Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Does faith justify if accompanied by vice?

From this month's Gerhard translation work. The forthcoming volume On Justification is a must read. So many of our contemporary questions, especially regarding the Antinomian/Radical Grace strains within today's Lutheranism and wider Evangelicalism, are dealt with in fine detail.

Bellarmine [Gehard's Roman Catholic opponent....seeing in advance the ground that the Radical Grace folks would tred] retorts: “If faith, separated from the other virtues, were able to justify, it could also do this in company with the vices which are contrary to the virtues. After all, as the presence of the other virtues does not benefit faith for the work of justifying, the presence of vices will not hinder it, because they are connected with it accidentally as are the virtues.”
       We respond. The word “alone” has to do with the predicate. Faith, to the extent that it justifies, alone accompanies this act. Meanwhile, justifying faith is not alone; much less does it exist with vices, that is, with sins against conscience. How, then, would it justify with vices? Acting presupposes being; but faith does not exist with vices; therefore it does not justify with vices. Faith separated from virtues does not justify because it does not exist without virtues. Yet still it does not communicate the power to justify to the virtues and this [faith] alone justifies.

And a little more...Radical Grace has always been how Calvinists like to describe "once saved, always saved." It's not Lutheran.

 [Bellarmine] brings this forth from Calvin: “the seed of faith remains amid the most serious lapses.”
We respond that the Augsburg Confession (Art. 12) explains our opinion clearly against the Anabaptists, that “once justified, people can lose the Holy Spirit,” namely, through sins against conscience. Therefore justifying faith and sin that attacks it cannot stand together at the same time.



  1. Why is it that Lutheran theologian tend to quote writings in support of their positions, that do not support their positions at all?
    Although from Scripture I could easily disprove the notion that people who sin against conscience cannot have faith, in this case Article XII of the Augsburg Confession does it for me, inasmuch as it simply does not say what Gerhardt claims it says:
    „Von der Buße wird gelehrt, daß diejenigen, so nach der Taufe gesündigt haben, zu aller Zeit, so sie zur Buße kommen, mögen Vergebung der Sünden erlangen, und ihnen die Absolution von der Kirche nicht soll verweigert werden; und ist wahre rechte Buße eigentlich Reu und Leid oder Schrecken haben über die Sünde, und doch daneben glauben an das Evangelium und Absolution, daß die Sünden vergeben und durch Christus Gnade erworben sei; welcher Glaube wiederum das Herz tröstet und zufrieden macht.“
    „…und doch daneben glauben.“ I quote the German, because in the English version that I have it simply says, ”…and believes that for Christ's sake…” That little word “daneben,” that has been left out of the translation, means “at the same time.” In other words, they repent of the sins they have committed, while still having faith. Besides that, the article makes no distinction between “ordinary” sins and sins “against conscience.” This is a purely Lutheran invention that would deny Paradise to everyone.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  2. Evangelicals teach "once saved, always saved." Calvinists teach the "perseverance of the saints." The doctrines are very, very different.


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