Resources on Understanding the Differences Between the Lutheran and Reformed Traditions

A friend posted something on Twitter this AM that reminded me how little the two traditions understand each other today. In the 16th and 17th centuries our traditions were involved in intense, frequent discussions and interaction and we understood each other more clearly than we do now.

Our mutual ignoring and ignorance of each other’s traditions has led to much confusion and misunderstanding about our own traditions. E.g. I get the impression that some Lutherans believe that Lutherans “don’t believe in election.” That would be a shock to Martin Luther, whose doctrine of unconditional election was so clear Erasmus wrote a critique prompting Luther to write Bondage of the Will (1525) in response. It would also surprise  framers of the Book of Concord, where the doctrine of unconditional election is clearly and explicitly taught and it would also be a shock to the founders of the LCMS, for whom unconditional election was a decisive doctrine.

We have differences on predestination and reprobation and perseverance, which are related to election, but not, as far as I know, on unconditional election.

From the Reformed side, I still read and hear Reformed folk writing and talking as if the very act of distinguishing between law and gospel is something that only Lutherans do. How Reformed folk could possibly think such a thing in light of the enormous primary source evidence to the contrary in both our theologians (e.g., Olevianus) and confessions (see Ursinus’ lectures on the catechism where he explains this explicitly) is beyond me but it continues.

I think I understand a little bit why Lutherans have difficulty getting to grips with what Reformed folk actually confess. They confess that Reformed folk are “sacramentarians.” A sacramentarian is one who holds that the Lord’s Supper is no more than a symbol. In practice Lutheran confessionalists tend to think of all sacramentarians as “Reformed,” which means that in their broad usage, “Reformed” denotes virtually all non-Lutheran, non-Roman evangelicals.

Further, Lutherans seem to be confessionally committed to the notion that the Reformed are, to put it delicately, dissemblers. In article 7 of the Solid Declaration, they confess:

Although some Sacramentarians strive to employ words that come as close as possible to the Augsburg Confession and the form and mode of speech in its [our] churches, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body of Christ is truly received by believers, still, when we insist that they state their meaning properly, sincerely, and clearly, they all declare themselves unanimously thus: that the true essential body and blood of Christ is absent from the consecrated bread and wine in the Holy Supper as far as the highest heaven is from the earth

It is not as if the Lutherans make no distinction between kinds of sacramentarians. They distinguish between “gross” (obvious) sacramentarian and “subtle” (sneaky) sacramentarians:

…there are two kinds of Sacramentarians. Some are gross Sacramentarians, who declare in plain (deutschen), clear words as they believe in their hearts, that in the Holy Supper nothing but bread and wine is present, and distributed and received with the mouth. Others, however, are subtle Sacramentarians, and the most injurious of all, who partly speak very speciously in our own words, and pretend that they also believe a true presence of the true, essential, living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, however, that this occurs spiritually through faith.

In Article VII of the Formula of Concord the Reformed are characterized as “astute” and “crafty” sacramentarians for saying that we believe in the “true presence” but not in the local, bodily presence (Schaff, Creeds, 3.136).

Thus, it really does not matter what the Reformed actually confess, that in the Belgic Confession we confess that, regarding the supper,

we say that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith (Article 35, Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3.430 [emphasis added]

Thus, in both cases, what is eaten is the “proper” (that which is and belongs to Christ’s humanity) and “natural” (not imaginary) body and blood of Christ. The difference is in the manner and the location of the body. We confess that we cannot say exactly how the Spirit does this—how are we rationalists if we appeal to the mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit?—but that is not enough to keep us from being under suspicion.

So, the goal of this post is to further understanding. I guess, since our confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters are confessionally bound to regard us with suspicion, and since it seems unlikely that we shall persuade them to revise their confession, we cannot really expect much progress on that front, at least not corporately but Reformed churches do not confess such suspicion of the Lutherans. We should be aware of the areas where do confess differences:

  • Christology (implicitly also God and man in certain respects)
  • Sacraments (baptism and the supper)
  • Soteriology—The Reformed have a more developed covenant theology and we confess the doctrine of reprobation and the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints
  • Ecclesiology—I think Lutherans have historically been more indifferent to the form of church government than we
  • Worship—The Lutherans and Reformed confess two distinct principles of worship. I wonder why more Reformed folk aren’t more wound up about the degree to which Reformed worship has come to look like Lutheran worship. It seems that their concern about “becoming Lutheran” is quite selective.

There are other differences (e.g., in the way the two traditions talk about the canon of Scripture) but these are the major differences that come to mind.

This has been a frequent topic on the HB, principally because of the controversy provoked by the Federal Vision/New Perspective(s) errors, but the continued assertion by some that there is a distinctly Reformed doctrine of justification suggests that a resource round-up might be useful so here it is.

184 comments

  1. We (Lutherans – and I’m painting with a broad brush) do believe that Christ is actually present in Baptism and the Supper. We also do not claim to know how, only that Jesus said, “this IS my body, this IS my blood…”

    And, when He commands something of us, he is always there in it, acting for us, doing His gracious will…to us.

    We do believe that Christ died for all…because the Bible tells us that, and in many different ways. We couldn’t imagine telling someone that Christ may have died for you’.

    And we really detest all of the internal examination stuff to gin up any assurance that we really belong to Him. We just can’t trust in any of that since “the devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light”, and since our faith and seriousness isn’t really all that serious. You worry warts (like me) know what I mean.

    So, for us, the external Word is the ground of our assurance. And something that we can count on, no matter how we feel. Or what we do, or don’t do. Or even what we say or think. There is real assurance in this sort of view and real freedom. The kind of freedom that is so scarce in most churches today…including a great many Lutheran churches who have fallen off the horse on the left side of ‘social gospel’…and those who have fallen off the right side, of ‘3rd use’ and inerrant Bibles (words), and fencing off the pure gospel to an unhealthy level (because they alone know the truth).

    For us it truly is Christ alone…with NO add-on’s whatsoever. There aren’t too many of this type of Lutheran still out there…but we are there, and we rejoice with Christians of any stripe who join us in the finished work of Christ…add nothing.

    Thanks.

    (what was the question :D – sorry for going on a bit)

  2. Thanks for another great post Dr. Clark! This was very helpful, especially the link to all the evidence for the Reformed use of law-gospel distinction. When you pointed out the difference in soteriology is that the Reformed have a more developed covenant theology than the Lutheran system, do you think that this means that so many today who want to claim a Reformed position, but reject our covenant theology, are actually closer to the Lutheran position? I think mainly of the so called “young, restless, and Reformed” who still hold mainly dispensational hermeneutics, but one could also ask this about someone such as John Murray (Someone’s head just probably exploded with that suggestion though).

    • No, we aren’t closer to dispys or the Reformed theologians who tend to flatten out the distinctions. We interpret the Scriptures, old and new, through Law and Gospel. Christ is at the center of it all. If you’d like to see this in action, you could pick up the Lutheran Study Bible or the Concordia Commentary series. Both would give some inkling of how we go about interpreting these things.

    • I’m sorry if I implied that I was asking something about Lutherans. I was asking if some who claim to be Reformed, but reject our covenant theology, would actually be closer to Lutherans than the Reformed.

    • I understood the question, and the answer is still no. The Reformed who reject Reformed covenant theology are not, by virtue of their rejection of Reformed covenant theology, closer to Lutheranism.

    • Well, I guess we disagree on what Reformed means then. Since the Westminster Standards include a pretty specific form of covenant theology, it’s hard for me to imagine how someone can be Reformed if they do not believe what Reformed people have confessed to be Reformed doctrine. I assumed that your reference to “we” meant Lutherans since you cited Lutheran sources. Maybe I have misunderstood you. My position is, however, that there are no Reformed people who reject Reformed covenant theology. If they reject it, they are not Reformed.

    • I agree that people who reject the Reformed confessions are not Reformed. My only point was that those people who reject Reformed covenant theology are not closer to Lutheranism.

    • Harrison,

      Well, the FV fellows hold a view of baptism and perseverance that is much closer to the Lutheran confessional view than it is to the Reformed view. This is why I’ve always been amused to have FV guys call me a “Lutheran.”

      The YRR folk are mostly Baptist in their sacramentology/ecclesiology so I don’t know if it works to align them with the Lutherans. They have an implied covenant theology but it isn’t ours.

      Mr Murray was attempting to revise Reformed covenant theology but I think we wanted to work within a broader Reformed framework.

    • Thanks for your response Dr. Clark. That was very helpful in thinking through how to see these issues.

    • Dr. Clark,

      There is a fairly crucial element that I think needs to be mentioned if we’re going to point out such a superficial similarity between FV and Lutheranism. They reject the law/gospel distinction and we affirm it. That makes a world of difference when we’re talking about things like the nature of baptism and apostasy.

    • Oh, and when one understands the Lutheran sacramental position, that God is constantly forgiving our sins in absolution and the Supper, any superficial similarity with FV disappears.

    • Nate,
      What exactly do you mean by this?
      “God is constantly forgiving our sins in absolution and the Supper”??
      Also Dr. Clark wasn’t saying that FV is Lutheranism, but the similarities in terms of perseverance (falling away) and similar in baptism (the mysterious connection between justification and the sacrament)…you probably got it, but he wasn’t referring at all to you rejecting the gospel like FV.

    • Trent,

      Thanks. That’s true. I don’t mean to say at all that confessional Lutherans = FV but there is a strong similarity in their view of baptism. In the FV baptism is said to be so objective that it ex opere operato creates a temporary, conditional “election” and “union with Christ” and “justification” etc so that faith is really useless. In the FV scheme, we are told that we must cooperate with grace given in baptism in order to retain it (“get in by grace, stay in by works”). “Apostasy,” they say, “is real.” Baptism has united us to the vine but we must do our part to remain connected. If we do, then the conditional benefits conferred in baptism will be retained our conditional election will become eternal or it will turn out to have been eternal.

      In the Lutheran scheme, baptism is said to confer certain benefits (“salvation”) objectively (which seems a lot like an ex opere scheme) but since grace is resistible (as in the FV scheme) it becomes necessarily conditional. In the past when I’ve discussed this what I usually get is yelling, “Baptism saves!” Okay, but grace is resistible, right? “Yes, but we don’t think/talk about that.” Okay, but that isn’t really a coherent answer. If grace is resistible, then it’s necessarily conditional.

      The reason the confessional Lutheran scheme doesn’t become FV is that confessional Lutherans are probably practically more committed to the law/gospel, sola fide, justification on the basis of imputation aspects of their system than they are to the resistible grace aspect of their system so that practically they are protected. If the sola fide aspect, however, ever weakens, then the conditional aspect latent in resistible grace and “objective” baptism will take its toll.

      To anticipate Steve’s charge, “You Reformed are subjectivists! You look inside yourselves for assurance!” No, the promises are objective. The preached Word is objective. The promises embedded in the sacraments and made visible b in them are objective. They are received through faith (resting, receiving, trusting, leaning, those are the qualifiers we confess re faith in the act of justification) alone. Arguably, we have a stronger view of sola fide because we let faith do what it alone can do, be the sole, unique, receptive instrument (which was Luther’s way of speaking about it) of justification. Baptism isn’t faith. Baptism isn’t, per se salvation any more than the flood waters saved Noah. Christ saved Noah and the Christ is the ark. Noah was saved from the flood and through the flood but not by the flood. He was saved (delivered from judgment) by Christ, through faith and that salvation was signified and sealed by the water just as the judgment upon the unbelieving world was signified and sealed by those same waters.

      Do confessional Lutherans have any place for baptism as a judgment on unbelief? I think they do regarding the Supper since consistently confessional Lutherans fence the table very closely (Lutherans only).

    • Hi Trent,

      I mean that God forgives our sins through means. When Herman Bavinck says in his dogmatics that grace is essentially the forgiveness of sins, I agree. And when Jesus tells his disciples in John 20 “if you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven…” we say “that is a means of grace.” So in the absolution, we receive the forgiveness of sins through faith. Actually, really, the forgiveness of sins. That is what is promised and given in absolution, and it is received by faith. In the Supper, Jesus says “drink of it all of you, this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (yes, that’s a composite of the different Gospels and Paul). We see there the promise of the forgiveness of sins, and so we believe that God forgives our sins in the Supper, received by faith. Luther taught this in his Small Catechism under the third article of the Creed, “In this Christian Church, He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” Lutherans believe that we receive the forgiveness of our sins every week (at least!) of our Christian lives.

      As for FV, we Lutherans could say that they are not heretics for saying that baptism saves and apostasy is possible. That would make everyone prior to the Reformed tradition heretical. That doesn’t mean, however, that we agree with them on any of the specifics, such as ex opere operato (see C. F. W. Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, thesis 21), etc. Hope that helps.

    • “Do confessional Lutherans have any place for baptism as a judgment on unbelief?”

      Yes.

      We actually believe that the last judgment was already held (for you), at your baptism.

      “Do you not know that all of you who were baptized, were baptized into a death like his?” Romans 6.

      Judged guilty. Sentenced. And executed.

    • Dr. Clark; Nate,
      I understand, but would they exclude one going to God in private prayer and saying, “Lord, I just sinned forgive me”?
      How do they go together?

    • Trent,

      Certainly you may and should go to God privately! I’m not sure to what you’re responding but my general point is that the public proclamation of the Gospel, the announcement of the good news, the announcement of forgiveness (the declaration of pardon to believers, sometimes called the absolution) is logically prior to private acts of piety. In the evangelical world, the private is thought to be most important but I think the Reformed piety wants to reverse this order. We want to say that the public ministry comes first and it results in or even overflows into private prayer and bible reading, which are most important. I’m just trying to set priorities.

    • Hi Trent,

      Absolutely you can and should go to God privately and confess your sin and ask for His mercy. That’s good, right, and salutary. But if you need (and we all do) an external word to trust, go to the public absolution. There you can hear the Gospel: “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” And if you find yourself doubting that and thinking “yeah, sure, that’s great for all those people, but if he only knew what I’ve done…” then go to private confession and absolution (Augsburg XI). There’s no mistaking that the Word of forgiveness is for you when your pastor places his hands on your head and absolves you. Go to the Sacrament and hear Jesus’ words, “given and shed for you,” and believe it.

  3. Mr Clark says;

    “So, the goal of this post is to further understanding. I guess, since our confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters are confessionally bound to regard us with suspicion, and since it seems unlikely that we shall persuade them to revise their confession, we cannot really expect much progress on that front, at least not corporately but Reformed churches do not confess such suspicion of the Lutherans.”

    Belgic Confession Article 35

    “Therefore we reject as desecrations of the sacraments all the muddled ideas and damnable inventions that men have added and mixed in with them. And we say that we should be content with the procedure that Christ and the apostles have taught us and speak of these things as they have spoken of them.”

    After explaining that we receive this by the hand and mouth of the soul the above statement calls anything else muddled ideas and damnable inventions. This would make our belief that we eat and drink physically the body and blood of Our Lord muddled ideas and damnable inventions.

    Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

    (Matthew 26:26-29 ESV)

    The procedure, given by Jesus, is to eat and drink physical bread and physical cup. Not by faith but by physical actions.

    The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
    (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ESV)

    St Paul teaches one eats bread and body, wine and blood. Those are physical elements with which we interact physically. Scripture knows none of this mouth of the soul or faith eating.

    Mr. Clark: I fear this the goal of this post is struggling uphill from the start. We cannot expect reasonable conversation when it is claimed the Lutherans have all the confessional suspicion but the Reformed do not.

    God’s peace is with you. †

    • David, if I may,

      You drawn inference which, in teaching the Belgic for a number of years, it has never occurred to me to draw. The reason I haven’t drawn that inference is that it doesn’t exist. The paragraph immediately above the final paragraph, which you quoted, says:

      Finally with humility and reverence we receive the holy sacrament in the gathering of God’s people, as we engage together, with thanksgiving, in a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, and as we thus confess our faith and Christian religion. Therefore no one should come to this table without examining himself carefully, lest “by eating this bread and drinking this cup he eat and drink to his own judgment.” In short, by the use of this holy sacrament we are moved to a fervent love of God and our neighbors.

      The Belgic doesn’t stipulate exactly which errors it has in mind but we should interpret Art 35 in light of Art 29, where we distinguish between true churches (that have three marks of a true church, the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the administration of discipline) and false churches (which lack these marks) and sects. The Belgic’s chief concern is the Roman doctrine of the propitiatory, memorial, eucharistic sacrifice. The only other sacramental error stipulated in detail is the Anabaptist denial of infant baptism.

      There is an implied disagreement with the Lutheran Christology in the Heidelberg Catechism but I don’t know that the Reformed confessions ever speak directly or even impliedly to the Lutheran churches. There’s certainly nothing in the Reformed confessions, of which I’m aware, that approaches the Lutheran confession that the Reformed are, in effect, lying sacramentarians.

      Look at Calvin’s correspondence with Melanchthon in the 1550s. Calvin didn’t regard Melanchthon as “other” or some sort of heretic. If you’ll read the links I provided, you’ll see that the Reformed have historically held a kinder, more fraternal view of the Lutherans than than the Lutherans have had of the Reformed. Calvin regarded Melanchthon as part of the same church. As the Lutheran confessionalists turned up the heat after the Consensus Tigurinus (which was the basis for the denunciation of the “subtle” or “craft” sacramentarians in the FoC) Melancthon essentially abandoned Calvin as a political liability but I don’t think it changed Calvin’s his estimation of Melanchthon and Calvin had the highest estimation of Luther, whom he regarded as the founder of the Protestant churches.

  4. I’m glad that is agreed. Where do you think we should place those people in relation to Reformed theology then when thinking through these issues?

  5. I think this short sermon is a very good representation of Lutheranism.

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/getting-back-to-grace-again.mp3

    It’s gets going about 5 min. into it (the whole thing is 17 min).

    If you hear something that starts to make you a little nervous, then you probably hit upon an area where Lutherans think a little differently about the Christian life.

    And believe me, there are times when some of this stuff makes me nervous.

  6. Dear Dr. Clark,

    Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the Reformed party were just as suspicious of Lutherans (though not, of course, in their confessional documents)? After all, we know how Wolfgang Musculus reacted when he witnessed the lex orandi corresponding to the Lutheran lex credendi on the Supper (at the Wittenberg Concord, of all places, where all parties were ostensibly set to agree on these things!). Of course you’re right that Lutherans have viewed other confessions of the Supper with suspicion, but Luther himself apparently did the same from the disagreement with Karlstadt onward, didn’t he? Anyway, interesting things. Appreciate your post, as always.

    • Nate,

      Yes and no. Yes, the Reformed did express criticisms of the Lutherans but they also referred to them in fraternal terms. It wasn’t unusual for the Reformed orthodox in the 17th century to refer to “our Lutherans” for example. There were polemics too but I would wager that Reformed criticism of the Lutherans paled in comparison to the way that the Lutherans spoke to each other!

      As you imply in your question, I made a distinction between the private opinions of the theologians and the public, ecclesiastically sanctioned documents, i.e., our confessions were we speak corporately and officially and with ministerial but binding authority.

  7. I can certainly attest to Lutherans regarding anyone who was non-Lutheran with suspicion. Growing up in an LCMS church I was given the impression that only Lutherans were enlightened. Lip service was given to the fact that Lutherans were not the only true Christians, but I had my doubts by the way I was taught. Since leaving the Lutheran tradition, exploring evengelicalism, and settling on the reformed position theologically, I have certainly gained a renewed appreciation for the Lutheran tradition and my upbringing. Thanks, Dr Clark for this weathly of information. While I don’t consider myself Lutheran theologically I am still fond of the Lutheran confessions and am amazed at how close the Reformed and Lutheran confessions are at most points yet differ at some other very important points.

    • I too, have found many in the LCMS to believe that they ALONE know the truth. But, of course, it certainly isn’t all of them. And my own denomination has more than it’s share of serious problems and goofball ideas about the faith.

      I’m fortunate to be in a congregation, and to have a pastor who is centered on Christ and His work for sinners. And not in one that has gone over the edge on either side. One of our members drives an hour and a half, one way, and passes dozens of Lutheran churches on the way to worship with us.

    • Eric,

      Interesting comment. Thank you.

      Having come the opposite direction I appreciate your candid critique of the LCMS. I was members of several different Reformed congregations and I found both patient and impatient sinners in all them. This is not an excuse but a reason that all churches struggle against this sin. Christ have mercy!

      I would love to chat with you further. I have not had the opportunity to ask questions of why one leaves Lutheranism for the Reformed. I read some articles but that is not quite the same thing. My email is available through my name.

      You are in God’s peace. †

    • This is certainly interesting, but I don’t really recognize the Lutheranism that you’re describing. The Lutherans I have experienced, who know their own theology, absolutely refuse to judge the salvation of anyone.

      But if we’re talking the truth or falsity of confessional documents, sure, Lutherans believe that our confession is true and confessions that contradict it are false. That’s simply the nature of holding any form of truth claim.

    • I too would like to participate in any ‘Reformed-move-to-Lutheran’ exchange (rflooke@yahoo.co.uk)

      I was Reformed first, but was then attracted to Luther when I was teaching him alongside Calvin. However I remained in the Reformed tradition and it was only after many years that (in my view) I saw that they were not teaching the same thing on the law. Everyone saw me as antinomian and madness was only prevented by moving back to a Luther-ite position (ie Luther, not later confessional Lutheran) which is really not present at all in the UK – send reinforcements!

      I do believe that, in England, the Institutes have been used to produce a judaistic evangelicalism (I don’t know but is this like your Neo-Calvinism?) but I am still open to persuasion (I think) that this is a misuse of Calvin rather than a direct extrapolation. (This erroneous English evangelicalism is nevertheless understandable as an attempted bulwark against rampant liberalism)

  8. Right on, Nate.

    As a Lutheran for 15 years now, I have witnessed some Lutherans who believe that they will be the only ones in heaven. But usually it is those who erroneously believe that there is such a thing as ‘pure doctrine’, and that they, of course, have it.

    Because history plays a role in doctrine, it cannot be “pure”.

    But there is a ‘pure gospel’, and that is something that we hold up, for assurance and freedom.

  9. Steve Martin wrote: “Because history plays a role in doctrine, it cannot be “pure”.

    “But there is a ‘pure gospel’, and that is something that we hold up, for assurance and freedom.”

    GW: So, doctrine cannot be “pure,” but the gospel is “pure”? But isn’t that a false dichotomy? Doesn’t the gospel itself involve many doctrines or doctrinal truths (Jesus as Son of God Incarnate, the atonement, the resurrection, justification by faith alone, and so forth); truths that remain unchanged in spite of historical developments in the confessional formulation of such doctrines? Would it not be better to say that some formulations of doctrine are “impure,” and admit that there are varying degrees of doctrinal purity even in true churches (whether Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, or whatever)?

    As a confessional Reformed & Presbyterian Christian I like how our Westminster Confession of Faith addresses the issue of “purity” in the church (in ch. 25.5): “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.” Perhaps this was close to what you were trying to say in your comment.

  10. Geoff,

    The gospel is pure gift, from God, “Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake”.

    Doctrine necessarily involves man and therefore is subject to the frailties that sinners bring.

    I do think that the WCF says pretty much that, in a slightly different way.

    Thanks for that.

  11. ‘Evangelicals’ in the UK are conservative (Reformed) or charismatic, and I think my wife and I might be the only ‘pre late Melanchthon’ Lutherans, having moved to this specifically because of Calvin’s ‘THIRD USE’ position.

    We are very puzzled to read that Luther and Calvin differed on ‘predestination, REPROBATION, and PERSEVERANCE, but will be reading through the various weblinks you provided. Surely we are all reprobate until/unless saved, so double predestination is really terminological; and both sides surely agree on perseverance? (I am certainly unhappy with the prevailing notion that lack of ‘sufficient’ moral improvement must mean you are not a Christian – this puts as much un-grace-like pressure to perform as if you had to earn your salvation in the first place. (And it put me into hospital). Heb 6 is oft not read closely and therefore misinterpreted

    We have found Gerhard Forde immensely helpful on the SUPPER. Luther is known for his (correct) stand against Zwingli’s memorialism, but that is not to say he still espoused Roman transubstantiaton or even consubstantion. For him, surely, everything turned on the eyes of the spirit in faith, not on a sophist debate about accident/substance as if God was not actually present at the Table. For us, the issue is not a major one, but correct me if it is otherwise.

    Please pray for us in the UK, and send MISSIONARIES – we are a dry and desolate land, and sadly our best men come over to work in the US

    • Richard,

      I’m not sure if you’re commenting on the post or something else. I did not intend to communicate that there were such differences between Luther and Calvin but between the Reformed confession and the Lutheran confession. When the Reformed and Lutherans met at Montbeillard, when the discussion came to predestination, Beza stood up, held up his copy of De servo and said, “We stand with Luther.” That was the end of the discussion. They went on the next point. The historical truth, as I understand it, is that the confessional Lutherans abandoned Luther on reprobation (the second half of predestination) and perseverance. We stand together on unconditional election (so much so that C F W Walther had to spend years defending himself from the charge of being a crypto-Calvinist!), as far as I know and as much as that irritates the confessional Lutherans.

    • Dr Clark
      Thank you very much for that (and apologies if my comments were too broad in nature)

      I ‘confess’ I was not looking at the confessionals, but at the two original Magisters themselves. Looking at them

      1. I increasingly think Calvin’s THIRD USE does set him up against Luther’s Law v Gospel (UK evangelicals all follow Calvin)

      2. I am not quite clear whether you say there is a real (non-terminological) difference between the two on REPROBATION, and on

      3. PERSEVERANCE (some in the Reformed camp here start to undermine assurance not by denying but by qualifying perseverance)

      What worries me a lot, over here, is apparent wide-spread agreement on unconditional election but which is then undermined by preaching a legalistic/neonomian/Galatian/’arminian’/free will/synergistic sanctification morass (if lumping that lot together can make sense). Luther, Calvin AND Beza would all be horrified!

    • Richard,

      1. I’m convinced that Luther taught the substance of the third use. I don’t think it explains him well at all to say that Calvin taught it but he didn’t. Calvin didn’t see any tension between his view of the moral law and Luther’s. Remember, Luther had to battle antinomianism in the 20s already. See his exposition of the law in the Large Catechism. It’s not much different from the Reformed or Calvin’s.

      2. Confessional Lutheranism rejects the doctrine of reprobation and perseverance. The Reformed affirm both. The classic Reformed account of both is the Canons of Dort.

      3. My experience of British evangelicalism was rather different but I get the sense that things have changed quite a bit. Our first congregation was in what is now the EPCEW and then, when that folded, we went to St Ebbes in Oxford where the rector was David Fletcher and he was marvelous.

      4. In your addendum, I’m not sure what #3 means. I think Luther and Calvin taught substantially the same doctrine of law and gospel. Calvin was not conscious of any great difference.

    • Dr Clark

      I think we’ve boiled the problem down to your paras 1 and 4, and I’ll endeavour to reply in the next day or so (I dare say Calvin thought he was agreeing with Luther but I am not sure that Gerhard Forde or Steve Paulson would agree)

      I know St Ebbe’s and also David’s brother Jonathan. I fear things have moved away from the gospel warmth that you saw in David

    • Addendum

      rereading your kind reply, I think my point is that

      1. Current UK Reformed preaching does not match Calvin and subsequent Reformed ‘confessions’

      2. Modern Lutheran expositions in the US that I have come across seem much closer to Luther (and therefore paradoxically to Calvin) than ever is UK evangelicalism or of course Lutheran confessions

      3. But there does remain a Luther/Calvin Law/Gospel difference, and Calvin’s third use has given rise to the sorry state of UK evangelicalism

    • Hi Richard,

      I think Dr. Clark is right that Luther taught the third use of the law. See this book from CPH for some of the research on that:

      http://www.cph.org/p-19257-friends-of-the-law-luthers-use-of-the-law-for-the-christian-life.aspx?SearchTerm=friends%20of%20the%20law

      However, there might be a difference in our “third use” doctrines that Dr. Clark may be able to clear up for us. When Lutherans talk about the third use of the law, they mean that the Holy Spirit uses the law. I think we ought to be clear about that, because in reading some Reformed people (not necessarily Dr. Clark, but maybe?) it seems like they believe that the preacher is the one who “uses” the law. Any help on this Dr. Clark?

    • Well, as I understand it at, when the minister reads the law, it’s the Word of God that the Spirit uses to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes we read it intentionally to aim it at unbelief, in the elenctic use (the numbering varies) and sometimes, in the liturgy, we read it in the third use, intending it to be the moral norm of believers.

      Nevertheless, we recognize that when the law and gospel are read and preached the Spirit uses that Word in multiple ways simultaneously. To the believer it is never condemning. For the unbeliever setting aside the civil use, it is never anything but a condemnation. For the believer, the law is only now a norm for life, which, even in that use teaches us our sinfulness and drives us back to Christ and his grace.

    • Dr Clark (and ref Nate’s post of 21.38)

      Some nuances are emerging which might be helpful, and I think the distinction between the Holy Spirit using the Law, and the preacher using it wrongly, might lie at the heart of it

      A. The Law is taught to the believer to teach him about his God. He knows the Gospel and wants to learn the Law as a picture of his God – Gospel followed by Law

      B. Law and Gospel together are preached to the (complacent) believer to remind him about his God in a way that calls forth more life and love, but will not condemn again (lest we ‘crucify the Son of God all over again’ – Heb 6). This is the hardest job facing the preacher

      C. Law is preached to the unbeliever and it condemns him. (and we must immediately continue on to the gospel – Law followed by Gospel).

      D. Law is explained persuasively to the civic authorities for civil use

      In those terms, I think Luther and Calvin would agree and I think we can too.

      I also suggest Paul was primarily engaged in A. He reminds his listeners and then tells them about their God. However we tend to see our job as primarily B. Since the congregation are believers we use the techniques of A – we use Gospel (glossing quickly because they know it) followed by the Law (at length because they are resisting it). The net effect is that we have preached the condemnatory half of C.

      This is of course counter-productive, especially when spread out over several weeks such that they have forgotten the early ‘gospel’ part of the epistle by the time they get to the later ‘commands’.

      Phrases like ‘moral norm’ or ‘being what you are’, or ‘surely you want to show your gratitude’, or more crassly ‘you ought to be grateful’ also all worry me. They sound like A but in practice can be a form of C. Calvin’s Third use is so often taken like this, often evident in the use of tenses – Jesus/the Holy Spirit has, so you will – rather than the Holy Spirit/Jesus for both.

      I call this ‘Gollum Theology’ after the little critter who coveted the ring but denied doing so. We can be ‘legalistic’ until challenged, and then back off with reassuring gospel noises till next time

      The Anglican church here is still so imbued with its catholic origins that its liturgy, and the parallel sermons, give the impression that we have almost certainly apostasied in the course of the week and need to start again. I can’t help but think this is a form of narcissistic mock humility consistent with Heb 6 v 6b. (Fortunately, in my view, v 8 is not about apostasy and final judgment; it is about a refining fire – but when you have lived through one, it feels very like a final judgment)

  12. Steve Martin wrote: “The gospel is pure gift, from God, “Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake”.”

    GW: Agreed that the gospel is a pure gift from God (Divine monergism). The only caveat I would add is that God in Scripture reveals the gospel in doctrinal, propositional form. I.E., Christ died for our sins (atonement) and rose again for our justification (1 Cor. 15:3-4, Rom. 4:23-25, etc.). The gospel is God-given doctrinal truth (proclaimed in the Word, read and preached, and symbolized/ signified in the Sacraments). While the crowning element of justifying faith is the fiduciary element of personal trust in Christ, justifying faith also involves knowledge of and assent to basic gospel doctrine (Rom. 10:9, for example). The church’s doctrinal formulations of Divinely-revealed doctrine may be mixed with error and impurities, but this does not mean that we can dichotomize gospel and doctrine.

  13. Dr. Clark,

    Yes confessional Lutherans are meanies of grace. But salvation by grace through faith is so vital to understand for our continued faith. To compromise how this gift is given in such an obvious way can be troubling to the hurting soul.

    In the valley hours and days we need strong and sure evidence of our standing with God. These gifts come to us through the Sacraments and the distinctions are most important.

    One may object that we have faith and that faith will point us to Christ. The Reformed Confession will point to the promise the means of grace delivers and cast doubt on it using spiritual terms. When a person is in a faith crisis it does absolutely no good to point him to his faith. That is the crisis point.

    Can you confess, Dr. Clark, strongly and unambiguously that one is saved by Christ resurrection through Baptism. And can you confess in the same manner due to the words of Jesus one receives the gift of the forgiveness of sin in the Supper of Our Lord?

    Great conversations here.

    You are in God’s peace. †

    • David,

      The most frustrating thing about Reformed/Lutheran conversation is that it always comes down to one thing: the problem with the Reformed is that they chose to express many of the same truths in a different way therefore they are ipso facto wrong. What Lutheran confessionalists too often defend, ultimately, is not the substance of the truths of the Reformation but idiosyncratic, reactionary positions carved out for historical reasons and defended to the death since 1577.

      I think I understand what the Lutheran confessions are trying to say, on their own terms, and I think some here seek genuinely to understand what the Reformed are trying to say, in their own way, but some seem unable or unwilling.

      What you ascribe to baptism, David, we ascribe to faith. The Reformation was interested in sola fide not sola baptsma. The reality that both confessions/traditions experience is that baptized persons fall away. How should we account for that reality. Lutheran confessionalists (since 1577) say that grace is resistible. We say, however, that those who fall away were only ever externally related to the covenant of grace, that they were never in union with Christ.

      The Lutheran confessional position creates uncertainty (“might I fall away?”) that is masked blessedly by the law/gospel distinction and gospel preaching. Have Reformed folk stopped looking at the promises and Christ and turned to introspection? Sure! Have Lutherans turned to sacerdotalism? Sure.

      You should, however, try to read the Reformed confession on its own terms. That’s the charitable thing to do and we confess that assurance is found not by introspection but but in the objective promises of the gospel, which are manifested (made visible) in the sacraments. That’s our confession. You may think that we do not have a sufficiently objective view of baptism but we think you’re view of baptism is quasi-sacerdotal. So there you have it.

    • “The Lutheran confessional position creates uncertainty (“might I fall away?”) that is masked blessedly by the law/gospel distinction and gospel preaching.”

      I think this is very accurate, and not just on perseverance in itself. Objective, or universal, justification is another of the Lutheran doctrines (which rarely gets an airing) that tends to create an uncertainty which is, as you put it, blessedly masked. I remember having a discussion with a Lutheran friend about objective justification which resulted in an afternoon of total distraction trying to work out how I could know that I was actually a believer. Then I looked back at the gospel promises and my baptism and was assured.

      Lutherans don’t like to talk about it, for obvious reasons, but if I were in their shoes I’d ditch it altogether.

    • Dr. Clark,

      We could go around and around on this, and never get anywhere. And that is why I have my doubts that Reformed people are serious about reading Lutheranism charitably.

      I said it over at my blog, and I’ll say it here: God gives the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Baptism. That gift is received by faith. You may not like it, but that was Luther’s confession and that is our confession. I have yet to see a Reformed person read that position charitably.

      The Lutheran doctrine of apostasy creates doubt? Huh? Which Lutheranism are we talking about? In the realm of shockingly bad descriptions of another confession, that is up there. I have yet to see a Reformed person read that doctrine charitably either.

      If all we mean by “perseverance” is that the elect will be saved, we’re there. If we mean by it that the person who truly has faith can never fall away, we demur. That was Luther’s confession, and that is our confession, and it need not create doubt.

  14. Nate,

    Why is it wrong to say “In baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation” rather than to say, as you do, “God gives the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Baptism.”

    You don’t say, do you, “The preaching of the gospel God gives the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Baptism”?

    We say that God uses the preaching of the gospel to create new life (regeneration) and to create faith and through faith he gives the benefits of Christ.

    Baptism is the visible gospel, it announces the good news, what Christ does for all who believe.

    Is it better if I say, the Lutheran doctrine of resistible grace should create doubt. If grace is resistible, and if we’re fallen and bent toward sin and apostasy, then how can one not doubt? How could one ever be certain that one will not fall away?

    I understand that confessional Lutherans don’t like to think of it this way but why is it wrong to think of this way?

    I agree that the elect will be saved, but does confessional Lutheranism really say this? The elect are elect unconditionally but does Lutheranism say that the unconditionally elect cannot fall away? If so, then Lutherans don’t really confess resistible grace? If so, why were the confessional Lutherans so critical of the Synod of Dort—which was convented principally to preserve the gospel of justification sola gratia, sola fide.

    I’m not looking for a fight. I’m looking for a calm, reasoned explanation.

    • Thanks Dr. Clark, I appreciate this. I’m not sure we’ll be able to get anywhere, but I’ll try to explain the best I’m able.

      Sure, we could say that forgiveness, life and salvation are promised in Baptism, but Luther goes further than that in the Small Catechism, and we follow suit. Incidentally, we stand with all the Fathers on this as well. And the Nicene Creed, “one Baptism for the remission of sins.” The gift is given in Baptism, and received through faith. I realize that it sounds shocking to Reformed ears, but there it is. “Come and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins…,” “rise up [Paul] and wash away your sins…,” etc.

      I don’t see why we wouldn’t say that God gives the forgiveness of sins through preaching. The Spirit and the Word are joined, inseparably, so when the Word goes out the Spirit is with it. Yes, it is possible to resist this. How is that possible? I don’t know, but it is. When my pastor preaches, “your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake,” I believe it.

      I think it would be better to say that for a Reformed person, the Lutheran doctrine of apostasy seems like it should create doubt. Doubt is the opposite of faith, and we are constantly receiving the forgiveness of our sins, which creates faith. Could I fall away, hypothetically (since I’m not contemplating doing so)? Sure I could. I could walk away from it all and say “to heck with it.” But you could too. Anyone could. The reason that doesn’t create doubt for a Lutheran is that our confidence isn’t in our ability or inability to fall away (that would be trusting in ourselves), our confidence is in the forgiveness of our sins in Christ (which, for us, happens all the time). Forgive me, but I think this is simply an instance of a Reformed a priori (that apostasy must create doubt).

      Yes, confessional Lutheranism agrees that the unconditionally elect will be saved. We confess resistable grace, but grace is also (in a sense) irresistable. We don’t cooperate with grace in conversion, and when someone perseveres to the end God gets all the credit. We confess divine monergism. I’m not familiar with all the Lutheran literature on the Synod of Dort, but I’d hazard a guess that they didn’t like headings 2 and 5. Heading 5 contradicts Article XII of the Augustana, and heading 2 contradicts Article III.

      Hope that helps.

  15. David Cochrane wrote: “One may object that we have faith and that faith will point us to Christ. The Reformed Confession will point to the promise the means of grace delivers and cast doubt on it using spiritual terms. When a person is in a faith crisis it does absolutely no good to point him to his faith. That is the crisis point.”

    GW: The Reformed Confession, properly conceived, does not point the believer having a faith-crisis to his own faith for comfort and assurance. On the contrary, it points him to Christ, the Faithful One. We Reformed don’t preach “faith in faith.” While our sense of assurance of salvation can be deepened and strengthened as we discern the work and fruits of the Spirit in our lives, our foundational assurance comes by looking to Christ as revealed in Word and sacrament (i.e., it is objective and focused on Christ and His saving work). We Reformed confess that saving faith is “extraspective” — it looks outside of itself to Christ alone — not introspective (though admittedly some Reformed and Puritan were overly-introspective in their preaching and writing).

    As the rebellious children of Israel who had been bitten by poisonous snakes were healed simply by looking at the bronze serpent erected by Moses, so any sinner who by grace looks with the eyes of faith to Christ crucified and risen as their only hope of salvation is immediately justified and saved from the moment they first believe the gospel message (Jn. 3:14-16); and this is true of sinners who hear and believe the gospel even before they receive holy baptism (just as Abraham was justified by faith alone in the bare promise of God even before he received the old covenant sacrament of circumcision – Rom. 4:9-12).

    • I don’t mean to butt in, but what about the Canons of Dort, First Head, Article 12?

      The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as, a true faith in Christ filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.

      “By observing in themselves faith in Christ…” seems pretty clear, but maybe there is a different explanation?

    • Geoff Willour

      “The Reformed Confession, properly conceived, does not point the believer having a faith-crisis to his own faith for comfort and assurance.”

      Indeed I would never charge them with that teaching. However, that is the result due to its giving the promise of salvation in the Sacraments but then taking it away by saying it is received by faith. So one is left with the question of whether the faith is correct, deep enough or even valid.

      Trying not to appear popish it was written to bypass the abuses of that system. In taking care to contrast with Rome they remove the clear promise that Baptism is God placing his name, adopting, the sinful wretch.

      Indeed we are also saved by preaching of the Gospel. We are saved through the waters of baptism which is the Gospel preached connected with water. We are saved by the words of Jesus in the Supper of his which is the Gospel connected with bread and wine.

      Our wonderful Lord keeps on gifting us with the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation!

      God’s peace is with you.†

  16. Nate,

    As you say, we’ve been round this pole. Once more for clarity. The Canons, in particular, we’re written ad hoc to address a particular set of questions, not as a comprehensive account of the Reformed faith. Nevertheless, the Canons, if read as intended point us first of all Christ and his promises as the objective ground of assurance.

    The Reformed theologians and confessions, do, however, also say that Christians may secondarily find encouragement by considering Spirit-wrought sanctity evidence of faith.

    This may be a place where you and I must agree to disagree. I’m not sure that the two traditions are at odds in the way you suggest, however. I suspect that I could find language similar to Heidelberg 86 in Luther and other writers.

    86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should we do good works?

    Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image, that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing,1 and also that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.

    Question 86, however comes 85 questions after #1 and the many other places where we are first directed to Christ and his promises. The same is true of the Belgic and the Canons.

    Nevertheless, we do believe that the Holy Spirit does work in us and that we can perceive the consequences of his working and be encouraged that when we say, “I believe” it is not a lie.

    It’s not a subtle or crafty sacramentarian trick to suggest that there is more unity on this than you say. I take my cue from Paul Althaus’ The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 272 (see the footnotes) where he suggests that there is more continuity between Luther and the HC than is sometimes acknowledged. He was addressing the location of the decalogue in the HC but I think that continuity can be found elsewhere.

    Which subjectivist sacramentarian wrote the following words?

    Wherefore let every man so practice with himself, that his conscience may be fully assured that he is under grace, and that his person and his works do please God. And if he feel in himself any wavering or doubting, let him exercise his faith and wrestle against this doubting, and let him labor to attain more strength and assurance of faith, so that he may be able to say: I know that I am accepted, and that I have the Holy Ghost; not for mine own worthiness, my work, my merit, but for Christ’s sake, who for our sakes made himself thrall and subject to the law, and took away the sins of the world. In him do I believe. If I be a sinner and err, he is righteous and cannot err. Moreover, I gladly hear, read, sing and write of him, and I desire nothing more than that his Gospel may be known to the whole world, and that many may be converted unto him.

    These things do plainly witness that the Holy Ghost is present [with us and in us]. For such things are not wrought in the heart by man’s strength, nor gotten by man’s industry or travail, but are obtained by Christ alone, who first maketh us righteous by the knowledge of himself, and afterwards he createth a clean heart in us, bringeth forth new motions, and giveth unto us that assurance whereby we are persuaded that we please the Father for his sake. Also he giveth us a true judgment whereby we prove and try those things which before we knew not, or else altogether despised. It behoveth us therefore to wrestle against this doubting, that we may daily overcome more and more, and attain to a full persuasion and certainty of God’s favor towards us, rooting out of our hearts this cursed opinion (that a man ought to doubt of the grace and favor of God), which hath infected the whole world. For if we be not sure that we are in grace, and that we please God for Christ’s sake, then we deny that Christ hath redeemed us, we utterly deny all his benefits. Ye that are young, can easily lay hold on the doctrine of the Gospel and shun that pestilent opinion, wherewith ye have not yet been infected.

    Paul might have said: God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, calling, ‘Abba Father.’ He saith not so but crying, ‘Abba Father,’ that he might shew and set forth the temptation of a Christian which yet is but weak and weakly believeth. In the eighth to the Romans, he calleth this crying an unspeakable groaning. ‘Likewise,’ he saith, ‘the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: for we know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with unspeakable groanings,’ etc.

    And this is a singular consolation, when he saith that the Spirit of Christ is sent into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba Father’; and again, that he helpeth our infirmities, making intercession for us with unspeakable groanings. He that could assuredly believe this, should never be overcome with any affliction, were it never so great. But there are many things that hinder this faith in us. First, our heart is born in sin; moreover this evil is naturally grafted in us, that we doubt of the good will of God towards us, and cannot assure ourselves that we please God, etc. Besides all this, the devil our adversary rangeth about with terrible roarings, and saith: Thou art a sinner; therefore God is angry with thee, and will destroy thee for ever. Against these horrible and intolerable cries, we have nothing whereupon to hold and stay ourselves, but the bare Word which setteth Christ before us as a conqueror over sin and death, and over all evils. But to cleave fast to the Word in this temptation and these terrors of conscience, herein standeth all the difficulty. For then Christ appeareth to no sense. We see him not: the heart feeleth not his presence or succor in temptation: but rather it seemeth that he is angry with us, and that he forsaketh us. Moreover, a man in temptation feeleth the power of sin, the weakness of the flesh, and wavering of the mind; he feeleth the fiery darts of the devil, the terrors of death, the anger and judgment of God. All these things cry out horribly against us, so that we see nothing else but desperation and eternal death. But yet in the midst of these terrors of the law, thunderings of sin, assaults of death, and roarings of the devil, the Holy Ghost (saith Paul) crieth in our hearts, ‘Abba, Father.’ And this cry far surmounteth the horrible cries of the law, sin, death, the devil etc.; it pierceth the clouds and the heavens, and ascendeth up into the ears of God.

    Paul signifieth therefore by these words, that there is yet infirmity in the godly; as he doth also in the eighth chapter to the Romans, when he saith: ‘The Spirit helpeth our infirmities.’ Forasmuch therefore as the sense and feeling of the contrary is strong in us; that is to say, forasmuch as we feel more the displeasure of God, than his goodwill and favor towards us: therefore the Holy Ghost is sent into our hearts, which doth not only sigh and request for us, but mightily crieth, ‘Abba Father!’ and prayeth for us according to the will of God with [tears and] unspeakable groanings. And how is this done? When we are in terrors and in the conflict of conscience, we take hold of Christ, and believe that he is our savior; but then do the law and sin terrify and torment us most of all. Moreover, the devil assaileth us with all his engines and fiery darts, and goeth about with all his power to take away Christ and all consolations from us. Here we feel ourselves almost gone, and at the point of desperation: for then are we that bruised reed and smoking flax. Notwithstanding, in the mean season, the Holy Ghost helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with unspeakable groanings, and certifieth our spirits that we are the children of God. Thus is the mind raised up in those terrors; it 1ooketh unto his Savior and high Bishop, Jesus Christ; it overcometh the infirmity of the flesh; it conceiveth comfort again, and saith, ‘Abba Father.’ This groaning, which then we scantily feel, Paul calleth a crying and unspeakable groaning, which filleth both heaven and earth. Moreover, he calleth it the crying and groaning of the Spirit, because the Holy Ghost stirreth up the same in our hearts when we are weak and oppressed with temptation and terror.

    Why that subjectivist was Martin Luther (from the 1531 lectures/commentary on Galatians). Here we see him talking about the inner life of the believer and the Spirit’s work in the believer as an encouragement to the believer. The Reformed read widely in Luther and were deeply influenced by him and took their cues on these sorts of things from him. Remember, Ursinus was Melanchthon’s student for something like 7 years. Olevianus was deeply read in Luther and their works make allusions to and quotations of Luther much more frequently than we might expect today.

    • Hi Dr. Clark,

      I see nothing in Lither’s quote that is objectionable, especially coming from his theological framework where 1. Baptism saves; 2. The atonement is universal (nicely taught even in this quote, I might add); and 3. Apostasy is possible.

      By the way, our confessions and our hymnal also teach that good works are evidence of faith.

      But that is completely different from the theological necessity to discern one’s own faith created by CD 2 and 5. It’s all about Luther’s “for you.”

      Also, the elephant in the room is that the majority of modern Reformed churches are with Edwards more than Ursinus. And he’s not going away any time soon. I realize you’ve done good work to combat this, Dr. Clark, but it’s out there.

    • Nate,

      Exactly, I don’t the Reformed appeal to the ongoing work of the Spirit materially different from what Luther wrote.

      As to subjectivists, You do realize don’t you, that formally Pietism has its roots in the Lutheran tradition?

      So, both of our traditions have their lsubjectivist elements.

    • Dr Clark – yours of 2.42 pm – “I don’t see the Reformed appeal to the ongoing work of the Spirit materially different from what Luther wrote”

      Sadly, among evangelicals in England, the appeal to the ongoing work of the Spirit is now perilously distorted by adding footnotes including
      1) at best a synergistic view (with Phil 2.12 interpreted accordingly)
      2) more often, a call to action in one’s own strength that is somehow made holy by using ‘not my strength but his’ as a mantra, or even
      3) ‘an action makes a habit, makes a character, makes a destiny’

      One famous Brit used to say (echoing a Puritan) ‘the Law sends us to Christ and Christ sends us back to the Law’ (unhelpful at best)

      But I am open to persuasion that this is not what Calvin would have meant or wanted

    • Richard,

      I don’t quite know what that expression, “Christ sends us back to the law” means. It’s certainly not true re justification. The moral law is unquestionably the fixed moral norm for the Christian life, but it cannot justify and it was never intended to justify.

    • Dr Clark, thanks

      I too do not know what is really meant/intended by ‘Christ sends us back to the Law’ (C2L) and I prefer evangelicals not to use it!! Its ambiguity worries me – in the arena of sanctification

      I agree nobody can rightly advocate C2L for justification, and I also totally agree that the lex Christi is the moral ideal/telos (I prefer that to ‘norm’ which again rather assumes we can reach it). To deny a moral ideal/telos is to be antinomian.

      The problem for me is that C2L takes our eyes off Christ and focuses us on his law. Jer 31 moves subtly from ‘I will myself write my law on their hearts (that obedience will flow naturally out of relational love)’ to ‘I will make my law very clear to them so they can go out and obey it, not to win my love but to prove their love to me’. It becomes a Martha operation not a Mary one with, incidentally, the same potential for griping that Martha displays.

      C2L then becomes the Galatian heresy – which I do not believe is solely about justification, but initially about sanctification but such that a wrong approach to sanctification could undermine our justification – were that possible (I totally agree with perseverance of the saints without which there is no lasting assurance)

      Dare one say it, obedience to the law becomes an idol, in the same way that focusing on God’s good gifts rather than seeing them as pointers to the Giver is also idolatrous. Obedience to the law needs to be more dynamic/holistic; indeed I suspect our unconscious obedience is more pleasing to God than is our self-conscious obedience.

      In a useful book in which Gerhard Forde replies to Sinclair Ferguson’s Reformed view, Forde affirms Ferguson’s description of the sanctified state (holiness if you will), but he disagrees with Ferguson’s method for achieving it. Forde says preaching the law to arouse a guilty conscience in believers effectively re-establishes in them some of the old man that was crucified with Christ.

      Sadly too many English evangelicals do that (Scotland, Wales and N Ireland are all much sounder). Certainly they preach a solid sola fide but, to avoid ‘grace abuse’, they then preach the Law. As I said in other post here, if that were to educate believers about their God, that would be fine, but it slides into something more ominous, which at best simply confuses the believer with inconsistencies from one sermon to the next (‘must I ink in the salvation that God has pencilled in for me?’ – see also chap 1 in CS Lewis’ ‘Pilgrim’s Regress’), or at worst tells him that, if he is not showing sufficient moral improvement, then he may well not be a believer. (nb this maintains a lip service acknowledgement to perseverance of the saints)

      This stress on moral improvement engenders an enormous psychological pressure to perform akin to Islamic obedience, and makes the NT covenant harder to bear than the OT one.

      In my view, it all depends on whether we can trust the Holy Spirit to fulfil the Jer 31 promise, or whether we feel we need to assist him to do so. One’s reading of Phil 2 v12 is very indicative

    • Addendum

      Gerhard Forde also says that sanctification is getting used to our justification. Simplistic maybe, but insightful

    • I take it that, even if “Baptism saves” and “Apostasy is possible”, Luther would not have meant either of these to be taken as reasons for undermining faith, as they often are?

      The (conservative) Reformed churches here in England, UK would sadly give only lip service to your Jonathan Edwards. For them the fight of faith is to overcome your affections – with cold showers if necessary. (This is probably what the British are best known for!)

    • There’s a crucial difference Dr. Clark. A Lutheran would never put the teaching on good works being the evidence of faith under the topic of predestination. Why is that?

      Yes, pietism came from Lutheranism. Sorry for that. But pietism is essentially a rejection of Lutheranism. Valentin Ernst Loescher showed that in the early 18th century. Can the same be said for the Reformed version? I realize you’re not Dr. Horton, but he seemed ambivalent about it a while back.

    • That we are capable of Apostasy, is one of the reasons that Luther was so strong on the sacraments.

      That we could have assurance based on an external Word, totally apart from anything that we say, or do, or feel, or think.

      Off to church.

      Thanks!

    • I think I am behind the loop on ‘Luther and apostasy’

      Reading Gerhard Forde recently, I understood Luther’s emphasis on the Supper to be a reminder that God’s promise was not just for everyone with faith, but for you personally in your faith. It increased faith; it did not rescue from apostasy

      Have I missed something here?

    • Steve

      Can you please enlighten me?

      Where does Luther set out the possibility of apostasy of believers (real not nominal of course)?

      What passages/texts did he derive this from?

  17. Dr Clark,

    Thank you again for the kind response.

    “What you ascribe to baptism, David, we ascribe to faith. The Reformation was interested in sola fide not sola baptsma.”

    That is where a real disconnect happens. One does not have a means of grace here and faith located elsewhere. Faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows Jesus has located the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism. John 3:5-6 as being born of water and Spirit. Peter shows the gift of the forgiveness of the Holy Spirit in baptism. Acts 2:38-39 Paul shows baptism as the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Faith, trust in the promises of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for salvation is most definately key. For without faith one is not receiving the fruit of the cross and we are justified by faith.

    Faith also comes by hearing the words of Jesus. Yes faithful preaching will create faith. The Holy Spirit wields the sword of the word of God. It is not the eloquence, faith or anything else of the preacher. We do not say Pastor X saved my by his wonderful preaching. The wonderful preaching brought the word of Christ to the ears and people believe. Do all people believe? Sadly no. Do all who confess Jesus remain in the faith? Tragically no. Were they ever really saved? They thought they were. We thought they were and Romans 10:9-10 says they were. That is the mystery of apostasy. Not at all can we doubt the person was truly saved. If that is done how do we determine we are really saved? Hence the gifts of the Supper of our Lord and the doctrine not of I was baptized. It is I am baptized. Trusting the promises connected to those gifts by Jesus words.

    “You should, however, try to read the Reformed confession on its own terms. That’s the charitable thing to do and we confess that assurance is found not by introspection but but in the objective promises of the gospel, which are manifested (made visible) in the sacraments. That’s our confession.”

    I was raised in Calvinism. Starting with the Baptist Confession. I wanted to be a preacher so I began to be consumed by a study of church history. Then I was convinced, by the study of patristics, of infant baptism so I dug in deep to the Westminster Standards. Due to life changes I became Dutch Reformed and was consumed in the study of the three forms of unity. Another life change and a Lutheran church was the only one available that was the least bit tolerable so there I went and proceeded to be consumed by study the Book of Concord. I have also studied the Catholic Catechism, Confession of the Anglican Communion and Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Yes studying any confession on its own term is charitable and the only way to fly. By the way. I love these discussions. My intention is not to convince anyone of anything. But I do find it refreshing to find believers who work to be the most consistent Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic etc.

    God’s peace is with you. †

    • Steve,

      Of course the reformed churches confess the “do use of ordinary means.” We are fully committed to the notion that word and sacraments must always be connected. To divorce the two is to lead either to rationalism or fanaticism.

      There is, however, a material difference between the Spirit using the preaching of the Gospel as the means of grace Whereby new life Is granted and to claim that the spirit uses baptism to do the same.

      In our confession baptism is called the sign of initiation into the covenant community. The Lord’s supper is called the sign of nutrition or renewal of the covenant of grace.

      Baptism is not the sign to which the Spirit has clearly or unambiguously attached the promise of conferring new life.

      To be sure, holy Scripture often connects new life and the other benefits of Christ closely to the sacrament of baptism. In literary terms this is a synecdoche, apart for the whole.

      That however is in the nature of a Sacrament. It is our job not to confuse the sign for the thing signified. This is exactly what the Judaizers did in the New Testament. In the past when I have asked you how circumcision differs from baptism you haven’t really addressed the question.

      It seems to me that what you say about baptism is not terribly different from the claims the Judaizers made about circumcision and which the apostle Paul categorically rejected in Galatians.

      Can you say exactly how baptism differs from circumcision so that you’re not doing the same thing in baptism that the Judaizers did with circumcision?

    • The Judaizers? Really?

      Have we forgotten that the Judaizers were telling Gentile CHRISTIANS that they needed to be circumcised and follow the other ceremonial laws in order to be saved? How is that anywhere near saying that Baptism gives the remission of sins? The Apostles clearly, unambiguously, taught the latter.

      I don’t see a single instance in Scripture where anyone says that the problem with the Judaizers was that they confused the sign and the thing signified.

      If we’re Judaizers, so were the Holy Fathers gathered at Nicaea. “One Baptism for the remission of sins.” So were the Apostolic Fathers.

    • I’m going to steer clear of the baptism issue but, on Galatians…

      were they really guilty of a false view of justification, ….or a false view of sanctification that was ‘confusing’ them (1 v7)*…

      but which was so serious that ‘were it possible’ (3 v4b – alternative interpretation) could lose them their salvation

      * Peter’s error (2 v11) was clearly not that he was trying to get saved, but surely that he was beginning to go back under the law in order to achieve the ‘goal’ of finishing the race. So too for the Galatians who had started with the Spirit (3 v3) – nobody seemed to contest that, not necessarily even the judaisers who were themselves muddle-headed believers.

      I know this is not the majority view

    • Nate,

      What I mean is that it seems judaizing to conflate the thing signified (Christ and salvation) with the sign itself. Isn’t that part of what the Judaizers did?

      Baptism is only a sign. It isn’t the thing itself or every circumcised person would have had what it signified but they didn’t. Thus, I take it that sacraments don’t work that way. I don’t see that the new covenant sacraments are fundamentally different in that regard.

      If Judaizing doesn’t help explain my concern, what about the “New Perspectives”? If Baptism per se saves, so long as we don’t resist, then how is it not essentially “in by [baptismal] grace, stay in by not resisting”? Isn’t this a soft form of NPP?

    • RS Clark,

      “Baptism now saves you”

      In Baptism we “receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.”

      Paul says in Romans 6 that we were “put to death in Baptism, and raised anew in it” (paraphrased).

      “Those of you who were baptized have put on Christ”

      Paul was a smart guy. He knew the language of symbolism, and he doesn’t use it.

    • Richard,

      Us Lutheran types believe that justification and sanctification are two sides of the same coin.

      They (the Galatians) were guilty of both. St. Paul didn’t say to them, “now please let Christ be the One to complete in you the work that He started, otherwise it will set you back in your sanctification”…

      but rather he said to them, “You want to play this game? Then you sever yourself from Christ?

    • Steve

      Thank you. I totally agree and apologies if I implied otherwise. Yes,

      your 1. Yes, justification and sanctification are indivisible

      your 2. If I meant anything it was ‘let Christ complete his work in you, otherwise it will undo your very justification (were that possible)

      your 3. Yes, ‘so sever yourself from the Law’. Incidentally most evangelicals over here don’t see the Galatian heresy as ‘dangerous additions to the gospel’; they see it as dangerous additions to the Law (ie drinking and dancing should not be condemned). They are very happy with the Law!

    • Thanks, Richard. I very much appreciate your comments.

      The radical nature of the Reformation understanding of Christ alone, is not too popular…anywhere.

      If God is not going to be merciful to sinners…then we are all in big trouble.

  18. I just got home from work, so please forgive me jumping in again…late.

    I’ve only had time to scan some of the comments.

    One thing that struck me was that some say Luther advanced a “third use of the law”. Actually, Luther never spoke of the “third use”.

    For a great many of us Lutherans, there is no “third use” of the law. It is for civil righteousness (as best is possible)…and it is to expose the sinner and show our willingness to skirt the law.

    Melancthon, who was more of a humanist and proponent of Aristotelian thought, was a “third use” guy. Luther…no.

    Asa good as the Lutheran Confessions are, they are NOT Holy Scripture. And were written at a time of some compromise. They are good. They could have been better, were not for some of the political hinderances of the day.

    Here’s the rule for Christians, “Christ is the end of the law, for all those who have faith.”

    The so-called guide is already contained in the first two uses. We know what to do. We just flat out refuse to do it.

    __

    This is from the Heidelberg Disputation:

    The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

    This is made clear by the Apostle in his letter to the Romans (3:21): »But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.« St. Augustine interprets this in his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ (De Spiritu et Littera): »Without the law, that is, without its support.« In Rom. 5:20 the Apostle states, »Law intervened, to increase the trespass«, and in Rom. 7:9 he adds, »But when the commandment came, sin revived.« For this reason he calls the law »a law of death« and »a law of sin« in Rom. 8:2. Indeed, in 2 Cor. 3:6 he says, »the written code kills«, which St. Augustine throughout his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ understands as applying to every law, even the holiest law of God.

    Many of us Lutherans are not shackled by the so-called “third use of the law”.

    • Exactly! (yours of 22.41)

      “The so-called guide is already contained in the first two uses. We know what to do. We just flat out refuse to do it.”

      To the unbeliever we should preach the gospel; to the believer….we should also preach the gospel. It is only the ‘expulsive power of the new affection’ that will melt our flat-out refusal.

      Pronomians (to avoid the pejorative term ‘legalists’) do not have a high view of the Law but in fact a low, diluted view. ‘Be ye perfect’ becomes ‘Try to be perfect’ becomes ‘Do your best’ becomes ‘Avoid major sins’ becomes ‘Confess them when you commit them’.

      As I understand it, Luther saw the Law (qua Law) as terrifying to both unbeliever and believer alike, and something we could only run from, though, as a Promise of what God will do, as unbelievably exciting – we would want nothing less from Him

  19. What I quoted above (in the Heidleberg D., is from the pen of Martin Luther.

    There are things that I do not agree with when it comes to Melancthon. And, as I said earlier, the Book of Concord could have been better, and it certainly is not Holy Scripture.

    “Christ is the end of the law…”

  20. Luther said many things at many different places along his faith journey. Many of which seem to be very ‘unLutheran’.

    I like this quote from Swedish theologian, Einar Billing:

    “Anyone who is but a little familiar with Luther knows that his different thoughts are not strung together like pearls in a necklace, united only by the bond of a common authority or perhaps by a chain of logical argument, but that they all lie close as the petals of a rose about a common centre, they shine out like the rays of the sun from one glowing source: the forgiveness of sins. We should be in no danger of misleading the would-be student of Luther, if we expressly gave him the rule: Never imagine you have rightly grasped a Lutheran idea until you have succeeded in reducing it to a simple corollary of the forgiveness of sins.”

    _

    Where Luther and Melancthon held up Christ alone, and His finished work on the Cross, we say ‘amen!’ Where they may have let the old Adam slip in now and then, we don’t put a lot of stock in those words.

  21. Here’s another one that reflects the very “Lutheran” principle that I was alluding to above:

    (by Luther):

    “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)

    • RubeRad,

      Although I didn’t have time to listen to the audio links you provided, I did go and read the comments made about those audio links.

      It seems to me the Lutheran side operates with a more ‘grace centered’ theology…and not from a biblicistict, wooden, reading of the texts.

      When one hears that ‘they are forgiven’ and they believe it. But then as they live and look at themselves and their actual behavior and maybe doubts start to creep in, there’s a great comfort if they can return to a concrete, tangible act, done by God (God is the One who baptizes, and who freely gives in the Supper) to them. Where they can return to over and over again…as the Jews returned to Shekum or Shiloh.

      This is why, we believe that the Lord commanded Baptism and His Supper. For assurance and freedom.

      If I wanted you to remember me and the promises I made to you, I could just ask that you do so, and hope that you are able to. Or I could give you something tangible, to hold onto, to keep with you…a special coin, a ring, or a card. And when you looked at that, or when you held it in your hand, you would be brought back to the promises that I made to you, and given comfort and assurance. This is how we Lutherans view the sacraments. God giving Himself, in ordinary earthen vessels, working his grace and faith in our lives, through these external means of grace.

    • Steve

      your ” ‘And when you looked at that, or when you held it in your hand, you would be brought back to the promises that I made to you, and given comfort and assurance’. This is how we Lutherans view the sacraments”.

      ‘ Brought back to the promises’ I would call this Zwinglian memorialism which Luther opposed but which English Reformed evangelicals advocate.

      Yes, faith is central to the Supper but surely it is question of whether it is more than memorialism

    • I can understand why people would want to believe an overrealized sacramentology, but when Lutherans argue for it, all I hear is wishful thinking.

      Your example of “a special coin, ring or card” is not helpful, since those would not have anything to do with the means of fulfilling the promise, but are arbitrary tokens to jog the memory. That leads to a memorial view which is in the wrong direction from Calvinism if you want to get to Lutheranism.

      As for biblicist, wooden, let’s take a look at Calvinist vs Lutheran interpretations of the prooftexts: “This is my body” and “this baptism now saves you”…

  22. Dr. Clark, (@ 9:46pm Dec 12)

    First, is this a question of what you think we actually teach? Or something you think we must or should teach?

    Second, I don’t see that critique of the Judaizers anywhere in the NT or in the post-Apostolic era (or really, anywhere in the Church until today). I also don’t see in the NT any indication that the Judaizers taught that circumcision conferred salvation. Am I missing something?

    I think there is a fundamental difference between Baptism and circumcision. I don’t see any promise of the forgiveness of sins attached to circumcision, whereas it is clearly attached to Baptism. Do the Reformed confessions have room for that fact? I seem to remember something in Calvin’s Institutes about the differences between Baptism and circumcision, but maybe I’m thinking of something else.

    The sacraments are objects of faith. See Luther’s Large Catechism on Baptism. “Faith needs something external to which it holds…” and “faith clings to the water, and believes that Baptism is pure life and salvation.” Does that help at all? It still seems like you’re assuming that if the sacraments save it must happen ex opere operato. See Walther’s Proper Distinction thesis 21 on this.

    Issues Etc. had N. T. Wright on the program last year. Did you catch it? Did it seem like they agreed? Again, are you asking what we actually teach, or what we must teach? All I can say is “in by grace, stay in by not resisting” is not an accurate description of our theology. It rests on an assumption (a priori) that there must be one single answer to the question “why are some saved and not others?” We don’t have one single answer to that question because it is actually two separate questions. Hope that helps.

  23. I thank all of you for such an exemplary discussion. Truly, it is refreshing to read such an exchange that is totally void of rancor and vitriol.

    In any case, I have been trying to counsel a dear brother who struggles horribly with morbid introspection. 1 John 2:3 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (NASB) is his verse of torment. I believe he has fallen into what may be rightly termed as pietism, but I don’t know enough of the history to be sure.

    The Lutheran case made here – that of tying assurance to absolute externals – this is attractive to me having tried 1,001 times to assure him that he is saved. I point out that he has believed Christ, and that he has desired to follow Him ever since. I highlight the changes in his life, and he simply finds more sins to focus upon.

    I fear I may have heightened his introspection at times, but then how do we interpret and apply Scripture like that which I quote above?

    Grace,
    JE

    • Justin, thank you for your encouragingly kind words about this post that I too have just joined. Two points if I may,

      1. There is of course a danger in pointing him to his belief since he will introspectively wonder whether he has believed enough/properly/sincerely. This replaces one introspection with another. Both, although seemingly humble, paradoxically involve a form of pride, since they are both ultimately based on what we have done. To avoid this DIY Messiah approach, we must live more lightly and ‘rejoice in our creaturely smallness’.

      2. Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, well respected in the UK, realised late in life that his early and published sermons on 1 John were wrong. He had taken the epistle to be prescriptive; in fact it is descriptive of what the believer will ultimately look like, and should engender excitement not fear. John wrote it to increase faith, saying also ‘he who says he is without sin..the truth is not in him’ (why descriptions are often set in the form of commands would need to spelt out in another post)

      3. To illustrate this, if we are told ‘dogs chase balls’ (believers do x), and we want to be a dog, we don’t simply run around chasing balls – for a human to do that is absurd. We go back to God and ask him to make us a dog.

      4. Similarly if we conclude our tree is devoid of fruit, we do not buy apples at Walmart and stick them on; ludicrous! We go back to God, abide in him, and he will bring the fruit.

      5. James’ comments on dead works are often used to encourage visible works but this is the Walmart option (we know that everything that is not of faith is sin). Instead we go back to God to plead for a more fruitful faith

      6. Keeping our eyes on Him is ‘easy’ compared with the necessary corollary of taking our eyes off ourselves! The latter is denying self. Fighting (usually simply repressing) sin is full of keeping one’s eyes on oneself. The fight of faith is to keep our eyes on him; this is how we subdue our members. To do otherwise is like Peter faltering on the water

      7. It is much more likely that when we get to heaven, Jesus will say ‘Why did you dear thing not take me at my word that it is all of me?’ than that he will say ‘I did not expect you to take me at my word quite so much, so literally!’

    • Justin,

      As you know from experience, if one turns first to the test of sanctity for assurance, it never arrives because sanctity is never sufficient.

      For my money the answer is not, as has been suggested, to make the sacraments an object of faith! Christ is the proper object of faith. What your friend must do is to stop looking at himself altogether. He is no proper object of faith. When he looks at himself all he will see is failure, sin, and death. He must trust Christ and his promises.

    • The first question is: What has Christ promised?
    • The second question is: Do I believe?
    • Notice I didn’t say “How much do I believe?” but rather “Do I believe?” This is a binary question. The answer is either yes or no. There is no other answer. If he isn’t sure then the reply is:

      Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand.

      In order to understand 1John, which has been described as a series of “tests of law,” which, properly understood, seems right. Nevertheless, it is common to take verses from 1John out of context. This might be true here. He needs to start with 1John 1:9:

      If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

      He must read 1John 2:1 in that context. Next, he (and we all!) must understand that John was dealing with a particular problem here, namely the denial of Christ’s true humanity. He hints at it in 1:1ff and makes it clearer as the epistle goes on (see 2:18ff). This doesn’t mean that 1John may not be applied by inference to other sins, it may, but we should be clear that 1John is addressing particular questions and sins.

      Second, as becomes clear when we compare 1John 1:9 with the verses that follow 2:1, John writes with a degree of hyperbole. He says in 1:9 “if anyone does sin” and then says in 2:5 “the love of God is perfect.” Well, which is it? Perfection or sin? It’s both. 2:12 says that our sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. Evidently we still sin. Thus, he doesn’t intend that we take the language of perfection in an absolute sense.

      The truth is between morbid introspection and arrogant presumption. He illustrates the pattern that he intends to communicate in chapter 3:fff. Notice how he relates “whoever makes a practice of sinning” (ESV) with “by this we know” or “by this it is evident” (hence the tests of life):

      Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and min him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who udoes not love his brother.

      11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that awe have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

      16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not ilove in word or talk but in deed and jin truth.

      1 John 3:19
        By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments bides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

      Notice that almost as soon as he gives a test, i.e., the particular that illustrates the general pattern, he gives us the gospel. Clearly we are to test ourselves but he knows that believers will see right away that they have not fulfilled the law as they ought and so we need the hope and encouragement that Christ has come, died, been raised for us and for our acceptance with God.

      I might also note that we do not see John appealing to baptism even once as relief, if you will, from the tests of life. He appeals to the gospel truth but never to baptism. This does not mean that baptism is not relevant to assurance, not at all, but it does counterbalance the way some of our friends in this discussion have used baptism as a rock of assurance in every instance and have rejected any and all introspection. Clearly John teaches that there are indicators of belief and unbelief. They are not subtle indicators. If someone is a murderer (whether with the tongue or the hands is not indicated but James speaks to this). They are rather obvious nevertheless, John wants us to make deductions from the obvious he does clearly use these as indicators as to whether one’s claim to believe has credibility. This is why Reformed churches often talk about a “credible profession of faith.”

      I hope this helps.

    • Brothers, thank you for your helpful responses. I do believe that the biblical response to morbid introspection is a clinging to Christ by faith. For my friend, he has prayed incessantly for a strong sense of fulfillment and peace in Christ, and has yet to find it. He has begun to wonder aloud if the Bible is not tricking him.

      I simply cannot imagine pointing him to baptism and communion as a primary means of assurance. Indeed, the gospel truths are held out as our hope and rock in time of struggle; but it is in trusting the living Christ as Himself in the flesh, at the right hand of the Father where we find our rest.

      The fruits will flow from abiding in Him, yes. Thanks for that Richard.

      Grace,
      JE

    • Dr. Clark,

      First of all, thank you for that excellent discussion of 1 John. Quite helpful indeed.

      Second, to trust in the gifts Jesus gave to His Church is to trust in Christ. To believe Jesus’ words “given and shed for you” in the Sacrament is to believe in Christ. To trust Jesus’ word “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is to trust in Christ. Now, if you know (again, a priori) that it must be either Christ or the sacraments, then there’s no use having this discussion. But if it is possible that Jesus distributes the salvation that He won for all on the cross here and now through means, well then, we may just have the Lutheran position. It’s a false dichotomy to separate Jesus from His gifts.

      Third, I know you don’t like this, but to say “do you believe?” is just as bad as the more crass version of “look at your progress in sanctification to know if you’re really a Christian.” Is the answer to “do I believe?” a revealed truth, or no? If so, how was it revealed to you? If not, why are we looking there for the answer to the question of our salvation? Why not simply say “Jesus won full, complete salvation for me on His cross. I am baptized into His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of all my sins.”

    • I agree that ‘do you believe’ invites further unhelpful introspection. Nor is belief binary at the subjective level: ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief’. But to switch to externals, especially the externals of the sacraments surely cannot help. Justin’s friend will doubt whether he is receiving the supper in faith or whether he is drinking condemnation onto himself.

      Belief in something personal to me (my inner belief or my outer receipt of the sacraments in faith) is, at the end of the day, belief in belief. It remains destructively ‘positive’. At one level, the subjective essence of gospel faith is surely negative – we simply, like Peter, have nowhere else to go. I am simply not good enough for the other religions.

      Put another way ‘I have simply tried and tried to do something to aid my salvation, but it simply has not worked and I am exhausted and fed up. Indeed I now give up. I gather Jesus died for pathetic people like this. That means he must have died for me. Well, I never would have believed it. That is indeed amazing grace’

      PS – If there is to be a necessary, sacramental element, I would need to ask – is baptism effective ex opera operato? In which case, Jesuits baptising Chinese rice Christians brought them into heaven. Or is baptism effective by virtue of the faith of the believer? If it is because of that faith, then why do we need the baptism as well, other than as a witness? That said, I am happy to remain a paedobaptist on the grounds that the one baptised can later reflect with awe that God’s promises were spoken over him at such an early stage. But baptism does not ‘achieve’ anything salvific

      I cannot help thinking that Luther, Paul and Jesus were talking about baptism in a very different way – baptism in the spirit (nothing experiental intended) to which water baptism was an earthly sign – I think we just get too caught up about the earthly stuff in the way that the Catholics get caught up about Mt 16, 18 (rock, keys etc). The earthly stuff is not relational stuff; it is simply not ‘coram deo’

    • I don’t know if your familiar with “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” but I’m near the end of the book and have found it extremely helpful on these matters. It would at least be a helpful discussion peace, if your brother in the Lord is willing to read books with you. I would also recommend Lutherans read it if they want to get an older Reformed perspective on many issues where they think we – the Reformed – must be rationalizing.

    • Well done for your ‘perseverance’! I found the Marrow hard going!

      Can you give us a couple pointers how the book would illuminate our thinking?

      thanks!

    • Hi Richard,

      If you’re looking for a theological “system” that is devoid of pangs of conscience, it doesn’t exist. The question, ultimately, is what the Scriptures say.

      The reason the sacraments provide assurance is that God has promised to forgive our sins through such outward, earthly things. To quote one of your countrymen, “God likes matter. He invented it.” You and I are embodied creatures, not ghosts in corpses. Hence it should not surprise us that our Creator uses such earthly physical things in dealing with us. All that is to say that when the Scriptures attach such great promises to outward, physical things we do well to bow the knee and go along with it. So the sacraments are only worthless in this matter if the forgiveness of sins is worthless.

      I’ve said several times that the sacraments do not save ex opere operato, please peruse my other comments on this thread. The gift is objectively given in the sacrament, and received through faith. Faith looks to the gift Jesus gives which, ultimately, unites that believer to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

      Luther certainly didn’t have in mind some disembodied “spiritual” baptism, and I’m convinced he was in lock-step with Paul on this matter (not to mention John, Peter, and the rest of the Church throughout Her ages).

      Dr. Clark,

      I see no indication that Jesus is asking this question as a manner of determining whether or not one is “in” and therefore can never fall away, as things go in the Reformed system. Look at how simple the whole thing is. He (standing right in front of her) tells her who He is, and she responds in faith. How is that similar to the way this question is asked in the Reformed context of attempting to gain personal assurance? My objection, again, is that it sends the believer inward in order to find salvation. Jesus certainly wasn’t doing any such thing.

      I have responded to this claim in your second paragraph as well, Dr. Clark, but I’ll give it another go. Luther simply does not accept such an artificial separation between justification by faith (which we affirm!) and baptism. Please see the Large Catechism starting here:

      Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3:5.

      But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?

      Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God’s ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.

      In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything.

      But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God’s (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.

      Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed.

      Thus we have these three parts which it is necessary to know concerning this Sacrament, especially that the ordinance of God is to be held in all honor, which alone would be sufficient, though it be an entirely external thing, like the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, which refers to bodily flesh and blood. Therein we regard not the flesh and blood, but the commandment of God in which they are comprehended, and on account of which the flesh is called father and mother; so also, though we had no more than these words, Go ye and baptize, etc., it would be necessary for us to accept and do it as the ordinance of God. Now there is here not only God’s commandment and injunction, but also the promise, on account of which it is still far more glorious than whatever else God has commanded and ordained, and is, in short, so full of consolation and grace that heaven and earth cannot comprehend it. But it requires skill to believe this, for the treasure is not wanting, but this is wanting that men apprehend it and hold it firmly.

      Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practise all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts. In short, it is so transcendent that if timid nature could realize it, it might well doubt whether it could be true. For consider, if there were somewhere a physician who understood the art of saving men from dying, or, even though they died, of restoring them speedily to life, so that they would thereafter live forever, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain, so that because of the throng of the rich no one could find access! But here in Baptism there is brought free to every one’s door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men alive.

      Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism, namely, that the body, which can apprehend nothing but the water, is sprinkled, and, in addition, the word is spoken for the soul to apprehend. Now, since both, the water and the Word, are one Baptism, therefore body and soul must be saved and live forever: the soul through the Word which it believes, but the body because it is united with the soul and also apprehends Baptism as it is able to apprehend it. We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul, for by it we are made holy and are saved, which no other kind of life, no work upon earth, can attain.

      You say faith is the sole instrument, but what exactly is faith holding onto? Where is the objective promise that Christ is for you? Granted, you might respond that you’ve heard your pastor preach the Gospel, and that’s wonderful. But how do you know it is for you? And, if there is a way to find that out, how do you know you believe it? It’s possible in Reformed thought that you have fooled yourself, no?

      Dathenus is indeed good and helpful. But better yet, I’d recommend going to your father confessor and receiving absolution.

    • Nate – part 1 of your post

      YOU If you’re looking for a theological “system” that is devoid of pangs of conscience, it doesn’t exist. The question, ultimately, is what the Scriptures say.

      ME Yes. Suppose you had an earthly father who loved you unconditionally and took great pleasure in you. You would ask your mum what he wanted for Christmas and you would delight to see him smile and laugh. He never seemed disappointed in you though you knew he ‘should’ be.
      And you also had a teacher at school, a good, effective indeed a kind teacher, though perhaps a little cool or formal, but one who took the trouble to help you improve. This teacher would let you know ever so quietly when you had disappointed her. You would try hard, perhaps your hardest, though you would probably take short cuts if you knew, really knew, that the teacher would never find out.

      For which one of those would you virtually go to hell and back for? And how much did a guilty conscience play a role?

      YOU I’ve said several times that the sacraments do not save ex opere operato, please peruse my other comments on this thread.

      ME Will do. I was increasingly conscious that I would need to go back over posts written before I mucked in

  24. Dear Dr. Clark,
    Thank you for writing such a helpful article. It is very unfortunate that both the Reformed and Lutheran churches cloud up differences by making either cheap shots at one another – calling the other party “rationalists” in forums where serious study has not been done – while missing the real issues like the communicatio idiomatum where the actual debate has been.

  25. Richard UK,

    Yes, Richard, but for us Lutherans, it is much more than just a memory. Christ is actually present in that which He commands that we do.

    But He is actually, concretely, bringing about the Cross in our lives in that moment, using these earthly vessels.

    • Yes, I thought so – I was just puzzled by your earlier turn of phrase

      What do you make of Forde’s idea that the significance of the Supper is primarily the ‘for you’ element? (ie that the promise in the word is for all including us, but in the Supper it is made personally ‘for you’). For me, that makes sense (hough I suppose in that case Luther might have scratched ‘pro vobis’ under Zwingli’s nose)

      I too want to uphold ‘Hoc est meum corpus’ but I don’t quite see how Christ being concretely in the Supper helps. God can indeed be seen in created things, but as the (covenant) Lord he is known in his promises.

      Perhaps you could also kindly explain for me the Lutheran view on apostasy and/or resistible grace

      and apologies if these were covered earlier

      (I see myself as a TULIP Lutheran – ie categorically with Luther on the Law/Gospel distinction, with the Reformed on TULIP – both of primary gospel importance, but viewing the Sacramental debate as secondary- if that can work!)

    • Richard,

      If I may, in Steve’s absence, I’d like to take a crack at a couple of your questions.

      We Lutherans uphold both truths: 1. that the sacraments are “signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us…” (Augsburg XIII), and 2. that God delivers the salvation won by Christ for you to you in the sacraments (Small Catechism, fourth chief part, for instance). “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation,” to quote Luther. If you read Walther’s 21st thesis in Law & Gospel this becomes more clear.

      As to how it helps if Christ’s Body and Blood are present in the Sacrament, the clincher for me is the forgiveness of sins. In my experience of the Reformed world (Presbyterian Church in America), the fact that the Reformed deny that the Body and Blood are in the Sacrament to be eaten and drunk also means that you lose the promise of the forgiveness of sins which is received in the Sacrament. How is it a “means of grace” without the forgiveness of sins? Or worse, both sacraments that the Reformed allow have the power to condemn, but not the “power” (so to speak) to forgive.

      On apostasy, I attempt to take the question out of the hypothetical. This doesn’t mean, as Dr. Clark has suggested, that Lutherans just ignore or avoid this question. We sing with the psalmist every week in the Liturgy, “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” What I mean by taking the question out of the hypothetical is that it is a question that is always related to real people in real situations. So, the answer to “is it possible to lose my salvation?” should actually be “who are you and why are you asking?” If the person is afraid that they are sinning themselves out of God’s favor, the answer is that God is for them, forgiving their sins and preserving them unto everlasting life through His Word and Sacraments. Or, ideally, if the struggling believer is talking to a Pastor, he/she would be given absolution. If the person has some grand sin planned and wants to know if they’ll get away with it unscathed, the answer is “don’t do it, you’ll shipwreck your faith.”

      Hope that helps.

    • Nate,

      Thank you and bless you for your attentiveness here. But may I query

      1. Is our salvation not delivered at the point of new birth which is matched subjectively by our faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice? Baptism of an infant surely does not bring salvation (even the Catholics claim only that it brings freedom from original sin), and baptism following conversion (by some years in the case of the early Christians) adds nothing to the moment of rebirth.

      2. Denying the Real Presence in the Supper (and I am ambivalent on that anyway) in no way entails a loss of the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is an act by God at the point of our union with Christ, simultaneous with our regeneration, perceived by us as faith. It is then done and dusted. It is held out as a promise (to unbelievers) to all who believe.

      3. It is a means of grace not because it confers forgiveness (which is already granted), but because it takes us back to (I would prefer to say ‘into’) the promises of God of a fully realised union with him for which we now only have a sure and certain hope. It is more than a reminder in the way that a photograph would be a reminder to the flesh; it is a sign in that God pours himself into us at that time, that we might in our spirit (as well as arguably in our fleshly memory) draw close to him. The Supper does then have power for ‘good’ one might say

      4. Thank you for your clarity on apostasy. However my fear is that your final point, when spoken to someone, would no doubt put him off his intended sin but it would also take him out of his sonship status, back into fear, and pressurise him into performance mode. I would prefer a bolder approach (not quite akin to Luther’s injunction to Melanchthon’s timidity) ‘The desire for that sin is indeed in you. God would prefer you to take it to him in desperate prayer but if you choose, then sin. You will not lose your salvation nor will you even lose God’s tender sacrificial love for you. So maybe remember that as you sin, and also be prepared that, since you are too valuable to him for this sin to remain in you (or in me), he will bring you to your senses. Let us pray that that is not too painful for you’.

    • Thanks Richard, I appreciate this.

      A Lutheran would say “yes” to your first question, but then we believe John 3:5 is referring to baptism (water and Spirit). We would say that infants certainly are, according to Scripture, capable of faith. That isn’t to say that we are claiming all infants who are baptized have faith, it’s simply to speak where the Scriptures speak. If you’d like more information on this, see this post by a former Presbyterian, current Lutheran:

      http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2012/10/infant-faith.html

      On your second question, I should have been more clear. I meant that you lose the promise of the forgiveness of sins which is attached to the Supper specifically. So, I should have said something like “when one denies ‘take, eat, this is my body,’ you also lose the part where Jesus says ‘for the forgiveness of sins.'” I’ve never met a Reformed person who believes that forgiveness of sins is delivered in the Supper.

      I understand the Reformed system where forgiveness is only given once, but in Lutheranism it is given over and over. Why? I don’t know, all I can say is that Jesus is not stingy with His gifts. :)

      Please understand, on the apostasy bit, the possibility of being restored to repentance and forgiveness is still there, even for the person who goes through with his plan. The application of law and gospel in each situation is a complicated business, and there is no cookie-cutter formula in our view. So please don’t take these situations as exhaustive.

      Thanks again Richard.

    • Thank you, Nate, for helping me understand more of the Lutheran position

      1. I never thought I would disagree with Luther on anything (!), but on BAPTISM of infants, I still doubt that infants (and indeed John the Baptist in the womb) can be described as having faith. ‘Batach’ in Ps 22.9 has more of a sense – not even of ‘seek refuge’, but ‘be in refuge’. God is teaching David the sense of complete holistic refuge just as a mother teaches her baby perhaps a more physical comfort and peace. At this early stage it is not a relational thing; it is an experience that a child comes to yearn for and later is granted in a relationship with the Father; It becomes our ‘God-shaped’ hole; David is acknowledging that even this yearning comes from God.

      2. BATACH does not carry the KJV sense of a ‘hope’ looking into the future, and the second ‘you’ in the ESV’s “you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts” simply isn’t there.

      3. That said, God does have a ‘bias’ towards the down-trodden (widows and orphans) and I hope and believe that God saves little ones, though I cannot justify that from scripture, any more than I can hold out hope for a muslim who has not heard the gospel but would believe it if told it.

      4. I agree the Reformed school does not believe that the FORGIVENESS of sins is delivered in the Supper (any more than that slavatin is delivered in water baptism) but I am still unhappy with your interesting negative rendering. Certainly Paul warns the Corinthians of the dangers of eating it unworthily, but I do not think that means you can forfeit Jesus’ forgiveness. ‘In Christ’ and ‘union with Christ’ have always been helpful ideas to me – once in Christ you cannot be ejected. Or, we are clothes with Christ’s righteousness; it is imputed to us. God does not then take it away as if Christ’s righteousness had been infused into us and we had somehow messed it up and needed forgiveness again.

      5. The difference between a once-for-all legal IMPUTATION, and the Catholic, partial, moral infusion is surely key to the whole Reformation

      6. I nevertheless do still believe that the forgiveness of sins should be preached repeatedly but so that we might be reminded of his once-for-all action on our behalf. but it is more than that. Since the Word of God carries power, it will do more than remind us; it will bring us further into intimate union with him. I am simply unhappy to call that a fresh forgiveness of sins

      7. God is indeed not stingy! But his gift of forgiveness is so enormous and magnificent that it does not need to be given more than once!!

      8. No, I was sure that APOSTASY in Lutheranism was reversible (though how would you understand the Heb 6 warning??!) My concern about reversible apostasy is that, if we take ourselves out of God’s hands in apostasy, then is it not us who must bring ourselves back in (unlike our ‘first’ conversion when God acts monergistically)? Or is it a repeated sequence of man-rebellion and God-rescue? If so, this begins to sound like the Catholic desperate need for final absolution.

      8. Please keep the explanations coming! As I said elsewhere, I see myself as a TULIP Luther-ite (Luther-ite being original Luther as opposed to many subsequent confessions including it would seem the Large Catechism)

    • Richard,

      We simply disagree on infant faith. Just to be clear, we aren’t saying that each and every infant who is baptized has faith. But they are certainly capable, since faith is God-given.

      It’s perfectly appropriate to appeal to union with Christ, but the question is how do you know you’re “in Christ” to begin with? When and how did that happen? Since we are in Christ, He is constantly reminding us and actually giving us forgiveness, life and salvation.

      The Reformed say that forgiveness of sins is a one-time deal, and once you’re “in” you’re “in.” This is only one view in the Reformation era. Luther and the Lutherans taught (and teach) that we are forgiven over and over. The problem with the Reformed formulation of perseverance is (in my mind) the fact that it makes it impossible to know if you’re ever actually “in” to begin with. The Lutheran position is not in any way similar to your description at the bottom of your fourth paragraph.

      Heb 6 is certainly a difficult passage whether you accept apostasy or not. The nutshell version in the Lutheran view is that there is no restoring someone to repentance who has spurned Christ because there is no way to be restored except through Christ. But I’ll refer you to a Lutheran pastor to answer it more in detail. Several of the Lutheran podcasts take these sorts of questions. No, your description of our doctrine of apostasy isn’t accurate. God is always the one pursuing, restoring, forgiving. We contribute nothing. But we must speak where Scripture speaks, and it is clearly possible to finally reject the Faith. We are not saying that you can just be naughty enough to sin yourself out of God’s favor. There is always more mercy and forgiveness. This is not a doctrine of fear (in the way I think you’re using it), but of repentance. It is not about doubting God’s goodness and mercy, but about placing no confidence in ourselves.

      BTW, we Lutherans call “TULIP Lutherans” “Reformed.” ;) I’m afraid you’ve created a mythical Luther of faith, rather than accepting the Luther of history.

    • Ours must have crossed

      1. We simply disagree on infant faith.
      — I agree we must agree to disagree on the capability of infants to believe

      2. It’s perfectly appropriate to appeal to union with Christ, but the question is how do you know you’re “in Christ” to begin with?
      — My mention of ‘In Christ’ was purely to show the ‘strangeness’ of then talking about apostasy. To answer your ‘when’ and ‘how, I can only point to the post that crossed

      3. The Reformed say that forgiveness of sins is a one-time deal, and once you’re “in” you’re “in.” This is only one view in the Reformation era. Luther and the Lutherans taught (and teach) that we are forgiven over and over.
      — I had not realised how wrong I was about Luther

      4. The problem with the Reformed formulation of perseverance is (in my mind) the fact that it makes it impossible to know if you’re ever actually “in” to begin with.
      —I believe the bible teaches perseverance but maybe you have another formulation

      5. Heb 6 is certainly a difficult passage whether you accept apostasy or not. The nutshell version in the Lutheran view is that there is no restoring someone to repentance who has spurned Christ because there is no way to be restored except through Christ.
      — Yep, let’s leave for the moment

      6. But we must speak where Scripture speaks, and it is clearly possible to finally reject the Faith.
      — Which passages are you thinking about?

      7. BTW, we Lutherans call “TULIP Lutherans” “Reformed.” ;)
      — Maybe I am a Calvinist without the Third Use

      8. What single, max comprehensive, well-respected book would you recommend to fill out all of Luther’s teaching? (I’m not so interested in later Lutheran confessions)

  26. Richard UK,

    Yes, the “for you” element is very important. He comes to us where we are. In our great need. “He sets a table before His enemies”

    We make room for the possibility that God could let some go. He let some of the chosen Jews go.

    “Take not your Holy Spirit from me”

    But we are also comforted by the fact that Jesus said , “I have not lost any that the Father has given me.” (paraphrased)

    We just never want to take it for granted.

    Thanks.

    __

    I’ve got a big day ahead with some very pressing family issues. I have to run. May not be back today. Could use your prayers.

    Thank you!

    • Yes, not all Israel is Israel, but that does not mean that the elect can become non-elect; it surely means that not all of the visible covenant chosen people are or were part of the invisible church, although corporately Israel remained God’s chosen people, albeit now cut off for a while that the Gentiles might come in (and that the Jews have no scope to boast).

      “Take not your Holy Spirit..” Yes, but this is to do with tender intimacy and peace not salvation. God has placed his seal as a deposit within us; for him now to deny us is for him to deny himself

      “Take it for granted”. When push comes to shove, I have to disagree. The Christian life only ‘takes off’ when we can truly rejoice in our sonship, not in our probation. It is by not having to fear God that we can begin to live free and for him. But yes, if we start to take it for granted, then fear not – he will discipline us, disciplining us as sons. That is a terrible, pungent process; it takes away complacency like a dose of salts.

      I also think that a theology that builds in some prophylactic against assurance in this way will be of no use to Justin’s tormented friend (who, from my own experience, may well be going through discipline – not necessarily for an obvious venial sin, but for something much more profound to do with identity)

      May God indeed give you a peace beyond all understanding as you deal with those family matters, and may that peace of his be a witness to his glory.

  27. Justin,

    Your friend might have expectations about religious experience that are not grounded in Scripture. I have counseled many folks who are seeking a sort of second blessing that has been promised them (not that you’re doing this) by well meaning but misguided believers.

    As a young believer I was told to expect all manner of subjective experiences. The truth, however, in Scripture is rather different. If we look at Scripture carefully, in context, we will not see the same sorts of promises that believers sometimes make.

    The reason for the discrepancy is the great influence of pietism on American evangelicalism. Justin, there’s a chapter on this problem, which I call QIRE- the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience in the book, Recovering the Reformed Confession. It might help you to counsel him.

    My strong advice is to encourage your friend to trust Christ and to stop looking at himself. For the moment that is the last place he wants to go. The gospel is outside of him, righteousness was accomplished for us. It has consequences in us but that is not the place to start.

    Nate,

    One of the several reasons I am not a Lutheran is the powerful a priori under which confessional Lutherans seem to read Scripture. I saw it first in Chemnitz and I see it in your reply. You know what 1John must mean even though he doesn’t even imply what you say it must mean. This is, if you’ll pardon me, nothing less than rationalism.

    We need to get to grips with what Scripture actually says. 1John actually gives tests, the very thing you condemn! Your view, as articulated here, seems exactly contrary to the clear teaching of God’s Word and yet you don’t even seem to pause to reckon with the at least apparent tension between what you’re saying (that we can’t even ask the question “do I believe?”) when John says rather more than that.

    • Dr. Clark,

      I’ve responded to this before, but here goes again. Lutherans are not at all opposed to examining ourselves in the light of God’s law. We are commanded to do so (according to our vocations) in Luther’s Small Catechism under the 5th chief part on private confession and absolution. This is why I appreciated your discussion of 1 John above so much. Your use of law and gospel, along with keeping both together in tension is spot on.

      My objection to your use of “do I believe” is not a blanket condemnation of any and all introspection. I’ve never said any such thing. Rather, my objection is that the question sends the believe inward in order to find the truth or falsity of salvation. It is fideism, or trusting in faith. Yes, I realize that it is only secondary to your trust in the promise of the Gospel, but it is faith in faith none the less. More importantly, where do you find the answer to that question? Is the answer to that question revealed, or not?

      Hope that helps explain my objection.

  28. Richard,

    Our Lord himself did ask this question,

    John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; oI believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, qwho is coming into the world.”

    It cannot be an inherently wrong question. Faith is the sole instrument of justification—baptism is not the instrument of justification. It is the sacrament (covenant sign and seal) of the benefits of Christ but faith is not baptism and baptism is not faith. One may have baptism without faith. One might, in an extraordinary case, have faith without baptism. Therefore, faith as the sole instrument has a role in our salvation that no sacrament can.

    It cannot be wrong to ask, “do you believe?” That’s not “introspection” in the sense in which it is rightly decried. The sense in which we’re worried about “introspection” is that in instance in which one asks, “Am I sanctified enough?” The answer to that question is always, “No!”

    For those struggling with this question or trying to help those who are struggling with assurance I recommend, Petrus Dathenus, The Pearl of Christian Comfort. Dathenus wrote this out of his ministry to a young lady who was struggling with assurance.

    I agree with the recommendation of the Marrow of Modern Divinity.

    • Dr Clark

      I totally agree with your distinction between baptism and faith (and am indeed surprised if I gave another impression)

      I also agree that ‘do you believe’ is not an inherently wrong question. In this case, Jesus obviously knew her response and he asked to bring it out into the open and to show her her own faith.

      It is like the ‘testing’ of Abraham over Isaac. God know the outcome perfectly well because he knew Abraham’s faith. He wanted that faith to enter history in an objective way and in a way which would show Abraham his own faith.

      We can likewise ask someone with the same beneficial outcome. But it does remain an invitation to introspection and the problem arises when the question, to our horror, actually increases doubt. It will cause introspection but can either call forth faith, or doubt. We often do not know our friend well enough.

      It is like teaching young ones. We ask questions we know they know or that, with thought, they can deduce. To ask questions that they could not know is dangerous – it can send them backwards

      Thank you kindly for the book recommendation

    • (re-posted from above to avoid confusion)

      Dr. Clark,

      I see no indication that Jesus is asking this question as a manner of determining whether or not one is “in” and therefore can never fall away, as things go in the Reformed system. Look at how simple the whole thing is. He (standing right in front of her) tells her who He is, and she responds in faith. How is that similar to the way this question is asked in the Reformed context of attempting to gain personal assurance? My objection, again, is that it sends the believer inward in order to find salvation. Jesus certainly wasn’t doing any such thing.

      I have responded to this claim in your second paragraph as well, Dr. Clark, but I’ll give it another go. Luther simply does not accept such an artificial separation between justification by faith (which we affirm!) and baptism. Please see the Large Catechism starting here:

      Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3:5.

      But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?

      Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God’s ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.

      In the third place, since we have learned the great benefit and power of Baptism, let us see further who is the person that receives what Baptism gives and profits. This is again most beautifully and clearly expressed in the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. That is, faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. For, since these blessings are here presented and promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart. Without faith it profits nothing, notwithstanding it is in itself a divine superabundant treasure. Therefore this single word (He that believeth) effects this much that it excludes and repels all works which we can do, in the opinion that we obtain and merit salvation by them. For it is determined that whatever is not faith avails nothing nor receives anything.

      But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God’s (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.

      Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith. Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed.

      Thus we have these three parts which it is necessary to know concerning this Sacrament, especially that the ordinance of God is to be held in all honor, which alone would be sufficient, though it be an entirely external thing, like the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, which refers to bodily flesh and blood. Therein we regard not the flesh and blood, but the commandment of God in which they are comprehended, and on account of which the flesh is called father and mother; so also, though we had no more than these words, Go ye and baptize, etc., it would be necessary for us to accept and do it as the ordinance of God. Now there is here not only God’s commandment and injunction, but also the promise, on account of which it is still far more glorious than whatever else God has commanded and ordained, and is, in short, so full of consolation and grace that heaven and earth cannot comprehend it. But it requires skill to believe this, for the treasure is not wanting, but this is wanting that men apprehend it and hold it firmly.

      Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practise all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts. In short, it is so transcendent that if timid nature could realize it, it might well doubt whether it could be true. For consider, if there were somewhere a physician who understood the art of saving men from dying, or, even though they died, of restoring them speedily to life, so that they would thereafter live forever, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain, so that because of the throng of the rich no one could find access! But here in Baptism there is brought free to every one’s door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men alive.

      Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism, namely, that the body, which can apprehend nothing but the water, is sprinkled, and, in addition, the word is spoken for the soul to apprehend. Now, since both, the water and the Word, are one Baptism, therefore body and soul must be saved and live forever: the soul through the Word which it believes, but the body because it is united with the soul and also apprehends Baptism as it is able to apprehend it. We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul, for by it we are made holy and are saved, which no other kind of life, no work upon earth, can attain.

      You say faith is the sole instrument, but what exactly is faith holding onto? Where is the objective promise that Christ is for you? Granted, you might respond that you’ve heard your pastor preach the Gospel, and that’s wonderful. But how do you know it is for you? And, if there is a way to find that out, how do you know you believe it? It’s possible in Reformed thought that you have fooled yourself, no?

      Dathenus is indeed good and helpful. But better yet, I’d recommend going to your father confessor and receiving absolution.

    • Nate, thank you

      I am reading and rereading the Large Catechism – though with many doubts

      Ref your questions to Dr Clark

      “You say faith is the sole instrument, but what exactly is faith holding onto?” onto Jesus and His words ‘Whosoever believeth on me shall have eternal life’. It is not necessary to hold onto baptism – what about the man who believes while alone at the North Pole and has not yet been baptised – is he not a Christian?

      “ Where is the objective promise that Christ is for you?” in the word ‘whosoever’

      “you’ve heard your pastor preach the Gospel, ..But how do you know it is for you?” ‘whosoever’

      “It’s possible in Reformed thought that you have fooled yourself, no?” Not sure what this means, to be honest?!

    • Dr. Clark, have you read/reviewed Burk Parsons’ book “Assured by God”?

      By the way, my first counseling session with our doubting brother went extraordinarily well (see comments above).

      I actually drew him a picture with a cross, empty tomb, and a right hand (of the Father), on the top of the sheet, wrote on the cross “Dan’s sins,” on the tomb “Dan’s death,” outside the tomb “Dan’s resurrection,” and at the right hand of the Father “Dan’s position.” Next to that set, the word “External.”

      On the bottom of the sheet, a picture of a human, the word “Internal,” and inside the body “Dan’s sins,” and “Dan’s death.”

      We discussed how by faith he must look outside of himself to see his sins nailed to the cross, his death defeated in Jesus’ burial, and his resurrection assured by Jesus’ own; and all in contradiction to his daily experience and feelings of being a sinner on his way to a true death.

      I encouraged him to, by faith, count his baptism as the assurance of his death and resurrection with the historical death and resurrection of Jesus. I also encouraged him, by faith, to grasp the communion supper as grasping the broken, bleeding body of Jesus as He was put to death in Dan’s place.

      We also discussed that our faith is never fully alive and sufficient in our experience. It is perhaps very weak and mixed with doubt, but if there is any faith to look at the gracious death of Christ and to see our own sins nailed with Him, then the Holy Spirit has indeed indwelt us and given us regeneration unto that faith.

      So, again thanks to you men for this very edifying conversation which has strengthened my understanding of our roots as Protestants – and which has helped me to counsel this doubting brother.

      Grace,
      JE

    • Richard,

      That’s great when the atonement is universal. Not so much if CD 2 is true. I’m not sure if you confess the Canons of Dort though. Baptism is only unnecessary if the forgiveness of sins is unnecessary. We don’t form doctrine based on hypothetical situations of extreme circumstances, but on God’s word, which is quite clear. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” “Be baptized for the forgiveness of sins…,” etc.

      In Reformed thought, there is such a thing as “false faith,” where one convinces himself that he believes, but really doesn’t have true faith. That is the problem that arises after you find the answer to the question about whether you believe, which I notice you didn’t answer.

      The question to think about is, “how do I know my sins are forgiven?”

    • Nate, thanks

      I’m sorry if I am slow to digest something, or indeed if I have offended. And I do accept the Canons of Dort (our shorthand is TULIP)

      I’ve checked out your emails to me (back to 8th Dec) and I guess it is one of the questions below* – and I thought I had answered all of them if only by pointing to Jesus’ word(s) ‘whosoever’ rather than to a different external – that of baptism/supper.

      I still cannot see how baptism/supper can be an external by which we know Jesus’ words are for me, because we can only appreciate the significance of baptism/supper if we already have the faith that they are effective for me – in which case baptism/supper, coming subsequent to faith, are actually redundant salvifically though certainly beneficial in other ways.

      To this, I think you might say that God chooses to operate through ‘matter’ and I totally agree, say about conversion – we are converted by hearing the word and believing on it, and that needs a preacher to preach it. On that occasion, there is no faith, then there is the word brought with power, then there is faith. But my point in the previous paragraph is that there is already salvific faith before the baptism/supper. I am happy to accept that the supper and baptism are commanded to us and that they have more efficacy than as memory prompts (but I am just not sure what)

      YOUR QUESTIONS “You say faith is the sole instrument, but what exactly is faith holding onto? Where is the objective promise that Christ is for you? Granted, you might respond that you’ve heard your pastor preach the Gospel, and that’s wonderful. But how do you know it is for you?

      ME – As I said (i) above, I know it is for me because I am covered by ‘whosoever’ or ‘all’ in Jesus’ words; that is my external grounding, and (ii) previously, ‘Body’ ‘broken for you’ in the Supper make it clear that the promise is for me, and that is immensely up-building and it strengthens faith – it does not bring salvific faith – indeed it presupposes salvific faith to be effective

      IS THIS YOUR SECOND QUESTION ?
      And, if there is a way to find that [‘for you’] out, how do you know you believe it? It’s possible in Reformed thought that you have fooled yourself, no? (and from above, your “how do I know my sins are forgiven?”)

      ME It certainly is possible in Reformed thought (and Lutheran surely) to have a false faith and James’ epistle addresses this (1 John too). Indeed the lack of fruit in our lives is perhaps the only way that we or others can realise that our faith is dead, in which case we go, as an unbeliever, to God to ask for mercy. But we also know that the presence of fruit, while indicative of a negative, is not indicative of the positive presence of faith. So we seek another alternative, and I’ve suggested that Jesus’ words (‘whosoever believes..’) are more reliable than that I have participated at the Supper or been baptised (even if I think I have faith when participating).

      If you then ask me ‘how do you know you believe?’, we must resist the implied invitation to go inwards at this point to find something – we can only go inward to find nothing. We can say something like ‘when I look inward at myself, I am a complete mess, a failure, morally depraved. There is no good in me, and even that which might be good is something He has lodged there. It is and remains His; it is not mine. However I am told and I believe that he died for the morally depraved. Nobody could be more suitable to be covered by his death than me. Thank you God’

      We not only cannot look to anything internal, but we cannot look to anyTHING external. We can only look to a good, truthful, powerful external person making an external promise which becomes a promise to me by virtue of me fulfilling its conditions. Only God can save, and only He can, and will, fulfil his promises

      BAPTISM – I accept all the verses with baptism eg “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”. Perhaps you want to say that verses without baptism in them are addressing other aspects and would expect baptism to be a part of the ‘process’; and I can accept that. But I believe that your verse above refers to baptism by the Spirit, ie even belief is not enough, since the demons believe – it must be the belief that comes to trust, and this comes only on regeneration by the Spirit. I acknowledge the importance of water baptism but not as bringing salvation even when accompanied (preceded) by faith.

  29. ” I realize that it is only secondary to your trust in the promise of the Gospel, but it is faith in faith none the less.”

    Exactly.

    Faith in faith is internal. Faith in God, and what He has done, needs to touch down somewhere. That is what the sacraments do.

    • Steve hi

      1. YOU “Faith in faith is internal”.

      ME Yes, faith in faith is internal; and I’m sure we agree that as a faith in my inner state, it is worthless in itself (though it might just be masking a deeper faith in Christ’s work rather than replacing that)

      Similarly some X-factor competitors have a massive faith that they are fabulous and going to win. Their confidence is almost tangible, but it is really an attempt to harness Peale’s power of positive thinking*. Indeed they are often the ones with the least chance of winning. They are compensating – more or less successfully they are kidding themselves

      2. YOU “Faith in God, and what He has done, needs to touch down somewhere. That is what the sacraments do.”

      ME Can it not just touch down in the historicity of Jesus’ active and passive obedience and his historical words that all who believe on him will be saved (As John Wimber used to say: ‘When I look up ‘all’ in the dictionary, it means all; that must include me’)

      * Was it not a US President who said “I find Peale appalling, but I find Paul appealing”?

  30. Richard, UK

    You wrote:
    “In which case, Jesuits baptising Chinese rice Christians brought them into heaven”

    You mean as in the situation where Franciscans baptising English tattie or chip Christians brought them into heaven? You see, Baptism is inseparable from the Word. It’s not about the moral or doctrinal worthiness of the priest here. It’s whether faith and Baptism are one. In Romanism, despite its validity, Baptism’s efficacy is limited to the past. In Lutheranism, Baptism is always in the present tense. The proclamation of the Word in its oral (preached) form is the *same* Word that is Baptism (sacramental form).

    So, are Romanists saved by their Baptism in the same way as Lutherans are? The answer is a plain no. Romanists are Christians just as the Roman Church is church. But the pope is the Antichrist.

    As someone who has lived in the UK, it’s not just in England, but British evangelicalism on the whole is not in a healthy state … a very discouraging situation to say the least. to repeat, Puritanism, pietism, revivalism, fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, Charismaticism only contributes to a state of enervation and inertia. This come out in the outlook and preaching, which you well know what I’m talking about.

    • You guys can probably see I am having the hardest problem understanding this (let alone believing it!)

      Inter alia, putting so much emphasis on baptism must surely mean the unbaptised believer is in a perilous (?) position?

    • Thanks, Jason

      “You see, Baptism is inseparable from the Word” – Agreed
      .
      “It’s not about the moral or doctrinal worthiness of the priest here” – Agreed; even the Catholics don’t believe that

      “In Lutheranism, Baptism is always in the present tense” – Please explain

      “The proclamation of the Word in its oral (preached) form is the *same* Word that is Baptism (sacramental form). – Please explain

      “So, are Romanists saved by their Baptism in the same way as Lutherans are? The answer is a plain no” – How are Lutherans saved by their baptism?? What if faith precedes baptism?

      “not just in England, but British evangelicalism on the whole is not in a healthy state”
      Agreed though there are some good men in Scotland, N Ireland and Wales

    • Richard,

      It is the rejection of Baptism that places one in peril, not the lack of Baptism. This is just simple historic Christian doctrine. Nothing distinctively Lutheran about it.

  31. Richard,

    I apologize if I seemed impatient or upset. I was simply writing fast due to being pinched for time.

    I’ll put my response down here in order to avoid all of the nested comments.

    Your appeal to “all” seems more Amyraldian to me, but I might be misunderstanding you. The Reformed preachers and teachers I have heard seem very careful to say that the Gospel is “for sinners,” rather than “for all.” During my stay in the Reformed churches, I recall some quite creative explanations as to how “all” means “some people from all nations,” and the like. See this article by Dr. Clark, for example:

    http://rscottclark.org/2006/08/limited-atonement/

    We Lutherans would say that Baptism, Absolution and the Supper are the ways Christ “applies” (to use a Reformed word) the benefits of His cross to us individually. We would say that the Word attached to the physical element gives what it says. The Word is “living and active,” it accomplishes its purpose, etc.

    We do not trust in our participation in the Sacraments (that would be the ex opere operato scheme), but rather in the promises attached to them, viz. the forgiveness of sins.

    Everyone agrees that faith is trust in an external Person. The question is where He has promised to apply His salvation to us. Lutherans say it is in the Word and Sacraments. The Reformed (if I may be so bold) say that this happens via an internal, secret, effectual call (as distinct from the external call of the Gospel).

    I see nothing in the Scriptures separating the Spirit from Baptism. Actually, your appeal to “baptism of the Spirit” doesn’t even sound Reformed to me, but maybe I have misunderstood you.

    Re: perseverance, Lutherans believe that the elect will be saved, and we also believe that we are to trust the promises of Christ to preserve us. However, we don’t put our confidence in some abstract inability to fall away, but in Christ and the forgiveness that He gives continually to us. This article may be able to help on this and apostasy:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/104908295/The-Lutheran-Doctrine-of-Apostasy

    I’m not sure if there is a book which can do all you ask, but Dr. Clark mentioned a well-respected (by all parties) book earlier, entitled The Theology of Martin Luther by Paul Althaus. In addition to that, you might look into this course if you can time the sales right:

    http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=6633

    I would also recommend The Real Luther by Franz Posset.

    As you can probably tell, I think the distinction between Luther and later Lutherans commonly asserted among Reformed Christians is quite exaggerated, though I’m perfectly willing to admit some differences. There are some other articles at this link:

    http://evangelicalcatholicblog.com/2012/10/19/do-you-believe/#comment-55

    I would also recommend the Apostolic Fathers, just for some perspective on how uncontroversial these Lutheran doctrines actually are outside the Reformed echo chamber.

    As for the comment on the necessity of Baptism, I’ll refer you to St. Chrysostom’s homilies on the early verses of John 3.

    I feel that I have imposed upon Dr. Clark too long already. If you wish to continue this please feel free to email me any time at nate dot ostby at icloud dot com.

    God’s peace be with you Richard.

    • Nate

      Thank you very kindly.

      It’s time for bed here now, but I will digest thoroughly tomorrow and take up your kind email offer

  32. I am still fascinated by the comparison of Lutheranism to “the objectivity” of “federal visionists”. The “for you” by the sacraments sounds good. But it turns out that it may not mean “all of you”, because certain sins practiced for so long are not simply sins but unbelief of the gospel.

    Federal visionists self-consciously refuse the distinction between law and gospel. But how different is that from a Lutheran who says that all sin is “works righteousness” and so that sin is against the gospel (and not only against the law)?

    But what about that “for you”. The death of Christ really was also for those not in the church, not at the sacrament, but some of them didn’t believe it either? So there’s no advantage for those who hear the “for you” than for those who never came to church.

    Check out the Anglican Philip Cary’s defense of the Lutheran view of faith and apostasy.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/anxious-about-assurance.html

  33. I just came across this blog and posts. I just want to make sure Dr Clark understands that we lutherans confess that grace in the elect is irresisitible and also that the elect are bound to persevere and can’t fall away. Election causes faith as C F W Walther taught, so grace is irresistible in the elect. God saves without human cooperation. God through the holy spirit creates faith in the elect. With regard to perseverance believers get assurance and comfort that they will persevere from several gospel promises. Nevertheless we do teach that grace is resistible and that some fall away from the faith because this is also taught in scripture.

    With regard the sacraments and absolution lutherans teach that the forgiveness of sins is bestowed. The key thing to understand is that lutherans also teach that baptism and the Lord’s Supper convey the forgiveness of sins if they are accompanied by the word and received in faith. So baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution are considered equivalent to faith, in that they are effective for the forgiveness of sins when Christ is received by faith. The sacraments are called the visible word in lutheran theology, a term coined by Augustine. Just like the preached word, the visible word (the sacraments), need to be received by faith.

  34. Good question Scott, let me expand.

    OK, let’s outline how and why in lutheranism grace is both resistible and irresistible. In lutheranism there’s both a universal grace (objective justification or the atoning work of Christ) and special grace (election). So here’s how this works. I will outline 3 points below. Under point 2 means of grace I outline why grace (the forgiveness of sins) is resistible (when the gospel is rejected but I may also add that the same would be applicable when baptism is rejected or the grace offered in the Lord’s Supper or absolution when the forgiveness of sins is not received in faith). Under point 3 election I outline why grace is always irresistible in conversion. Conversion is always due to irresistible grace in lutheranism, though it has a very different meaning and reason why is irresistible than reformed theology. Here’s how grace works in lutheranism, universal grace (the atonement), the means of grace by which it is conveyed, and election (special grace).

    1) Gratia universalis or universal grace is Christ’s work on the cross by which the sins of the whole world have been atoned for. There is a universal grace or universal forgiveness of sins in lutheranism that is called objective justification in modern lutheran theology. Scripture support is 1 Corinthians 5:19 where it is mentioned that Christ was in the world not imputing their trespasses, Romans 5:18 , 1 John 2:2 , 1 John 4:14 , 1 Timothy 4:10 , Isaiah 53:6 , 2 Peter 2:1, John 1:29 , John 3:16 , John 4:42 . Lutherans teach that Jesus has objectively accomplished the salvation of the whole world , 1 Corinthians 5:19 and Romans 5:18 are the two most commonly used passages but there are many others in addition to the ones I quoted. This is very different from arminians who teach that Jesus made possible for every man to be saved, lutherans teach that God has effectively reconciled humanity to himself. There is a universal redemption accomplished in lutheranism, not just made it possible as in arminianism.

    2) Means of grace: This universal grace that I just outlined above is proclaimed to the World every time the gospel is preached. Now man can reject God’s universal grace, In the sense that they reject the gospel. In this sense lutherans teach that grace is resistible.

    3) Election : The gratia universalis or universal grace (Christ’s atoning work or objective justification) that I outlined in point 1) needs to be received by faith for man to be saved . Now no man willingly comes to Christ because man is dead in trespasses and sins. So God through the preaching of the gospel creates faith in man. This grace is irresistible and the lutheran confessions teach that God brings man to Christ without human cooperation, it is solely God’s work. We are born again of the will of God John 1:13 teaches and not of the will of man. It’s like a baby when he’s born he can not resist his birth. Neither does he have to give consent to his birth. His will plays no part in it. It is the same with adoption. The adoption of a child is decided solely by the adopting parents. The adopted child does not choose his parents, his parents choose him. The adopted child’s will plays no part in adoption. An adopted child is neither willingly adopted nor unwillingly (coerced), his will plays not part. However the decision of the parent to adopt is irresistible for the child. In this sense lutherans teach that we come to faith or are adopted by God’s grace and this grace is irresistible Epheisans 2:15 . So grace is always irresistible in the conversion of the elect, just like the decision to adopt a child is irresistible by the child that is adopted.

    Now that I have explained this you will see that lutheran theology does not teach infused grace (regeneration) prior to faith or justification. Justification precedes any renewal in man. Because in lutheran theology man does not willingly come to Christ (neither is he coerced), his will play no part, there is no need for a man’s will to be renewed. A man is born again solely by the will of God with no human cooperation. In this sense lutheranism is more monergistic in conversion than the reformed. And grace is truly irresisitible, not because man’s will has been regenerated, but because God accomplishes conversion with no human cooperation.

    • Bill, wouldn’t you also add that grace is resistible for the length of one’s life after regeneration and justification – as in, God not only could but would and in fact does allow Christ’s sheep to sin until their faith is lost, their justification revoked, their adoption forsaken, and their soul cast finally into hell?

      In sincere puzzlement, how does the Lutheran doctrine of losing one’s salvation comport with monergism?

    • Bill

      Thank you for opening up again 2012’s fruitful seam of discussion. Can I try to understand your position by placing your points in the ordo salutis

      1. God elects (‘special grace’)

      2. Jesus dies (‘universal grace’ ie universal atonement for all mankind including Adam, Pharaoh, Judas, Hitler etc. also known as the justification of men, ie set right with God.) Reconciling humanity means reconciling all men?

      3. God acts out His ‘special grace’ in history by giving irresistible faith to the believer. This ‘conveys’ the forgiveness of sins to that believer; it is contemporaneous with conversion = regeneration. (God also allows His Word to be preached to others but allows them to ‘resist grace’ – blocks their ears).

      4. While the elect recipients of special grace cannot fall away, there is also a group who have received a certain type of faith from which they can fall away, and as result revert as if they had never received faith at all.

      However

      A. If Pharaoh and Hitler have been set right with God as a result of Jesus’ atoning death, their sins cannot be paid for twice – they will not be sent to hell (this is Barth’s quasi-universalism).

      Ai. So I am not sure if one can separate, as concepts, universal atonement/justification from the forgiveness of sins in this way; it looks a bit like Justification part 1 and then part 2.

      (B. A very minor point – I’m not sure grace ‘conveys’ the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is a state in which God chooses to regard some people. Grace is not a power; it is God’s willingness to see us as righteous)

      C. Conversion = Regeneration, and happens after Justification (but probably alongside Faith and Forgiveness)

      Ci. But do any of us think Regeneration involves infusion (of sufficient power to be able to resist sin)? Maybe the Reformed do – posse peccare, posse non peccare, like Adam? Do Lutherans as well?

      D. Like RSC, I cannot understand the notion of the Faith which produces Perseverance versus the Faith that allows for falling away. Are you thinking about eg Heb 6? (IMHO Heb 6 is neither about falling away, nor even hypothetical falling away following its exact phraseology)

      E. How is Lutheranism more monergistic than the Reformed position? (have more irresistible grace?)

      F. I am very attracted to the notion of the Real Presence but you IMPLY that Forgiveness of Sins is TIED to the sacraments received in faith when you write ” So baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution are considered equivalent to faith, in that they are effective for the forgiveness of sins when Christ is received by faith”.

      Fi. But surely the (probably adult) believer first accepts in faith, is thereby forgiven, is converted and regenerated well before he might partake of the Lord’s Supper, and well after he has been baptised as an infant when surely the Promises of (but not the actual) Forgiveness of sins are pronounced

      G. I think (i) the content of para 1 of your previous post would not be rejected by the Reformed if you were using less arminian language, and

      Gii. You are also both differently addressing the problem of professing ‘Christians’ whose lives and language subsequently suggest otherwise. You adopt a theological position (they have fallen away) whereas the Reformed adopt a pragmatic position (they were never Christians in the first place). At least the Reformed position suggests we must continue to preach the gospel to them since they were never really saved, though I suspect such poor people get great dollops of the law instead!!

    • OK, here is my answer to Justin who is puzzled how does lutheran theology who allows for somebody to lose his salvation conform with monergism. Well, I will divide my answer in two parts. The first one addresses how somebody can lose their salvation and the second how it is impossible for the elect to ever lose their salvation. Election causes faith in conversion as I explained, but election also is the cause of perseverance. So perseverance is a gift of God and is 100% monergistic. So the elect always persevere in faith and can never lose their salvation.

      1) When lutherans talk about losing your salvation they refer to people that lose their faith, they believe for a while, like the parable of the sower teaches. Not every seed that sprouts on the ground goes all the way to produce a good crop. First John talks about the sin unto death that is committed by a believing brother, Hebrews 6:4 – 8 and Hebrews and finally and in the most possibly powerful way Hebrews 10:26 – 28 warns those that are in the faith and have already received the knowledge of the trut: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

      2) The lutheran confessions also clearly assure that the elect will persevere. This assurance is grounded on many of the promises of the gospel as well as God’s sure election that can not fail. The book of Concord in Chapter XI section 22 unequivocally states: “That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.” Sections 30 to 33 of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord are also very emphatic that the elect persevere till the end:

      30] For this reason the elect are described thus, John 10:27f : My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life. And Eph. 1:11. 13: Those who according to the purpose are predestinated to an inheritance hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, pray and give thanks, are sanctified in love, have hope, patience, and comfort under the cross, Rom. 8:25; and although all this is very weak in them, yet they hunger and thirst after righteousness, Matt. 5:6.

      31] Thus the Spirit of God gives to the elect the testimony that they are children of God, and when they do not know for what they should pray as they ought, He intercedes for them with groanings that cannot be uttered, Rom. 8:16. 26.

      32] Thus, also, Holy Scripture testifies that God, who has called us, is so faithful that, when He has begun the good work in us, He also will preserve it to the end and perfect it, if we ourselves do not turn from Him, but firmly retain to the end the work begun, for which He has promised His grace, 1 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 1:6 [ 1 Pet. 5:10 ]; 2 Pet. 3:9; Heb. 3:2

      33] With this revealed will of God we should concern ourselves, follow and be diligently engaged upon [eagerly con] it, because through the Word, whereby He calls us, the Holy Ghost bestows grace, power, and ability to this end, and should not [attempt to] sound the abyss of God’s hidden predestination, as it is written in Luke 13:24, where one asks: Lord, are there few that be saved? and Christ answers: Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Accordingly, Luther says [in the Preface to the Epistle to the Romans]: Follow the Epistle to the Romans in its order, concern yourself first with Christ and His Gospel, that you may recognize your sins and His grace; next, that you contend with sin, as Paul teaches from the first to the eighth chapter; then, when in the eighth chapter you will come into [will have been exercised by] temptation under the cross and afflictions, this will teach you in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters how consolatory predestination is, etc.

    • FWIW, Solid Declaration, ch. 11:

      41] For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matt. 22, 3ff The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s foreknowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says: How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not! Matt. 23, 37.

      42] Thus many receive the Word with joy, but afterwards fall away again, Luke 8, 13. But the cause is not as though God were unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He has begun the good work, for that is contrary to St. Paul, Phil. 1, 6; but the cause is that they wilfully turn away again from the holy commandment [of God], grieve and embitter the Holy Ghost, implicate themselves again in the filth of the world, and garnish again the habitation of the heart for the devil. With them the last state is worse than the first, 2 Pet. 2, 10. 20; Eph. 4, 30; Heb. 10, 26; Luke 11, 25.

      43] Thus far is the mystery of predestination revealed to us in God’s Word, and if we abide thereby and cleave thereto, it is a very useful, salutary, consolatory doctrine; for it establishes very effectually the article that we are justified and saved without all works and merits of ours, purely out of grace alone, for Christ’s sake. For before the time of the world, before we existed, yea, before the foundation of the world was laid, when, of course, we could do nothing good, we were according to God’s purpose chosen by grace in Christ to salvation, Rom. 9, 11; 2 Tim. 1, 9. 44] Moreover, all opiniones (opinions) and erroneous doctrines concerning the powers of our natural will are thereby overthrown, because God in His counsel, before the time of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself, by the power of His Holy Ghost, would produce and work in us, through the Word, everything that pertains to our conversion.

      …45] Thus this doctrine affords also the excellent, glorious consolation that God was so greatly concerned about the conversion, righteousness, and salvation of every Christian, and so faithfully purposed it [provided therefor] that before the foundation of the world was laid, He deliberated concerning it, and in His [secret] purpose ordained how He would bring me thereto [call and lead me to salvation], and preserve me therein. Also, that He wished to secure my salvation so well and certainly that, since through the weakness and wickedness of our flesh it could easily be lost from our hands, or through craft and might of the devil and the world be snatched and taken from us, He ordained it in His eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown, and placed it for preservation in the almighty hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, from which no one can pluck us, John 10, 28. 46] Hence Paul also says, Rom. 8, 28. 39: Because we have been called according to the purpose of God, who will separate us from the love of God in Christ? [Paul builds the certainty of our blessedness upon the foundation of the divine purpose, when, from our being called according to the purpose of God, he infers that no one can separate us, etc.]

      48] Moreover, this doctrine affords glorious consolation under the cross and amid temptations, namely, that God in His counsel, before the time of the world, determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses [anxieties and perplexities], grant patience [under the cross], give consolation, excite [nourish and encourage] hope, and produce such an outcome as would contribute to our salvation. Also, as Paul in a very consolatory way treats this, Rom. 8, 28. 29. 35. 38. 39, that God in His purpose has ordained before the time of the world by what crosses and sufferings He would conform every one of His elect to the image of His Son, and that to every one His cross shall and must work together for good, because they are called according to the purpose, whence Paul has concluded that it is certain and indubitable that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor death, nor life, etc., shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

      50] This article also affords a glorious testimony that the Church of God will exist and abide in opposition to all the gates of hell, and likewise teaches which is the true Church of God, lest we be offended by the great authority [and majestic appearance] of the false Church, Rom. 9, 24. 25.

      51] From this article also powerful admonitions and warnings are derived, as Luke 7, 30: They rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Luke 14, 24: I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. Also Matt. 20, 16: Many be called, but few chosen. Also Luke 8, 8. 18: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, and: Take heed how ye hear. Thus the doctrine concerning this article can be employed profitably, comfortingly, and savingly [and can be transferred in many ways to our use].

      …54] Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly foresaw before the time of the world, and still knows, which of those that are called will believe or will not believe; also which of the converted will persevere [in faith] and which will not persevere; which will return after a fall [into grievous sins], and which will fall into obduracy [will perish in their sins]. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on either side, is beyond all doubt perfectly known to God. 55] However, since God has reserved this mystery for His wisdom, and has revealed nothing to us concerning it in His Word, much less commanded us to investigate it with our thoughts, but has earnestly discouraged us therefrom, Rom. 11, 33ff , we should not reason in our thoughts, draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously into these matters, but should adhere to His revealed Word, to which He points us.

      …65] Accordingly, this eternal election of God is to be considered in Christ, and not outside of or without Christ. For in Christ, the Apostle Paul testifies, Eph. 1, 4f , He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, as it is written: He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. This election, however, is revealed from heaven through the preaching of His Word, when the Father says, Matt. 17, 6: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And Christ says, Matt. 11, 28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And concerning the Holy Ghost Christ says, John 16, 14: He shalt glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. 66] Thus the entire Holy Trinity, God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, directs all men to Christ, as to the Book of Life, in whom they should seek the eternal election of the Father. For this has been decided by the Father from eternity, that whom He would save He would save through Christ, as He [Christ] Himself says, John 14, 6: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me. And again, John 10, 9: I am the Door; by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.

      67] However, Christ, as the only-begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has announced to us the will of the Father, and thus also our eternal election to eternal life, namely, when He says, Mark 1, 15: Repent ye, and believe the Gospel; the kingdom of God is at hand. Likewise He says, John 6, 40: This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life. And again [John 3, 16]: God so loved the world, etc. [that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life].

  35. Actually on this White Horse Inn blog I wrote extensively on the differences between the lutheran and reformed traditions http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/09/17/sanctification-justification-in-action/ , which happens to be also the topic of this blog. I’m not going to repeat it here but in orthodox lutheran theology (unlike lutheran pietism) God creates faith through the preaching of the gospel and man’s will plays no part in coming to Christ. Faith is not an act of the will but a gift of God. The adoption of God’s children is just like the adoption of a baby by his parents where the child’s will is passive, does not participate, plays no part. In Reformed theology man is regenerated and he willingly comes to Christ. Faith is an act of the will for the Reformed, not so for the lutherans (only after faith has been given / created by God through the preaching of the gospel man can be said to have free will in matters of salvation).

    I did say in the White Horse Inn blog http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/09/17/sanctification-justification-in-action/ that R Scott Clark and B B Warfield are the only two Reformed theologians whose understanding of sanctification (Warfield) and union with Christ (Scott Clark) matches the lutheran understanding. And I provided links to back this up.

    • An immediate glance at yours before consulting the links, I think you may exaggerate the differences.

      The Reformed say that the donation of a new will to a believer (along with its nature and direction) is totally monergistic. Man is regenerated with a new will – which is in faith to look to God for his salvation.

      My ‘beef’ with the Reformed is that they return free will to man after salvation, but it seems you do too. I have certainly not read Bondage of the Will et al (G Forde most recently) in that way.

      Indeed your very sentence “only after faith has been given / created by God through the preaching of the gospel can man be said to have free will in matters of salvation” is, I suspect, part of what RSC sees as the weakness of your position – is grace resistible or not?

  36. Bill

    Put simply, for me, and I think for RSC, you have not distinguished the faith that leads to perseverance and the faith that can fall away

    • The faith that perseveres is the faith that keeps trusting in the promises of the gospel until the end. The faith that falls away trusts in the promises of the gospel initially but then stops, it doesn’t last, the man that commits apostacy, stops trusting in the good news of the gospel, falls away from the faith. Saul? Solomon? Judas? Think about it Judas followed Christ and Jesus admitted that he lost him. John 17:12 Jesus says that he lost none except the Son of Perdition because who was not one of the elect and was lost.

    • I understand all that – but does God give two types of faith? a persevering faith and and a false non-persevering faith?

    • Judas is a classic example of somebody falling from the faith, Luke 22:3 teaches “then Satan entered Judas” he was a believer for a while until the Devil took control of him.

  37. Richard, I’m sure I’ll be missing some of your questions. But let me hit a few points.

    1) Did Christ atone for the sins of Judas, Hitler, Pharaoh and so forth? Yes he did. Is the lutheran position similar to Barth? Yes and no. You need to realize that lutherans call it universal justification. 1 Corinthians 5:19 clearly states “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” So clearly Judas, Hitler, and Pharaoh were forgiven, their sins not imputed to them. It’s not God’s fault that they went to hell, their condemnation is grounded on their rejection of God’s gift of forgiveness. They are not part of the elect. And here’s the difference between Lutherans and Barth on the atonement, Lutherans teach objective justification (every man is objectively justified) but Barth teaches universal election. All men are elect according to Barth, and this lutherans flat out reject. The elect in lutheranism are those that receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ won at the cross and accept this good news. The elect are those that are justified by grace through faith in lutheran theology.

    2) With regard to freedom of the will after salvation all I meant is that man is able to believe the good news of the gospel only after he has been born again or given faith by God. What Luther understood by freedom of the will is not that man can choose right and wrong. No, man before salvation is in bondage, all he can do is disobey God. He is a slave to Satan. After God creates faith all the new man or the christian can do is obey (believe the gospel), he’s a slave to righteousness. it’s like two horses Luther wrote, one ridden by Satan (the unbeliever), the other by Christ (the believer). This is what Luther meant that man has free will after salvation, but also he wrote that it’s in a very weak manner that man can follow God (have faith) and inasmuch as the spirit works in him (the old Adam still wants nothing else but to disobey).
    3) I did not say the Reformed are not monergistic. But because the reformed speak of man being regenerated before faith, the will of man plays a part in conversion. And this causes other problems, like for example John Murray teaches that effectual call and regeneration is the main cause of sanctification. So basically for our sanctification we have to look at some work God did in us prior to faith, an infusion of grace that happened prior to faith. This is problematic it amounts to denying that faith and justification are the cause of our christian walk, instead it brings the focus to some infused grace (regeneration) that takes place prior to faith. Legalism is just a step around the corner of this faulty theology.
    4) In lutheranism there is a justtification part 1 and part 2 as you point out. There is an objective justification which is the universal atonement or universal forgiveness of sins that is preached when we preach the gospel, when we preach the forgiveness of sins to the whole world as Christ commanded us to do. Then there is a subjective justification, which occurs when we receive by faith the good news of the gospel, the good news of the forgiveness of sin, the good news of objective justification if you want to call it that way. Objective justification is redemption accomplished in the atoning work of Christ and subjective justification is redemption applied by grace through faith.
    4) Universal grace is resistible. Every time the gospel is preached and the forgiveness of sins won by Christ proclaimed in the gospel is rejected by man, this universal grace is being resisted. Special grace for the conversion of the elect (a grace that flows from election) is irresistible, but only in the sense that it is the work of God performed without human cooperation when through the preaching of the word the holy spirit creates faith in man.

  38. Thank you, Bill, for your speedy reply. I can be brief. You write

    “So clearly Judas, Hitler, and Pharaoh were forgiven, their sins not imputed to them. It’s not God’s fault that they went to hell, their condemnation is grounded on their rejection of God’s gift of forgiveness.”

    If those guys were forgiven – objectively – they should not go to hell, even if, subjectively, they were unaware of God, anti-God etc. What matters is that they were forgiven. To base it on their acceptance of forgiveness is arminian. Which matters to a lutheran – their forgiveness by God, or their acceptance of that forgiveness?

  39. Yours above ie ..

    “Bill, September 27, 2013 @ 3:24 PM

    Judas is a classic example of somebody falling from the faith, Luke 22:3 teaches “then Satan entered Judas” he was a believer for a while until the Devil took control of him.”

    So was Judas elect or not? presumably not. So therefore he did not have a faith that perseveres; he had a non-faith, like many in the church today (It is misleading to say that he had a Grade B faith that did not persevere).

    Again I say, you and the Reformed seem to differ on this only in language?

    • Further to mine moments ago,

      However you describe Judas’ ‘faith’, it is still a problem that if he, along with Pharaoh and Hitler, had been set right with God as a result of Jesus’ atoning death, their sins cannot be paid for twice – they will not be sent to hell – whatever it is that they know/think about God/Jesus

      My problem is understanding whether God’s act saves, or whether man’s acceptance of that act saves (but the latter is surely arminian)

    • Judas was not one of the elect. His faith did not persevere. 1 John 2:19 “they went out from us but they were not of us”. What 1 John means is that they departed from the faith (went out from us) but were not of us (were not part of the elect).

    • Judas was not one of the elect. His faith did not persevere. 1 John 2:19 “they went out from us but they were not of us”. What 1 John means is that they departed from the faith (went out from us) but were not of us (were not part of the elect).

    • Richard, with regard to your comment that if Judas and Hitler are sent to hell their sins are paid twice I have replied in a new post at the bottom. I just saw your question. The only way to explain this logically is that Judas and Hitler committed the unforgivable sin of Matthew 12:31. The sin against the holy spirit was not covered in the atonement. You see Christ teaches that there is one type of sin that is not atoned for “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” And this sin is rejecting God’s grace offered through natural revelation (Romans 1), or God’s grace offered in the gospel, simply put it’s unbelief persisted until death. To me it’s clear that Matthew 12:31 speaks of a forgiveness of sins without regard to faith, it speaks of the forgiveness of sins won by Christ at the atonement for all men. So yes the atonement is limited because there is one type of sin that is not paid for and those that commit that sin are condemned. So this is only logical way I can answer your question on how is it possible that the atonement is limited, there is one type of sin that is unforgivable and not paid for.

  40. Richard, something else that might help you that I didn’t address. Lutherans are comfortable proclaiming the forgiveness of sins not just through baptism but through the word in that the forgiveness of sins is grounded on objective justification, the sins are not imputed to the world 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Romans 5:18. If somebody doesn’t receive this forgiveness of sins and rejects the grace of the forgiveness of sins this doesn’t mean the atonement didn’t apply to them. As I said the sins of Hitler are forgiven, if a lutheran were to preach the gospel to Hitler while he was living he would have told him your sins are forgiven, Christ died for sinners like you on the cross. Now if Hitler had rejected the grace presented in the gospel proclamation he is condemned, it’s the same thing when absolution is proclaimed in the church if somebody does not believe he is forgiven he’s rejecting the grace of God.

    Matthew 12:31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” So there is one sin (which I think it’s rejecting God’s saving grace until death) that is never forgiven and Christ has not atoned for. So the atonement is universal to all men, but it is limited in the sense that those that reject God’s gift of forgivness are ultimately not covered by the atonement. I think this will help you understand how it’s possible to reconcile a universal atonement where sins are not imputed to the whole world with the reality that not everybody goes to heaven.

  41. OK, and here is another way of approaching it. I don’t like it as much but I have to admit it’s the official position of the confessional lutheran Wisconsin Synod with regard to this question that if everybody’s sins are fully paid for by Christ and then they go to hell there is a double payment. So one answer in that there is one sin, rejecting God’s grace persistently until death that has not been atoned for (Matthew 12:31). Let’s look at what the Wisconsin lutheran church teaches:

    If Jesus died for ALL the sins of ALL the people, then does not ALL the people in hell have ALL their sins atoned for?

    The short answer is “Yes.” All the sins of all of the people in hell have been atoned for. That is exactly what the passages cited above say. People end up in hell, not because Christ did not pay for their sins, but because they threw that payment away. If I give you money to pay your debts, it is really yours. But if you throw the money away, you will never benefit from it. If a peace treaty is signed between warring nations, but some of the soldiers out in the field do not believe the announcement and keep on fighting, they don’t benefit from the peace.

  42. You see Richard 2 Peter 2:1 specifically mentions that the blood of Christ has effectively bought or redeemed those that end up in hell, like false teachers: 2 Peter 2:1 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

    If you read Calvin’s commetary, I just checked it out myself where Calvin comments on the wording “even denying the Lord that bought them”, John Calvin himself acknowledges universal atonement. So the lutheran position that everybody in hell has their sins atoned for and fully paid is biblical. But if I give you money to cancel a debt and you throw the money away or I deposit it in a bank account and you don’t believe and don’t bother checking the bank account, then you end up paying out of your own pocket. So the debt only gets paid once, because man rejects God’s grace (the payment made by his Son). Now we can also add that those that commit this sin of rejecting the payment made by Christ and persist in this sin unto death, have committed the sin against the holy spirit that Christ spoke about shall never be forgiven man.

  43. Ha ha ha …

    Dear Richard,

    You and I should start a Lutheran Church that is closer to Luther and based on Forde, Bayer, Paulson, etc.!

    Praise the Lord we are kindred spirits, my fellow Fordean from the Old Country.

    • Glad to have enthused you!

      Yes, I am “of Paul, Luther, Forde and Paulson” !!!!

      Thank you for introducing me now to Oswald Bayer. Presumably it is his ‘Contemporary Introduction’ you are recommending. Being German, I guess there are no recordings in English by him?

      Can you also kindly point me towards more Paulson sermons – I have heard only a couple – both gems. And tell him to write another book!

      Also, some Forde sermons? And which of his books have you found most helpful?

      rflooke@yahoo.co.uk

  44. Jason, you will get no sympathy from Luther if you were start a church that preaches that Christ did not bear the sins of the whole world when he died on the cross. Luther in the bondage of the will teaches that Christ (he calls it God revealed in opposition to God hidden) wills the salvation of all men. In his commentary on Galatians Luther teaches that Christ bore the sins of the whole human race, everybody, none excluded. Read Luther’s commentary on Galatians 3:!3 , Christ is the greatest and only sinner in the world when bore the sins of the whole world at the cross. He became sin for us. Now, and here is the important thing those that reject this wonderful gift of salvation remain sinners, because we are justified by grace alone through faith alone. The universal atonement of Christ if not received by faith profits nothing. Christ paid for the sins of the whole world, but unless a sinner repents and believes that Christ died for him he remains in his sin. Justification (subjective justification) is by grace through faith, but Christ’s work on the cross (objective justification) which is the object of saving faith is the universal salvation that Christ has won for the human race. He is truly the second Adam.

    As a lutheran, as long as the Reformed preach the gospel to all men and announce the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus to all men I have absolutely no issue. Zero. When Abraham Kuyper announces the gospel to all sinners as Christ died for you, this is all lutherans care. However those that shy away to tell sinners “Christ died for you” when they preach, they are not preaching the gospel. C F W Walther goes at great length about this in his book Law and Gospel. So, I’m not hanged up on limited vs. unlimited atonement or the doctrine of objective justification, my litmus test is if you are preaching in public, having a conversation with somebody at the street or a bar or their home can you tell them “Christ died for your sins”. If you can, then you are a lutheran. If you can not, then you are not preaching the gospel.

    • Bill hi (again!)

      I understand exactly where you are coming from – ie without Universal Atonement we have nothing to offer people.

      I don’t want to exchange verses etc, but Jesus did not say either to Nicodemus or the rich young ruler ‘Your sins are forgiven’.

      We have several notions which could usefully be ordered in the historia salutis (and in the ordo salutis). They are

      1. Jesus’ atoning death (30 AD, or possibly before all time)
      2. The preached Word (2013) – we are debating its precise content
      3. the justification of the unbeliever (setting him at peace with God)
      4. the forgiveness of that unbeliever’s sins (IF separate from 3)
      5. the faith of that unbeliever, at which point he becomes a believer
      6. the regeneration of that man from an old man to a new creation

      After 1,2, I think the Reformed run 1,2,5, and then 3,4,6 together; whereas Lutherans run 1,3,2 then 5 then 4,6.

      By dragging 3 so far forward in time, it begs the question whether a justified man can still be an unforgiven man (because he has not had faith, but faith in what?).

      The problem for the Reformed ordo, from your perspective, is that the preached Word spells out promises and can even warm hearts but cannot directly deliver those promises to the hearer without the caveat ‘if you have faith’.

      I remain a floating voter!

  45. I meant to say Luther’s commentary on Galatians 3:13 which you can find online.

    And I’m not suggesting you go willy nilly telling everybody you meet your sins are forgiven. No, the law has to be preached first, the law needs to hunt down and identify the transgressor. But once the law has done its work, and pinned down sinners, then the forgiveness of sins for all sinners won by Christ at the cross needs to be proclaimed. Obviously address the call to those that think that they don’t need a physician, Christ came to save sinners and not those that are well. Frankly I have no idea how anybody that doesn’t believe that Christ’s blood was shed for all can preach the gospel with any confidence. How can they proclaim the forgiveness of sins to the audience or one on one to another man / woman when they have no idea if they are of the elect? And yet when the gospel is preached properly the announcement that Christ died for each and every sinner in the audience needs to be proclaimed.

  46. And in my last post I meant to say “obviously do not address the call to those that don’t think they need a physician”.

    I’m going to leave this but I will just show exactly what not preaching the gospel is. This is a classic example of what C F Walther in his lectures that you can read on his book Law and Gospel (which by the way you can either access online an older edition or buy at Concordia Publishing House) would call the wrong preaching of the gospel. This is preaching law. In response to the question should I say Christ died for you this articcle says no and goes onto explain how the gospel ought to be preached http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/questions/definiteatonement.html

    The problem is it is preaching law and not gospel. Faith is turned into a work. Instead of an proclamation of what Christ has already done (perfectly obeyed the law and satisfy every demand the God expects from me) , a to-do list with conditions is provided by this Reformed site. I would have never come to Christ under this preaching, I came to Christ reading Paul’s announcement in Romans 3 to 5 that it was finished and I had to do nothing. As C F W Walther teaches when the gospel is preached that my sins are forgiven on condition that I believe, it’s not the gospel any longer, because it requires me to obey the first commandment and it becomes law.

  47. Michael Horton is another example of how not to preach the gospel. He’s great, love him, and luckily he only preaches to believers! And he’s awesome at preaching to believers in his program the White Horse Inn. One of the best guys out there. But in his Systematic Theology and Pilgrim Theology he writes:

    – “Christ died for you” is to be given only to professing believers. –

    Now this is exactly why C F W Walther left Germany where Reformed and Lutheran churches were forced to unite and went to the United States. Michael Horton’s statement is the most unlutheran theological statement somebody can ever make, well or it ranks at the top at least. Because in lutheranism we don’t have a gospel for believers and a different one for unbelievers. As a matter of fact if you don’t tell an unbeliever Christ died for you or your sins have been taken away at Calvary, you have not preached the gospel. How did Luther get converted? Reading Romans a letter addressed to believers that teaches proclaims “Christ died for you”, same for Wesley listening to Luther’s preface on Romans. So the unbeliever is converted from the same preaching that is addressed to believers. So for Horton to teach that we should never tell an unbeliever “Christ died for you” is denying that the gospel should be preached to all. Fair enough Horton teaches that we can tell an unbeliever Christ die for the world or Christ died for sinners (based on the sufficiency of Christ’s death). But we are not preaching the gospel unless we tell this particular sinner that Christ died for him or her, the unbeliever needs to hear that Christ’s death specifically to him and that all his sins have been blotted out. When we preach the gospel the hearer is the direct object “for you”. This is what a luttheran preacher does, he acquits the sinner, this is the power of the keys that was given to the preacher of the gospel. This is how a lutheran preaches the gospel. I’m providing a lutheran link that says we always tell the unbeliever he’s forgiven, this is how God creates faith from this proclamation otherwise we have not preached the gospel to him http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=28750

    Somebody at Amazon wrote a comment on Gerhard Forde’s book, theology is for proclamation. And this is very powerful, because the word is a means of grace it has to be preached so that it pronounces the hearers forgiven:

    Very powerful comment on what a sermon should look like, without the “for you” is not a sermon:

    “The Sermon never gets around to “for you.” Perhaps this is a due to a timid pastor who doesn’t want to step on toes so talks about sin in the abstract without convicting one of it, and therefore than talking about the gospel in an abstract manner. Of course reformed are ever hesitant to get around to the for you, because they aren’t sure. Limited Atonement makes it impossible for the preacher to say with any certainty that Jesus died for you, that Jesus forgives you. But this is the wonderful thing about the Gospel, objective justification manifests itself in subjective salvation. Jesus died for the entire world (John 30)therefore he died for you, therefore your sins are forgiven, yes your sins.
    A helpful analogy he has in this book is that he writes of “two lovers conversing” what would your girlfriend make of it if when asking you if you love her, you said yes, I love the whole world, or started talking about what love is, but never getting around to telling her that you do love her, specifically. This is the rub. If we are to be spokesmen for God then we need to apply his love to those who are hearing not just talk about God’s love in the abstract.
    That is we can not give someone faith by talking about faith, but we give them something to believe in, Jesus Christ died for you.”

    • Bill,

      thanks – you have posted lots recently that I am wanting to digest

      just a quick one of this – if you say ‘Jesus died FOR YOU’ to an unbeliever, he may say ‘Golly; does that mean he has forgiven my sins?’

      what would you say?

      and if you say ‘yes’, he may then say ‘Golly, does that mean I won’t be going to hell to pay for those sins?’

      what would you say?

      Richard

      I think both Universal and Limited atonement views struggle to find ways of including faith as a key ingredient without making it a work by requiring it from the unbelieving listener.

    • Bill, I’m enjoying your inputs – and I think they are helping me!!

      I agree talking about faith is like talking about laughter and expecting people to laugh.

      Nevertheless, could we not preach “Jesus died to save sinners of whom you are one……Do you believe that?”

      Answer “Yes”

      “Well then, your sins are forgiven you, your faith has saved you; go in peace rejoicing”

      Of course, it is rarely that simple! After a tentative ‘yes’ we are tempted to ask ‘do you really believe it; can you put your trust in that; can you live your life in that knowledge?’ and then of course we are into deadly introspective ‘faith-in-faith’.

      My automatic follow up question would therefore tend to be ‘Do you believe not only that Jesus died, but that He IS risen, and that He will come again?’

      The emphasis on ‘is risen’ quickly focusses the mind; it is either trembling excitement and elicits more faith; or it causes a trembling fear (like the wrong meaning of Phil 2 v12) in which case it is pretty clear the gospel has not lodged.

      In other words, at all times, we keep the gospel as a declaration, rather than as an offer

  48. Richard, let me answer what you wrote:
    Nevertheless, could we not preach “Jesus died to save sinners of whom you are one……Do you believe that?”
    Answer “Yes”
    “Well then, your sins are forgiven you, your faith has saved you; go in peace rejoicing”

    The answer is of course you can but Jesus did not always say your faith has saved you (because really is the atoning work of Christ that saves you). And also you don’t want to make salvation conditional on faith. You don’t cast pearls to the swine either, in some cases you’ll have to preach law when people are still in the state where they don’t think they need a physician. But there will be many cases where you will simply pronounce the forgiveness of sins when you see somebody that is already crushed by guilt. Like when Christ saw an adulteress being stoned, condemned by the Law of Moses, he did not even speak about faith. He proclaimed law and gospel without mentioning faith. There was no time to talk about faith, or believing. a life was at stake. The law had to be proclaimed first, so Jesus tells those that were stoning the adulteress, John 8:7 “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The law immediately caused the pharisees to leave the woman and the scene condemned. And right after Jesus preaches the woman to the adulteress, who seconds before was being stoned and overwhelmed by the condemnation of Moses, John 8:10-11 “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

    Now the interesting thing here is because Jesus saved her life from her accusers and caused them to flee, she calls Jesus Lord before even Jesus tells her “neither do I condemn thee”. And this applies to the gospel as well when properly preached it creates faith without talking about faith, and you don’t tell somebody your faith has saved you because Christ has saved him (faith was merely the instrument by which you got a hold of Christ). And you certainly don’t ask for a profession of faith before telling them Christ died for you as Michael Horton teaches. Just google Christ died for you Michael Horton and it will lead you to 3 google books where Horton states this and you can read it.

    Another example is the paralytic. Mark 2:4-5 , when Jesus sees this person coming to him, he forgives his sins without mentioning faith.

    ” And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

    Because as C F W Walther and pastor Tom Baker (the host of the program Law and Gospel on KFUO radio) teach when somebody is looking for Jesus he already has faith, so you pronounce the forgiveness of sins without even mentioning faith because this person already has faith and as soon as he hears his sins are forgiven his faith (which he already has) will be strengthened. He’s given assurance of salvation without preaching about faith but pointing him to Christ’s promises. You see Christ saw that the paralytic had faith even though he had never heard the forgiveness of sins, this is why Christ doesn’t tell him your faith has saved you. He proclaims the gospel and forgives his sins.

    Other examples are the ethiopian eunuchi who was reading Isaiah and asked Philip who was Isaiah talking about and Philip answered Christ. And God created faith in Christ and only after he was a believer, but there was no mention of faith on the part of Philip until the ethiopian asked to be baptized.

    It is like a patient that knows he’s had a heart attack and goes to the emergency room in the hospital, the phisycian will immediately perform heart surgery to save the life. Heart surgery is performed immediately and the patient’s life saved.

  49. And with regard to your second question:
    My automatic follow up question would therefore tend to be ‘Do you believe not only that Jesus died, but that He IS risen, and that He will come again?’

    Yes, you can. But again you can’t all the time examine their faith before you proclaim the forgiveness of sins. Many times you will have to give them the forgiveness of sins first in order that they would have assurance of salvation. and not the other way around. And this is because historical facts (which christians ought to believe) also the demons believe. But in order to create trust (the most important aspect of faith) in Christ you will have to forgive the sinner before he can have trust in the forgiveness of sins.

    For example Peter preached about the resurrection and more in Acts 2 and they were cut to the heart. C F W Walther understands by cut to the heart that the law has made its work! Even though Peter was providing historical facts of Christ’s life, this won’t save you. Only after they were cut to the heart and asked Peter, “what shall we do”? It is at this point that Peter preaches the remission of sins, he uses the power of the keys and through water baptism forgives their sins,

    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    You see the forgiveness of sins has to be given by the preacher, who speaks in the stead of God. And this forgiveness has to be proclaimed to the unbeliever, unlike what Mike Horton teaches that you don’t tell an unbeliever that he’s forgiven or that Christ died for him / her. Well, how are you going to create faith then? The means of grace (word and sacrament) create faith in the unbeliever and sustain faith in the christian. You can’t tell somebody they are forgiven only after they have a well formed saving faith, what use is that? The word and sacrament create faith by bestowing the forgiveness of sins. Now that some to whom the forgiveness of sins is given through word and sacrament, will trample and refuse the blood of Christ shed for them is obvious. I quoted so much scripture about this above that won’t repeat it again. But they add condemnation to themselves.

    A former reformed fellow that converted to catholicism saw the problem with reformed theology, they left the power of the keys in heaven. You create faith by telling somebody you are forgiven, whatever you loose on earth I shall loose said the Lord and whatever you bind I shall bind. So when we preach the law we condemn every sinner, but when we preach the gospel we proclaim every sinner forgiven. And only after we’ve done that God forgives them. So we need to tell people their sins are forgiven, before God has actually forgiven their sin. This means we should not ask them if they had faith, we should tell the unbeliever he’s forgiven, and this will create faith.

    Read this by this former Reformed that has debated Michael Horton. We lutherans agree with him on this 100%. The Reformed have left the power of the keys in heaven, when God gave them through Christ to every believer that preaches the gospel or administers the sacraments.

    http://www.oocities.org/metaphysics8/ReformedTheologyEternity.html

  50. OK, I decided to copy paste. Bryan Cross is a former reformed who moved to catholicism. On this lutherans agree 100% with Bryan Cross. The means of grace, word and sacrament, create faith, they convey the forgiveness of sin unconditionally and faith is created as a result. This is the power of the keys that was given to the preacher by Jesus Christ.

    Reformed Theology’s View from Eternity
    Bryan Cross
    June, 2007

    One of the main problems with [contemporary de facto] Reformed theology is that it attempts to look at everything from the point of view of eternity. The “eternal decrees” serve as the foundation on which the rest of the theology is built. Salvation, for example, is understood fundamentally in relation to election [to glory]. That is why actual apostasy is thought to be impossible; those who ‘fall away’ were faking it the whole time, and so do not actually fall away. Christ’s action on the cross is interpreted through the lens of the “eternal decrees”. Assurance is described in relation to election [to glory]. Even the efficacy of the sacraments is determined by the doctrine of the “eternal decrees”, because “salvation” is already understood in terms of being elected [to glory]. The effect on the sacraments of this ‘view from eternity’ is to undermine their efficacy. It is this, in my opinion, that makes Reformed theology intrinsically non-sacramental. The sacraments are only accidentally or stipulatively related to grace and salvation.
    The Catholic Church recognizes the truth of election to glory, but does not make this doctrine the paradigm through which everything else must be understood. We are in time, and we necessarily see through time; we cannot see from the point of view of eternity. We see the divine through the human; we see God most clearly through the incarnate Christ, through His human nature. In this way, the incarnation is the antidote to Reformed theology’s attempt to peer down from the heavens. Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:19) Notice the order of relation. What the Church binds here on earth, shall be bound in heaven. And whatever the Church looses here on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Reformed theology turns this backwards, limiting the Church to the eternal decrees, making the efficacy of the sacraments dependent on the recipient’s election [to glory] status. But we cannot *see* from the point of view of eternity; attempts to do so result in misconstruing it as fatalism. That is why we are not to attempt to peer down from eternity. Rather, Jesus has given to the Church the keys of the kingdom. Reformed theology functions as though the keys are still in heaven, as though the Church does not *really* have them. But the Magisterium of the Church has the authority to forgive sins: “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:23). Jesus does not say, “If you forgive the sins of any, then if their election [to glory] status allows, their sins will be forgiven.” If I want to know whether I am saved, I am not to try to peer into the divine decrees, but to look at my relation to the Church. If I want to know whether Christ’s work on the cross applies to me, I am not to try to peer into the divine decrees, but seek to receive the sacraments. And if I want to know whether I am decretally elect, the Church tells me I must wait until the end to find out, which makes the status of my decretal election essentially irrelevant right now. Right now, what I am to be concerned about is my relation to the Church; when the Magisterium says to me, by the authorization of Christ, “Your sins are forgiven” I can know that my sins are forgiven.
    1

  51. C F W Walther teaches that the power of the keys is nothing else than proclaiming law and gospel correctly. The preacher does it in the stead of Christ, he doesn’t forgive sins, Christ does but the preacher announces this forgiveness on Christ’s behalf. He’s an ambassador for Christ when he forgives the sins of the unbeliever by the preaching of the gospel. We declared every sinner guilty before God when we preach the Law, and we declare every sinner acquitted before God through the gospel. But the preaching needs to be addressed to so that each hearer feels addressed in an individual manner. The law prepares the sinner to hear the gospel, when the gospel is proclaimed faith is created by the holy spirit. Some believe and are saved, some do not believe and are condemned.

    • whooah!

      Bill, I think you are now giving me too much to digest!

      I am trying to do one thing only – to examine the relative merits of the (lutheran) position whereby you pronounce the actuality of the forgiveness of sins to each and all men, and that declarative use of the keys then creates faith in the elect – as against the reformed position where they declare that Christ died for sinners but only when the hearer believes that, is the forgiveness of his sins reassured.

      You say forgiveness comes before faith, and they say the opposite.

      My concern with your (lutheran) position is that, logically and judicially, once a man has had his sins forgiven (30 AD) then he cannot go to hell to pay for those sins and that is still true even if he does not have faith.

      So again I ask you an earlier question – for lutherans, is salvation dependent on the forgiveness of sins (an objective, historical fact), or only on the individual’s (subjective, inner) acceptance of that fact?

    • Just answered your question whether justification (the forgiveness of sins) precedes faith or whether faith precedes the forgiveness of sins in a separate post below.

  52. And this is why in orthodox lutheranism there is no ordo salutis. Does justification precede faith or come after faith? The answer is both. Because nobody can believe he’s forgiven unconditionally and all his sins are paid for, unless all his sins were forgiven and paid for in the first place. Let’s say I owe somebody money, until that debt forgiven by my creditor, I can’t possibly believe that I don’t owe the money no longer. In this sense the unconditional forgiveness of sins (the objective work of Christ on the cross, the objective justification) not on account of faith or anything always precedes faith. So an unbelievers sins are forgiven unconditionally without faith. Now when this is announced (when the unbeliever is told about Christ’s work on the cross) he’s justified by grace through faith. In this sense Paul talks that we are justified by grace through faith. And in this sense only the forgiveness of sins follows faith, but the forgiveness of sins also precedes faith as I explained or else nobody can ever come to faith. The debt needs to be cancelled first (objective justification) by my creditor before I can believe I’m debt free (subjective justification). Now when my debt is cancelled by a creditor, it’s unconditional, it doesn’t matter if I believe it or not. I’m fully justified, fully forgiven. So we are fully forgiven both prior to faith, and after faith as I have explained. This is why we can’t really say if justification precedes or follows faith, as I have just explained. It’s like the chicken and the egg, what comes first.

    And in Romans 5:8-10 Paul talks about justification prior to faith and after faith. If you notice Paul talks about a before and an after:

    Romans 8:
    8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

    What does Paul mean? I think we can say that while we were still sinners Christ died for us means that God unconditionally forgave our sins prior to us coming to faith. And when Paul says much more now having been justified by his blood he most likely means much more now that we have come to faith. Now I have heard lutheran Pastor Tom Baker explain that when we preach the gospel we need to tell the unbeliever that God is already reconciled to him / her. He has already forgiven his / her sins, all blotted out clean. What remains is for the unbeliever to reconcile himself to God, which in this case is accept God’s reconciliation. God is not the enemy of the unbeliever any longer, he loves the unbeliever in Christ, but the unbeliever doesn’t love God. You see it takes two to tango. Let’s have human analogy. Let’s say somebody offends us (lies about us, discredits us to get some gain unlawfully) and we forgive that person, now this person may accept our forgiiveness and we can be friends or have a professional relationship and do business with them, or may reject our forgiveness and keep lying and slandering us. You see we have forgiven this person unconditionally (objective justification) but if they don’t accept that we have forgiven them and reject our forgiveness there will be no relationship regardless of the fact that I have fully forgiven the offender. It is the same with God has done everything he can in objective justification, but if we don’t accept his unconditional gift of forgiveness we remain enemies of God, there is no subjective justification. So God is already reconciled to every sinner (objective justification) because Christ has finished his job and every sinner is forgiven, but very few sinners are reconciled to God because they do not accept God’s forgiveness and still see God as an enemy (even though God sees them as friends). Sinners need to accept God’s gift by faith to be justified by faith (subjective justification),

  53. And this is why pastor Tom Baker teaches in his program Law and Gospel that people that go to hell are people that are fully forgiven but didn’t know it or better didn’t accept God’s forgiveness.

    The analogy of the debtor – creditor I gave above works best to understand this. The creditor has to forgive the debt before the debtor can believe he has no longer a debt. This is a fact. So the forgiveness of sins has to precede faith. But because the forgiveness of sins is received by faith, the creditor needs to announce, that means tell the debtor (through the proclamation of the gospel) that he has forgiven his debt. When the debtor believe that his debt has been cancelled then (subjective jusrification) then he celebrates with joy. So really we are justified and pardoned unconditionally before faith, faith is actually created by this unconditional pardon, this is why we need to tell the sinner he’s forgiven before he comes to faith. Now when the sinner receives this announcement he’s justified by grace through faith, but really all the sinner is doing is receiving the forgiveness of sins that took place freely prior to faith.

    • I wrote

      “You say forgiveness comes before faith, and they say the opposite.

      My concern with your (lutheran) position is that, logically and judicially, once a man has had his sins forgiven (30 AD) then he cannot go to hell to pay for those sins and that is still true even if he does not have faith”

      You have now confirmed that the lutheran position is that forgiveness does indeed come before faith

      But you have not answered my objection which is why a forgiven man is sent to hell (even if he does not know he is forgiven)

      I am pretty well at the limit of asking this question to no avail

    • Hey Richard, I thought I answered the question. But here it goes again. You have to be reconciled to God. God forgives your sin, but if you don’t accept his forgiveness you remain his enemy. Being forgiven does not mean you will go to heaven. This is nowhere in the bible.

      I gave you the example if somebody wrongs you and you forgive that person. Even if you forgive all her past, present, and future wrongs you may still not win that person over. They may reject your forgiveness and refuse to reconcile with you. Reconciliation is a two way street. As I mentioned to you I can easily tell an unbeliever God is not your judge, you see him as your judge, you see God as your enemy. But God loves you and gave his Son for you, he doesn’t hold anything against you, all your sins were laid on his Son at the cross. You see God has done his part and do not consider the sinner his enemy. But if the sinner doesn’t accept this forgiveness and continues to see God as his enemy, as a judge, he remains under the law that works wrath, then this person will go to hell. He goes to hell not because has not forgiven him, but because refused the forgiveness of sin. So he remains an enemy of God and in practice what has happened is he forfeited the gift of the forgiveness of sin. God gave him the robe of righteousness (the forgiveness of sins) and he refused to put it on, he trampled on the blood of the Son. So he forfeited the forgiveness of sin, he basically committed the unpardonable sin.

      The answer to your question in a sentence is when man rejects the forgiveness of sin he remains condemned.

      The forgiveness of sins has to be received by faith, if man doesn’t repent and believe the gospel, the forgiveness of sins profits nothing. Man forfeits the forgiveness of sin. And this is not due to God, but due to man. Let me see if I can find material from others. I saw something from Luther yesterday and there are other people that explain this as well.

  54. This is Michael Horton’s fatal mistake when he teaches that we can only tell a believer “Christ died for you”. If this were the case we basically can’t preach the gospel to unbelievers, we can’t give them the good news that his debt is paid for.

  55. Richard, I missed one of your posts that didn’t answer. You asked me:
    just a quick one of this – if you say ‘Jesus died FOR YOU’ to an unbeliever, he may say ‘Golly; does that mean he has forgiven my sins?’
    what would you say?
    and if you say ‘yes’, he may then say ‘Golly, does that mean I won’t be going to hell to pay for those sins?’
    what would you say?

    I will baptize him in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the response of a joyous heart that has received the gospel.

  56. OK, I got a lutheran pastor to answer your question. http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/tag/objectivesubjective-justification/

    From a Lutheran perspective , Is the world including you and I already forgiven and it is simply a matter of individually grasping that gift by faith ..Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our conversion ..I heard a Lutheran Pastor state that both heaven and hell are populated with forgiven people the difference is that those in hell rejected the gift .Can you give me any scripture that might help me ..thanks .. A
    Dear A,
    You’re giving me a chance to have my very own Greek Tuesday. :-)
    The idea that you’re thinking of is called objective justification. The quick
    answer is that the pastor that you mentioned is absolutely right. Hell is full
    of forgiven sinners. The reason that he’s right is that the Scriptures tell us
    that all sinners have been justified by Christ’s suffering and death for them on
    the cross. This teaching is found in Romans 3:21-25a. In particular we see it
    in verses 23 and 24:
    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely
    by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
    As is often the case, the key to understanding the doctrine is in the grammar of
    God’s Word. Saint Paul writes that all (πάντες) have sinned. “All” is the
    subject of the sentence. In Greek, the form of “all” is masculine plural. If we
    jump to verse 24, we find a participle (verbal adjective), “being justified”
    (δικαιούμενοι), which is also masculine plural. In Greek, a masculine plural
    adjective must modify a masculine plural noun. In Romans 3:23-24, there is only
    one option. “Being justified” (δικαιούμενοι) must modify “all” (πάντες).
    What does this mean? It means that Saint Paul is being very careful to teach us
    this biblical truth: The “all” who have sinned and the “all” who are justified
    are the same “all.” The teaching of objective justification comforts us by
    saying that if you are a sinner, Jesus has forgiven all of your sins on the
    cross. There is no wondering whether or not your sins have been answered for.
    They have. You are part of the “all” who has sinned. For that reason you are
    also part of the “all” that is justified. The grammar of Romans 3 leaves no
    other possibility.
    You also ask, “Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our
    conversion?” The short answer is no. You were forgiven on the cross. What
    happens at the moment that God creates faith in our heart is that we receive the
    benefits of the forgiveness that we already have. This is often called
    subjective or individual justification.
    Subjective justification is the biblical teaching that the forgiveness Christ
    won for all people on the cross is received only in faith. This teaching
    Scripture is also in Romans 3. Particularly, Romans 3:23-25a:
    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ,
    ὃν προέθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a
    gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put
    forward as a propitiation by His blood, through faith.”
    Saint Paul writes that our justification is received “as a gift by His grace
    through faith.” That phrase needs a bit of unpacking. Our justification is a
    gift (δωρεὰν). That means it is not earned. This fact is emphasized by the
    phrase “by His grace” (τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι). Grace is undeserved favor. The
    gift of justification is not given because we deserve it in any way. Finally, the
    gift is receved “through faith” (διὰ τῆς πίστεως).
    To say that something is received through faith is to say that our justification
    (=the forgiveness of our sins) cannot be delivered unless faith is there to
    receive it. You can’t get mail without a mailbox. You can’t see without an
    eye. You can’t hear without an ear. You can’t withdraw cash from a bank unless
    you have a withdrawal slip. Faith is that gift of God by which all other gifts
    are received. It’s the “mailbox” into which all the other gifts–forgiveness of
    sins, life, and salvation–are delivered. It is the eye which sees the light.
    It is the ear which hears the sound. It is the deposit slip which gets what’s
    in your bank account.
    In objective justification you might say that God has made a deposit of a
    million dollars into every sinner’s bank account. Some who are told about this
    fact ignore it. They do not believe it. They lack faith. Because of that,
    they will never benefit from the money that actually is in their account. Those
    who do believe it will have every benefit of the million dollars that is already
    theirs. Of course this metaphor can fall down, and it does whenever we think,
    “Well, you have to make the withdrawal” or “You have to open your eye,” etc.
    That’s not the point. The point is that you receive the benefits of what
    Christ has really done for you on the cross (objective justification) in and
    through faith. That is the teaching of subjective justification.
    I hope this helps!
    Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
    Pastor, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Accident, MD
    http://www.stjohncove.org

    • nope, sorry

      Rom 3 v23 ‘for all have sinned..and v24 are justified’ does not relate to all the world, but to all those people who are the subject of v22a ‘all those who believe’. So the v22-24 passage should (amplified) read

      ‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all WHO believe. There is no difference [among them, those who believe] for ALL of them [those who believe] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and [they, those who believe] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption [of those people] that came by Christ Jesus.

      Context

      Limited Atonement

  57. OK, and here it goes a 15 – page study on the doctrine of objective justification by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BeckerJustification.pdf This is possibly the most comprehensive study and a perfect summary of lutheran soteriology.

    You need to get it out of your head though that forgiven people go to heaven. Everybody is forgiven, that God forgave you has nothing to do with you going to hell or heaven. The ones in heaven received the gift and the ones in hell rejected it. God is reconciled to man (forgave everybody), be ye now reconciled to God says the apostle Paul (receive this forgiveness). As this study shows is exactly the same as with baptism. In baptism the baby is forgiven, if he accepts his baptism he goes to heaven, if he rejects his baptism he goes to hell. This was Luther’s teaching as this study shows. Read it and let me know if you have more questions.

  58. OK, and I thought I had posted from Jonathan Fisk’s website but I can’t see it now. I think it had too many links and didn’t get posted.

    Again everybody is forgiven in lutheran theology. Being forgiven does not determine if you go to heaven or hell. It is whether you receive the benefits of the gift or not that determines ultimate salvation. Those that reject the benefit, have forfeited the forgiveness of sins. Remember grace is resistible in lutheranism.

    Here it goes, from http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2010/11/25/unlimiting-atonement/

    From a Lutheran perspective , Is the world including you and I already forgiven and it is simply a matter of individually grasping that gift by faith ..Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our conversion ..I heard a Lutheran Pastor state that both heaven and hell are populated with forgiven people the difference is that those in hell rejected the gift .Can you give me any scripture that might help me ..thanks .. A
    Dear A,
    You’re giving me a chance to have my very own Greek Tuesday. :-)
    The idea that you’re thinking of is called objective justification. The quick
    answer is that the pastor that you mentioned is absolutely right. Hell is full
    of forgiven sinners. The reason that he’s right is that the Scriptures tell us
    that all sinners have been justified by Christ’s suffering and death for them on
    the cross. This teaching is found in Romans 3:21-25a. In particular we see it
    in verses 23 and 24:
    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely
    by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
    As is often the case, the key to understanding the doctrine is in the grammar of
    God’s Word. Saint Paul writes that all (πάντες) have sinned. “All” is the
    subject of the sentence. In Greek, the form of “all” is masculine plural. If we
    jump to verse 24, we find a participle (verbal adjective), “being justified”
    (δικαιούμενοι), which is also masculine plural. In Greek, a masculine plural
    adjective must modify a masculine plural noun. In Romans 3:23-24, there is only
    one option. “Being justified” (δικαιούμενοι) must modify “all” (πάντες).
    What does this mean? It means that Saint Paul is being very careful to teach us
    this biblical truth: The “all” who have sinned and the “all” who are justified
    are the same “all.” The teaching of objective justification comforts us by
    saying that if you are a sinner, Jesus has forgiven all of your sins on the
    cross. There is no wondering whether or not your sins have been answered for.
    They have. You are part of the “all” who has sinned. For that reason you are
    also part of the “all” that is justified. The grammar of Romans 3 leaves no
    other possibility.
    You also ask, “Or is it that we are not forgiven until the moment of our
    conversion?” The short answer is no. You were forgiven on the cross. What
    happens at the moment that God creates faith in our heart is that we receive the
    benefits of the forgiveness that we already have. This is often called
    subjective or individual justification.
    Subjective justification is the biblical teaching that the forgiveness Christ
    won for all people on the cross is received only in faith. This teaching
    Scripture is also in Romans 3. Particularly, Romans 3:23-25a:
    πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικαιούμενοι
    δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ,
    ὃν προέθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a
    gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put
    forward as a propitiation by His blood, through faith.”
    Saint Paul writes that our justification is received “as a gift by His grace
    through faith.” That phrase needs a bit of unpacking. Our justification is a
    gift (δωρεὰν). That means it is not earned. This fact is emphasized by the
    phrase “by His grace” (τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι). Grace is undeserved favor. The
    gift of justification is not given because we deserve it in any way. Finally, the
    gift is receved “through faith” (διὰ τῆς πίστεως).
    To say that something is received through faith is to say that our justification
    (=the forgiveness of our sins) cannot be delivered unless faith is there to
    receive it. You can’t get mail without a mailbox. You can’t see without an
    eye. You can’t hear without an ear. You can’t withdraw cash from a bank unless
    you have a withdrawal slip. Faith is that gift of God by which all other gifts
    are received. It’s the “mailbox” into which all the other gifts–forgiveness of
    sins, life, and salvation–are delivered. It is the eye which sees the light.
    It is the ear which hears the sound. It is the deposit slip which gets what’s
    in your bank account.
    In objective justification you might say that God has made a deposit of a
    million dollars into every sinner’s bank account. Some who are told about this
    fact ignore it. They do not believe it. They lack faith. Because of that,
    they will never benefit from the money that actually is in their account. Those
    who do believe it will have every benefit of the million dollars that is already
    theirs. Of course this metaphor can fall down, and it does whenever we think,
    “Well, you have to make the withdrawal” or “You have to open your eye,” etc.
    That’s not the point. The point is that you receive the benefits of what
    Christ has really done for you on the cross (objective justification) in and
    through faith. That is the teaching of subjective justification.
    I hope this helps!
    Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
    Pastor, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Accident, MD

  59. I do plan to do justice to your post with the greek in it

    But on this one, I reiterate my long-standing question which is – how can a fair and just God send to hell people whose sins He has forgiven?!

    If your sins were the thing that condemned you to hell, but they were paid for, then why the double indemnity?

    put this way in case it is unclear – why would a judge say ‘your crimes have been forgiven…….but, whack, you are off to prison’

    I just don’t get it, and to be honest, I don’t get why you don’t get it

  60. Bill

    Your concern for my sensibilities is touching but have no fear. And if I might ask you something in a brotherly spirit – for me to do justice to your argumentation, can you make your posts shorter and less repetitive; we need to add to address the nodal point not sermonise the whole issue. Is that ok?

    Your para 2 starts (and I quote only to save others back-tracking)

    “Calvinists deny the freedom of God, they deny God’s sovereignty. They have made God their slave. They think God owes them something. They think God can’t send them to hell because Christ already paid the penalty for sin and if God sent them to hell he would be unjust. What a farce this is..”

    I am not a paid-up calvinist, but you do not understand the calvinist position at all.
    1. Calvinists totally uphold God’s sovereign election (TULIP etc)
    2. They totally accept all men deserve hell
    3. They believe God does not save all men (not Judas/Pharaoh)
    4. Salvation is wrought by God’s forgiveness of our sins
    5. 3 and 4 mean God only forgives the sins of some men
    6. It is Jesus’ atoning death that brings the forgiveness of sins
    7. 5 and 6 mean Jesus only atoned for some men
    8. They call this Limited Atonement
    9. This may be a poor phrase, but it is good logic not a farce
    10. having more systematic logic than ‘forgiven sinners in hell’.

    The forgiveness of sins is at the heart of the gospel; we protestants call it justification. The shorthand phrase ‘justification by faith’ has always been unhelpful. Faith is NOT the agent as is supposed. We are justified by grace (the agent) through faith (the medium). That is the pure picture of election

    Put another way, we are NOT justified by our God-given faith in God’s forgiveness of our sins (which has an internal basis – faith); we are just plain justified by God’s gracious forgiveness of our sins (which has an external basis – God)

    I personally think that Luther was clear on this but it was subsequent German pietism that over-emphasized the ‘inner’ component for various well-intentioned, but misguided reasons. (Read lutheran Gerhard Forde’s Law and Gospel)

    There is more in Luther than in Barth

    Blunt for brevity’s sake

  61. Bill,

    This is a confessional Reformed blog. If you want to trash the Reformed faith. Get your own blog. See the comments policy, which you freely chose to ignore. I’ve been gracious but you resisted and now you’re done.

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