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

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Yeago on Luther on Genesis, all in Hütter

This is from a wonderful essay by (the now defected) Reinhard Hütter called, "The Twofold Center of Lutheran Ethics: Christian Freedom and God's Commandments." I thought this would be a good intro into my upcoming section on the different Lutheran positions on the continued relevance and place for the law in the lives of believers. Both what Luther says and what Yeago says in response, I agree with. I would only offer a slight tweak in emphasis: While the interpretation of the tree is a good one, it is not the only "historical form" (as Yeago would say) by which God ordered Adam's life. Adam was put in the garden to "work it" and "keep it" (Gen. 2:15); God "commands" him concerning the tree (2:15); Adam was in charge of the animals (2:19-20); God created Eve to help Adam (and logically thus, Adam helped Eve), and they were to serve each other as man and wife (2:20-25). From all this I would argue that man was created to live in a communion of self-giving; in worshipping God in service and faithfulness, and in serving each other and God's creation. The command concerning the tree does, though, have a type of arbitrariness to it (in the good sense). That is, by not eating from it, Adam does not benefit creation, nor neighbor, nor God (in that we can never "benefit" God). In keeping the commandment concerning the tree, Adam and Eve, rather, give God the only thing we can ever offer him: loving faithfulness to his Word.

"In interpreting Genesis 2, Luther states:

"And so when Adam had been created in such a way that he was, as it were, intoxicated with rejoicing toward God and was delighted also with all the other creatures, there is now created a new tree for the distinguishing of good and evil, so that Adam might have a definite way to express his worship and reverence toward God. After everything had been entrusted to him to make use of it according to his will, whether he wished to do so for necessity or for pleasure, God finally demands from Adam that at this tree of knowledge of good and evil he demonstrate his reverence and obedience toward God and that he maintain this practice, as it were, of worshipping God by not eating anything from it. [From LW 1:9]

"David Yeago rightly draws the following consequence:

"The commandment is not given to Adam that he might become a lover of God by keeping it; Adam already is a lover of God, "drunk with joy towards God," by virtue of his creation in the image of God, by the grace of original righteousness. The commandment is given, rather, in order to allow Adam's love for God to take form in a historically concrete way of life. Through the commandment, Adam's joy takes form in history as cultus Dei, the concrete social practice of worship... The importance of this cannot be overstated, particularly in view of conventional Lutheran assumptions: here Luther is describing a function of divine law, divine commandment, which is neither correlative with sin nor antithetical to grace; indeed, it presupposes the presence of grace and not sin. This function of divine commandment is, moreover, its original and proper function. The fundamental significance of the law is thus neither to enable human beings to attain righteousness nor to accuse their sin, but to give concrete, historical form to the "divine life" of the human creature deified by grace... The commandment is given originally to a subject deified by the grace of original righteousness, a subject living as the image of God; it calls for specific behaviors as the concrete historical realization of the spiritual life of the deified, God-drunken human being. What happens after sin comes on the scene is simply that this subject presupposed by the commandment is no longer there,; the commandment no longer finds an Adam living an "entirely divine life," "drunk with joy towards God," but rather an Adam who has withdrawn from God who believes the devil's lies about God and therefore flees and avoids God. It is precisely the anomaly of this situation that causes the commandment to become, in Luther's terms, "a different law" (alia lex). [David Yeago, "Martin Luther on Grace, Law, and Moral Life: Prolegomena to an Ecumenical Discussion of Veritas Splendor," in The Thomist, 62 (1998), 176-178.]"
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-Reinhard Hütter, "The Twofold Center of Lutheran Ethics: Christian Freedom and God's Commandments," In The Promise of Lutheran Ethics, ed. Karen L. Bloomquist and John R. Stumme, 31-54 (Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1998), 42-43.

12 comments:

Augustinian Successor said...

Hey Joel, thanks for this post! It's food for thought, since I shared with you not too long ago about reflecting on whether there was such a thing as "law" (in the general sense) before the Fall.

Augustinian Successor said...

Was the Yeago excerpt taken from a journal? Great. I mentioned about journals in my first comment on top of this post!

Augustinian Successor said...

Oh I see, it was actually taken from Hutter's book. Maybe I should get a sencond-hand copy?

Augustinian Successor said...

Say, it's taken from the Promise of Lutheran Ethics?? I have that book!

Joel Woodward said...

Lol! Its a pretty good essay. Unfortunately, Hutter is now of the Catholic faith. You can start to see his leanings in this essay, especially his critique on the Lutheran view of justification. He almost seems to have the view of Osiander. But concerning ethics (I hate that term by the way) it is quite good.

Jack Kilcrease said...

You realize that Yeago teaches his students at Lutheran Southern that Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas have the same view of justification?

I've read the whole piece- what Yeago is saying over all is that Luther views the Law to be an ordering principle like Aquinas. But if as Luther says in the Antinomian Disputations that "when sin ceases, Law also ceases" then how could the law ever be an ordering principle? In other words, if one has faith and therefore has fullfilled the law, then what is there to be order towards(?), you're already there! This has nothing do with the Third use either, because the Third use is for our old nature as the FC clearly states.

Adam of course did have the law, but only as a means of expressing his gratefulness of having everything already fulfilled within him, not as a means of interacting with God or moving towards God or actualizing the Good.

Yeago then believes that this is applicable to the modern Church. There is no "semper lex acusat nos." When one has faith, then "fun happy" law starts. "Fun happy" law makes you the Church by doing it. For this reason it is imperative to be obedient to the Bishop, especially the Bishop of Rome. There is Spirit and Structure. The Spirit makes the Church Church by having it adhere to a common "Law" which will actualize it in a concrete historical form. So, for Yeago, it is Law which makes the Church the Church and not the Gospel.

Joel Woodward said...

This quote found in Hutter is the only thing I have read of Yeago. I mostly agree with what he says, though the whole "diefied" thing sounds a little Finnish to me. I just started reading Mark Matte's essay "The Thomist Turn" which is directly addressed to Hutter and Yeago's postitions.

I agree that the law in Adam's pristine bliss was his way of expressing gratefulness towards God, and not to makee himself holy or to move towards God. I take Malysz' position of the law (love of God, love of neighbor) as being the shape of the pristine life in a community of "self-giving." (I'm not sure if this is what you meant by "interacting").

Your second paragraph sounds right out of Forde and his understanding of how to relate or understand the seemingly conflicting positions of Matt. 5:17-18 and Rom. 10:4. It seems he chalks it up to that which is before the eschaton (Matt.) and that which is after (Rom.). I don't see this playing out at all in Scripture. And I also don't believe (even from his own examples in Law Gospel Debate) Forde's arguments from Luther to support this. I find it an inability to separate an existential understanding of the law from a content based understanding (love of God, love of neighbor). I don't see Scripture actively promoting this understanding of the inseperability of what we call law from it's content. Once we boil down law to an existential category we lose the understanding that, with the law, God is telling us: "THIS is what I desire from you" (1st use) and "THIS, you do not do." (2nd use) The content of the law becomes the arbitrary means, bound to this age, through which God upholds civil soceity and prepares us for the gospel. The law might as well be, which Forde I believe characterized as being an example of the law, "rustling leaves." The law cannot have any eternal validity and thus it becomes a lex vacua.

I agree, true adherence to the "structure" can only be a result of being the church, having the gospel and holding to it through faith. But I don't see this as being only an eschatological possibility. Nor do I believe the content of the law is inseperably connected with its coercing and condemning offices. Paul does not delight in a precogniscent law, rather, Paul knows the law and he delights in it. Just as the Psalmist can delight in meditating on the law of God.

I have a post on the third use of the law. A very different position on it than you. I would love to hear your input.

jack kilcreae said...

I know Mattes and I was going to recommend his article that you mentioned. Mattes I believe would have similar criticism as me.

You are definitely correct that Forde's position on the law is overly existentializing. He defines Law as "that which accuses or demands." He is also correct that that which demands, necessarily accuses. If my mother asks me to clean my room, then it is an accusation that I have not cleaned it. If it is already clean, then why would she ask? The regulatory aspect of the law in creation then, before the Fall, would also not be a law that accused either, because it was not really a demand in the sense that it was a obligation- but rather a kind of channel for the love of God. In other words, God did not say "keep this command, and we will maintain our relationship." There relationship was merely one of giving and receiving of divine goodness. Sin happened only when human beings stop being receivers and start trying to grasp the good through their actions.


The problem with Forde's position though is that Luther does not merely define the law as that which accuses (actually he calls this "the Office of the law" "Anything which threats or accuses" he says "has the office of the law"), but also as the "immutable will of God." Theodosius Harnack conceptualized the distinction that Luther is making here with his claim that Luther taught that there was an "essence" (Wesen) and office (Amt) to the Law. According to its essence, it was God's eternal and good will. According to its office, it was a tyrant over the sinner.

This does not necessarily contradict much of what Forde has said, it just suggests that the law has a reality apart from our experience of it as a tyrant. Furthermore, again, if I am in accordance with this eternal will of God it should not be a threat to me or even demand anything out of me.

How does one deal with the Genesis narrative then when there are real commandments given before the fall that also have a regulatory effect on our interaction with creation?

Luther states very clearly that at a later point that Adam and Eve would have been translated into heaven. If I see God "face to face" then why would there need to be an office of ministry and a Word of God to preach? If we shall "neither marry, nor be given in marriage" then why need there be a command to be fruitful? In other words, Forde's explanation works with regard to the eschatological nature of the law. At the eschton, since there is no creation to regulate, then there is no law as something that needs to be fulfilled (as either something accusing or regulating). If Paul is correct, then we already have a foretaste of this in that we have a "down payment of the Spirit" causing us to "delight in the law of God" in our "inner being." Therefore, the law ceases with the eschton in its first, second and third uses.

On the other hand, law, cannot before the last judgment be reduced to an existential category with regard to its first and third uses. Whereas the "inner person" ceases to be under the law- the external person (as Paul also says) is still under the law because of sin and the need to regulate creation. Of course, the accusing nature of the law post-Fall is not separable from the regulatory function. Law is never "fun happy" law- neither is it (contra Calvin and Aquinas) a basis for divine human interaction.

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

Jack Kilcreae said...

I also forgot to mention- Yeago and his compatriots within the ELCA who call themselves "Evangelical Catholics" (formerly Hutter and Marshall- Hinlicky, Root, Jenson, Braaten) have more or less uncritically accepted Finnish Luther scholarship.

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