Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are you an Antinomian?

Does God promise both temporal and eternal rewards to our good works?

What! Are you kidding? I mean, if you believed that, you'd be a Gospel denying Romanist or a Fundy TV evangelist, right? Law driven! Bad!

Or, then again, if you believed that maybe you'd be the greatest Lutheran theologian ever.

This teaching is set forth in our churches plainly and distinctly from the Word of God, namely, that the expiation of sins, or the propitiation for sins, must not be attributed to the merits of our works. For these things are part of the office which belongs to Christ the Mediator alone. Thus the remission of sins, reconciliation with God, adoption, salvation, and eternal life do not depend on our merits but are granted freely for the sake of the merit and obedience of the Son of God and are accepted by faith. Afterward, however, the good works in the reconciled, since they are acceptable through faith for the sake of the Mediator, have spiritual and bodily rewards in this life and after this life; they have these rewards through the gratuitous divine promise; not that God owes this because of the perfection and worthiness of our works, but because He, out of fatherly mercy and liberality, for the sake of Christ, has promised that He would honor with rewards the obedience of His children in this life, even though it is only begun and is weak, imperfect, and unclean. These promises should arouse in the regenerate a zeal for doing good works. For from this we understand how pleasing to the heavenly Father is that obedience of His children which they begin under the leading of the Holy Spirit in this life, while they are under this corruptible burden of the flesh, that He wants to adorn it out of grace and mercy for His Son’s sake with spiritual and temporal rewards which it does not merit by its own worthiness. And in this sense also our own people do not shrink back from the word “merit,” as it was used also by the fathers. For the rewards are promised by grace and mercy; nevertheless, they are not given to the idle or to those who do evil but to those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord.And so the word “merit” is used in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Wuerttemberg Confession, and in other writings of our men. In this way and in this sense, we set forth the statements of Scripture in our churches about the rewards of good works. 1 Tim. 4:8: “Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Luke 14:14: “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Matt. 5:12: “Your reward is great in heaven.” Matt. 10:42: “He shall not lose his reward.” Gal. 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” Eph. 6:8: “Knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord.” Heb. 6:10: “God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints.” 2 Thess. 1:6–7: “Since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, etc.” Scripture is full of such promises of spiritual and bodily rewards.

That's Chemnitz, the Examen, vol 1, page 653ff. 

That's what Lutherans believe. If you don't, you are an Antinomian.



  1. From the Large Catechism, Ten commandments, 39-40:

    "39] But terrible as are these threatenings, so much the more powerful is the consolation in the promise, that those who cling to God alone should be sure that He will show them mercy, that is, show them pure goodness and blessing, not only for themselves, but also to their children and children's children, even to the thousandth generation and beyond that. 40] This ought certainly to move and impel us to risk our hearts in all confidence with God, if we wish all temporal and eternal good, since the Supreme Majesty makes such sublime offers and presents such cordial inducements and such rich promises."

  2. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev. 14:13). So, first they are blessed (Matt. 25:34), and their good works follow (verses 35-36). Good works do not go before us; they follow us for the sake of Christ, who makes them pleasing to God.

  3. I'm gonna say what I always say to this: Do we actually know anyone who teaches against the above quote? Seriously?!

    I hear us rail against Antinomians. I have been called one. Heck, St. Paul was called one. Yet, never once have I actually met a living breathing brother of mine in the Holy Ministry that taught contrary to the above.

    I think it's a matter of worst constructions and straw men. And, we should be zealous to the good work of moving on..

    Thanks for the quote!

    1. Father Borghardt,

      "I think it's a matter of worst constructions and straw men."

      Perhaps. But the same response might well be given to that statement. And there we go ad infinitum.

      I think what has raised this issue before us stems not from worst constructions or informal logical fallacies, but something more simple. We live a time where conversation is put into sound bites, Tweetable moments, catchy-phrased Facebook statuses, and witty blog posts. In some ways this can be helpful, but it can come with a cost. And that cost is clarity. Some things are not Tweetable. And when we Tweet them, we may give an impression that we in fact did not intend to give.

      The Confessions teach us is not only what we believe, teach, and confess; they also teach us how Lutherans do theology. They teach us how to make distinctions, how to be clear, how to teach, believe, and confess. All of this is simply to say that when we Tweet, Facebook, and blog, we need to be cognizant of this and be willing to retract or clarify what we mean.

      I don't have an example off the top of my head, but I can think of instances where I have thought, after reading a status, a Tweet, or a blog, "If he means by this X, then I can agree. But what about Y and Z?" It is that clarity that seems to be lacking in our online discourse, and I hope that the method of that medium does not bleed into our preaching and teaching.

    2. I don't know that it's a straw man, Fr. Borghardt. What all of the brethren would hopefully affirm, in theory, if confronted with an assertion such as the above from Chemnitz, does not necessarily translate into their actual preaching and teaching. I struggle with this, myself, because, frankly, the dividing of the Law and the Gospel in practice is not such an easy thing. In that light, because we want to be evangelical, and because we are eager to "err on the side of the Gospel," and we are desperate to avoid legalism, I think we soft-pedal the preaching of works; or else we inadvertently end up confusing the Law and the Gospel into some sort of mish-mash that is neither.

      I appreciate what you've pointed out, Fr. Braaten. Both because it is a worthwhile observation, and because it assuages my personal frustration as someone who doesn't do so well in this sound-bite culture. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses; and often they are one and the same.

    3. In the Law, there is no Gospel. In the Gospel, there is no Law.

      I also wonder sometimes whether we jump to curb the Gospel with some Law for the purpose of changing people's behaviors. So, we are uncomfortable with the Gospel's sweetness. For if such things were true, then people could live like pigs or anyone could be saved.

      The Gospel makes free those who are bound.  To follow up with law means to bind those who are free, or what’s worse to add more chains on the already bound. Lutheran preaching seeks to set free not bind. Against such Gospel there is no Law.

      But to those who would be content in their sins and their self-righteousness, they receive only Law. They are outside the Faith of Jesus and receive only more slavery, more Law.

      I'm also tempted to wonder if this is some a misunderstanding or changing of the meaning of terms. We might consider pausing before we play "gotcha" in order to score our internet points.

      We have real enemies in the world - real false teachers who preach a different Gospel than the one we've been entrusted to proclaim. Brothers who by ignorance or by lack of understanding of how God serves us in the Divine Service, completely confess a different Gospel by how "they worship." There are crypto-evangelicals amongst us who have no clue that they bind or trouble consciences with the Law they proclaim as Gospel. How do we teach them and broaden their understanding of why we believe what we believe and confess what we confess?

      I'm getting old, brother. I used to love the gotcha game. I'm the worst! Now, it just means that I've lost another opportunity to help my neighbor out.

      Perhaps we might stop shooting at each other, pause, and think like you do, "Ok, my brother means this, not this." I can help my brother, shore up his confession for the sake of the Lord's people. Privately, to help him save face and be won over.

      Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

    4. I'm not interested in playing any "got'cha" games, but I am interested in having conversation, and I don't believe it is inappropriate to do so in this kind of forum. I appreciate one-on-one fraternal conversation, as well, but I have found that, often, to be easier said than done. Some brothers will talk to me, many will not. So, where does that leave us?

      I appreciate the quote from Chemnitz, and I find it helpful. Not because it "sticks it to" some unnamed straw man, but because it is a useful correction and clarification of my own theology, both in theory and in practice. I honestly struggle with this particular point, as I mentioned above. If I had been asked, without reference to Chemnitz, about this point, perhaps even five or ten years ago, I'm not sure I would have answered correctly. I'm happy to have grown in my understanding, and yet, I am reminded of the need to continue growing, to continue learning, to continue being challenged and sharpened. Not just for the sake of "getting it right," but for the sake of faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of the Lord.

      I long for opportunities to engage in the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren, both to be sharpened, to be encouraged, and to serve my brothers in the same way. Sadly, I find such occasions few and far between. I am as much to blame as others, because I have been too easily discouraged, and have too quickly given up trying. I am all the more grateful for those brothers who not only respond when I reach out to them, but who also reach out to me for the mutual give-and-take of colleagues. I view blogs, such as this one, as another opportunity for that to happen.

    5. Let there be peace in Confessional Lutheranism and let it begin with you and me, Rick! HAHAHAHAHAHA. I hope your family is doing well! I look forward to see you soon, I hope. Peace!

    6. I think that the main way the truth that Chemnitz here writes about (and that which Weedon quotes from the Confessions below) is denied is by simply omitting to teach it. I had some wonderful pastors and professors in my training for the ministry. I don't ever once recall hearing "God rewards your good works with physical and spiritual rewards" or something along those lines in a sermon. I wasn't told to include that in my preaching at seminary. I'm sure that I would have marked it "false" had it been handed to me on a test in college or seminary.

      Now, it's not only possible but indeed probable that I missed it a time or two. But in general I'm a close study and I think it's safe to say that in our generation this is a blind spot.

      Perhaps I'm wrong. But I found that this locus of theology was one that was lacking in my own preaching. I think for the first several years of my ministry I was indeed preaching a bit of antinomianism simply by failing to preach this truth. My sermons were too often this:
      You are a sinner.
      Jesus died for you, so it's OK.

      That's not the whole counsel of God. That's not an adequate preaching of Law and Gospel. See Walther's thesis X. I'm trying to repent. I want to do better.


    7. Dear Pastor Borghardt, you wrote: "The Gospel makes free those who are bound. To follow up with law means to bind those who are free, or what’s worse to add more chains on the already bound."

      Yet, when the Lord told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more," Luther saw that as an absolution, since He was simply telling her what you also wrote in your post. The Gospel sets free. Why go back under slavery by way of sin and the Law?

      Also, in John 5:14, Our Lord says something similar to the man who had been healed: "See, you are well! Sin no more, lest something worse befall you."

      It's as if He speaks to those He has healed as He once had to Adam: "You are free . . . Only, do not eat of the tree at the center of the garden, for in the day you eat of it, you will surely die."

      The Lord circumscribed Adam's freedom and life by His Word, and in that, Adam rejoiced, even as the New Man in Christ rejoices now to hear: "Only, do not use your freedom as a license to sin." After all, what the Lord says in His Law is only what the New Adam is already delightedly doing! Why, of COURSE I will avoid this or that! Of COURSE I will go here or there! Whither Thou goest, O Lord! Such is my delight! It is no longer even I who live, but Christ Who lives in me, and is gladly doing all that the Law requires.

      Adam did not balk at what the Lord said in the beginning, nor does the New Man balk at what the Lord says - to a woman set free from the judgment against her adultery, or a man set free from his blindness, or to you and me. Only the Old Man feels bound, and he NEEDS to be. Rather, he needs to be drowned and killed. And when he is? The New Man is turning cartwheels over it!

      Of course, we are both Old and New, and as long as we are here in this life, lex semper accusat - the Old Man - not the New!

      So, this is where I'm really struggling . . . Since the New Man truly IS free, why would he do anything but delight to hear the Law? He may not need it, but it's not a burden to the New Man, is it? Only to the Old, and to him - it is death. It increases sin. It is hell on earth. For the Old Wretch in us all! But the New Man, cut free from the curse of the Law and loosed of all sins and condemnation, is truly free to delight in the will and mind and heart of God, which is the very Law fulfilled and kept in perfect Love, namely, by Christ. And now by Grace, in us as well, as the New Man arises to live in righteousness and purity forever, and before the neighbor in love.

      That we find the Law such a burden is only on account of the Old Adam. The New Man? He delights in it. So, even if we DID end as our Lord did - with that woman or that blind man healed - the Old in us would be fighting or dying, but the New would be walking through Eden, thinking: "Just what I need to hear, 'cause it's only a matter of time before this all gets tested."

      Or am I missing something and confusing this all, which is entirely likely, as my Old Brain gets jumbled up quite a bit these days. I especially wonder these things as I read the sermons of Luther and Gerhard and notice how they DO exhort to what Chemnitz does above, and as Christ and the apostles did, but as I've often been hesitant to do.

      Glad to receive any help anyone wants to give.

    8. RS: Yet, when the Lord told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more," Luther saw that as an absolution, since He was simply telling her what you also wrote in your post. The Gospel sets free. Why go back under slavery by way of sin and the Law?

      I think you summed it up there. Our Lord's exhortation is not a burden. It's a gift!

      Didn't Dr. Luther teach us that imperatives aren't only Law? "Be baptized, come follow me, take eat, take drink!" These words deliver the very faith that grasps hold of the promise in the water, Word, bread, and wine!

      Can Gospel words be heard as burden? Yes, the Lord can use them as Law and then those words always and only accuse.

      The Old Man needs to daily be beaten up and have his lunch money stolen because he only knows how to hold up his works before God. He doesn't take his works as a gift to his neighbor from God but as something that merits righteousness (rewards) coram Deo. That lunch money needs to be stolen from him!!

      As you said, the New Man needs no law. The New man is free. The New man, like the Lord who redeemed him, can't sin. He doesn't wanna sin. He is completely and totally perfect in every way in Christ. He can't not do good works. He doesn't even need to be told! He's already on them! He can't not feed the poor, visit the sick, give drink to the thirsty, etc. He doesn't work for reward. He's a good-works-doing-machine because a good tree bears good fruit.

      And so we go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in our preaching between Law and Gospel. Who hasn't preached words that he was certain were Gospel and that were heard as condemnation and burden? The Gospel CAN be heard as Law. Other times, we preach words of Law and exhortation and it's received as a gift that gladdens the heart of the Redeemed in some sort of Third-Use-gift.

      "That's how I please God and love my neighbor! WOW!"

      How did the woman who had been caught in adultery receive Jesus' imperative! I wonder! The text doesn't say! Was it gift or burden!?

      I wonder a few things other things: Are we trying to make this Law/Gospel thing a simple formula (Law/Gospel/Response)? Are we looking at the lives of our people and trying to change their behavior? You know, "You people have to be better! You just need to be!" Is this condemning our brothers for their difference in style? Could the issue be one of not of more Law, but that we as preachers don't really know the Gospel. Finally, this definition of antinomian isn't the original definition of antinomian. HA!

    9. Well said, Fr. Sawyer, as always. And thanks for giving us the Word and some thoughts on it to chew on and consider. I think the special challenge in preaching is that we're dealing with a whole group of people, rather than addressing a single person in a particular circumstance. We do well to be instructed by the example of the fathers in their preaching, both the early fathers and our Lutheran fathers, to be sure. But I am still very much of the mind that sermons should generally conclude on a clear not of the Gospel. Exceptions can no doubt be found or imagined, but it is ever and always the Gospel that gives life, and it is the Gospel that brings the people of God from the font and the lectern to the Altar, to the Body and Blood of Christ.

      Fr. Borghardt, it's hard not to rejoice in your evangelical vigor and your clear and obvious love for the sweet Gospel of our Savior. Thank you for that, and praise God for such a clear preaching of His mercy and forgiveness. As I have mentioned in my responses to George Marquart, however, I don't believe the proper distinction and exercise of the Law and the Gospel can be reduced quite to simply. And, while I agree that the New Man does not "need" the Law, I find these kinds of assertions to be disconcerting. Not because I'm looking for the New Man to acquire or achieve anything, as though it were not already accomplished in Christ Jesus; but because it is the Word of God that establishes and determines everything, including that which is "good" vs. "evil." Fr. Sawyer has given some examples, such as those from the Garden itself, prior to the fall into sin. You've also expressed an example when you give the case of someone who says, "That's how I please God and love my neighbor! WOW!" The Law of the Lord does not simply reveal information, but actually determines the truth; and it seems to me that faith looks to that, clings to that, and relies upon that, rather than seeking any sort of "wisdom" disconnected from His Word.

      Luther asserts that all of Scripture is contained and summarized in the Ten Commandments; and I believe that is because it is in Christ that the Law is fulfilled, that righteousness and peace kiss each other, that mercy and sacrifice are united in faith and love. To know Christ is to know the Law of God fulfilled, no longer as an accusation and condemnation, but as divine Life, given and received by the grace of God.

      It may well be that Fr. Curtis has here used the term "antinomian" in a less than precise way. I don't believe this conversation is really a discussion of the term, but of the way in which good works should be preached and taught and considered and practiced by Christians. And, despite the earlier assertion that no one actually teaches against the Chemnitz quote at hand, reactions to this post (both here, and in that great theological landscape of passive-aggressive vaguebooking) suggest rather a lot of disagreement.

      I would suggest, as a father, that our God and Father threatens to punish wrongdoing, and promises rewards to welldoing, in order to teach His children how to live and love by faith. This isn't a matter of gaining salvation, but of learning what it means to be and to live as a child of God. I train up my own children in the way they should go, by disciplining them, and by offering them incentives, etc., but without there being any contingency upon my love for them or their place in our home and family.

  4. Thanks for this. I think I have a tendency, in my external struggles against the other extreme, to make the mistake of thinking works are worthless to me (though still good for my neighbor). Apparently I need to read more historic theology.

  5. The Apology speaks to this in a number of places, in the course of its confession of Justification, where it contributes to a proper distinction of the Law and the Gospel. I believe it is also what Luther has in mind in his explanation of "What God Says About All of These Commandments."

  6. One of the problems with ultimatums (ultimata for you purists) is that, if you disagree with one sentence, you can be accused of disagreeing with the whole. But here we are not considering the Confessions, so it is OK to disagree with one sentence by Chemnitz without disagreeing with the underlying concept. Let me say at the outset that I admire Chemnitz, and I do so mainly because of his insistence that we have a right to be certain of our salvation.
    The sentence that concerns me is, “These promises should arouse in the regenerate a zeal for doing good works.” According to human reason, this makes perfect sense. But the Gospel is not based on human reason, although within what God has revealed to us about it, there are no logical contradictions. Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.”
    If we do good works because of the rewards God has promised, then we are no different from the slaves, who should say, according to our Lord, Luke 17:10, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.” But on the day before His great passion, our Lord told His disciples, John 15:15, “I do not call you servants (yes, the same “δουλους”) any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father.” We do the will of our Father not because of the rewards He offers, but because He has made us new creatures, who want to do His will. 1 Corinthians 2:16, “But we have the mind of Christ.” Our good works should be done with the same mindset with which our Lord urges us to give alms, Matthew 6:3, “…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
    Our Confessions recognize this:
    Epitome of the Formula of Concord
    VI. The Third Use of the Law. (Appropriate, eh?)
    The Principal Question In This Controversy.
    “6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or REWARD (Capitals mine, GAM); for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7:25; 8:7; Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:2.”
    I know our regeneration is not perfect in this life, but that does not annul what Scripture and the Confessions have to say about our works. But in the Lutheran church we tend to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit, primarily because Martin Luther had some strong antipathy towards the Schwärmer (pl.) in Switzerland. Every Easter, when I hear some pastor say that, having beheld what our Lord has done for us, we now, out of deep gratitude, will want to do His will, I shudder. We can do nothing if we are not made new in the waters of Baptism. We often talk about the Gospel as if it ends at the resurrection, but here is what a great non-Lutheran wrote:
    “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)
    T. S. Eliot, another non-Lutheran, in “Murder in the Cathedral, wrote a truly amazing sentence, “Tis the highest treason: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    1. "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."

      Are we just not supposed to notice this? Why did Paul write this to the Corinthians? If not to encourage them to godly living?

      I think you have created a spurious alternative between the line from Chemnitz you don't like and the Formula...which, you know, he had a bit of a hand in.


    2. Dear Rev. Curtis: I am not questioning the fact that we will receive rewards for the good works we do, and I would be mad to object to anyone being encouraged in godly living. Scripture is clear on these subjects. What I object to is that we should do good works in order to earn the rewards. The section of 1 Corinthians 3 that you quoted does not claim that, or does it? Although St. Paul mentions rewards here, isn’t he concerned with an entirely different matter?
      As to the “spurious alternative” is the FC not crystal clear in saying that we should not be motivated by rewards? Or is the FC wrong?
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    3. Where does it say that we *should* not ever and at all be motivated by God's promise of rewards?

      It says that the regenerated man will do good works spontaneously as if he didn't know of any command or reward. Yup, he will. That's statement 1.

      And we are commanded to do good works and we do good works because we are commanded. And God encourages us to do good works by promising rewards to them. That's statement 2.

      Those statements are not in logical contradiction. Thus, to put them at odds to each other is to create a spurious alternative.

      And the Scriptures just couldn't be clearer here. For example, Gal. 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

      Paul is encouraging the Galatians not to grow weary of well doing precisely because "in due season we shall reap."

      And finally, someone has already quoted the Large Catechism:
      "39] But terrible as are these threatenings, so much the more powerful is the consolation in the promise, that those who cling to God alone should be sure that He will show them mercy, that is, show them pure goodness and blessing, not only for themselves, but also to their children and children's children, even to the thousandth generation and beyond that. 40] This ought certainly to move and impel us to risk our hearts in all confidence with God, if we wish all temporal and eternal good, since the Supreme Majesty makes such sublime offers and presents such cordial inducements and such rich promises."

      Is the LC contradicting the Formula? No. And neither is Chemnitz contradicting his own work in the FC with his statement from the Examen.


    4. George, I would be inclined to agree with your concerns and your point, but, as Fr. Curtis has also already indicated, I'd don't believe it's quite so simple. Truly good works will be done in faith and love, to be sure, and not out of selfishness or self-interest. The heart that does not seek to glorify God, but to gain glory for itself, is not engaged in good but evil. Yet, that is not what we are discussing here. God does attach promises to His commandments, beginning with the Fourth, as St. Paul says, and those promises are especially for His children, who love and trust in Him; who are also prompted to seek the fulfillment of His promises in the doing of His Word. Thus, Luther says, "He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments; therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands." There is some weight, I believe, in Luther's "therefore," as also in the promises that God gives to His children.

      Fr. Weedon will probably have additional quotes ready to hand, but I've been able to put my finger on at least one of the places where the Apology indicates that Christians are prompted to do good works by the promises attached to them: "Christ says in Matthew 5:10, 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for their is the kingdom of heaven.' By these praises of good works, believers are undoubtedly moved to do good works. Meanwhile, the teaching of repentance is also proclaimed against the godless, whose works are wicked. God's wrath, which He has threatened against all who do not repent, is displayed. Therefore, we praise and require good works and show many reasons why they ought to be done" (Apology V [III].78-80 [199-201], Concordia, ed. McCain, p. 112).

    5. Thank you Rev. Stuckwisch for your most gracious response. I will try to answer you and Rev. Curtis in one statement.
      There is no single event in Scripture in which our Lord expressed concern or pity for Himself. When He wept, it was not in self-pity as we do, but in both instances because of His sorrow for others. This is shown most notably and amazingly on the cross. Even when He said, “I thirst”, the writer adds, “This was to fulfill the Scripture”; in other words, for all those who would later read the Scripture. But He worked for a reward, as we read in Hebrews 12:2, “…Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame…” His reward was in the joy of knowing He had saved His people. But He did not work for a reward; He worked to save His people, and the joy that He had from before the foundation of the world was for His people.
      Of this perfectly selfless man, St. Paul writes, Philippians 2:5, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus … taking on the form of a slave (“δουλου”)…and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” If we indeed have the same mind, and I don’t think St. Paul would write this if he did not think we could, then we do not concern ourselves about a reward, because the reward is for us. We concern ourselves for others, without regard of rewards, although there certainly are rewards beyond the gift of eternal life with God.
      But since we are indeed imperfect, it is possible, or even likely that we will be motivated to do “good works”, because we know that a reward is involved. The question is, “will we be rewarded for these?” The reward is given only to those who did not labor for a reward. Matthew 25:37ff, “Lord, when was it that we saw You hungry …?” If they had labored for a reward, surely they would know what they had to do to earn it.
      Our Lord here is not saying that we will earn salvation by our works; He is saying that His people, the lambs, are those who work without thought of reward. The other side of the coin is “what happens when we think we are not earning enough, or even any rewards?” You see, the rewards are invariably for us, while we are supposed to be for others.
      Finally to respond to all of those commands that are apparently so important:
      “Here we have God’s “Right Hand” kingdom, or “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). In this kingdom He does not rule by means of natural reason, law, and coercion. Rather, He gently (and therefore resistibly, Mt 23:37!) “draws” (Jn. 6:44.65) and invites (Mt. 11:28) sinners into His kingdom, gathering and sustaining them there with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His holy Gospel and sacraments (Mt. 13; 22:1-14; Jn. 3; 6; 10; 15; 20)” Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics, Volume IX, Robert Preus, Editor. P 176ff.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    6. Thanks for your further reply, George. I appreciate your comments, and find them helpful to the conversation. I do not really have anything more to add at this point, except to say that our life in the body, being both sons of Adam and sons of God in Christ, is a complex mystery to me. Attempting to discern even my own motivations, to say nothing of anyone else's, seems a misguided effort and a hopelessly lost cause. Perhaps the threats and promises of the Law function to turn our hearts away from ourselves to the Word of the Lord. Surely they are among the ways that the Lord accomplishes His purposes in us, in the face of our sin and death.

      I like very much what you have written, George, concerning our Lord and His self-sacrifice, and also what you have said concerning His sheep at the last. Well said, kind sir. Let these truths remain. But let us also consider the purpose for which the Lord promises "grace and every blessing to all those who love Him and keep His commandments." The Fourth Commandment, for example, to which St. Paul calls special attention, connects obedience to the promise of reward: "that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." Is it not an exercise of faith to believe that? Especially in this poor life of labor under the Cross? To trust the promise in spite of what we see and feel and experience in the flesh?

      I appreciate what our Confessions acknowledge, in the same section of the Apology from which I have quoted above: That the rewards in this life are not always forthcoming, lest we put our trust and confidence in the reward rather than in the Lord and His Word. We do live under the Cross, in the hope of the Resurrection. And in that Resurrection, the hope for which we press onward, is the Life of Christ from which all other "rewards" derive.

      Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. Amen.

    7. George,

      Rick has hit the nail on the head. As so many things in the Faith, there are mysteries and tensions. You are seeking to resolve the tension. We have provided quotations upon quotation from both the Scriptures and the Confessions that talks about godly motivation for good works - that God has promised spiritual and temporal rewards for good works and that these promised, from the lips of Jesus and St. Paul, are given in the context of encouraging disciples.

      You are responded with the other side of the coin: the renewed man often does works without ever thinking of any reward. Right. But we need both sides of the coin.

      You seem to think that the only way a reward can be thought of is in a mercenary sense. "I'll do this, so I'll get that." But that's not the only way a reward can be held in mind.

      For example, Jesus also labors for His own joy and glory.

      Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

      John 17:4-5 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

      This is not "selfish." This is the Father's will. Jesus knows this. He is thankful to His Father for His gracious plan and looks forward to reaping the reward of joy and glory that is part of the Father's plan.

      So likewise with us - we give thanks to the Lord for His gracious promise that he blesses even our weak, imperfect obedience and has promised to crown them with rewards. This gives us encouragement when doing the right thing is difficult.

      Consider this from Matthew 19:27 "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?"

      What do you expect Jesus to say next? Something like: "Well, Peter you have only done your duty!"

      But that's not how Jesus responds. Peter's statement comes not from pride, but from exasperation. And Jesus responds with encouragement: your efforts are not in vain, Peter. I will indeed take care of my own. Be at peace. Your reward is very great.

      Was Peter supposed to never remember this when he saw a cross coming his way? Was he supposed to forget that Jesus said it?


    8. Dear Rev. Curtis: you write, “You seem to think that the only way a reward can be thought of is in a mercenary sense.” "I'll do this, so I'll get that." I have tried, to the best of my ability, to say what Scripture and the Confessions say, not what I think. In saying that, I fully agree that Scripture speaks of rewards, both in this world and the next. I also fully agree with you and Rev. Stuckwisch that these rewards involve the mystery of the sinner/saint as a child of God. But taking Luther’s advice on using good German when interpreting the Bible, I note that the dictionary defines a reward as “1. Something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or given for some service or attainment. 2. A stimulus administered to an organism following a correct or desired response that increases the probability of occurrence of the response.” You may recall that this whole discussion began because I disagreed with the statement, “These promises should arouse in the regenerate a zeal for doing good works.” That agrees with the common definition of the word “reward” (or promises of a reward – I trust I need not define “promise”). How then does the reward motivate good works?
      Yet after you assert that it is possible to “hold in mind” a reward other than by trying to obtain it, you assert that “Jesus labors for His own joy and glory.” He did not! That is a superficial reading of both texts. It is obvious that our Lord did not become man, live, suffer, and die so that He would have joy. The joy that was set before Him was the salvation of His people. His joy was in rescuing them. If you read the John text to the end, our Lord is not asking to be glorified for His own sake, He is asking to be glorified for the sake of all those who would eventually become His children, v22, “The glory that You have given Me I have given them, so that they may be one, as We are one.”
      With regard to Matthew 19:27, why is it necessary to assume that I would put some inappropriate words into our Lord’s mouth, and then to beat them down as if I had said them? Besides, I have made it clear in my first posting that the words about “only having done our duty” are intended for those who want to earn their salvation by works. I am sure Peter was not among those, although I would guess that when this was said, he did not really know what it was all about. As to what Peter was supposed to do or not supposed to do, I cannot tell you. I try to deal in what Scripture says, not in hypotheticals. Was Peter encouraged by our Lord’s promise? Most certainly. By the time of our Lord’s ascension it was the most import thing on his mind. Just goes to show that these rewards are not always appreciated for what they really are. But as we all agree, that is part of the mystery of the sinner/saint.
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

    9. It seems to me that you are arguing that these two statements are in contradiction.

      "God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do [zealously and diligently order our whole life] according to His commandments."


      “These promises should arouse in the regenerate a zeal for doing good works.”

      But I think they are in perfect harmony. Luther writes the catechism for the regenerate. And he stirs up zeal among the regenerate in this explanation of the Commandments by pointing to the promises. That's a big "therefore."


  7. What Dr. Stuckwisch said. From our Apology:

    While good works are not meritorious for forgiveness, grace, or
    justification, they ARE meritorious for other physical and spiritual
    rewards in this life and in that which is to come. (See Ap. IV:194)

    Whoever casts love away will not keep his faith, because he will not
    keep the Holy Spirit. (See Ap. IV:219)

    To disparage the mortification of the flesh would be to disparage the
    outward administration of Christ's rule among men. (See Ap. IV:193)

    The punishments that chasten us are lightened by our prayers and good
    works. (See Ap. IV:268)

    Alms merit many divine blessings, lighten our punishments, and merit
    a defense for us in the perils of sin and death. (See Ap. IV:278)

    Among the justified works merit bodily and spiritual rewards through
    faith and thus there will be distinctions in glory among the saints.
    (See Ap. IV:355)

    We are justified so that we might be begin to do good works and to
    obey the law. (See Ap. IV:348)"

  8. Examination of the Council of Trent is a confessional document?

    1. See above here: http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2013/11/are-you-antinomian.html?showComment=1385517428542#c5161413637606812431

  9. Please also check the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV: Good Works, which says the same thing as Chemnitz asserts in the Examination of the Council of Trent.

    The idea that when preaching there is to be no Law following Gospel is an idea that is alien to Sacred Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, our orthodox Lutheran fathers and so forth.

    Parenesis is a preaching of the Law specifically to the believer and is completely appropriate, in fact, necessary.

  10. The thing that I've never understood about heavenly rewards for good works is... why should I be motivated by the hope of more 'stuff' in heaven? Won't Jesus be enough? Isn't God our "very great reward"?

    Besides, my "good" works aren't worth rewarding anyway, certainly not compared to the humble service and grace I see manifest in many others. To me this kind of teaching always started me on the road to making comparisons between Christians and a sort of 'competition' and resultant despair.

    1. I've had very similar thoughts! The short answer is, "Yes," Christ is "enough," and far more than enough; there is nothing that can be added to Him; whereas, heaven itself would be void and bar without Him. He is our "very great reward."

      I suspect the varieties of "lesser rewards" in heaven will surprise us all, just as our Lord surprises His people here with the Glory of the Cross. If we are already "counting and calculating," that itself is an indication that our hearts are in the wrong place, and that we are in need of repentance.

      But whatever the variety in heaven will be, one of the beauties of it will be that we won't be consumed by envy and jealousy, covetousness or greed. We will be content and at peace with whatever "place" the Lord bestows upon us. Dwelling in the presence of God, abiding in the Sabbath Rest of our Lord, gazing upon His Beauty, the One who is the Temple and the Lamp of Life, there will be no sense of having "missed out," nor of being treated "unfairly."

      Whatever good is in the saints, is worked in them by the Lord our God, and given to them by His grace, in Christ Jesus. That He then also rewards the good that He has done in us, is further testimony of His goodness and sweet wisdom. He delights to make all things new! And, as the Body does not deem some of its parts to be of no account, yet all the parts are not the same, so shall there be a beautiful and pleasing variety of "parts" in heaven. Yet, all belong to Christ, and Christ is all in all.

      Our life in the body, now, including our life within the Body of Christ, His Church on earth, is a kind of training and catechesis for the Life that we are called to live in the Resurrection, in the presence of God forever and ever. Here we are taught by His Word to live by faith, to fear, love, and trust in Him alone, to have no other gods (whether what we have, or what we want), that we might there live in His presence in the joy and felicity of the beatific vision. Then our eyes shall behold Him, and from our risen and glorified flesh we shall see Him and know Him as He is, and we shall be like Him.

      As far as the temptation, in the mind, to make comparisons between ourselves and others, and to compete and contest for glory, and to fall either into pride or despair, all of this belongs to our need for repentance, and for the forgiveness of sins. Christ be praised, as I am humbled by the grace of my brothers and sisters in Christ, by the example of those whose faith and love exceed mine, I am driven to the Cross and to the grace and glory of the Gospel. At such times, I have found, I no longer fret about my "place in the race," but praise God that I am given a place in His Kingdom at all. Perhaps that is a small taste of the contentment and peace that will reign in Paradise.

      The grace of our Lord Jesus be and abide with us all.

  11. Our Confessions refer to rewards in THIS life and eternity.

  12. There have been several objections to this post about its implications. I think some clarity would be helpful. Are the objections being raised to Curtis? To Chemnitz? To the Book of Concord? To Scripture?

    1. Do you mean that someone has raised objections other than on this post? But not to worry, the objections are raised to me, and that is not of cosmic importance. In turn, I don’t think I have objected to the Book of Concord or to Scripture in this post. As to Curtis and Chemnitz, I obviously have, but does that scandalize the Church?
      Peace and Joy!
      George A. Marquart

  13. Isn't the difficulty that we are always talking about two people, the saint and the sinner? Me in myself, and me in Christ? Absolute statements can be made, but they can only be made about me in myself or me in Christ. When the simul is unclear or misunderstood or denied, that's when the problems begin.

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein

  14. I've always taught my kids that the only wages paid in God's economy is death. If you're working for grace and salvation, you're dead. We don't offer sacrifices to God to atone for guilt. We offer our reasonable service to God from a free spirit as a thank offering. We are God's children, and we want to please our Father. And the more we learn to know him, the more we grow to love him, the greater our incentive to please him. Our Father is then generously disposed--he cherishes the thought within himself--to reward our good deeds. I ask my four-year-old to draw me a picture, and after she has done her best, which is never good in the eyes of the world, I smile at her (because I love her) and display her great achievement on my fridge. God makes his face shine upon us saints in the same way.

    I think two things should be perfectly clear when we discuss the place of good works in the life of the Christian. First, God does not reward our works as a debt. The debt for which God's penal justice was expiated was paid once on Calvary. Christ's payment to God redounds to our account for peace and salvation through faith alone without works. The same merciful God, who has forgiven us our sins for Christ's sake, offers temporal and eternal rewards to Christians for the works done in the body. Second, the works we do that please God are "works of the Spirit." Holy people do holy things. Such holy deeds are not necessarily coterminous with "virtue," which the world sometimes cherishes, although they overlap in many places. God rewards virtue with temporal benefits, but the fruits of the Spirit are eternal because they flourish on branches from the Vine.

    1. This is well said, David. Thank you for your comments.

    2. Setting the very interesting turn this conversation has taken aside, and going back to the very beginning: Be assured that there is genuine and crass Antinomianism out there. I have read it, heard it, and been in the middle of it.
      An example of crass Antinomianism: A Pastor telling people in the congregation that "there is such a thing as forgiveness", and therefore another Pastor should be disciplined and preferably removed for saying that fornication is sinful - and a District President subsequently writing in a letter to the congregation that this - along with the question of closed Communion - has nothing to do with preaching, teaching or doctrine, but is more a matter of "personality issues".

      On another Confessional Lutheran blog a claim was made not too long ago along the lines that for Christians the Law only gives inspiring examples of what good works could be done; a comment by one of Synod's most skilled theologians that the Law of God always commands and never merely suggests elicited strong protests from some and were dismissed offhand and ridiculed by others.

      And obviously the very idea that there should never be preaching of the Law after the preaching of the Gospel has called into the faith is in itself a form of Antinomism - according to our Concordian faiths that is the very "chief question" in Article VI. Of course this can be done in a such manner as to create doubt as to whether or not the justification on account of Christ the Christian has received through the proclamation of the Gospel is dependent on how few or how many good works follow faith, or how much continued sinfulness. But when that happens, then it would be fair to say either that neither the Law nor the Gospel has been preached rightly, or neither has been heard rightly.
      On that note, I remember a Pastor announcing that he would never proclaim the Law in its Third Use because, in his mind, that would make his hearers worry for their salvation - to which is to say that if rightful preaching of the Law does this, the Law is not being used according to its Third Use, but rather the Second - and that, ultimately, when the Law is preached rightly, it is not the preacher's choice and decision what it will do, but rather God's. The different uses of the Law are His, not the preachers.

      Well, all I really meant to say what this: be assured that there is real Antinomianism out there, in the most crass and primitive form, as well as in a more refined, well-meaning and Gospel-motivated, but nonetheless misguided form.

      And even if that were not the case, we do indeed all need to be warned against Antinomianism, because that is one of the traps we can so easily fall into in our preaching, or lead our parishioners into by our not-preaching, and in so many ways.

  15. And just what are those "good works"?

    Reread John 6.

    The trouble with "rewards" language is that it turns the motivations upside down.

    We leave that sort of preaching to the Baptists and Romanists. We don't pull the text off the page but rather Christ out of the text.

    1. So which of the quotations from the Apology and Formula do you not subscribe to? Which of Luther's sermons are not good enough to be preached from the pulpit in your church? How about the Large Catechism sermon on the 4th commandment?


    2. We ascribe to all of it, and we pull the gospel out of all of it. Luther's Heidelberg Disputation seems to put things into the proper perspective.

      We realize the proper roles of the law. That we might live together (as best as is possible) and to expose us and drive us to Christ.

      Luther never talked about a "3rd use of the law".

      We follow the Bible on that score. "Christ is the end of the law for all those who have faith."

      The Lutheran Confessions were great. But they are in no way Holy Scripture.

    3. Thanks for the honesty. So you don't confess the 3rd Use as our confessions do. This is the legacy of Elert and Forde in our midst.

      But I think you are still barking up the wrong tree with Luther. Have a fresh look at that Large Catechism and the 4th Commandment. That's a sermon Luther preached, edited, and published. And then have a look at his Antinomian Disputations.

      You can deny the 3rd use if you want, but Luther won't be your hero if you do.


    4. "Luther never talked about a third use of the law."




  16. I actually follow what the Scriptures say about the "3rd use" and what Luther said about it in the Heidelberg Disputation.

    It was the humanist Melancthon and his ilk that went the way of the "3rd use". Luther did not go that way. And Holy Scripture puts the lie to it, "Christ is the end of the law for all those who have faith." That verse does not seem to affect your thinking on the matter, but it should.

    St. Paul went so far as to call the law, "the ministry of death". But it certainly has it's purpose. To kill us off to any pretense of righteousness.

    1. "End" doesn't mean terminus (it's all done and doesn't exist) but telos, fulfillment in Christ.

    2. "...but telos, fulfillment in Christ."

      That's good enough for me. What little bit can I add to that?

    3. You shouldn't add to it, nor subtract from it. Our Lord's preaching is often exhortatory not against christology, but as christology: "Go and sin no more," "Go and do likewise," etc. Our Lord forgives completely, and also exhorts us to the end (telos) of the law. There is an eschatology that gospel reductionism misses out on.

  17. You act like this "3rd use of the law" was settled a long time ago. Lutherans have been arguing about this since the start of it. We won't settle it here today. Suffice it to say that many of us don't buy into it, and with very good reason. The so-called "3rd use" is ALREADY contained in the first two uses and it opens the door to legalism. It cause much more trouble than it is worth. It is not necessary.

    1. Depends on what you mean by "Lutherans." Those of us who subscribe to the Formula settled it in 1577.


  18. I think that this quote is spot on:

    "There is no way yet into a state where the Christian can use the law in a third way. Such a view rests on presumptions entirely different from those of Luther and, for that matter, Paul. It makes too many pious assumptions. It assumes, apparently, that the law can really be domesticated so it can be used by us like a friendly pet. Does the law actually work that way? It assumes that we are the users of the law. We do not use the law. The Spirit does. And we really have no control over it. Who knows when it is going to rise up and attack in all its fury? Luther knew full well, of course, that in spite of all his piety he could not bring the law to heel. Indeed, even as a Christian one needs to hear and heed the law – and the law will attack a Christian just as it attacks the non-Christian. One does not have the key to some third use.

    We do not live in an eschatological vestibule. Christians need the law in the same way non-Christians do. The idea of a third use assumes the law story simply continues after grace. Grace is just a blip, an episode, on the basic continuum of the law. Luther’s contention is that the law story is subordinate to the Jesus story. The law is for Luther, as it was for Paul, an episode in a larger, not vice versa. It is only grace that can bring the law to heel.”

    Gerhard Forde

  19. So, the Book of a Concord is a cafeteria? How does that work?

  20. Like I said, Rev. Beane, the BoC were great documents, but they written in an atmosphere of great tumult. They could have been better. And they are NOT Holy Scripture, as good as they are.

    I'll let you have the last word since I'm headed out the door to work.

    Thanks, Pastor.

  21. As a former LCMS member who is currently a UMC licensed local pastor, I can state that it was very difficult to find the sentiment expressed by Chemnitz and Pastor Curtis within the LCMS as little as five years ago. I believe Pastor McCain was publicly making 3rd purpose appeals, but he was something of a voice in the wilderness. Fordean law thinking DID clearly rule the day, and I at least had the impression that the denomination does not believe the law has any function outside the purpose of crushing the sinner to prepare the way for the gospel. To his credit, my pastor expressed to me that I was wrong on that point before I left, but I had assumed the confessions effectually dead on 3rd use theology, even as the teaching was clearly within the confessions. It is wonderful that this issue is being raised, and I look forward to seeing how the research being conducted will shape the future of the LCMS.

    Adam Roe

    1. OK, we have to ask: How in the world, and why in the world, did you leave Lutheranism for UMC style Methodism?

    2. I didn't actually leave for the UMC. I left for Orthodoxy and did a UMC end-around. Weird, I know. It's a long and humbling story, and not one I would want to entirely share in a public space. Having said that, would I have left the LCMS had I witnessed in the LCMS the sort of piety I am seeing in the Chemnitz and Gerhard quotes offered above? I'm not sure, but the decision would have been far more difficult. As a new convert to the LCMS I just couldn't wrap my mind around the sort of Fordean law theology that seemed to me the overwhelming culture of the LCMS. It didn't make it easy to leave, as I loved, and love, much about the LCMS. I reached a point, though, that I just couldn't make sense of what I perceived to be the "weak on sanctification" culture.

      I have learned a lesson, though. If you love a theology, stay in the imperfect place you're currently in and work to make that place more true to the theology it espouses. I should have listened to my pastor, and I should have been patient enough to figure out what I don't know. My presence here probably gives some indication that I've never entirely given up the LCMS, pietistic as that may sound. :)

    3. Oh! And as to why the UMC...Because I like Wesley and I'm higher church than the other Wesleyan bodies...and I grew up in it. Though they disagree one some points, I think it might surprise some folks how similar Luther and Wesley are on many points...particularly sanctification. I recently read through some of Luther's Commentary on Genesis and was surprised to see how much it reminded me of Wesley regarding the restoration of the imago dei. They aren't connected at the hip, but they're pretty darn close on a lot of things.

    4. Thanks for sharing, Adam, and I hope you make your way back into confessional Lutheranism. God bless.

  22. The law is written upon our hearts.

    We know what to do.

    We just flat out refuse to do it so much of the time.

  23. It is my understanding that Mr. Martin is a Lutheran layman and a member of a non-LCMS congregation, correct Mr. Martin?

    1. Exactly.

      We don't really have much to do with the ELCA either.

      I guess we would consider ourselves centrist Confessional Lutherans.

  24. This post does a very clever job of cherry picking a quote, on an emotional and difficult issue, giving no context or balance, and then condemning those who offer objections or concerns as being heretics.

    Great way to get comments and page views and attention. Lousy way to handle a serious issue that can trouble people who suffer and aren't middle class American Lutheran pastors with great intellectual gifts, wonderful families, and all the bodily rewards to prove how awesome they are.

    But on the plus side, it's good to know that all the folks who have nice things in this life deserve them and are simply better people. Further proof that Jesus was a libertarian. And that pastors, excuse me, FATHERS, (especially fathers like the amazing Heath Curtis, Larry Beane, and David Petersen, et al) are superior humans. Which is why they shouldn't be "afraid of their authority" as Petersen explained in his recent Issues, Etc. interview. They should tell the government what policies to have, and tell their people how to eat, how to live, how to vote, how to think, and how the world should work. And anyone who disagrees, well, enjoy hell.

    And no, I do not have a problem with accurately quoting Scripture and the Confessions. The problem is quoting one side of an issue where there is tension without giving equal weight to the other. The problem is using words like "tension" and "paradox" to cover up other things. The problem is what this is all being used to advance. And it ain't Christianity. This isn't about good works. This is about doing what a particular pastor says are good works. And it is about people who get paid to come to church and write blog posts, patting themselves on the back for being better than everyone else.

    I used to think the Confessional Lutheran revival was about more traditional and proper worship, where practice is concerned. And more solid preaching and teaching, where doctrine is concerned. I continue to be shown that it is really about a group of men who are using God and the Lutheran faith to build their own kingdom. With the help of their wannabe male underlings and adoring ladies cheering them on.

    But then again I've probably just been poisoned by "Americanism" and would be better off if I learned to be more like the author and earn my rewards.

    1. Mr. Brown,

      It's a pretty extended quote that I posted and I included a citation where his whole discussion of the issue can be found. And in the comments the issue of the cross - of suffering for the sake of the good - has also been addressed. So I don't think the cherry picking/out of context complaint is justified.

      I really don't know how to respond to the rest of the anger you express here- you seem to me to be reading a lot between the lines that's just not there.

      God bless,

    2. As I said, my problem is what this is all being used to advance. If I didn't see where this train was headed, I would respect your authority and your office and take this as something to reflect on and think over. That's what I used to do. And after a while, it almost broke my mind and my spirit.

      But now I am familiar with your agenda. From personal experience and from carefully reading your blogs and the comments. So I have to see this in the context of your crusade against the forces of evil who have made pastors "afraid of their authority". I was foolishly once a supporter of what I thought your agenda was. But I should have realized from day one that any group which refers to its own statement of purpose as a "manifesto" is bad news.

      Personally, I think people (whether politicians or pastors) who refer to their own writings as a "manifesto" are to be avoided like the plague. I believe it is often an indication that someone has confused their own opinions, preferences, and views with THE TRUTH. This is how cult leaders think.

      Everything I have seen up close and personal for myself is being slowly rolled out across the LCMS. You all say the same words. You all give the same examples. You all employ the same tactics. And you are all OBSESSED with systematically and methodically using your brains, manipulation of personal relationships, guilt trips, recruitment of like-minded malcontents from other churches, and legalism to assert your "authority". When your brethren attack, disparage, and complain about the District Presidents and the Synod, that ISN'T "anti-clericalsim". But if someone does half as much to them, that IS "anti-clericalsim". Heads I win, tails you lose. How nice. And I am slowly realizing who really stands where in all this.

      Putting "God bless" and a pious little cross at the end of your comments may be a great passive-aggressive technique for making me look like I'm upset about nothing and you're just a kind man doing the Lord's work. But for those paying attention, it doesn't work.

      What are really great sermons supposed to be about? Whether women can be combat pilots in the Air Force? Foreign policy? Whether the Paleo diet was prescribed by God? How Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Ayn Rand are the new Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How homeschooling through high school is the only way to be a good parent? Or maybe just how anyone who isn't doing and supporting whatever that particular pastor and his network of buddies want is an "alligator" and must be either broken or driven out.

      I used to be annoyed with people who just came in, got their bread and wine, and got out. As quickly as possible. And stayed away from Bible Study and everything else. Now I totally understand.

    3. L Brown:

      Forgive me, but as an outsider simply looking in, I do have to say that it does seem like you're "upset about nothing," mostly because all you have done is spoken in vague terms about your resentment, casting about nebulous words such as "authority," "manipulation," "agenda". No examples, no proofs, no nothing. Just pure, unabashed vitriol.

      Frankly, I have found this entire discussion enlightening, intriguing, and frustrating all at the same time. Even amongst those here who disagree, they still engaged in honest and kindly debate. Your two posts, at least to me as an outsider, came out of nowhere. Perhaps you're just an angry man doing the Lord's work?

      For fear of seeming pious, I will eschew the tiny cross.

      To everyone else - thanks for the discussion. I appreciate it greatly.

      VDMA - Seth

    4. Seth,

      Everything I have mentioned is a direct reference to the actions and statements of the men behind this blog. The discussion about authority, for example, is in reference to a recent interview on Issues, etc. with David Petersen. Everything I have mentioned is quite clear and well known to the people I am actually addressing. I have not written a 20,000 words, provided 30 hyperlinks, and given a bibliography because 1) the people I am addressing already know what I'm talking about, 2) I don't have that kind of time, 3) If I did, those who want to deny and pretend like this isn't real would continue to do so anyway, 4) Because my comments would probably just be deleted, and 5) Because most of the people who will even read this, like yourself, share the same interests, tastes, views, predispositions, and personality characteristics as the authors.

      Again, for me this is not simply an esoteric and academic discussion about this particular post that I am engaged in while I take a break from my super sophisticated intellectual pursuits and my life of bodily and spiritual rewards. I am responding to the agenda of the men behind this blog.

  25. I do believe that Wesley came to a living faith as he listened to a reading of Luther's preface to his commentary on Romans.

    1. Among Methodist May 24, 1738 is celebrated as the day Wesley had his "Aldersgate" experience. He was listening to somebody read Luther's Preface to his commentary on Romans and said he felt his heart "strangely warmed." Declaring: "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

    2. You are correct, Steve. I find a lot of parallels in the lives of Luther and Wesley, and it's no surprise to me that Wesley found his faith-centered conviction through Luther's preface. They were both people who struggled over the issue of faith; Wesley's difficulties over the issue being nearly as tormented as that of Luther. My suspicion is that Wesley found his own story in Luther's insights.

      I also tend to see Wesley primarily as a pastoral theologian, much like I see Luther. As a friend recently mentioned to me, a key difference between the two is that Luther had second and third generation dogmatic theologians to bring all of his thoughts to a coherent expression. Methodists never really had that, but U.S. Methodists didn't really want it, either. By the time Methodism came to the U.S., the objective assumptions of Wesley were dropped for frontier pietism, and the sacraments were lost somewhere in the Atlantic. Any attempt at Anglican-styled Methodism has always worked against the grain of American Methodism, a reality I and other friends wrestle with daily. It's a tough way to go, being a high churchman of the Wesleyan persuasion. :)

    3. Also, Steve and Pr. McCain, it's great to "see" you both online again. :)

  26. Fascinating discussion. I'm being stretched.

    Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if Urbanus Rhegius's preaching handbook of 1535 had anything to say about this. It is interesting to note that the handbook was written approximately 30 years before Chemnitz's Examination.

    Here is what I discovered of Rhegius:

    Sixth, although they [good works] do not merit ineffable treasures like forgiveness of sins, justification, liberation from death and the devil (for only Christ Jesus does that), nevertheless on the basis of God's freely given promise they do merit physical and spiritual rewards, both in this life and after this life. Not that God owes us anything, but because he promised out of his mercy and is trustworthy, he will therefore give us these things for the sake of his glorious name, as it is written in the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah [Jer 17:10]: "I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings." And in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew [Mt 16:27]: "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done." The same in Romans 2 [Rom 2:6]. Again Christ shows clearly enough in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew how pleasing to him are the good works which proceed from faith, because he says: "I was hungry and you gave me to . . . drink" [Mt 25:35].''
    (Urbanus Rhegius, Preaching the Reformation, 51)

  27. Pr. Gallas:

    That quotation from Urbanus Rhegius' homiletical handbook was an enlightening one when I read it the first time.

    I looked through it when I heard one of my Circuit brothers speaking about this topic, especially the rewards of good works. To my mind, it sounded "unLutheran". But then reading through Rhegius' handbook, which Chemnitz quotes in his Loci Theologici, made me do a real double take. I'm glad that I did.


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