-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Commemoration of David

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness, according to the multitude of Your tender mercies; blot out my transgressions.
Wash me completely from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done evil in Your eyes; that You might be justified in Your speaking and be clear when You judge.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden parts You teach me wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Cause me to hear joy and gladness; the bones You have crushed will rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me out from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways; and sinners will turn back to You.
Deliver me from the guilt of shedding blood, O God, O God of my salvation; my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice, or I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

-Psalm 51

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Althaus on Faith and Command

Here are some more statements from Paul Althaus. I will respond to them in my final post on the law. The focus is on the relation of faith and the law.

"In the beginning, in the primal state from which we all derive, is the divine command [Gebot]. It is present as the reverse side of the offer [Augebot] with which the eternal love of God originally encounters man. Love's offer says: God wants to be for me; he wants to be my God. He has created me as man, and this means, for personal fellowship with him--for participation in his life in the partnership of love. Just as he, my God, freely gives himself to me, so he calls me also, in his offer, to free self-giving. Thereby he calls me to be his image. Such is his love.

"God's offer, therefore, is at the same time a summons, an appeal, and a command: namely, that I should let him be what he, in his love, wants to be--my God. The command is grounded wholly in the offer; it is wholly borne by God's gift to us. It is this gift that stands at the beginning: God's wanting to be for us. The offer, not the command, is primary. But precisely because this is an offer made in love--love that seeks me as a person--this offer, this gift, necessarily (with the necessity of God's love) becomes also a summons. God cannot be my God in a saving way unless I let him be my God. Otherwise the nature of the personal relationship, as God himself intends it, would be contradicted. He calls me to trust him above all things. This is offer (promissio) and at the same time summons, commands, and call.

"It might well be asked whether it is advisable, from a theological point of view, to designate this appeal of God which accompanies his gracious offer to man by the word "command"--whether the connotations of this term are sufficiently distinct from those of "law." Emil Brunner speaks in this connection of God's "claim on man," or his "summons": "Man cannot receive the love of God save through being commanded to accept it, and in being claimed by God." Our use of the term "command" corresponds to the usage in I John 3:23, where in faith in the name of Jesus Christ is indicated as the content of "God's commandment." According to John, the gospel of Jesus Christ is at one and the same time a gospel and a commandment. This is to say that faith, although it is won from man by God's love, is nevertheless also man's personal act, in and through which he gives, and must give, God the glory (Rom. 4:20). It is in this respect that faith is obedience (Rom. 1:5, 10:3). The notion of "command," then, corresponds to a basic element in the gospel; and if the term is appropriate here, then it surely appropriate also to describe God's original relationship to man. However, we shall find it useful to substitute the word "appeal" or "summons" for "command" from time to time, in order to indicate all the more clearly the contrast with law, and to remind ourselves of the original meaning of divine command as the reverse side of God's offer.

"Thus the command promises life; it is a commandment eis zoen (Rom. 7:10). It calls me into life with God; that is, into freedom from the world, and into love, which is true life. So the command itself is a memorial of God's love for me.

""Command": this implies that another will confronts me, which puts my own will under claim. There is not as yet any opposition between the two, but there clearly is a duality. Unity between God's will and my own is something that has to be realized, over and again; it is not presupposed. The command is a word that stands over me, a word spoken to me. My situation, therefore, is that of one who has to ask, who has to listen, for a word which I myself cannot speak. The fact that God's will confronts us as command is not a condition that arises through sin, or on account of sin; it is an ordinance of the Creator. For God is my Lord. What exists "in the beginning," in the primal state [Urstand], is not a mystical oneness with God, nor an identity of will, but rather a duality: a duality, however, that in every moment is in the process of becoming a unity. But this "becoming a unity" takes place only in obedience. The command does not originate after the fall; it exists already before the fall." (The Divine Command: A New Perspective on Law and Gospel, trans. Franklin Sherman (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 8-10.)

"Man, however--and this is another feature of life under the law--fails to understand this situation. He conceals from himself that character of law as a strange word of God--its negativity, its secondary and prohibitive character, its meaning as a sign and shadow of our own past and continuing sin. He thinks that he can use the law in a positive way. The very law which in its form is an expression of the rejection and loss of salvation, and hence of man's state of hopelessness, is treated by man as if it were a means of salvation. He vainly imagines that through fulfilling the law he can repair his shattered relationship to God, that he can become righteous before God. He treats the law, in Luther's word, as justificatrix, as justifying.

"But this is not only a complete misinterpretation of the situation, as illusion (for no one, given the covetousness of the human heart, has been able, since man's fall from fellowship with God, to fulfill God's law), this very effort is itself further sin against God. Indeed, it is the repetition of the primal sin by which man fell away from God, namely, the effort to live before God by something other than God's own love, the love that precedes all our acting. This constitutes a misinterpretation not only of man's situation as sinner, but also of God's godhood and of man's creaturehood. God is God, and wills to be God--that is, to be solely and absolutely the Creator; the Creator not only of our existence but also of the worth and value that we have before him. Because God is God, the only possibility of man's living before him and having some significance in his sight derives from God's own free, unearned, unmerited favor. It is not only the sinner who is wholly dependent upon grace; the same is true of the righteous man--if there is or could be such. To deny this was and is the sin of the pharisee.

"The effort to recommend oneself to God and put oneself right before him by one's own achievements is blasphemy, as Luther put it plainly. It is an attack on the divine majesty of him who is and wills to be always the Creator, not only of our natural life, but also of our place as children in his house. Human ethics can never play the role of securing or preserving man's position before God. This position is something given to him by God's love; it is not earned, nor can it be earned. And this is true not only at the outset, but always; God's saving grace is always prevenient grace. Ethical righteousness as a pathway to salvation is not only an impassible, but also a forbidden, pathway. For to follow this pathway would be to surrender the relationship of childlike trust. This way can only serve inevitably to confirm again and again man's inevitable sinfulness. From beginning to end, it is an expression of his sin, indeed of the basal sin by which he fell and continually falls away from trusting faith in God's love." (The Divine Command, 16-17)

"Basically, to be sure, the Christian, in faith, is at one with God's loving will and rejoices in it. There is nothing he desires more ardently than that God's good and gracious will should be done in us and through us. But this basic oneness of my will with what God wills must become a matter of concrete experience in an ever new enacting of this oneness. The basic surrender must be expressed in ever new concrete acts of surrender. For the duality remains, the otherness and newness of the concrete will of God in contrast to my human expectations and desires. Again, this becomes plain to us in the figure of Jesus Christ. Even for him who as the Son lived in an unbroken fellowship of love with the Father, "my will" and "thy will" were two different things, as the prayer in Gethsemane reveals. Even though throughout his life he was of one will with the Father, nevertheless in every concrete instance he had to become one with the particular will of the Father, moving to such unity from the duality of "my will" and "thine." The fact that this was so even in Jesus' case demonstrates that this basic duality, this distinction between what we ought to do and what we ought to do and what we wish to do, is not as such to be attributed to, or regarded as an expression of, the sinfulness of our will. Rather it is given in and with the very fact that Creator and creature, Father and son, Lord and servant stand over against one another. Although Jesus "knew no sin," God's will still confronted him as an other--not implying that he was a sinner, but only that he too stood under God as his Lord. God's will is an "other" not only vis-a-vis our sinful desires, but also vis-a-vis our natural desires as creatures. . .This becomes especially clear when God's will calls on us to suffer. It is not the Creator's will that anyone should deliberately wish for suffering and death, weakness and failure. Nevertheless, God may sometime ask this of us, as he did of Jesus. (The Divine Command, 36-37)

In our opinion, this juxtaposition [between indicative and imperative] is an expression of the peculiar character of all human existence before God, and hence also of Christian existence. Paul's words in Philippians reflect this same duality: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure" (2:12f.). This means (1) we know that faith, and with it, the new life, remains always God's gift; and yet (2) we know always that we are called and are responsible to have such faith and to walk in this newness of life. Our being Christians is at every moment a gift of God, and likewise in every moment, from our standpoint and with respect to us, a task. Insofar as it is God's gift, we may and must describe our state as Christians as a state of being, which now simply operates and out of the power of God brings forth "fruit." This is a matter of the indicative. But faith and the new life--which from God's standpoint constitutes a state of being--are from the human standpoint only realized in that we are called day by day to act in accordance with the new manner of life i.e., to live in faith and love. Here the imperative element appears. It is not the case that we simply live and act as new creatures; rather, we are constantly called anew into this newness [N.B. This is where I feel Forde's understanding is lacking. Forde seems to see sanctification merely as an indicative process almost distinct from human experience. The duality of wills--God's and my own--, being confronted with God's Word, and the imperative nature of our fellowship with God is what is missing in Forde's understanding. On the other hand, I don't quite think Althaus resolves indicative and imperative satisfactorily either.] What we have the privilege of knowing as a state of being, insofar as t is God's gift, is realized over and again (in accordance with the way God has made us as persons) only as an act required in this moment.

"We may speak of fruits, whose appearing may be taken for granted if we are thinking of the faithfulness of God (I Thess. 5:23 f.; I Cor. 1:8 f.). He has begun a good work in us and will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). It is he who makes me fruitful. But this trust in God does not abolish our own responsible character as persons, nor does it negate God's challenge to us, which calls for a response in continually new acts of decision.

"Thus our Christian life stands at all times under the double aspect of being and act, gift and assignment. The "being" is really only in terms of personal "act." But the very act demanded of us, we beg and receive from the faithfulness of God. It is this faithfulness on which the continuity of the new life is based.

"All this is true of faith as well, as we have already indicated. It too bears this double character. God effects faith in me; and yet the New Testament presents also the imperative: "Only believe!" (Mark 5:36; Luke 8:50). "Have faith in God!" (John 14:1). Faith itself is the object of an appeal, an imperative.

"We conclude, therefore, that the relationship between faith and works is not a causal one. Faith in not, from the human perspective, a state of affairs that simply works itself out in such a way as to lead with causal inevitability to the new life as its "fruit." This could not be the case, since I am continually called to have faith, and not to persist in unbelief. Faith itself stands under the same imperative as does action. It exists only in ever-repeated enactment. This enactment, however, takes place in terms of concrete deeds, of works. [Althaus is simply wrong here. Works do not enact faith or make it "concrete." Works may flow from faith and may be the natural outcome of faith, they do not, however, enact faith.] So it is not a relationship of causality that prevails between faith and the new life, but rather a relationship of immanence. As we have already stated, works do not follow from faith; but, rather, faith lives in works, in attitude and action.

"Therefore, if the new life of the Christian is pictured as "fruit," this must not be taken to imply an ethical automatism in the believer. Faith does not lead to action by virtue of a psychic compulsion. Such an interpretation would be a misuse of the image of fruit. This image can only serve to indicate the inherent necessity with which the gospel, as grasped by faith, presses to deeds of love." (The Divine Command, 40-42)

"In his Small Catechism, Luther describes faith as the source of life in obedience to God's commands by beginning the explanation of the first commandment: "We should fear and love God, and as a result. . ." In his Treatise on Good Works and in the Large Catechism he describes how faith does what the commandments say we ought to do and thereby fulfills. He demonstrates that the actions forbidden by individual commandments flow from mistrust of God and unfaith in Christ; similarly, he shows that it is faith that produces the righteous works which they command." (The Ethics of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972), 15.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Austen Files of an Austenphile 12-27-08

Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

-Northanger Abbey, 1818

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Malysz on the Incarnation

"God's continued self-giving reached its apex and most perfect manifestation in his offering of himself to man in the most intimate of ways--by becoming man and sharing in the humanity of his children (Heb2:14).

"The incarnation is fundamentally consistent with God's preservation of the whole creation and thus with his very being. It is an extension of his loving presence. What is of significance is that God the Son was "made like his brothers in every way. . .yet was without sin" (Heb 2:17; 4:15). He became a man perfect in his humanity, with the fullness of its God-given relational potential, only to take upon himself our isolation and enslavement. He thus conquered sin by trustingly offering himself both to God and fellow men, even to the point of death. In the midst of life's ambivalence, he exposed with utmost clarity the deceptive nature of sin, based as it is on a fundamental denial of God's nature as love. Thus in Christ, the despairing sinner again perceives the astounding faithfulness and the life-bestowing love of God--not merely for himself but for all of creation."
-Piotr Malysz, “Third Use of the Law in Light of Creation and the Fall,” Logia 11, no. 3 (2002), 17.

“Knowing the Mind of God”

Todd Peperkorn over at Lutheran Logomaniac has posted his wonderful Christmas day sermon, “Knowing the Mind of God”. It expresses well some of the points I made in my Christmas day post. It is a shorty but a goody. You should check it out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Gospel of John and the Sent One

This is a little focused word study devotional on Christ being sent into the world.

Though it may not have an infancy narrative, the Gospel of John is about as "down to earth" as you can get. One way Saint John does this is through emphasizing that Christ was sent (the Gospel of John uses both these terms: ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω) into this world. The other Gospels only have a couple of instances where Christ is said to be sent into the world (Matt. 10:40; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16). The Gospel of John, on the other hand, has dozens and dozens of instances where Christ emphasizes this.

One of the most important reasons for this emphasis is that Christ's incarnation reveals the will of the Father towards mankind; you cannot know the Father unless through his Son. As Oswald Bayer writes: "The office of Christ is to make us certain of God." Jesus says:

"If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I went forth and have come from God. For I have not come from Myself, but that One SENT Me. Why do you not know My speech? It is because you are not able to hear My Word. You are of the Devil as father, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. That one was a murderer from the beginning, and he has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own, because he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Who of you reproves Me concerning sin? But if I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? The one who is of God hears the Words of God; for this reason you do not hear, because you are not of God" (John 8:42-47)

And elsewhere:

"But I have the greater witness than John's, for the works which the Father has given Me, that I should finish them, the works which I do, themselves, witness concerning Me, that the Father has SENT Me. And the Father, the One SENDING Me, has Himself borne witness concerning Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor have you seen His form. And you do not have His Word abiding in you, for the One whom that One SENT, this One you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for you think in them you have everlasting life. And they are the ones witnessing concerning Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I have known you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in the name of My Father, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive that one. How are you able to believe, you who receive glory from one another, and the glory which is from the only God you do not seek? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one accusing you, Moses, in whom you have hoped. For if you were believing Moses, you would then believe Me; for that one wrote concerning Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My Words?" (John 5:36-47)

It is only through Christ that we truly see the will of the Father:

"For God so loved the world that HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not SEND His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. The one believing into Him is not condemned; but the one not believing has already been condemned, for he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:16-18).

"Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe into Him whom that One SENT" (John 6:29).

"All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will in no way cast out. For I HAVE COME DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN, not that I should do My will, but the will of Him who SENT Me. And this is the will of the Father SENDING Me, that of all that He has given Me, I shall not lose any of it, but shall raise it up in the last day. And this is the will of the One SENDING Me, that everyone seeing the Son and believing into Him should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:37-40).

"But Jesus cried out and said, The one believing into Me does not believe into Me, but into the One SENDING Me. And the one seeing Me sees the One who SENT Me. I have come as a Light to the world, that everyone who believes into Me may not remain in the darkness. And if anyone hears My Words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come that I might judge the world, but that I might save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My Words has that judging him: the Word which I spoke, that will judge him in the last Day. For I did not speak from Myself, but He who SENT Me, the Father, He has given Me command, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Then what things I speak, as the Father has said to Me, so I speak" (John 12:44-50).

And John writes in his first epistle:

"By this the love of God was revealed in us, because His Son, the Only begotten, God has SENT into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and SENT His Son to be a propitiation relating to our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

It is through Christ's incarnation that we truly see that God is love; that he has not forsaken mankind to death; that he is faithful to his promises; that he has sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins; that everyone believing into him will have everlasting life. God sends his Son so "that the world might be saved through him." This is the will of the Father in sending his Son.

Christ's incarnation also sets the correct directional perspective for the church. We see in the Gospel of John that everyone is pointing to Christ, the Son of God who comes to us.

John the Baptist is sent to bear witness and point forward to Christ:

"John answered and said, A man is able to receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven. You yourselves witness to me that I said, I am not the Christ, but that having been SENT [see John 1:6], I am going before that One. The one having the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, standing and hearing him, rejoices with joy because of the bridegroom's voice. Then this my joy has been fulfilled. That One must increase, but I must decrease. The One having COME FROM ABOVE is above all. The one being of the earth is earthy, and speaks of the earth. The One COMING OUT OF HEAVEN is above all. And what He has seen and heard, this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony. The one receiving His testimony has sealed that God is true. For the One whom God SENT speaks the Words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. The one believing into the Son has everlasting life; but the one disobeying the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:27-36).

Christ, the Word made flesh, is a witness to himself:

"I am the One witnessing concerning Myself, and He who SENT Me, the Father, witnesses concerning Me" (John 8:18).

"But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has SENT me. And the Father who SENT me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his Word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has SENT" (John 5:36-37).

And as we see, Jesus sends his disciples, his apostles (ἀπόστολοι), out to point back to him:

"As You have SENT Me into the world, I also have SENT them into the world" (John 17:18).

"Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you. As the Father has SENT Me, I also SEND you. And saying this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:21-22).

This is what we understand as the beginning of and vocation of the church, the bride of Christ, that is, to point to and bring Christ himself to his people through Word and Scrament. Our's is an incarnational ministry. The words that Christ, the Logos, was given, he gives to his church:

"I have given them Your Word, and the world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. . .As You have SENT Me into the world, I also have SENT them into the world, and I sanctify Myself for them, that they also may be sanctified in Truth. And I do not pray concerning these only, but also concerning those who will believe in Me through their Word; that all may be one, as You are in Me, Father, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You SENT Me" (John 17:14-21).

In the same way, Christ also gives us himself, God incarnate, in his Holy Supper:

"Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe into Him whom that One SENT. Then they said to Him, Then what miraculous sign do You do that we may see and may believe You? What do You work? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written "He gave them bread out of Heaven to eat." Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread out of Heaven, but My Father gives you THE TRUE BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN. For the bread of God is HE COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN and giving life to the world. Then they said to Him, Lord, always give us this bread. Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of life; the one coming to Me will not at all hunger, and the one believing into Me will not thirst, never! But I said to you that you also have seen Me and did not believe. All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will in no way cast out. For I HAVE COME DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN, not that I should do My will, but the will of Him who SENT Me. And this is the will of the Father SENDING Me, that of all that He has given Me, I shall not lose any of it, but shall raise it up in the last day. And this is the will of the One SENDING Me, that everyone seeing the Son and believing into Him should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. Then the Jews murmured about Him, because He said, I am the Bread coming down out of Heaven. And they said, Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, of whom we know the father and the mother? How does this One now say, I have come down out of Heaven? Then Jesus answered and said to them, Do not murmur with one another. No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who SENT Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It has been written in the Prophets, They "shall" all "be taught of God." So then everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me; not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One BEING FROM GOD, He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, The one believing into Me has everlasting life. I am the Bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. This is the Bread COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread that CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And indeed the bread which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Then the Jews argued with one another, saying, How can this One give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. The one partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is truly food, and My blood is truly drink. The one partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood abides in Me, and I in him. Even as the living Father SENT Me, and I live through the Father; also the one partaking Me, even that one will live through Me. This is the Bread which CAME DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN, not as your fathers ate the manna and died; the one partaking of this Bread will live forever" (John 6:29-58).

Just as Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary into this world through the power of the Holy Spirit, so too is he born out of Word and Sacrament in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we are likewise reborn through him.

"He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to the ones believing into His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten from the Father, full of grace and of truth" (John 1:10-14).
St. John Altarpiece, c. 1474-1479

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Austen Files of an Austenphile 12-24-08

[Mrs. Ferrars] was not a woman of many words; for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas.

-Sense and Sensibility, 1811

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Althaus on Law and Command in the New Testament

This is a very interesting look into New Testament terminological usage. I think there is something to be said for Althaus' conclusion, here, that the writers of the New Testament are making theological distinctions by making terminological distinctions. What do you guys think?

"A distinction between command and law such as the one proposed cannot be derived from the inspection of the terms as such; this we freely admit. The distinction has a synthetic, not an analytic, character. According to customary religious language (based on the Bible), the law of God consists in a given number of commandments. A commandment is a part of the law. Thus, so far as their contents are concerned, "law" and "command" or "commandments" are synonymous. This is Paul's usage, for example, in Romans 7:7 ff. Likewise the Lutheran confessional writings use the term lex and praecepra interchangeably.

"But we can see already in the New Testament the beginnings of a terminological distinction. It is true that there seem to be no signs of this in Paul. "The law" is for him "holy," and "the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7:12), no doubt for the reason that its content is the eternal, permanently valid will of God for man. Thus the apostle can summarize the very purpose of God's saving deed in Jesus Christ in such terms as these: "that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." The Christian life involves fulfillment of the law, through love; love is "the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). Indeed, since love to neighbor is the real meaning of the law, in all its various commandments, the same Paul who finds in Christ the end of the law (Rom. 10:4) can speak, paradoxically, of the "law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). He speaks of himself as ennomos Christon, "under [literally 'in'] the law of Christ" (1 Cor. 9:21). Here the term "law" is retained, to be sure, but only in order to express all the more sharply the contrast with the Jewish and Judaistic notion of law. Insofar as the term law is used at all, an element of continuity is implied (Jesus does not, according to Paul, bring any new law); but at the same time, the phrase "the law of Christ" implies a basic transformation. If anyone is in Christ, the new has come (II Cor. 5:17); as the law of Christ, therefore, the law is something new. Paul no longer lives "under the law," but neither does he live "without the law"; rather, he lives "in the law," namely, the law of Christ. He lives in the law because he lives in Christ. And what is true of him is true of all Christians (Gal. 5:18; Rom. 6:14, 8:2).

"Paul gives further evidence of the great transformation that has taken place in that when he deals with the question of norms for the life of the Christian and of the church, he very seldom refers to the law, and then only in a secondary way (I Cor. 9:8f., 14:21, 34). In the ethical chapters of the letter to the Romans (chaps. 12 ff.), the term law does not occur, except at the one place already mentioned (13:8 ff.), and there Paul, in effect, substitutes for it the command to love as its equivalent. Neither is there any mention of the law in the letters to the Thessalonians or in II Corinthians. Instead, Paul speaks in his admonitions to the believers of "the will of God," just as Jesus had spoken of "the will of my Father" (Matt. 7:21, 12:50, cf. 6:10). Not that this formula is original with Christianity; the phrases "to do the will of God" or "to do the will of the Father in heaven" were familiar to the Palestinian synagogue. Nevertheless it is significant that Paul in these passages seems to make it a point to avoid using the term "law." Thus in Romans 12:2, he sums up the whole body of Christian ethical insight as a matter of "proving what is the will of God" (cf. Col. 1:9). In I Thessalonians 4:3, he writes that the sanctification of Christians is "the will of God," as is the rejoicing always, praying constantly, and giving thanks in all circumstances (5:18). Closely related to this, or even synonymous with it, is the notion of what is "acceptable to God" or "pleasing to God" (e.g., Rom. 12:1f.; Col. 3:20).

"The use of terms in the deuteropauline literature is similar. In Ephesians, the law appears only as "the law of commandments and ordinances" which Christ has abolished (2:15). Elsewhere in the epistle we find, as in Paul, references not to the law but to the "will of God" (5:17, 6:6), or "what is pleasing to the Lord" (5:10). The situation is no different in I Peter: the term "law" is completely lacking; the writer refers instead to "the will of God" (2:15, cf. 3:17, 4:19). As to the book of James, one sign of its special position in the New Testament is that it does speak of a fulfilling or keeping of the "law" (2:8 f.). Surely it is not by chance that Paul, in his remarks on the relations of Jewish and Gentile Christians in I Corinthians 7:19, speaks not of "the law," but of "the commandments": "Neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God." In the Book of Hebrews, similarly, the term "law" is used only to refer to the Old Testament law; as for Christians, they are to "do the will of God" (10:36, 13:21).

"We have seen thus far that in practically all the passages which deal with the question of norms or the Christian life, the term "law" is avoided. The implication of this is clear: a distinction is being made between God's eternal will, on the one hand, and "the law" on the other.

"The Johannine usage is still more consistent and terminologically explicit. In the Gospel of John, "law" always signifies the law of Moses. God's will (or Christ's will) for the believers, like God's will for Christ himself, is invariably designated by the term "commandment," never by "law" (see especially John 10:18, 13:34, and repeatedly in chaps. 14 and 15). Likewise in the Johannine epistles, the term nomos is entirely lacking; the mark of true Christian faith is rather "keeping the commandments" of God or of Christ. John does speak, just once, of "keeping the law," but here he is referring to the Jews: "Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law" (John 7:19). The phrase "keeping the law" is never used with reference to Jesus' disciples. The same is true in the Book of Revelation: the term nomos does not occur at all. Christians are designated as "those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus" (Rev. 12:17), or "those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (14:12). We see, then, that John makes a strict terminological and theological distinction between law and commandment. The law was given by Moses (John 7:19), or by God through Moses (1:17), and it was given only to the Jews; but now God gives--both to his Son and through him-- the commandments.

"Thus we do have some basis in New Testament usage for our proposal that a theological distinction be drawn between "law" and "command." What impels us to make this proposal is the same factor that seems to underlie the consistent Johannine usage, namely, the fact that the "law," as Paul delineates it in contrast to the gospel, is not precisely the same as the eternal, unalterable will of God for man. Rather, the law must be seen as one limited and temporary form of this eternal will--a form that in Jesus Christ has been superseded and abolished. It does not matter what term is used to refer to this permanent will of God, as distinguished from the law. What is important is whether this needful distinction is in fact made, and is clearly expressed in the terminology employed. Some other word than "command" could very well be used to designate the will of God as distinguished from the law. But there is much to be said for following the Johannine usage. We shall accordingly refer to God's will for man, insofar as this is not identical with its form as law, as the divine "command.""

-Paul Althaus, The Divine Command: A New Perspective on Law and Gospel, trans. Franklin Sherman (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 3-7.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hans Memling: Triptych of Saint Christopher

If you were wondering who painted the picture in my heading, or who the two people portrayed are, here is a little context:

The painting is by Hans Memling (or Memlinc), c. 1430-1494. Though far (far) from knowing anything about art, I have fallen in love with Memling's work. I was first exposed to his painting The Last Judgment by my Doctrine II professor, Rev. Charles Schulz, mentor, academic advisor, senior thesis advisor. You have seen some of his other work, like Christ Giving his Blessing and Christ with Musician Angels at the bottom of my blog.

The portraits are of Willem Moreel and his wife, Barbara van Vlaenderberch. Willem Moreel was a spice trader, was Lord of Oostcleyhem, and was one of the richest men in Bruges. He was also a banker for the Bruges branch of the Banco di Roma. He had five sons and thirteen daughters from Barbara van Vlaenderberch. The portraits were most likely originally part of a triptych with the Virgin and Child in the central panel.

The two also commissioned another painting for the church of Saint James in Bruges. They are again depicted along with their children.

Triptych of Saint Christopher:

Central panel: Saints Christopher, Maurus and Giles
Left wing: Willem Moreel with his sons and Saint Willam of Maleval
Right wing: Barbara van Vlaendrberch with her daughters and Saint Barbara

I mean't to have a post done on Paul Althaus on Friday, but was unable to see this through. I therefore won't be able to post it until Tuesday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Luther on the Spiritual Government

This is a quote lifted from A Long Walk With Martin Luther. It is a good example of how Luther talked of the spiritual government (regimente).

"Those who believe and whom the Holy Spirit touches through the Word know and receive the Holy Spirit, even though this is not at all apparent to the world. Therefore it is a different word and a far different government from that of a man. Beyond question it is the Word of God that speaks through us and through which He is powerful in the church. He does all things with the Word alone, illumines, buoys up, and saves; for it is a Word of promise, grace, eternal life, and salvation.

"Concerning this efficacy of the Word the world knows nothing. Yet just as in the Gospel Christ casts out demons by means of the Word, so the minister says to the sinner: “I absolve  you from all your sins.” And this is the way it happens. For it is not the word of a man, at whose voice the devil would by no means flee. Even if all the jurists and all the philosophers were to heap up all their books, nothing would happen. But when the minister pronounces absolution, liberation from the devil and from sin is sure to follow. If the Holy Spirit grants you grace to believe, there He drives out Satan and death with one word."

-Martin Luther, LW 8:271

The Austen Files of an Austenphile 12-18-08

Mrs. Portman is not much admired in Dorsetshire; the good-natured world as usual extolled her beauty so highly that all the neighbourhood have had the pleasure of being disappointed.

-Letter to Cassandra [Austen's sister], 17-18 November 1798

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Malysz on the Primal Nature of the Command

"What is significant about Adam is that he alone becomes the locus of God's self-sharing. In Adam God reveals himself as self-giving, as love. Through creation, he who already perfectly and sufficiently affirms otherness within himself--as Father, Son and Holy Spirit-- freely reaches out to another. On other words, man is the only creature willed by God for its own sake. Such is the nature of love. It affirms another not because of a vested interest, but freely and disinterestedly, for the other's sake. It finds the other beautiful and interesting.

"God's love, as it finds beauty and a source of interest in the other, truly creates the other to be beautiful and interesting. Thus, surveying his creative work, God was able to conclude approvingly that "it was very good" (Gn 1:31). The divine self-sharing manifests itself, in the first place, in the act of creation itself. But it goes much further. Man receives God's blessing, as he it told to "be fruitful and increase in number." All that God has created is now entrusted to him to rule over and to subdue (Gn 1:28). What this means is that creation is God's gift to be used in a meaningful and responsible way. Finally, God shares with man his own being. The latter not only has a direct and personal experience of his Creator, but is himself created to reflect the being of God.

"Man is created with a capacity to love and to reciprocate love. Like God he has the ability to go beyond himself. In the same way that God affirms otherness within himself, man, too, is made to affirm another, so that the two "will become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). Further he is endowed with the capacity to affirm creation--it finds its meaning in his responsible and God-like stewardship. As one commentator put it, "while [man] is not divine, his very existence bears witness to the activity of God in the life of the world." In other words, just as God finds Adam and Eve worthwhile and interesting in and of themselves, humans, likewise, are to find God's gift of creation worthwhile in and of itself. Creation is not to be abused. Humans are created to love God, their fellow man, and God’s gift of creation. By definition, they are social and vocational beings, relating to others in such a way as to further their good through God appointed means. In so doing, they surrender their being in all its individualism only to gain it back, in, with and through the being of another. Only by receiving and giving can they realize their humanity. Only thus can they be human beings.

"It has already been indicated that love consists in self-giving. Naturally there can be no love under coercion. Thus with its origin in the divine love, human existence is one of freedom. God did not create automatons but beings that were beautiful, interesting and worthwhile for their own sake—individuals with the capacity, of their own free will, to reflect the love received. A loving relationship by nature implies an option for un-love. Love as self-giving implies the possibility of rejection. It is in this context of what love is that the presence in the garden of the tree of knowledge of good and evil finds its purpose. To Adam and Eve was entrusted all that God had created with the exception of one tree, of which they were expressly forbidden to eat. In negative terms, the tree presents itself as an alternative to God's love; it makes the possibility of choosing un-love, or self-love, a real one. In positive terms, it underscores the free and self-giving character of the divine-human relationship, pointing to the centrality of love in the constitution of man. From man's perspective, it makes love possible. Finally, it points to the fundamental significance of trust as an inseparable aspect of love. Adam and Eve knew their creator intimately in his self-sharing. All they were and all that they had came from him. It would seem there surely was a significant basis for trust. And yet, incomprehensibly but in how familiar a way, they gave credence to the serpent's deceitful promise.

"The fall is often portrayed as a transgression of what seemed to be an otherwise arbitrary command. We have already demonstrated that the command was far from arbitrary. Neither was it meant to stress the importance of divinely established order, as if God's self-giving were a mere show. The command was not there to put man in place and show him who really was in charge. On the contrary, it was there to complete his humanness in its capacity for love and freedom."

-Piotr Malysz, “Third Use of the Law in Light of Creation and the Fall,” Logia 11, no. 3 (2002), 13.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Austen Files of an Austenphile 12-16-08

It is true, I am unashamedly a big Jane Austen fan. Be this a product of growing up with an older sister, or not, I'd like to think my fascination with Austen stems from her genius in writing biting social commentary, unparalleled dialogue, and unforgettable characters. I figure if a successfully published theologian can write a book on Austen, I too may be perfectly justified in carrying on an affair with an, admittedly, "feminine" writer.

I plan, in future, to share the genius of Austen's wit and humor with my readers...whether you like it or not. Enjoy!

"In marriage especially. . .there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves."

------ Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park, 1814

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: David Scaer on the Law

This is an extended quote from an older article by David Scaer. I think it expresses well some of my own thoughts on the topic. Namely is the topic of the spirit and the flesh, new man and old man. Forde does not address this issue at all, but this is really how the Christian's interaction with the law is presented in Scripture, especially in Paul (Cf. Rom. 7). The fact that the Christian, at one and the same time, both delights in and hates the law does not mean that man himself is the arbiter of how he reacts to the law. This is what Forde was most concerned about, that is, that man would put himself above the law, and thus dispose of it with either his thinking or actions; it would be a premature translation into the eschaton. An understanding of flesh and spirit, and with this the third use of the law, does not imply that man's positive disposition to the law is something that is determined by something "inside" of man, rather the disposition of the spirit, and the third use is clearly depicted as the work of God. If anything, Paul's depiction of the spirit and the flesh in Romans 7 shows how little he himself had over his interaction with the law, but at the same time, Paul also acknowledges that the Christian is critically engaged in and personally aware of how the Spirit is working himself out in our spirit. With Forde's desire to make it clear that man had no role in translating himself into the new age, he also disposed of man himself and the dynamic and very personal experience of what it means to be a Christian and to be confronted with God's Word. His interpretation of the third use of the law is telling in this regard. Gerhard Forde's most vocal complaint against the third use is the idea that the Christian can somehow use the law in a third way. This, though, is clearly a misunderstanding of the third use of the law. Article VI, of the Formula of Concord makes it clear that it is not man who uses the law in a third way, but rather the Holy Spirit (SD VI, 3; 12). It is the Holy Spirit that leads and instructs and guides. All other mention of teaching and instruction in Article VI is clearly shown as not pertaining to the third use of the law (SD VI, 9; 20; 21; 24. See my post on The Third Use of the Law).


"The Formula, in presenting the Lutheran position on the Third Use of the Law, uses Biblical references which refer to the Scriptures in their totality and not only those passages speaking specifically about the Law. Both Psalm 1 (SD VI, 4) and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (SD VI, 14) are used to demonstrate the Law's validity in the life of the Christian, though both passages refer to the Scriptures in their totality, not simply to the written Law. Psalm 1 speaks about the man who delights in the Books of Moses and the 2 Timothy 3:15-17 passages speaks about the total inspiration of the Scripture and not just the Gospel. Just as Lutherans see the entire Scripture as inspired, so they see the entire Scriptural message, both Law and Gospel, as applicable to the life of the Christian. The Formula sees in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 a direct Biblical command to apply the Law in the life of the Christian (SD V I, 14). Underlying the concept that the Law is made applicable in the life of the Christian through the Scriptures is the Lutheran understanding that the Scriptures in all its parts, both Law and Gospel, are inspired and that these Scriptures are directed to man in the state of sin. The Scriptures are God's written word, necessitated by the fall into sin and directed to man in this fallen condition. Natural Law, sin, and Scriptural inspiration are related to each other.

"Man by the fall into sin was no longer capable of properly comprehending the Law as it originally was part of creation. He followed after that Law, but he fulfilled its requirements only inadequately at best and in every case the Law became his accuser. As a religiously created being, man is compelled by his inherent religious nature to search after God, but these searches are doomed to failure (Apol. IV, 22-25, 40). God through His mercy sent the prophets and later the apostles to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ. But before the proclamation of salvation could be made, the Law as first found in nature had to be restated in such a way that man in his perverted state could fully comprehend what God had always been setting forth in the natural Law. Both the prophets and the apostles redirected the Law specifically against man's unregenerate nature. They came first to proclaim the Law as a mirror of man's sins, i.e., its second use. Though God condemns through the Law, His proclamation of the Law through His prophets and apostles belongs to God's overall plan of mercy since man by the Law is properly prepared for the Gospel. The Spirit's inspiration of the prophets and apostles embraces not only the words of the .Gospel but also of the Law. The Formula makes no qualitative difference between the Spirit's origination of the Gospel and that of the Law. Both the Law and the Gospel proceed from the Spirit's inner being. Both are His products.

"The person who claims the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit and rejects the Law as revealed in the prophets and the apostles is, in fact, rejecting the Holy Spirit by rejecting His work. Whoever claims a working of the Spirit for his life apart from the prophets and apostles is a fanatic (SD XII, 30). The Holy Spirit has given both the Law and the Gospel and He is responsible for their inscripturation. The Law is valid in the life of the Christian if for no other reason than that it originates with the Spirit and He has caused it to be written in the Holy Scriptures. There are, of course, other reasons for the Law's validity in the life of the Christian. Nevertheless, the Lutherans saw the Law as part and parcel of the special divine revelation. Those who rejected the Law did not only have a faulty concept of the Law itself but of divine revelation and of the Scriptures themselves. Also connected with the concept of the Third Use of the Law was the Lutheran anthropology, the doctrine of man.


"The Formula reflected the Lutheran view of man as living under the Law in four different conditions: the original created state of moral innocence, the fallen state of sin, the state of regeneration, and the final state of resurrection. The Law in its third function is directed to man in the state of regeneration. Seeing man in these four different phases is essential for a fuller understanding of the Lutheran view of the Law and particularly its Third Use. The Lutheran view dismisses the idea that the Law undergoes any change as it is the expression of God's immutable will (FC SD VI, 15). The four different situations are accounted for by man's differing relationships to God and thus also to the Law. Man, as he is a sinner. can only envisage the Law with prohibitions and penalties as a negative intrusion into his life. It is difficult for man to imagine the original state of moral innocence in which he found positive direction for his life in the Law. In this original condition he needed neither prophet nor Scripture since man's communion with God's creation was itself participation in God's revelation. In the sinless condition man viewed nature and God's revelation as one entity. No special revelation beyond nature was needed. Man in moral innocence needed no Law as a curb for the gross manifestations of evil or for a reflection of his own sin. He needed no special direction of the Law as nature provided a constant, regular communication of the Law. Only in the fallen state is the original positive function of the Law replaced by negative prohibition. Law, understood originally as a description of man's positive relationships to God, to his fellow men, and to his environment becomes with the entrance of sin a negative description of man's broken relationships to God, his fellow men, and his environment. In the first condition, the indicative was merged with the imperative. The Law served as a description of what man was and what he was to do and what he, indeed, could do. There was no tension between what man did and what man could, must, and should do. Now in the state of sin what man must do and should do is not what he can do and does do. The Law becomes a compelling and restraining force against man's rebellious nature. What man once did naturally he is now forced to do against his will. The unregenerate man hates the performance of the Law with an intensity comparable to the first man's love for its performance. The sinner cannot remain morally neutral to the Law. He performs the Law which he hates and he knows that failure to perform its requirements brings penalties. Where he fulfills the Law, he is goaded by the promise of rewards and threats of its punishments. The Law makes the sinner's life miserable (SD VI, 19).

"When the sinner becomes a Christian, the Law begins to take on a new, different character for him. His new condition as a Christian means a new relationship with God and His Law. The Law in this Third Use is addressed to the sinner who has become a Christian but still remains in part under the control of sin (SD VI, 9). Understanding the Law in this Third Use is predicated on understanding the Lutheran view of the regenerate Christian.

"Essential to Lutheran anthropology is the internal strife within the Christian. He is tom between that part of him which wants to obey God's will and the part that feels more comfortable with the older ways of sin. Though this internal struggle is never over in this life, the promise of victory is assured in the resurrection. Several terms express these two opposing forces within the Christian. The part belonging to God is designated as the inner man, the Spirit's temple, and the regenerated man, the man who has been born again (FC SD VI, 5). The part which resists God is designated as the old Adam, the flesh, and in other Lutheran writings the old man. The Law of God remains one and immutable, but as it approaches the Christian, its positive directions apply to the converted part and its negative prohibitions with the threats of punishments are directed to the unregenerated condition.

"The Christian only so far as he is regenerated is free from the threats and curses of the Law (SD VI, 23) and he recognizes this Law as God's will for his life (SD VI, 12). The Formula uses picturesque language in describing the Christian's response to the Law. In this renewed condition he "does everything from a free and merry spirit" (SD VI, 17). Such good works are motivated by the Holy Spirit and flow from faith, but they are all in accordance with the Law, which is also the Spirit's product (SD VI, 12). Works flow from faith as water comes from a spring, but these works flow down channels established by the Law. This positive direction of the Law without prohibition or fear of punishment is what is essentially meant by the Third Use of the Law.

"Law as a positive direction in the life of the Christian is both a restatement of the original paradisical condition and a preview of the future state of glorification. In Paradise man knew the Law of God perfectly and rejoiced in it. Also in the final state of glorification man will not need or hear the negative aspects of the Law. So even now the regenerate man hears the Law of God, rejoices in it with his inner being, and performs it without thought. of reward. His only motivation is that he wants to please God.

"Law understood in this Third Sense as positive direction and guidance in the life of the Christian presupposes the Gospel. In each of its uses the Law is both didactic and imperative. It is not constructed to change man from a sinner to a saint and cannot effect regeneration. The Spirit's working through the Gospel is the cause of regeneration. But the Gospel presupposes the Law. just as the Law in the life of the Christian presupposes the Gospel. The Gospel is the proclamation that Jesus has fulfilled the Law's demands and suffered its penalties in man's stead. This message alone effects regeneration. The Law is the skeleton on which the life and death of Jesus is sketched out. The skeleton of the Law as it is framed in the Gospel message comes to the sinner having its structures completely filled out by Jesus. The Law's negative demands have been satisfied in Jesus so that its force becomes positive in the life of a person who has faith in Jesus. The Law's unfilled requirements have been fulfilled in Jesus. Christ has divested the Law of its negative requirements and He presents it to Christians as positive direction.

"But the Law which comes as positive direction to the regenerate part of the Christian also comes with its negative prohibition to the Old Adam (FC SD VI, 17, 18, 19). Part of the Christian is never converted. He resists believing that God has fulfilled the Law in Jesus Christ. The old man left unchecked would eventually bring man to final ruin and destruction According to Lutheran theology the unregenerate self must be forced and coerced with threats of the Law. The unregenerate part of a Christian is on the same level as the unconverted who "are driven and coerced into obedience by the threats of the law" (FC SD VI, 19). Not only does he fight against fulfilling God's Law, but when he does finally comply with the divine prohibitions in an external sense he becomes a hypocrite as he thinks he has fulfilled God's requirements and earned for himself salvation (FC SD VI, 21). To keep the unregenerate part of man under control, the Christian pastor must preach the negative aspects of the Law. Such works coerced by the preaching of the Law to unregenerated man, even if he is a Christian, have no validity before God for salvation. But the Christian, so far as he is regenerate, performs works from faith which are acceptable to God. These conform to the Law and God finds these acceptable. Though such works are always imperfect, they are acceptable to God because they me performed from faith which is centered in Christ Jesus and not from threats of the Law (FC SD VI, 23).

"It is the preaching of the Law and not the Gospel which alerts the Christian to the tension within himself. The same Law which is an expression of God's will in the life of the Christian remains a severe condemnation on his unregenerate nature. This tension, a dualism within the Christian, finds its real cause not in the Law but within the Christian himself. The work of the new man committed to Christ is countered by the old man who only gives up the struggle at death. Underlying the Lutheran concept of the old man is the Lutheran doctrine of original sin. The man who is totally unregenerate is brought struggling and kicking to faith. When a new life has been created, he continues to struggle, kick, and fight against God. The old man is not to be handled in a gentle and kindly way and then treated to the good news of salvation, but he is to be forced and threatened by the Law. The Formula puts it strongly (SD VI, 24):
For the Old Adam, like an unmanageable and recalcitrant donkey, is still a part of them and must be coerced into the obedience of Christ, not only with the instruction, admonition, urging and threatening of the law, but frequently also with the club of punishment and miseries, until the flesh of sin is put off entirely and man is completely renewed in the resurrection.
"In this life there is no hope for an end to the conflict. The Christian can revert to hypocrisy by believing that he is by himself fulfilling the Law perfectly or he can abandon the Law and become a libertine. But then he is no Christian. The hope for fulfillment in the Christian is not in this life but in the resurrection. Then he will need the preaching of neither the Law nor the Gospel, for he will be in God's presence. In heaven, the Third Use of the Law will be perfectly realized. There Christians "will do His will spontaneously without coercion, unhindered, perfectly, completely, and with sheer joy, and will rejoice therein forever" (FC SD VI, 25). Even in the final condition, it is not the nature of the Law that has changed but rather that man has become totally regenerated."

- David Scaer, “Formula of Concord Article VI. The Third Use of the Law,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 42, no. 2 (1978), 149-154.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Law, Gospel, and Eschatology in Gerhard Forde

Gerhard Forde's understanding of law and gospel is partly determined terminologically, partly eschatologically. I've been pouring over what Forde has written and I must admit that much of what he says is highly convoluted and abstract. Many of his distinctions seem arbitrary at best, though, overall, they express many of his broader concerns of how man lives under the gospel and how man lives under the law.

First off, we should address what Forde sees as the content of the will of God. It might be said that Forde didn't see the "content" in a quantitative sense but rather in a qualitative sense. He was wary of seeing the will of God as an eternal set of prescriptions. "At no time, according to Luther, does man possess full knowledge of the divine will, but only a knowledge of the law appropriate to his actual historical situation. This is true both of man in his original state and in his fallen state." (The Law-Gospel Debate (Minneapolis, Minn: Augsburg Publishing House, 1969), 176.) While this may be true for man who is perfectly righteous, I don't feel this is beneficial understanding of the content in this fallen age. As Paul Althaus makes clear, man as he exists in a paradisical state fulfills God's will in an infinite number of ways; but man in his fallen state is continually thinking up, and acting out new ways of blaspheming God's name. The reality of this, it might be said, is the reason for the need of a law that is explicated such as it is in Scripture. Forde writes: "The entire law is summed up in the First Commandment, which demands a qualitative subjection of man to God in faith and love. No quantitative measurable limit can be set for the fulfillment of such a law." (Law-Gospel, 187) As far as this might be true, this does not mean that an explicated law is not still as validly God's eternal divine will as an ethic summed up under the First Commandment. I will go out on a limb here and say that stealing will never be part of God's divine will. Therefore, and this is what to a large extent Article VI of the Formula of Concord is concerned with, man in his fallen state, with his fallen heart and fallen mind, should apply himself to God's Word where he will find the definite shape of God's will for him. Under Forde, this begins to be more subjective.

For Forde, this content of God's will, whatever it may be, is not yet law. God's will only becomes law when it confronts sinful man. This is where terminological considerations come into play. For Forde, "law" may not even need any true content, rather, "Law is anything which frightens and accuses "the conscience." The bolt of lightening, the rustling of a dry leaf on a dark night, the decalogue, the "natural law" of the philosopher, or even (or perhaps most particularly) the preaching of the cross itself-- all or any of these can and do become the voice of the law." (Law-Gospel, 177) The reason for this is that Forde wanted to keep the term "law" with a completely pregnant definition as that which is contrasted with the "gospel." This in itself is not a problem. Althaus makes a fairly convincing case that the New Testament itself engages in making terminological distinctions between "law" and what the law demands, that is, its content. (Paul Althaus, The Divine Command: A New Perspective on Law and Gospel, trans. Franklin Sherman (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 3-7.) The problem with Forde is that his desire to keep a purely existential understanding of law is not coupled with an understanding of how God's will has a positive impact on the Christian in the outward expression of God's work of sanctification. To understand this we need to move from terminological to eschatological considerations.

Gerhard Forde places the law-gospel dialectic into an eschatological, before-and-after scheme. Now, this is not incorrect as far as how he defines law. The law, as "that which accuses sinners," is of temporal validity. Paul's existential depiction of the law and gospel is a reflection of this. The problem for Forde comes in in how these "two ages" relate and come about in the lives of believers. This is all closely tied to his understanding of sanctification. Forde liked to see things in wholes: either law or gospel; total judgement or total grace; this age or the next; death or resurrection; indicative or imperative; nothing or all; law (existentially understood) or fulfillment. For Forde things don't come in "parts." Let's hear some examples of this:

"From this point of view the way of the sinner in sanctification, if it is a movement at all, is a movement from nothing to all, from that which one has and is in oneself to that which one has and is in Christ. Such a movement can never be completed this side of the grave. Nor could it be a continuous movement through increasing degrees of approximation. Rather each moment, each encounter with the shock of divine holiness, could only be at once both beginning and end, start and finish." (“Eleventh Locus: The Christian Life,” In Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 2, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, 391-470 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 431.)

"There is no “system” as such which can distinguish between the ages or can provide a continuous transition from this age to the next. Only the death and resurrection of Christ, the act of judgment and grace, is "the way."" (Law-Gospel, 223)

"In the church the believer comes to understand his existence in terms of two ontological determinations of his being, being “in Adam” and being “in Christ.” This corresponds exactly, of course, to the dialectic of the two ages." (Law-Gospel, 225)

"The progress for Luther has in mind is not our movement toward the goal but the goal's movement in on us. Imputed righteousness is eschatological in character; a battle is joined in which the totus iustus moves against the totus peccator." (The Christian Life, 435)

"The decalogue remains eternally in the sense that the reality demanded remains, but not as law. Here the distinction is between reality (res) and law, but not between the essence of law and the office of law. The term “law” applies only to the “office,” and not to the res." (Law-Gospel, 184)

For Forde, it is either law in the old age or fulfillment in Christ in the new age. The problem with this is that this is not reflective of how life actually works. By this, I don't only mean that this is not how we perceive it working but also how it actually works. Forde continually asserted that the new life was a death and resurrection. The problem I see in Forde is in his depiction of how this "reanimation" takes shape.

"Thinking theologically about the dialectic involves the fact that this act is at once total judgment and total grace. The fact that it is total judgment means that there can be no attempts on man's part to translate himself prematurely into the new age either by his action or by his thinking. Man's acting and thinking in this life remain and acting and thinking in this age, under the eschatological limit. The fact that it is also total grace means that man can be content to allow his acting and thinking to remain as it is, totally in this age; he can trust in Christ entirely for the gift of the new age." (Law-Gospel, 223-224)

Forde believes that "the eschatological possibility is made a present possibility only through faith in Christ." (Law-Gospel, 185) Because of this, acting and thinking on the Christian's part is and remains an acting and thinking in this age. This places into question how the Christian plays any role in participating in the new age. And consequently what role the law (understood as to its content) plays in the life of the Christian qua Christian. Forde writes:

"Law cannot be reintroduced after the end, for the end means perfect fulfillment. A perfect lover would not need laws about what to do. A perfect Christian would not need to be told what was right or wrong. One must hold out for that vision lest law conquer all. The day when all will be “written on our hearts” is the center of the biblical promise." (The Christian Life, 449-450)

It should be noted that by "end" Forde does not mean necessarily the end of the age, he means, including this, the new age which comes even "now." If it is the new age then it comes completely; there can be no "partly new age/partly old age." It is for this reason that Forde was so skeptical of any attempt at "redeeming" the law in this age; if we are dealing with it with our thinking and action then we are dealing with it in this age, if it is the new age, it is simply fulfilled. This is reflected in how Forde saw sanctification, as sanctification would obviously be participating in the new age. We read:

"There is no calculation, no wondering about progress, morality or virtue. There is just the doing of it, and then it is completely forgotten. The right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. Good works in God’s eyes are quite likely to be all those things we have forgotten! True sanctification is God’s secret." (“A Lutheran View of Sanctification.” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1988), 30.)

Any of our own conscious attempts at bringing about sanctification would be a "false eschatology," as Forde would call it. It would be an attempt by our own powers to bring about something that simply happens by grace. Therefore one just preaches law and gospel, bringing death and new life, and we just sit back and "trust in Christ entirely for the gift of the new age." This is not only an incorrect understanding of sanctification but it is also an incorrect understanding of how God's will confronts us. In fact, it completely dissolves any idea that God's will confronts us in the new age because it is either law or reality (res), fulfilled. It is a confusion of indicative and imperative (See my post: The Word, Communication, and Sanctification). By making the new age and sanctification completely indicative, one does not then understand the communicative basis of our existence as being creatures before our Creator. The will of God always stands as an "other." Not that we in a paradisical state will not have the same will as God, rather, God's Word is always something that needs to be conformed to in faith; it is a matter of faith. Paul Althaus writes:

""Command": this implies that another will confronts me, which puts my own will under claim. There is not as yet any opposition between the two, but there clearly is a duality. Unity between God's will and my own is something that has to be realized, over and again; it is not presupposed. The command is a word that stands over me, a word spoken to me. My situation, therefore, is that of one who has to ask, who has to listen, for a word which I myself cannot speak. The fact that God's will confronts us as command is not a condition that arises through sin, or on account of sin; it is an ordinance of the Creator. For God is my Lord. What exists "in the beginning," in the primal state [Urstand], is not a mystical oneness with God, nor an identity of will, but rather a duality: a duality, however, that in every moment is in the process of becoming a unity. But this "becoming a unity" takes place only in obedience. The command does not originate after the fall; it exists already before the fall." (The Divine Command, 9-10)

This does not mean that our existence before God has an ethical basis, but rather it primarily has its basis in faith; it a question of whether or not I will trust God's Word in faith, or whether I will reject that Word. Forde's understanding of the new age, law, and sanctification would never be able to admit this. Forde would not be able see how this could fit into a scheme of salvation as total grace, a total gift. Forde writes:

"It is misleading to say that the command which confronts man is in its basic content nothing other than the gospel. To be sure, if the res to which the law points is realized in the gospel, then there is a sense in which this is true. But when the eschatological framework is missing the statement is misleading. The eschatological dialectic cuts through the underlying Ritschlian moralism." (Law-Gospel, 198)

For Forde it is simply either res, "realized in the gospel," or it is moralism. Kurt Marquart argues against this type of thinking, where sanctification becomes merely an unthinking action, and man becomes an automoton:

"Sometimes we are told that sanctification is best left to itself, that conscious attempts to please God lead to hypocrisy, and that if we just preach the Gospel, sanctification will happen automatically. No, we are not automata. We have a renewed will, which “is not idle in the daily practice of repentance but cooperates in all the works of the Holy Spirit that He accomplishes through us” (Formula of Concord, SD, II,88, p. 561). If being branches in the True Vine (St. Jn. 15) means that like plants we have no conscious intentions, but simply produce fruit “automatically,” then the same applies to the Vine Himself. And that is as absurd as saying that since Christ is the Way and the Door, He is as indifferent as ways and doors are to who is passing over or through them! This pseudo-biblical argument is exactly parallel to that of the old antinomians, who argued that Christians will do the right things “without any teaching, admonition, exhortation, or prodding of the law, . . . just as in and of themselves the sun, the
moon, and all the stars follow unimpeded the regular course God gave them once and for all”
(FC, SD,VI,6, p. 588).

"Clearly the New Testament exhortations to love and good works require conscious effort,
not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts! Thus St. Paul begs the Roman
Christians by the mercies of God (which he had expounded in the preceding 11 chapters) to
present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as their “reasonable worship”
(Rom. 12:1). And of himself he writes: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:13,14, NIV). No automatism or somnabulism (sleep-walking) here!" ("The Third Use of the Law as Confessed in the Formula of Concord")

Forde recognized that this could be the result of his understanding. We read:

"There is also the danger that speaking of Christ as the “end” of the law (and thus of this age) will become almost exclusively a kind of negative theology, a kind of “negative theology of glory” in which it is difficult to give positive content to the new life in this age." (Law-Gospel, 215)

"But if man's acting and thinking remain acting and thinking in this age, then the problem arises of how the new age takes on any kind of positive reality in this age." (Law-Gospel, 224)

"The greatest danger for the eschatological view that speaks of the death of the old and the resurrection of the new is that the idea of the “new person” can all too easily become a mystical theologoumenon without substance, something the theologian calls on to solve all dogmatic problems. That, no doubt, is what those who insisted on the “third use” of the law were most afraid of: the “reborn” Christian who does not know what to do and is cast on his or her own feelings or autonomy. The new being, however, is to be incarnated in down-to-earth fashion in the concrete calling of the Christian. In that battle—in the calling in this world, in the flesh-- the law of God is ultimately not an enemy or an emasculated guide but a true and loved friend. For one should make no mistake about it: The law of God is to be and will be fulfilled. It will not be fulfilled, however, by our powers, but only by the power of the righteousness of God given in faith." (The Christian Life, 452)

This last quote is about as positive and descriptive as Forde ever gets concerning the shape of the new age. He even uses the term "law"! But the last sentence, "It will not be fulfilled, however, by our powers, but only by the power of the righteousness of God given in faith," and the rest of what Forde has written on this topic leads one to see the new age, the new person, fulfillment, as a mere abstraction, a "mystical theologoumenon without substance."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Luther on the Kingdom of God

Yes, yes. I realize I haven't posted an original in almost two weeks. I promise, I will post tomorrow. For now, here is another good one from Luther:

"The kingdom of God comes...only through the gospel and faith in God, through which hearts are cleansed, comforted, and pacified. For the Holy Spirit fills a man's heart with love and knowledge of God and unites his spirit with God's Spirit. As a result his mind is changed so that he wills and desires, seeks and loves, whatever God wills."

-Martin Luther, WA 15:725

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Luther on the Holy Spirit and the Law

If this isn't the third use of the law, I don't know what is...

"Therefore it happens in the New Testament that while the Word of life, grace, and salvation is proclaimed outside, the Holy Spirit teaches inside at the same time. Therefore Isaiah says (Is. 54:13): “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord.” And in Jeremiah we read: “I will give my laws…And they shall all know Me” (cf. 31:33-34). Hence Christ refers to these two prophets when He says in John 6:45: “It is written in the prophets: ‘they shall be taught by God.’” Likewise in 2 Cor. 3:3: “You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Thus we read in 1 John 14:27 that “His anointing will teach you all,” and in John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things.” Accordingly, this is how Scripture must be understood when it says that the laws are written in the minds and in the hearts. For by “mind” and “heart” (for this is how we are speaking now) it means intellect and feeling. For to be in the mind means to be understood; to be in our heart means to be loved. Thus to say that the Law is in the mouth means that it is taught; to say that it is in the ear means that it is heard; to say that it is in the eyes means that it is seen. Therefore it is not enough for the Law to be in the soul and to state objectively that it is there. No, it must be in the soul formally, that is, the Law must be written in the heart out of love for the Law."

-Martin Luther, LW 29:198

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Law and Sin

My Gerhard Forde post is forthcoming, but I wanted to get us thinking through something I don't believe Forde takes seriously into account. This is, the relation of sin to the law. Forde places such a separation between law and gospel, due to his purely existential definition of that law, that he forgets that "the power of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56). Not that the law is mankind's essential problem, but rather, the law reveals how sinful we really are. If sin is not kept in mind when analyzing the law's first two uses, the law, and not sin, becomes man's essential problem. The gospel then saves us from the law and not from sin. Without the consideration of sin, the law, as we understand it in its first two uses, becomes meaningless. The question becomes: does there exist a definition of law that is not essentially defined in its connection to sin? If so, then Forde's thought is flawed. If not, then we can acknowledge Forde's construction.

What do these verses from Paul tell us in connection to these considerations?

"And the commandment which was to life, this was found to be death to me; for sin taking occasion through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Then that which is good, has it become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be sin, having worked out death to me through the good, in order that sin might become excessively sinful through the commandment. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin." Rom. 7:10-14