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

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Saturday, December 6, 2008


What a terrible, and just plain wrong depiction of the third use of the law. I found this in a footnote in a paper that is posted in some archive on the LC-MS' website. I don't think anybody claims that this is the definition of the third use. The only "daily drowning" I'm aware of in Lutheran theology is through contrition and repentence (2nd use). "It is the Law". . . WHAT (!) ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?!

This “daily drowning of the old nature” by the Law is what is classically known within Lutheranism as the Law’s “3rd use”. The Law’s 1st use is its restraining of the evil present in all humans, Christian and non-Christian. Its 2nd use is to show our continued rebellion of human against the will of God. The “third use” is its use as a guide for the Christian life. The Christian, in so far as he is a new creation, has no need of the law. Since the new creation is solely the work of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ and the Father, it has no need of the Law: it is the Law. If the new creation were not in full conformity with the Law, the “new” creation would remain an imperfect reality and could certainly not claim to be a “saint” or holy one (as Paul calls all Christians in his epistles). But the old nature remains. This nature does not desire to serve God, but enjoys its continued rebellion. The Law must be continually spoken to this old nature. The law, however, is not applied externally by the natural order, by conscience, or by government, but by the new creation itself. So the law is actually applied by the Christian internally to the old nature. This is the “3rd Use of the Law”. Stumme writes that “For the mainstream Lutheran ethical tradition, however, there is no third use of the law that stipulates a specifically Christian form of existence replete with distinctive patterns of obedience.” Yet he cannot help but add that “the God of the Decalogue is quite enough.” Those who would reject a 3rd use of the Law end up resurrecting it in some other form. (Stumme, John “A Tradition of Christian Ethics” in The Promise of Lutheran Ethics Karen L. Bloomquist and John R. Stumme, Eds. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN: 1998) p.16)

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