Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Real Battle Line

Such a view of holiness, resting at it does on the Word and sacrament, placing primary emphasis upon objective factors and leaving the subjective spiritual signs on the periphery, can of course be looked upon as saltless and secular. But Luther’s sensitive and often anxious and tormented heart led him to view man’s relationship to God always from God’s side (coram Deo), with the result that man always found himself in the position of the judged. In his afflictions (Anfechtungen) one must place his confidence in the objective foundation of salvation, the Word and sacraments. Faith then becomes striving faith. Unless the knowledge of God’s judgment remains vital, this way of sanctification can easily lead into superficiality and worldliness. But in the final analysis the alternative is no better. Where the point of departure is man, his piety and the marks of faith, the state of condemnation before God becomes secondary. Man’s primary existence is then before men (coram hominibus) and his spirituality serves to exalt him above others. This has always and in all things been man’s goal. Success in the achievement of this goal is not to be confused with sanctification.

In Luther’s conception of holiness the issue is always faith, not works. To the very end man is in himself a sinner and under God’s judgment. The severe criticism to which Luther’s struggling faith was subjected in his own time has continued in later times. He has been accused of stopping at a halfway point. The fanatics and the Anabaptists accepted the Reformation because the Catholic church had not done full justice to faith; but they wanted to reform the Reformation because it had not permitted works to come to their own. In Pietism this new reformation broke out. but it was forgotten that Luther saw a more effective realization of holiness in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit than in all the emphasis upon works.

The difference between Luther and Pietism is greater than is usually thought. Luther’s “new” man is not the same as Pietism’s converted man. The latter is a psychologically new individual, awakened into life by conversion, whose goal is to reach full maturity in holiness. The “new” for Pietism is a psychological reality in man. The struggle for holiness takes place between two levels of life, the lower life of nature and the higher life of the spirit. In Luther’s view the situation is quite different. The “new” in the believer is for Luther not a higher nature or a new individual capable of sensible expression. The “new” in the believer is Christ’s alien righteousness. The total old self, our old state of being – conversion and holiness included – is solely our own and therefore flesh. Insofar as our works are concerned, it cannot be anything else. The struggle for holiness is carried on in faith and involves Christ, who is really present, and our total self. Included in this self are the higher as well as the lower capacities of the soul and impulses of the will. No level of our personality is so high that it would not in the final analysis be dominated by self. In sanctification it is precisely this self that is striving against God (homo incurvatus in se) and must be beaten down. Luther always viewed man from the total point of view; to him man is an indivisible entity. In the view of Pietism man is a divided being and the struggle between the old man and the new is a struggle between two psychological levels within man.

Because Luther does not see holiness primarily as a matter of works he has been charged, both in his own day and later, with passivity. Such a charge, however, is both shallow and unfounded. It is shallow because it is informed by a desire to make holiness perceptible to the senses, and a lack of confidence in God’s hidden work in the believer’s heart. It is unfounded because Luther’s purpose was to direct men into the struggle for holiness, the struggle of faith against the devil, sin, and the flesh. This warfare can be called daily repentance. Though the primary focus may be not on works but on the conscience awakened by God, more is involved than merely Christ and conscience. Daily repentance comes to expression – and inevitably so – as works, though not as works of law but as works of the new man, as obedience of faith, as love.

Lennart Pinomaa, “Faith Victorious: An Introduction to Luther’s Theology”, pages 71-73

Sanctification Is Flight from Man’s Works to God’s Work

Although the city of Rome is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, nevertheless there remain in it Baptism, the Sacrament, the voice and text of the Gospel, the Sacred Scriptures, the ministries, the name of Christ, and the name of God. Whoever has these, has them; whoever does not have them, has no excuse, for the treasure is still there. Therefore the Church of Rome is holy, because it has the holy name of God, the Gospel, Baptism, etc. If these are present among a people, that people is called holy. Thus this Wittenberg of ours is a holy village, and we are truly holy, because we have been baptized, communed, taught, and called by God; we have the works of God among us, that is, the Word and the sacraments, and these make us holy.

I say this in order that we may distinguish sharply between Christian holiness and other kinds of holiness. The monks called their orders holy, although they did not dare call themselves holy; but they are not holy, because, as we said above, Christian holiness is not active but passive. Therefore let no one call himself holy on the basis of his way of life or of his works—fasting, prayer, flagellation, almsgiving, or the consolation of the sad and afflicted. Otherwise the Pharisee in Luke (18:11 ff.) would be holy too. Such works, of course, are holy, and God strictly demands them of us; but they do not make us holy. You and I are holy; the church, the city, and the people are holy—not on the basis of their own holiness but on the basis of a holiness not their own, not by an active holiness, but by a passive holiness. They are holy because they possess something that is divine and holy, namely, the calling of the ministry, the Gospel, Baptism, etc., on the basis of which they are holy.

Therefore even though the Galatians had been led astray, Baptism, the Word, and the name of Christ still continued among them. Besides, there were still some good men who had not defected from Paul’s doctrine and who had a proper understanding of the Word and the sacraments, which could not be defiled by those who did rebel. For Baptism, the Gospel, etc., do not become unholy because I am defiled and unholy and have a false understanding of them. On the contrary, they remain holy and exactly what they were, regardless of whether they are among the godly or the ungodly; men can neither defile them nor hallow them. By our good or evil behavior, by our good or evil life and morals, they are defiled or hallowed in the sight of the Gentiles (Rom. 2:24) but not in the sight of God. Therefore the church is holy even where the fanatics are dominant, so long as they do not deny the Word and the sacraments; if they deny these, they are no longer the church. Wherever the substance of the Word and the sacraments abides, therefore, there the holy church is present, even though Antichrist may reign there; for he takes his seat not in a stable of fiends or in a pigpen or in a congregation of unbelievers but in the highest and holiest place possible, namely, in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4). Thus our brief answer to this question is this: The church is universal throughout the world, wherever the Gospel of God and the sacraments are present. The Jews, the Turks, and the fanatics are not the church, because they oppose and deny these things.

Luther’s Works, Volume 26, pages 24-26

Luther’s Break with Augustine on Justification and Sanctification

The Augustinian and scholastic teaching of justification which Luther opposes in the writing against Latomus [LW 32] permits grace to be a new nature in man, so that man is gradually changed to a new man or lifted up from the natural level to the supernatural. Righteousness in this manner becomes a “formal justice.” Perhaps it can be stated crudely that in the scholastic teaching grace results in a gradual improvement of the old man until he insensibly has become a new man. Luther’s teaching of justification is characterized by a radical self-condemnation that brutally destroys all thoughts about a gradual transition from the natural up into the supernatural level or a slow process of becoming perfect. but this is a foreign thought to scholasticism. This does not mean that there is no room for a consciousness of sin in the scholastic system. The while system of the sacraments, for example, is orientated on the basis of the problem of sin. But since for the scholastic the difference between the sinner and God actually is identified with the metaphysical difference between nature and supernature, the consciousness of sin is not, as for Luther, a radical self-condemnation. therefore it is possible to understand victory over sin and sanctification as elements in the same smoothly transitory process which gradually lifts man from the level of the natural to the level of the supernatural. Man thus gradually becomes more and more righteous. Grace gradually substitutes the new nature more and more for the old sinful self. It is impossible in this sense to talk about something like simul justus et peccator.

The Augustinian and scholastic teaching about grace presupposes a Neoplatonizing understanding of sin, according to which sin comes from the lower sensual nature which is gradually pushed aside by the higher, supernatural, and purely spiritual nature infused by grace. This idea of sin in connection with the corresponding idea of grace permits, even demands, a quantitative understanding of the struggle of sin and grace during a progressive process of justification. On the other hand, Luther’s concept of sin places the nature of sin in the self-will, which very often is most deeply embedded right in this “higher” and spiritual nature. With such a concept of sin it was impossible to retain the physical* concept of grace. In the monastery Luther time and again experienced that grace did not mingle with his own nature, that although the sensual desire could be subdued, his self-will so much the more stubbornly encased itself in a pious suppression of the “lower” nature. The problem peccatum manens [abiding sin] (in the sense of the ineradicable self-will that dwells especially in one’s own piety) was constantly the stumbling block for him in his relation to the scholastic doctrine of grace. He was not helped until he learned to understand the righteousness of God as Christ himself, given us by God as a gift. This means that our righteousness is Christ, given us by God as a gift, in other words, something entirely outside ourselves, not only at first, but always. By this the judgment is pronounced upon our whole real self. Only that which is entirely outside of us, that is, in Christ, is righteous. Everything in ourselves, the highest as well as the lowest, is judged to the same extent. Simul justus et peccator.

Peccatum manens therefore was not a sign that grace was lost, but quite the opposite. The fact that the remaining sin is recognized as sin shows that righteousness is in us and has declared war upon our selfishness. For sin can be acknowledged as such only on the basis of faith; only where Christ is our only and alien righteousness does our total selfishness become visible. The acknowledgment of sin, penitence, is the first reaction of righteousness by faith.

But this faith which clings to the alien righteousness of Christ is in man. It is there, not passively, but manifested in penitence. And just as we know it from the writing about good works, faith is constantly active in good works toward the neighbor. Faith is a completely new life, not just in theory, but a real, concrete new life with praise and prayer and the work in our calling here on earth.

*The word “physical” does not mean a “materialistic” or “magic” concept of grace, though the Catholic doctrine of grace is sometimes so presented by Protestants. The word is used in its scholastic sense, and it has nothing to do with physics or materialism. The “nature” which is infused is, according tot he Roman Catholic view, really a spiritual nature. The whole point in the scholastic physical doctrine of grace is based on the teaching that the supernatural grace which is infused is of a higher kind than the lower and sensual nature. It is therefore not only a bad distortion, but a complete lack of understanding of the inner intent of the scholastic doctrine of grace, when it is presented as an impersonal and magic form of religion compared to the personal religion of Protestantism. The infused grace has nothing to do with the dynamic substance which often is described in Protestant expositions of the history of dogma. It is truly very spiritual, for it is supernatural. But it is physical because it is viewed as a higher nature than that of man, a supernatural nature, which nevertheless by the infusion of grace makes a connection with man’s natural nature and lifts it up into the level of the supernatural.

Regin Prenter, “Spiritus Creator”, translated by John M. Jensen, pages 39-41

Luther’s Theology of Pilgrimage

Luther feels that it is easier to visualize the Christian’s way when two truths are taken into consideration: 1) The Christian must not remain in his sins; yet in spite of this 2) the Christian remains a sinner. These two statements seem to contradict each other. The peculiar nature of the Christian faith is found, according to Luther, in this apparently irresolvable contradiction. He who lives in faith in God and Christ strives with all his powers to be free from sin. Yet he knows that there is sin in him. In fact, the more vital one’s faith the more clearly he sees the sin that still clings to him.

Already in the first lectures on the Psalms Luther notes that to the extent that man does not desire to become better he ceases to be good. He who is righteous, let him be righteous still (Revelation 22:11), and let him who stands beware lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Luther places much emphasis on Ecclesiasticus 18:7, which states that “when a man has finished, he is then only at the beginning.”

In Paul’s theology the man who in Christ has already reached the goal must continue with the race. The reason for this is that the Christian lives under the conditions of two ages (aeons). The old and new ages alike condition him. Likewise in Luther’s theology the Christian is ever en route, inasmuch as he is simultaneously righteous and sinful. Only the saints in heaven can relax and enter fully into their possessions. In Luther’s early evangelical theology Augustine’s influence was very strong, and so we find there statements which interpret sanctification as a progressive series of events. His later theology however shows a distinct aversion to all detailed scrutinizing of holy living. It is difficult to speak of progress, for there is no such thing as growth of the old man in holiness and perfection. The old man in us must be put to death daily and the new man arise, as the Small Catechism puts it. Our natural life is the life of the old man. No form of cure will make the old man into the new. It remains old to the very end. As Luther sees it, the Christian must judge himself once and for all. The new man lives in us only as the alien righteousness of Christ. This righteousness never changes into a part of my personality (ego). If in our quest for such change we turn our eyes upon ourselves, we become “self-righteous servants of the law.” The new in us is Christ himself. But under the conditions of this present life Christ does not control us so completely as to make it unnecessary for the old man to go through daily mortification. The new man never becomes a creature whom we might touch and see.

From a certain viewpoint Luther’s teaching placed all outward piety under suspicion. In any given moment piety can by, as [Regin] Prenter notes, an expression of the Spirit or of the flesh, according to whether the man in that particular moment is either Spirit or flesh. One cannot therefore speak of unambiguous growth toward genuine righteousness. Prenter is undoubtedly right when he says:

When Luther speaks about the progress of sanctification, he thinks of something entirely different. He thinks of the fact that man on the way between baptism and resurrection constantly and anew takes leave of himself to take refuge in Christ’s alien righteousness. In this refuge of faith in Christ, man is Spirit, new man, and all his past life is at once considered as flesh, as old man. In this manner the Spirit, who knows only Christ’s alien righteousness, is constantly struggling against the flesh, which wants to hold on to its own past life as an appropriation, its own righteousness. In the resurrection man shall be completely Spirit. Then the Spirit shall no longer struggle against the flesh. But on the way between baptism and resurrection man is Spirit and flesh (Spiritus Creator, pages 69-70).

In the evaluation of holiness all that is outward must be suspect. No visible piety or concrete act as such guarantees that the mind or attitude itself is holy. On the contrary, with progress there is regress. In becoming better the Christian becomes worse. To reach the goal is to start all over again. Luther was quite aware that all this made no sense to man’s wisdom, to the “sophists.” That the Christian is simultaneously a sinner and a saint is contrary to reason. The human ideal is that life be altogether without sin. As a demand this ideal drives men into despair.

Lennart Pinomaa, “Faith Victorious: An Introduction to Luther’s Theology”, pages 67-69

Repentance – Daily Warfare

The phrase “righteous and sinful at the same time” (simul iustus et peccator) implies continuous warfare rather than peace and rest. This insight must have come to Luther early, for it appears already in his lectures on Romans. Repentance is not merely release from the burden of conscience, and the reception of peace. It signals enlistment in the service of God (militia Dei), war against the devil and against the sins which beset us. He who is unwilling to engage in this warfare cannot be numbered among the soldiers of Christ. The carnal man differs from the man of the Spirit in being totally flesh. He knows no conflict, for God’s Spirit does not dwell in him.

In Luther’s treatise On the Councils and the Churches (1539) [Luther’s Works, Volume 41] there is a paragraph in which he stresses the unity of repentance, forgiveness of sins, and the new life. He describes the antinomians who preach “finely” and “with real seriousness” about the grace of Christ, forgiveness of sins, and other parts of the second article of the Creed, but who avoid like the devil the third article, which deals with sanctification and the new life in Christ, feeling that men must never be frightened or saddened but must always have comfortingly proclaimed to them the grace and forgiveness of sins in Christ. Luther sees in this the granting of the premise but the denying of the conclusion. The result is that Christ is taken away and his work destroyed at the same time that he is being loudly hailed. “For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life” (LW 41:114). Christ’s atoning work has as its purpose to make us new. The gift of the Holy Spirit means not only that we have forgiveness of sins but also that we forsake sin.

Luther’s underscoring of the necessity of sanctification during the so-called antinomian controversy can easily make it appear that he was willing to compromise his view that the works of the law are altogether useless before God. Perhaps the new life can be brought forth by legal compulsion after all.

But no such compromise was involved. Once he had reached clarity in the matter, Luther never taught anything else except that the Holy Spirit alone makes Christ a gospel for us. Without the Holy Spirit’s operation Christ is for us only a law and our life is mere imitation and not the new life of the Spirit. Were the law enough, one might suppose that the intention of God’s commandments is to induce the ungodly to perform God-pleasing works. But Luther emphasizes repeatedly that God’s commandments aim to awaken faith. Only in faith, that is, in right relationship to God, can man do God’s will.

Theologians at various times have handled this matter in one of two ways. Some have seen the purpose of the law to be simply obedience. They express it with the simple equation: law – imitation. Over against this interpretation we say with Paul and Luther: law – knowledge of sin – despair – justification – new life. However, none of these is in man’s power. Emphasis upon the law can easily lead to legalism. The Holy Spirit must apply the law to man in his conscience, and when that happens man becomes afflicted and distressed. Where this affliction (Anfechtung) leads him cannot be determined in advance. In it man faces the possibility of falling into utter despair without finding freedom of the Spirit and new life in Christ. Spiritual affliction places man before completely new possibilities. God or Satan may be its cause. If Satan gains access into the conscience with the message of God’s judgment, the outcome is despair. If the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals God’s judgment and man submits to it, the outcome is grace and freedom. but it is not a simple matter for one to find the way from God’s absolute demands to Christ. As in justification man is transferred from servitude under the law to life under grace, so in sanctification he experiences continuous renewal. Day by day and moment by moment the sanctified new man is born in affliction and in submission to judgment. Mortification of the old man in us and vivification of the new is simultaneously justification and sanctification. If the substance of sanctification is something we produce, then, says Luther, it is indeed and simply something which is our own; it is not the “new” which God gives, but the old which serves no good purpose. The “new” of the new life is born again and again in justification, and its “parents” are God’s judgment and man’s affliction. All other forms of the “new” are imitations, expressions of bondage to the law, which itself is never “new.” To imitate is to work with copies, but God has created each individual as an original. In judgment and justification he makes us into the new originals he wants.

Lennart Pinomaa (1901-1996), “Faith Victorious: An Introduction to Luther’s Theology”, trans. by Walter J. Kukkonen, pages 65-67

Reformation Day (observed) – Revelation 14:6-13

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

“The Word they still shall let remain/Nor any thanks have for it.” So it goes among not only those who reject Jesus Christ, but also for those who call themselves Christian yet refuse to believe or live according to God’s Word. Steeples crumble, surveys show Americans believe something that resembles a belief system (but not necessarily the Christian faith), and the passing rain shower of the Gospel moves on from North America.

Chin up, beloved. The Word they still shall let remain says these things will happen. Nevertheless, he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When we were confirmed, we confessed that we would remain faithful to the Christian Church, even ready to suffer death, rather than fall away from the Christian faith. So how do we persevere in the Christian Church until death? Today’s reading from Revelation chapter fourteen gives us four points of encouragement to remain steadfast in Jesus Christ.

First, the Christian Church teaches God’s Word. God’s Word teaches us to believe rightly. The angel of God, the messenger of Good News, flies over us with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

What is that eternal Gospel?

  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  • I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
  • All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
  • In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them… for our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It’s that simple. Refreshing, isn’t it? Many of these Bible passages you perhaps learned in confirmation instruction, or in a Bible class. It’s one thing to learn Bible passages. It’s another thing to be able to explain what these passages confess in the greater context of the history of salvation. That’s where we fail. When challenged about what these passages confess, you quickly think, “Oh, if only Pastor was here to explain this Bible passage. Oh, if only Pastor was here to speak the truth about this Bible passage.” We have grown timid to confess the truth for fear of being embarrassed.

The eternal Gospel means what it says. God saves the world through His only-begotten Son, Who is born a man, born under the Law, to redeem us from the Law and become a curse for us that we might receive the blessing of Almighty God: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Anyone who teaches otherwise about the Gospel is not teaching the Gospel, but teaches a false gospel and will be condemned to hell with no hope of salvation unless that false teacher repents and believes the eternal Gospel.

God’s Word also teaches us to live godly lives in Christ. We live a paradox. We are 100 percent sinner and 100 percent saint. Saint Paul describes the struggle this way: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The answer to Paul’s question is Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. When Saint John says in Revelation chapter 14 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus, John calls for trust in the Son of God Who has perfectly kept the commandments of God for you. As He loves you, so you in turn love your neighbor through service in your vocation, your various callings in life. This is living a godly life in Christ, whether in persecution or in peace.

Living as a Christian in the Christian Church means also to suffer patiently. Here we consider the petition we pray daily: Lead us not into temptation. It is not God that tempts us, but the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature that coaxes us to sin. They also mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The best offense against suffering is a good defense. No better protection may be found that the words of Saint Paul in Ephesians chapter six, last week’s Epistle. Paul says to put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. One piece of that armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. You learn swordsmanship by hearing the Word in Divine Service. You are fed with the forgiveness of sins in preaching, in absolution, in your baptism, and in the Supper. Nourished in the Divine Service, you are ready to pay attention to protection against the schemes of the devil with the whole armor of God.

Finally, the Christian Church, in the preaching of God’s Word, teaches us how to die a blessed death. It seems morbid and, frankly, uncomfortable to consider dying a blessed death. Consider that your baptism is your passport to everlasting glory. 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!” Your death is hidden in Jesus Christ. His deeds are the deeds that follow you. You rest from your labors, awaiting the eternal Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ, Who will raise your mortal body from the grave, transform your mortal body into an immortal body, and take you to live with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever. How blessed indeed are they whose toils are ended.

As we today consider the Reformation of the Christian Church and the men whom God used to accomplish the Reformation, we also consider that this ongoing event and the men through whom it came would not want all the attention. After all, every Sunday is a celebration of the Reformation because every Sunday is about the preaching of Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world. So today is nothing new, nothing special. The Reformation continues tomorrow and next week, just as it has all these years. The eternal Gospel is proclaimed as it was in John’s vision, as it was by Martin Luther, and as it is today in pulpits like this one: Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. Rejoice! The victory has been won in Jesus Christ, Who has judged you worthy of everlasting life in His innocent suffering and death!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Luther’s Doctrine of Reconciliation

Christ’s cross determined the substance of Luther’s doctrine of reconciliation. Many have supposed that in this doctrine Luther follows in the steps of Anselm of Canterbury, who taught that the once-and-for-all atonement of the God-man has appeased God’s wrath. In place of man’s punishment for sin stands now the satisfactio vicaria Christi, Christ’s reconciling act in man’s behalf, which receives its absolute adequacy from the God-man infinite personal worth. The forgiveness of sins thus procured is conveyed to man by the sacraments of baptism and confession.

Luther’s doctrine of reconciliation, however, is fundamentally different. The idea of satisfaction means a weakening of the seriousness of judgment. Christ indeed bears the punishment of our sins; Luther regards the notion that God in his mercy does not punish sin as a misconception. God hates sin, and God’s pardon is realized through punishment and judgment. Luther speaks of the “strange work” of God and of his “proper work.” The idea of God’s strange work is from the Book of Isaiah (28:21). With ingenious insight Luther complements this with the idea of God’s proper work. In the former he sees God’s judgment, in the latter God’s grace and goodness. God judges that he might show mercy, and not until he shows mercy does he do his proper work.

The difference between Anselm’s and Luther’s doctrine of reconciliation or atonement becomes clear when we ask concerning man’s appropriation of Christ’s work. Why does God reckon Christ’s merit to some and not to others? Anselm – and also Melanchthon – made man responsible. By faith man appropriates Christ’s merit. This is a form of the ancient, traditional, semi-Pelagian doctrine. Luther answers differently. The vicarious atonement points to God as the sole subject of the act of reconciliation. Christ’s work is God’s work. What God in Christ has done for us he continues to do through Christ in us. Anselm, Melanchthon, and many others look upon salvation as a transaction between man and God, but Luther sees it as a conflict involving God and Satan, with man as the battlefield.

Lennart Pinomaa (trans. Walter J. Kukkonen), “Faith Victorious: An Introduction to Luther’s Theology”, pages 48-49

David Scaer on The Three Uses of the Law

For Lutherans Law is the standard of good works as suggested by the Latin phrase usus didacticus seu normaticus (teaching use or standard) for the Third Use, but does not motivate them (Cf. FC SD VI:18). One influential Reformed theologian understands the Lutheran position that the Law as regulation and condemnation serves only to keep believers as sinners in check (Second Use) and does not promote holiness. Another theologian claims that for Lutherans Christ and not the Law is the norm of righteousness and so antinomianism lurks in Lutheran theology, a not infrequent accusation from Rome. For Lutherans the Law does not stand alone, but fulfilled in and by Christ is is normative for Christian life and can be fulfilled (Third Use). As sinners, Christians like others are threatened by the law to do works that may be good according to external standards, but from faith they also do works pleasing to God. They are the works of Christ spontaneously motivated by the Spirit flowing from faith (SD VI:17). Divine wrath as a motivation for works pleasing to God is for Lutherans a confusion of the Law with the Gospel. The Law’s prohibitions and threats belong in the Second Use and not the Third, according to which Law is transformed by Christ so that it expresses God’s original intentions to the world. Christians as unbelievers can never escape the Law’s prohibitions and threats (SD VI:23-24). Simultaneously and often with the same deeds they live under the Law and the Gospel as enemies and friends of God. They live a Nestorian-like existence with two incompatible forces at war with no communication between saint and sinner: simul iustus et peccator (SD VI:7-9).* Ironically one work can flow from two motivations. Calvin sees the Christian as a composite person who is not zealous to do good works and needs the Law to prod. Conversely in Lutheran theology the sinner is caught between two realities: the same God who rejects him accepts him in Christ. He believes but is never relieved from divine accusation. Conversion is a one-time occurrence but its experience of going from unfaith to faith is repeated each day. He never moves far from Baptism but each time the old man is drowned a new man comes forth. For the Reformed conversion initiates a process of moral improvement advanced by both the Law and the Gospel and can be charted. In contrast the Lutherans hold that the Law as prohibition and condemnation provides neither a negative nor a positive motivation for the specifically Christian life. As sinner he remains subject to divine wrath (Second Use), but as a believer his works are not motivated by the Law’s threats but by faith (Third Use). Sanctification is characterized not so much as absence of moral blemish (which is impossible), but by the freedom to do good works to assist and help the neighbor. He begins again to live that life destines for him in paradise (the first “First Use”) and helps others as God in Christ did (Third Use). Good works are those God destined for him in creation and done by Christ and then by the believer. Sanctification is rooted in creation and redemption and displays both.

* In Luther’s theology saint and sinner are distinct realities within one person. For the Reformed these personal realities are blended so that Luther’s distinction plays no role. Within the dimension of this “Eutychian” definition of human personality so that the Christian as Christian is not distinct from his sinful nature, Law can be used to prod the believer….

David P. Scaer, “Third Use of the Law” Resolving the Tension” in “You, My People, Shall Be Holy: A Festschrift in Honour of John W. Kleinig”, pages 248-250

David P. Scaer on Antinomianism

Recently an emeritus pastor claimed that some pastors, whom he identified as confessional, are antinomian in not giving enough attention in their sermons to Christian sanctification, which he described as crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man (See “Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification” CTQ 67:3&4, p. 379-381). Without names or details, we can only respond to how he defines antinomianism. Crucifying the flesh and putting down the old man are never past tense, but they are the work of the Law. Putting on the new man is the work of Christ (Gospel) and is the real sanctification. We do not put on an abstract holiness or morality, but we put on Christ – His life, His works, His Sacraments, His death, His absolution, His resurrection, ascension, and session at the Father’s right hand. These things are ours by a Baptism into His death and resurrection and by faith we are sanctified. The things of Christ which are ours by faith have nothing to do with the Law’s threats. Guilt is prior to and necessary for faith and sanctification, but has no place in faith and sanctification by which Christ lives in us and we live in Him. After coming to faith by the Gospel, the Christian is revisited by the Law and his sense of guilt will increase especially in light of Christ’s holy life. The Spirit’s opus alienum increases his sense of inadequacy and makes him more miserable as he copes with a reality he cannot escape.

David P. Scaer, “Third Use of the Law: Resolving the Tension” in You, My People, Shall Be Holy: A Festschrift in Honour of John W. Kleinig, page 244

DP Scaer

True Progress

It is this understanding of the contrast between the old and the new man which constitutes the difference between Luther and all pietism. In the pietistic preaching of conversion and sanctification the new man is identified with the converted man. The new man is himself the real, psychologically changed, new individual which the conversion has produced in man and which sanctification has continued to establish. According to this view, the new in the converted man is a psychological reality, a legal righteousness. According to Luther the “new” in the new man is the living Christ himself who as alien righteousness classifies the whole old man, including both his conversion and sanctification, as flesh and old man, if it is not covered by the alien righteousness of Christ. In the pietistic preaching of conversion, the struggle between the old and the new man is a struggle between to different strata in man, the lower strata which comes from the life before conversion and the higher strata which comes by the life created by conversion. The struggle between the old and the new man is in Luther a struggle between Christ truly present in faith and our whole real self, including both the lower and the higher strata, both the converted and the unconverted parts of man. For the pietist neither the old man nor the new man is the whole man, but each is a part of man. According to Luther, one cannot understand what the new and the old man are until it is understood that each one of them in the strictest sense is the whole man.

However, this does not mean that Luther denies the presence of real works of grace in the soul. Luther sufficiently emphasizes that faith and the new man live and move in praise, prayer, and the works of the vocation to which man is called. But empirical piety is not in itself the new man (as pietism holds) nor is it our righteousness before God; it is only a fruit of the Spirit, an expression of the new man. Therefore it presupposes faith and the new man. In the very moment man as a whole man is flesh and not Spirit, in the very moment that man seeks his own, empirical piety is changed into self-righteousness, to a merit by which the sinner tries to justify himself before God, that is, to the fundamental sin which is pride. No quality of the soul whatever, no religious experience at all, no pietistic conversion, for example, possesses in itself a definite value before God. Its value in every moment depends (as do all other human qualities) upon man’s actual attitude to god as a person and as a while man. If a man is sinful, then his other qualities are all sinful. If a man as a person is righteous, is Spirit, that is, if he in that very moment is leaving all his own in favor of Christ’s alien righteousness, all his good qualities are the fruits of the Spirit, and his sins are forgiven and removed, because Christ’s alien righteousness covers man. If man as a person is flesh, that is, if he at that very moment is seeking his own, then all his qualities, including the good ones, are the fruits of the flesh. His sins are then without the forgiveness of Christ because the egocentric man in his flesh pushes Christ away and wants to be just in himself. In this case his ethical and religious qualities become merits by which he seeks to cover his own sins and be just before God; that is, they become the sophisticated sins of pride. This self-same empirical quality, for instance a pietistically understood conversion or sanctification, may in the same man in one moment be the fruit of the Spirit, as when in faith he leaves all his own (including this state of conversion or sanctification) in favor of the alien righteousness of Christ, when he lives trusting solely in the pure mercy of God and therefore views all his own religious and ethical qualities, if he is able to find any such at all, as the undeserved gifts of God. But in the next moment the same empirical quality, the same state of conversion and sanctification, may be the fruit of the flesh, as when he seeks his own and thereby changes this real quality from being the undeserved gift of God to being his own appropriation, by which he justifies himself before God and man….

How far removed this presentation [of Karl Holl and R. Seeberg] is from Luther thinking is revealed by the fact that for these scholars the progress of sanctification is identified with a real progressive process of justification. Luther speaks both of empirical piety (faith, which is man’s righteousness before God, and in which man lives and moves in real praise, prayer, and work) and of progress in sanctification (the Spirit becomes more and more master over the flesh). But in Luther these two lines of thought are not so blended that the progress of sanctification can be forthwith identified with the increase in empirical piety as is done in Holl’s and Seeberg’s interpretation of Luther. In Luther empirical piety is always ambiguous, It may in every moment be either an expression of the Spirit or of the flesh, according to whether the man in that particular moment is either Spirit or flesh. Therefore it is impossible to speak of an unambiguous growth in the plan or real justification. When Luther speaks about the progress of sanctification, he thinks of something entirely different. He thinks of the fact that man on the way between baptism and resurrection constantly and anew takes leave of himself to take refuge in Christ’s alien righteousness. In this refuge of faith in Christ, man is Spirit, new man, and all his past life up to this moment is at once considered as flesh, as old man. In this manner the Spirit, who knows only Christ’s alien righteousness, is constantly struggling against the flesh, which wants to hold on to its own past life as an appropriation, its own righteousness. In the resurrection man shall be completely Spirit. Then the Spirit shall no longer struggle against the flesh. But on the way between baptism and resurrection man is Spirit and flesh. But the closer man gets to resurrection, the more the old man is destroyed and annihilated, and the new man, which has only Christ’s alien righteousness, is the only possibility left. Therefore sanctification is a constant progress, a growing mastery of the Spirit over the flesh. But this progress is not the same as the increase of empirical piety. For empirical piety is ambiguous. It may constantly be qualified in two ways, and therefore so may its growth. The progress of sanctification is not, as is the increase of empirical piety, an object of psychological observation, but an object of faith and hope. It is not evident to oneself and others, but it is hid with Christ in God.

Regin Prenter, Spiritus Creator, translated by John M. Jensen, pages 67-70