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

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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


Augustinian Successor said...

This is an excellent point! Something which I overlooked in my reading of Forde.

jack kilcreae said...

I would agree that there is a flaw in Forde's thought insofar as he does not take seriously lex aeterna or the existence of divine commandment before the Fall.

Nonetheless, I would be interested to hear what you mean when you say that the gospel does not save from sin. In the sense that the gospel promises salvation on a purely forensic basis, I think that you are correct. In that the gospel sanctifies us through faith, I think that that remark could be better clarified.

Joel Woodward said...

"The gospel then saves us from the law and not from sin." --This is the consequence of the previous sentence. I do not agree with it.

Jack Kilcrease said...

Post-lapsarian human existence is defined by an unending cycle of the mutual determination of law and sin. Just because this law is corrupted in its effect by sin does not make it any less of a tyrant.

Elert's way of construing how forensic is effect justification is therefore correct in that the removal of the law opens up the self's ability to be free from self-justify activity. Similarly, Paul states that sin was dead within him until the law came along and said "do not covet" then he was baited on to covet.

Under the law, I have two options (both of which lead to self-justification and therefore to sin).

1. Try to obey the law and try to justify myself. This does not work because God wishes us to be passive receiver of his goodness. If I try to act to become a passive receiver of the good, then I am not trusting in God's goodness and am acting. If I am acting, then I am not trusting, and all is already lost.

2. I can ignore the law and create my own way in the world through my actions. Nevertheless, I am now under the threat of losing myself because of the uncertainty of my ability to create myself through my actions. If I fail, then I have lost myself. My existence is not secured by God before hand and therefore I am still enslaved to the law which demands that I act to secure my own reality rather than passively receive it from God.

Joel Woodward said...

Right. In this sense we are "saved" from the law. Though, this "saving from the law" is not justification in itself, but rather a result of it. Bayer does such a wonderful job in this area.

Augustinian Successor said...

"I will look for your piece on the third use of the law and try to respond to that as well."

Jack, am looking forward to your comments on the third use (and others as well. Have read the ones on Yeago etc. Very stimulating, indeed!).

David said...

"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."

This is quite an important discovery! I have always felt that the antisynergism espoused by Forde and those who follow his thinking are really closet antinomians. . .and this has created devestating ecclesial consequences. .