be interested in seeing the full context of that”.

    His comments about this are most interesting. He speaks about the place where the trees were situated being a location where Adam would have both refreshed and reminded himself (and later his offspring) of the goodness of God’s provision and the dangers of abusing this gracious furnishing. In the very fact that the command was given to Adam alone, Luther points out that he would therefore be responsible for passing this to others (first, to Eve, then children). It’s fascinating to ponder – even in our presently limited situation – how very ‘natural’ and creational what we deem ‘religion’ would have been in such a context.

    3. The Confessions, etc.
    “I would also refer you to Luther’s preface to his 1545 translation of the epistle to the Romans. That is a brief summary of all we have discussed here as to the definitions of the words, sin, grace, righteousness, etc etc”…

    Thank you – The commentaries (Romans, Genesis and Galatians) and the Book of Concord have all been poured over this afternoon – very helpful. The ‘voice’ within Luther’s studies of these issues always points to Christ, and thereby encourages us and aids us in the richest way possible.

    I will seek to study and reply to your further reply tomorrow.

    Many thanks for your help,
    Howard.

    • dear howard,

      I was raised a Lutheran. I see now, looking back, that alot of what I was taught did have the Holy Gospel that was what kept me in the one true Faith that is Christ Crucified. At the same time there was also a strong dose of what was really reformed thinking that somehow had crept into all that. That other non lutheran thinking looks like the view that sanctification is the actualization of our life in Christ. And this in turn was about the genesis forbidden fruit being about Adamic obedience to the Law of God as the essence of the Image of God and Original Righeousness.

      Very recently I started rereading our Lutheran Confessions. I had the small catechism memorized so I did not need to start there. Instead I started with the Apology to the Augsburg Confession. At a certain critical point in those studies, a Lutheran brother who went to Gordon Conwell and is very articulate and also well versed in theology outside of Lutheranism told me that I would never understand the Lutheran Confessions until I studied Aristotle.

      That was a remarkable turning point in my understanding Howard. I now see that the Schlasticism that is best represented by my beloved St Thomas (and I do think he was a real gift to the Church), was the baptism of aristotelian ethics and world view into the Church.

      The Lutherans fully embrace Aristotle’s Ethics you might be surprised to find. This is based again upon romans 2:15 and that Reason = Divinely Revealed Law. Therefore the Confessions can , rather remarkably say this “concerning earthly morality, nothing can be demanded beyond the ethics of Aristotle.” (Apology art IV “on justification”).

      So what then did the Lutherans find to quarrel with so adamantly against the Scholastics? It was this idea:

      1)The Image of God is located in Natural Law. It is found in Man’s “higher powers” or “more noble instincts” that are located where? The Image of God is found in man’s ability to reason and to love. This is what separates us men from the animals. So the Image of God and original Righeousness is located where? It is found in the Law. It is found in conformity to the Law.

      2) Virtue is where mankind employs his higher powers to subdue and have dominion over what? Man is to subdue is “natural appetites” or “baser instincts” or “lust” or “concupiscence” that are driven by his emotions with his higher and more noble powers of reason and love! It is not hard to see that this is precisely what the scholastics called meritorious works. and … this is what Calvin and the evangelicals call by the name “sanctification”! This is why I call calvin and the evangelicals “neo scholastics” The only difference between rome and geneva here, I suggest, is that rome places this aristotelian “practice makes perfect” before justification as NECESSARY preparation for it, and geneva places this same thing after justification as a NECESSARY fruit of it and call it sanctification. Some reformed say this sanctification is monergistic. But the problem remains that it is something that is to happen IN us and it must be “evident-ial”. So the focus of trust is put on that process . And this does not require Christ in any active way does it? it requires the Holy Spirit and us. The works of Christ in both ways are truly only preparatory or the start or what makes this more important process possible. It is the lighter to the fuse so to speak.

      3) Lutherans point out that no Christ is really necessary for this. and this is the context of where and how they are opposing reason to faith. and this is why they keep insisting on calling faith “new heart movements”. This term is employed to separate out a faith that we can do. that is a faith they call a “historical faith” that even the devil has. It is the assent of reason to the proposition that the bible is true and inerrant or even that it is the Inerrant Word of God. But Lutherans say that saving faith is something that changes the heart so that it agrees with the judgement of the Law of God. and so they quote jeremiah in art III of the Apology titled” Love and the fulfillment of the Law” as being exactly where God takes a romans 2:15 heart that bears the work of the law (rebellion that says!) and puts a new heart into man that agrees completely with the Law of God.

      Note that this is both subtly and radically different than saying that the Image of God = conformity to the Law of God. it is faith in Christ, alone = the Image of God.

      Consider: if the Law of God is the Image of God, then the Law writen in our mind is a fallen version of the Law. so conscience cannot be a reliable guide. so then God had to reissue the Law to clear up the conscience. So this disagrees with st paul when he says that even those without bibles have the SAME Law of God. But but it means something much more important theologically. It means that the Image of God was not completely lost! It was maybe unrecognizably damaged, like an image in a badly shattered mirror. But not completely lost! So the holy spirit in that case merely needs to fan a faintly burning ember in that case.

      For Lutherans the Image of God is completely lost. for the Image of God is not the Law. It is alone, invisible faith alone in Christ alone!

      This has radical implications I hope you can see. And once the image of God is restored, conformity to the Law is simply a given. It just happens like light from sun as the Formula of Concord says in art Vi. there is no need for the Law OR the Gospel when the Image of God is restored.

      Bless you Howard.

  8. Howard,

    aristotelian ethics say that one acquires virtue by practice. we act as a virtuous person would act until it becomes second nature.

    Lutherans teach that this is exactly how ALL virtue done by all men comes about. this is what st paul is about when he says run the race, reach for the crown, subdue the flesh. it is practice makes perfect. it is a killing of Old adam. this is a fruit of sanctification and in that sense a part of sanctification. but it is fruit and not sanctification itself. sanctification , to “make holy” is alone faith in Christ,. the fruit of that is that new man turns and sicks the law on old adam and mortifies him.

    But this is all the same thing that the Law does in the hands of men like Aristotle. it is no different in any way at all. the difference is that New man spontaneously reaches for the law to beat up old adam. Old Adam is driven by the Law alone. so the entire difference is in the doer not in what is done.

    When Classic Lutheranism teaches ethics we tell people they should learn to do the Law that is love for others willingly and joyfully, because if we dont, we should fear that God will send us plagues and punishments to make us do it.

    And then we point to aristotle and AA and ghandi and psychiatrists and self help books and your mom, and the boyscouts and the rotary club and the governments heavy hand and others to tell us how to practically practice and learn to keep that Law. These Lutherans see as the Law of God at work in the world.

  9. Many thanks for the further comments.

    The Greeks (in a classical sense) have always been a problem – from what I can see, they generally glory in a wisdom which is contrary what the Gospel teaches us concerning both the work and nature of God (revealed in Christ) and the true value and purpose of Creation. The church has clearly been tainted by this stain from very early on (Paul’s letter to the Colossians is evidence of just how early, as are some of the warnings in the Epistles of John, as the whole tone of John’s Gospel). By the time we arrive at Augustine, the error is essentially everywhere.

    I have no problem seeing that error in much of Reformed theology – Luther is a very clear exception here, and this is vital. As Gustaf Wingren shows in his excellent work, ‘God, Man and the Incarnation”, (The Biblical Theology of Irenaeus), it is when the Biblical framework regarding Creation, Fall and Redemption are truly re-established that Jesus Christ can once more become the ‘fixed point’ – the Author and Finisher of all things. Luther is vital here, for he points us constantly to Christ and His work as he expounds scripture.

    The ‘other gospel’ so commonplace today, when I speak to my evangelical or reformed friends, is dualism – the justification of a division between the ‘holy’ spiritual world (which is most certainly not here) and the ‘evil’ physical world – gnosticism in all but name. I am passionate about God’s love for this world, about the renewal of this creation that is fast approaching, and the redeeming work of God at the heart of this. Reformed teachers (there are a few good ones) helped put me on that path, some truly wonderful Lutherans have helped me stay on course as I’ve become more creative in my own life, but ‘the Greeks’ burn or road block the Gospel everywhere I have turned over some 30 years, so perhaps there are treasures to be mined there, but I will stick with the great company of witnesses God has surely furnished, and brother Martin (and brother Steve, for his caring work here) is certainly amongst the chief of these.

    The vitality of this was evidenced again today – your pointing me to Luther’s writings pointed me back to Moses and Paul, who all pointed me once more to God in Christ, Creator, Redeemer and Lord.That is wealth indeed!

    Thank you for your words. As stated earlier today, I hope to give some more thought to you earlier reply tomorrow.

    In His Grace,
    Howard.

  10. Dear FWS,
    Hope my last reply didn’t ‘come across’ the wrong way. I’ve been very aware, for the last twenty years, of just how major the Gnostic problem is in our spirituality, so I’m pretty dubious about anything that nods in that particular direction. I realise, however, that there’s still more to unpack here, so thank you for giving me more to think about.

    Re: Your second reply – the work of the Law in the old Adam. The conclusion, then, I think, is that everything that happens now (in terms of good works) has an immediate value only – everything in the here and now is essentially sown into mortification or is sin – and all of this dies, only the life and work of Christ remains – would that be right? In which case, I’d love to here your thoughts on the Redemption of the Created order and God’s reconciling work – a new creation, clearly, but is there any relationship to the old (present)?

    Look forward to more,
    Howard.

  11. Dear Howard,

    It is 1am here and I have to get up at 6am for work. So this will be brief.
    I cor 6 states , at the end something to the effect that the body/old adam IS dead. But it then says that even though the body IS dead, it is connected to Christ. This is precisely how I read that St Paul says the body has value and worth. And this can be known, alone, in Christ, alone , by faith.

    Why? Luthers lightbulb moment was really to read romans 8 and understand that in the pauline contrast flesh vs spirit, paul was not referring to the higher powers vs the carnal flesh. He was saying that ALL that we can see and do in our body/flesh, fully including all churchly things and our best righteousness is flesh that will perish. and so then “spirit” is alone invisible faith alone in Christ alone.

    now then, this is exactly the footprint, exactly for Luthers doctrine of the two kingdoms. yeah I know some Lutheran knuckleheads make flesh vs spirit as civil vs churchly things like the sacraments. this is not Luther or the confessions position. One must think of two Kingdoms and their respective two kinds of Divinely ordained righeousness as being really the casuistic version of Law and Gospel.

    so there is the earthly kingdom. in with and under old adams driven by the Law in Reason God makes his goodness and mercy happen on earth. this will all perish with the earth, along with all who trust in it for Life. the Holy Catholic Church is merely and exactly another Government instituted by God exactly like civil government here (see the apology on the church for this view).

    Then there is the heavenly kingdom. the communion of saints. this wholy invisible kingdom is alone of invisible faith in Christ. It is in with and under the earthly kingdom government known as the Holy Catholic Church. catholic is to tell us here that the visible church is not restricted to political boundaries or geography. the sun never sets on it. This is a comfort. Here God works his goodness and mercy in with and under the word and sacraments which are themselves pure Law and ordinance.

    Gnosticism is where material=bad so to be spiritual and “pure” one needs to flee the flesh. Lutheran Theology directs the christian directly into the world. It is God who is working in with and under all. and God works his goodness and mercy here without our worthiness and even without our prayer or faithfulness! see luke 18 for how this works! the lawless judge driven by a conscience for which love has died.

    I hope this helps. if you have more directive questions, or maybe want to talk about how this appears Gnostic to you, respond and I will respond back as I have time this week dear Howard.

    the Lutheran confessions confess that original sin is of our very nature and essence in our will, flesh and even our soul. and at the same time they confess that this “essence” is NOT of the substance of being human, for if it were Christ would have sinned by being human. art I MUST be read together with FC art I on original sin for this to make sense. the idea is to avoid attenuating original sin.

  12. I realize that in my last paragraph I was talking about and essense that is not a substance. I know this is not right. but the confessions in FC I create a category of “accident” that aristotle would never have recognized. They say that the “accident” of original sin appears to be so very much “of the substance and essence” that it would be wrong not to confess that it is our very nature and essence , at the same time we confess that it is not of the substance of what being human is. Go and read FC I to see if you agree.

  13. Dear FWS,
    Many thanks for the late reply – I hope you got some rest!

    Re: Redemption –
    “I Cor 6 states , at the end something to the effect that the body/old Adam IS dead. But it then says that even though the body IS dead, it is connected to Christ. This is precisely how I read that St Paul says the body has value and worth. And this can be known, alone, in Christ, alone , by faith”

    It is essentially saying we have been purchased by Christ, which is then expounded (with regards to the body) in 1 Corinthians 15 – the day of our resurrection because Christ was raised. Not much remains of the old, true – like the husk, at best, of a seed, but as Job writes “on My flesh, I shall see God”, and this, I believe matters in the light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:20-25 – the redemption of the physical creation.

    This ‘kingdom’ is what is coming – the marriage of heaven and earth as the kingdom of God, so all the is genuinely ‘earthy’ (‘inhabited’ by God on the 7th day of creation and deemed holy) is included in the new creation, thus, God is reconciling the world to Himself (all that He made to be good) in Christ, who is the Lord of all things in Heaven and Earth.

    Gnosticism denies this reality – as you’ve put it, it cannot see anything good or spiritual in the material (for the gnostic, genuine ascendancy can only be gained through escape from the prison house of the physical). This has translated into the church in the manner in which we see and ‘do’ the spiritual (‘do not touch, taste or engage with the material world in the sense of seeing this as the means through which God blesses and works) – we negate the liberty and value that God has given and is bringing to the created order through Jesus Christ.

    So, I glean from our conversation so far, that everything that is of the kingdom of this world (darkness) will perish – the flesh, the world and the devil… all that is not ‘In’ and ‘Of’ Christ, filled with sin and death, not only in the fallen cosmos, but in the church and the Christian, will also be consumed by judgement, for nothing of this nature can inherit the Kingdom of God,
    but ALL that is from, to and within Christ Jesus shall be reconciled to God on that great and fearful day of His return, when there shall be a new (renewed) heaven and a new (renewed) earth, filled with His glory – would that be a right summation? We, in and of ourselves, are perishing but God alone brings life amongst the dead by the life and work of His Son – a new man in Christ.

    Now it’s my turn to scoot off to work, so hope to speak again soon.

    In His Grace,
    Howard.

  14. Opps… the Job reference is ‘IN my flesh, I shall see God”.

  15. dear Howard,

    Yes I think that is about it. I have to admit to not having read/thought through all we are talking about. I am just now working on trying to faithfully represent and articulate the arguments on all this in the Lutheran Confessions. I think I have that part right.

    Remember that I am suggesting that the two kingdoms and their two respective kinds of God demanded righteousnesses is really and just the casuistic version of the important Lutheran distinction of Law and Gospel. and this two kingdom talk is everywhere once you get that. even if the exact working two kingdoms is not employed. for example in the apology’s article on the church it looks this way:

    The Holy Catholic Church is the earthly “flesh” of romans 8 government which men enter by their baptism which is done according to the command and ordinance of Christ. Read kingdom of the Law here eh? command. ordinance.

    This HCC is exactly the same as any other earthly government such as the family or civil government. 3 ordos. Ordo? thats right! Law! except that the church has one important diference only…

    In with and under only the HCC is , invisibly the Communion of Saints. and one enters that communion, which is the heavenly kingdom, alone by faith alone in Christ alone that is imparted with the Word that is in with and under that commanded act that we are driven to do by the Law called Holy Baptism.

    This two kingdoms talk then can also be seen to be in the Ministry of the Keys in the small catechism.

    when the gospel forgiveness is proclaimed, then men are sealed and confirmed in the communion of saints.

    when men are excommunicated they are put outside of what? “the christian congregation” or the HCC.

    It is important to note that both these actions, earthly kingdom and heavenly kingdom actions in the ministry of the keys are certain and bound in heaven, but in different ways!

    I would also suggest here that the invasion of the culture wars and the issue of women pastors and whether to include or exclude homosexuals from the HCC is because the doctrine of the two kingdoms is confused. If one understands that the HCC is a government just like the two other ordos or governments of civil and family, then we then do not “spiritualize” the rules and laws that apply there. Then how St Paul for example governed the NT churches in his charge is about casuistry and not about setting Laws to replace the mosaic code in a NT setting.

  16. Dear Howard,

    so I think the point of the confessions is to resist the Old Adam urge to make the heavenly kingdom, or the things of faith visible and tangible. That is always to make something we are able to do be evidence that we are in or out of the heavenly kingdom.

    Also I would suggest that the Lutheran approach to ethics and morality is what is at the base of accusations that the lutherans are not “spiritual ” enough. We consider all morality to be just the same morality that applies to pagans as well. there is no such thing as “christian” morality that means. and so we are not to look for sanctification or rather the proof thereof, in our morals. morals are about mortification. about flesh. morals are not about “spirit” in romans 8.

  17. Very grateful for all your thoughts here -really helped to clarify a great deal and answered many questions from other recent conversations. It’s also whetted my appetite to read more Luther, so that can’t be bad!

    Blessings from England,
    Howard.

  18. dear howard,

    interesting how someone from england and someone from the usa can meet here. my friends call me Frank, Howard. Some of my best friends are from England. email fwsonnek@gmail.com if you have more questions.

    Luther is great. I would encourage you to track down his sermon that is the basis for the Formula of Concord art VI for the 9th sunday after trinity I believe it is. the summer postils. it was given in around 1528 or 1529 in marburg. This is a very neglected sermon, but it is really the basis, confessionally , for the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and their respective kinds of God providenced righteousness.

    blessings from Brasil!

    frank

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