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

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Martin Chemnitz, Concerning Spiritual Powers in Man

I intend to dedicate a number of posts to the will and powers of man, both regenerate and unregenerate. I will look at these concepts from the eyes of Martin Chemnitz, Martin Luther, Melancthon, our Confessions, and the current Lutheran interpretation. I will also take a look at how these concepts relate and have influenced the popular two-dimensionality perspective of human existence especially as supported by the teachings of the two kinds of righteousness and the two kingdoms. I will not attend to some of the hairier issues involved, such as determinism, etc., especially as these issues are more palpable to our rationalist brothers of the Reformed tradition.

We will begin with an extended quote from Martin Chemnitz' Loci Theologici, Locus 6, as it is recorded and translated in The Doctrine of Man in Classical Lutheran Theology. This will get us thinking about the major ideas involved, especially from a Scriptural perspective.

"The principle point in the doctrine of free will is that the human will of its own powers cannot without the Holy Spirit initiate inner spiritual impulses. It cannot perform the inner obedience of the heart; nor can it persevere in, accomplish, and complete a course of action which has been undertaken.

"We speak of spiritual powers or activities because in Rom. 7:14 the Law is described as "spiritual." That is, it is not content with certain outward, civil activities which the unregenerate flesh can perform. Rather, the Law demands such impulses and activities as cannot be accomplished without the working of the Holy Spirit. These the flesh cannot perform, for the flesh hinders the Holy Spirit in his work, not only by evil desires (Rom. 7:8), but also by the wisdom of the flesh (Rom. 8:7). Frequently when we speak of spiritual impulses, we think of the knowledge, fear, faith, and love of God. For it is characteristic of these affections that they cannot be produced by the flesh. However, in the case of other virtues, such as temperance, chastity, bravery, freedom, etc., the distinction is not so clear; even human reason has such virtues. [The previously mentioned "inner" motions, that would be the fulfillment of the first table of the law, would be what the Confessions would call "spiritual righteousness" (AC/AP XVIII). The distinction that is not as clear, that Chemnitz references, that is the "outward" virtues, might have been unclear in the teaching of the Lutheran Church due to the lack of attention that they receive in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. I will address this in another post as it is still a point of contention.] But we must distinguish on the basis of causes and goals. For example, the chastity of Joseph had a different cause from that of Scipio...

"... I. Inasmuch as both the mind and will of man are embraced under the term Free Will, we shall first present these passages of Scripture which speak of the mind of unregenerate man in spiritual matters. But the mind includes the understanding, the evaluation, the judgement, the ideas, and the thoughts of unregenerate man.

"Concerning each of these are passages from Scripture. "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8); i.e., without Christ men are only darkness, for they are "light" only "in the Lord." Let none imagine that the mind can be enlightened either by its own acumen in seeking the truth or by the teachings of philosophy. "The light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5); "to turn them from darkness to light" (Acts 26:18); "to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Luke 1:79). In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul explains how unregenerate men are in darkness. They "walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened...through the ignorance that is in them," i.e., the ignorance that clings to their nature. Also in 1 Cor. 2:14 he writes, "The natural (Greek, psuchikos; Latin, animalis) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God."...

"...Paul says two things: 1) the natural man cannot recognize and understand the things of the Spirit of God. For none of the princes of this world knows the wisdom of the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:6). Flesh and blood have not revealed it, but the Holy Spirit has revealed it in the Word (Matt. 16:17). 2) When God in his Word sets forth and explains the doctrine of the Gospel, although the natural man may read, hear, and understand it, he nevertheless does not receive it with certainty, either its threats or its promises. "Who knoweth the power of thine anger?" (Ps. 90:11). Thus David knew from the Word of God, "Thou shall not commit adultery"; but because he drove out the Holy Spirit, he did not receive the things of the Spirit of God. Otherwise he would have repented before the preaching of Nathan.
"II. Secondly, we shall cite passages which describe the will of man, showing what it is like without the renewal of the Holy Spirit and his inner spiritual impulses. Eph. 2:1 and Col. 2:13 call men "dead in trespasses and sins," Rom. 6:20, "free from righteousness," and John 8:34, "the servants of sin." Moreover, we have already mentioned that sin dwells particularly in the will. "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God" (Rom. 8:7). Phronema [Greek], mind, indicates the most strenuous efforts of the flesh or the unregenerate will. "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21); "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3); we were born "not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).

"In Rom. 3:10ff., Paul locates human corruption not only in the mind and will, but in the whole man, and describes how sin dwells even in the idividual parts of man...

"... III. Thirdly, we shall cite passages which describe the grace of the Son of God which he bestows upon the mind and will of man through the Spirit of regeneration. For in the darkness of this world we cannot better understand of what gifts the mind and will of man have been deprived than from those passages in Scripture in which are described how the mind of the regenerate man is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, how the heart is converted, how the will is renewed, and how the new man is created in Christ Jesus according to God. Likewise, the words of the holy Fathers testify clearly to the bondage of the will. Augustine asks, "What is more foolish than to pray that you may do what you have within your power?" Likewise in his Epistle 217 he says, "In short, we do not really pray to God, but only imagine that we are praying if we think that we can do the things for which we pray. Again, we do not really thank God, but only imagine that we thank God, but only imagine that we are thanking him, if we think that he does not do the things for which we thank him." There are also many Scripture passages which are applicable here. [Chemnitz cites the following: Eph. 1:7; 2:5; 4:7; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:6; Is. 11:2; Ps. 119:34; Jer. 31:33; 1 Cor. 12:3; and John 15:5]

"In John 15:5 Jesus says, "Without me ye can do nothing." He is not speaking about the universal presence of God in the affairs of this life, for Paul in Eph. 2:12 says of unregenerate gentiles, "Ye were without Christ, without God." Rather, Jesus here is speaking of spiritual fruits, among which he includes also the observance of God's commands: "Without me ye can do nothing." Nor does he speak this way in a Pelagian sense, as it is popularly said, "A knowledge of art without a natural inclination cannot produce good artists." For Christ declares that as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, but draws its life and strength from the vine and withers apart from it, so also "without me ye can do nothing." Augustine carefully analyzes each word: "Christ does not say, 'Without me me ye can do little,' nor does he say, 'Ye cannot do anything difficult without me,' or 'Without me ye will do the task with great difficulty,' but, 'Without me ye can do nothing.' Nor does he say, 'Without me ye cannot complete it,' but 'Ye can do nothing without me.'" Note Solomon's prayer in 1 Kings 3:9; 8:58, and also Ps. 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart." Note also from the introductions and conclusions of St. Paul's Epistles how he prays for the churches and what he hopes for the believers.

"IV. Fourthly, it is also useful to set down together the shades and meanings of the words showing (1) how they describe the bondage of unregenerate man:...[Chemnitz goes on to cite: Eph. 5:8; 4:18; 4:19; 2:1; 2:12; 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:8; Rom. 1:21; 2:5; 3:4; Heb. 3:10; Titus 3:3; Luke 24:25; Acts 28:26-17; Ezek. 36:26; Isa. 48:4; and Mark 6:53.]...

"... (2) The following words also describe the enlightenment of the mind and the conversion of the will and the healing of each through Christ. For thus the Holy Spirit speaks in Eph. 1:18: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened"; and in 2 Cor. 4:6, "God hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God."

"Moreover, we must observe the stronger emphasis of Scripture: it speaks not only of the enlightenment of the eyes, but in Acts 26:18 says, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light." Note especially Deut. 29:4, "Unless God shall have given eyes to see and a heart to perceive, the word is heard in vain, and signs are seen in vain"; likewise Ps. 119:34, "Give me understanding, Lord." Augustine has also made this observation: "The grace of enlightenment is no less necessary for the mind than light for the eyes; rather, we ourselves open the eyes to see the light; however, the eyes of the mind, unless they are opened by God, remain closed."

"Finally, we observe an even stronger emphasis in the following passages: in 1 Sam. 10:26, God touches the heart; in 2 Sam. 19:14, he sways the hearts of men; in Job 12:24, he changes the heart. Thus Scripture speaks concerning external matters. But in regard to spiritual matters it declares: "Because thou hast heard the words of the book, thy heart is tender" (2 Chron. 34:27). "The Lord will circumcise thy heart" (Deut. 30:6). "I have broken their heart that was faithless, and revolted from me" (Ezek. 6:9). "They have brought a heart of stone, and I will give them a new heart" (Ezek. 11:19, 36:26). "Create in me a clean heart" (Ps. 51:10)...

"...God softens, converts, and opens the heart. But because our hearts are hard beyond measure, he wounds, circumcises, and even breaks them. When this avails nothing he takes the heart completely away, gives it new life, and even creates a new heart.

"Thus in Ps. 41:4 we read, "Heal my soul"; in Eph. 5:14, "Arise from the dead"; in Eph. 2:5, "When we were dead in sins he hath quickened us"; in 2 Cor. 4:16, "The inward man is renewed"; in Tit. 3:5, "The renewing of the Holy Ghost"; in 1 Pet. 3:3, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"; in Eph. 2:10, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus"; in Eph. 4:24, "The new man which after God is created..." Observe that God heals the weak nature of man and applies remedies to it: "I will bind up that which was broken" (Ezek. 34:16). The heart must be renewed, raised from the dead, regenerated, so that it is born again. This is not only a healing, but a complete rebirth, a work of no small value, an actual creation. Therefore, each of these activities must be ascribed to God."

-The Doctrine of Man in Classical Lutheran Theology, ed. Herman A. Preus and Edmund Smits (Minneapolis, Minn: Augsburg Publishing House, 1962), 95-101.

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