Monday, March 24, 2014

Notes and Clarifications on the so-called "Antinomian Crisis" in the LCMS

Over the last year or so, there has been an unending debate about sanctification and good works in LCMS blog and FB lands.  In fact, recently I have read certain individuals claiming that there is an "antinomian crisis" in the LCMS.  Also, there seems to be a lot of confusion about what sanctification is, and how per se one maintains the simul of Christian existence while also talking about sanctification.  Up to this point, I have stayed out of these discussion.  This was both to maintain my own sanity, and my desire not to be sidetracked when I had other theological projects.  Here, I hope to make a positive contribution to the debate and sum up where I stand on these important issues. 

1. Is there an antinomian crisis in the LCMS?  My answer would be basically no and yes.  When people who claim there is one, they generally mean that there isn't enough law-based preaching and this leads to people into being loosey-goosey about their moral efforts.  Beyond the rather bizarre and un-Lutheran assumptions that go into this diagnosis, there's also the fact that I see absolutely no empirical evidence of it.  I don't really think you could actually empirically measure any decline in morality among LCMS members in recent years.  If people were actually honest about what they did in private, my guess (and just a guess mind you!) would be that there would be little difference between people's behavior at any time in the history of the synod until now.  Moreover, I think that in terms of the quality of preaching, these proponent of the "antinomian crisis" have nothing to fear.  Though I have been blessed with three very good parishes where the gospel is preached in its purity over the last half-decade, whenever I go to another LCMS congregation, I am pretty consistently treated to a moralizing and legalistic tirade- something those worried about antinomianism are concerned that there isn't enough of.  This legalistic tirade may be a subtle one- nice law, to make nice people- or it may take less subtle forms- mean law to get people (particularly those having the wrong sorts of sex, which often appears to be the only sin people commit) to stop doing what they're doing.  Nonetheless, in essence it's all the same.  At the end of the sermon, often the gospel will be tacked on, since basically the preacher didn't really want to preach the gospel in the first place, but rather give an exhortation to "really get things done."  But he does remember back in seminary that Walther said something about preaching law and gospel, so he's got to tack it on at the end.  It's obligatory.  Sigh!

2. Basically, this sort of preaching or the worry that we're not being sufficiently legalistic reveals a fundamental misperception about what true antinominianism is, and what the relationship between antinomianism and legalism actually is.  First, since the legalistic tirade at one's average LCMS parish is usually focused on some sort of hot-button cultural issue (sex! sex! sex!), it does little good to the congregation.  They're on board with the preacher- after all, none of them are gay!  So it doesn't affect them.  But they hold the right opinions about homosexuality or sex outside of marriage, and so, they feel good about having those correct opinions.  They're not like those terrible young people.  And so, through their own legalism they become antinomians.  They escape the office of the law and its condemning effects.  Ironically then, by hitting people hard with the law, often times preachers are only reinforcing people's antinomian tendencies.  Therefore, if there is an antinomian crisis in the LCMS, it's that.  Not that we don't have enough tiraids about about sexual sins, or some such thing- but that when we preach in this manner we give congregations too many tools to self-justify.  On one last side note, least I be misunderstood, I am by no means saying that the Church should not witness to all of God's truth, part of which is indeed proper sexual relationships.  Neither am I saying that that at this particular moment in history when God's truth about proper sexual relationships is being ignored, that the Church does not have a special obligation to witness to the truth of God's law in these respects.  Rather, what I am saying is that our preaching too often focuses exclusively on these topics and not on the actual sins that people in the congregation are committing.  The unfortunate consequence of this is that it reinforces their smugness and does not drive them to Christ.

3. Part of the reason that people think that legalistic tirades are a "way to get things done" is that there are many fundamental misunderstandings of what sanctification is, and what the purpose of the third use of the law is.  The popular account in the LCMS of these things seems to be as follows: The gospel is the imputation of righteousness and the promise of eternal life (so far so good!).  It is a sort of bare forensic word and people receive it by faith (still good!).  Because it is just a word that says "not guilty," it does nothing.  People left with this word will just sit around.  Hence, for people to be "sanctified" the preacher must "preach sanctification" which means "preaching good works."  Preaching good works makes up for the fact that as a bare forensic judgment, the gospel does nothing.  Over time, because the preacher preaches good works to you, you get better and better at doing good works, and therefore become more and more sanctified.

4. This account seems to be believed in many and various ways by people worried about the "antinomian crisis" in the LCMS.  If this misrepresents their thinking, I apologize, but it's the definite impression that I get from what they say.  To respond to this, I need to make a couple points of clarification.  First of all, one of Luther's major targets in beginning the Reformation was the idea one finds in Aristotle that "doing is being."  For Aristotle, one is a good person because they do good things.  And more one does good things, the easier it becomes and the better a person you are.  In adapting Aristotle, Catholic theology (broadly speaking) thought that people get righteous by doing good works.  God in his grace gives a kind of potential for goodness and you build-up that goodness by repeatedly doing good works.  Luther's idea was rather different.  Jesus said that a "good tree bears good fruits."  Through the gospel, God sanctifies the inner person and makes them a good tree that bears good fruit.  Faith fulfills the law and therefore the gospel, and not the law, is the agent of sanctification.  Melanchthon reflects this definition of how sanctification takes place in the Apology when he describes justification either meaning God's forensic judgment of salvation, or the renewing of the inner person through the Holy Spirit (what the Formula would later define as "sanctification").  All of this, of course, follows from Paul's use of the language of the new covenant, which he takes from Jeremiah.  Prodding Israel to obey the Sinaitic covenant was something of a bust for the OT prophets.  YHWH promises Jeremiah (in chapter 31) that he will give them a new covenant, wherein he will communicate to the people the forgiveness of sin and then sanctification, whereby he will write the law on their hearts.  As Paul notes, this does not come by the preaching of the letter which "kills", but through the Spirit at work in the gospel (2 Cor. 3).  Jesus also spoke in John 17 about being sanctified by himself and communicating sanctification through the preaching of the gospel.  Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit creates faith and sanctifies the inner person.  This inner person under the influence of the Spirit gives the impulse to do good works, which are only done out of faith.  Hence, beating on people to do good works may actually change their empirical behavior.  But because doing is not being, it doesn't do a lick to get them sanctified.  Sanctification is a change of the heart that colors the works that people do.  It is not the works themselves.

5. This reveals of the confusion over the issue of "sanctification."  One of my friends, working with the notion of sanctification as inner renewal through the gospel has been repeatedly accused of being against sanctification.  Why?  Because there is a tendency in popular LCMS teaching (though you will not find this in major theologians, such as David Scaer who says the very opposite!), of identifying sanctification as something we do (i.e., the uptick of good works) and not what God does through the Spirit and the Word.  This is why the phrase "preaching sanctification" a way of saying "preaching good works" is so problematic.  There is of course nothing wrong with preaching good works (I will address this issue below).  Nevertheless, the phrase "preaching sanctification" seems to assume that good fruit make a good tree, rather than a good tree makes good fruit.  Part of the problem as well is that we are all very much aware that people without the Spirit can improve their external behavior (go to an AA meeting and see!).  And likewise, people prior to coming to have faith may have a goodly amount of civil righteousness.  In fact, their civil righteousness may be so good that it may be difficult to detect any difference between their pre-conversion behavior and their post-conversion behavior.  For example, does anyone seriously think that Cornelius in the book of Acts did anything much differently in his day-to-day life after receiving the Holy Spirit?  In other cases, one of course can see real differences.  Pimps and prostitutes who receive the gospel will no long pimp others or prostitute themselves.  Regarding that which is below us, we are always free and so we are free to do good works in a merely human way.  The problem is the heart and Jesus tells us that this is what needs to be changed by faith, because that which is within us makes us unclean.  People can be like "white-washed tombs"- that is, good in their external behavior and rotten on the inside.

6. So then, can one speak of progressive sanctification?  The term in and of itself is not objectionable, indeed, many Lutheran theologians (including Luther himself!) do speak in this manner.  The difficulty with the term is that it has taken on a sort of different meaning in other forms in Protestantism than it has in Lutheranism.  Again, at the risk of caricature, I would say that the general impression I get in reading Reformed and Evangelical authors when the subject of "progressive sanctification" comes up is this basic account: One is converted by the Holy Spirit and then, overtime, sin gradually is removed from you as Luther puts it "like paint striped from a wall."  And every day and every way you become less and less of a sinner until, after death, you are perfect.  Moreover, this is how ones know that their faith is really real, because it produces fruits.  Now what is correct about this account is, as we have seen earlier, is that becoming a Christian does mean rejecting evil that one has previous engaged in.  Also, having faith does indeed mean producing fruits as well. 

7. What is objectionable about this account though is that it misapprehends that Christ is the true reality of sanctification.  In this account, the person is a sort of subject who has greater and greater predicates built up in him over time- like drug building up in your system as you take more of it.  What this account lacks the consciousness of is that Christ is sanctified in himself and shares his sanctifying reality with us.  Therefore, our unity with him in baptism is the the reality of sanctification.  One does not progress beyond baptism as a sort of jumping off point (incidentally, this is why the description of baptism as the "Christian rite of initiation" is so incredibly annoying.  It assumes baptism is stage 1., rather than the whole of the Christian life!).  Because all our good works are rooted in faith and the work of the Holy Spirit enacted in baptism, we never move beyond it.  In baptism, our new self "in Christ" is actualized.  For this reason, any progress that we may indeed speak about is rather a sort of regress to that original reality.  It is regress to what we already are in Christ.  We are two selves, the self that persists under sin and death in the old age, and a new self, outside of us in Christ, which already stands within the kingdom of God. 

8. This way of thinking about sanctification is rather difficult for people to understand because human beings in their fallen state usually conceptualize themselves as a centered subjects that persists over time.  That subject may gain new predicates, but it remains centered in itself.  Hence, the subject "sinner" adds the predicate "righteousness" onto it.  When sanctification is thought of as "progressing" then it means more and more predicates are added onto the subject.  Of course, from a Lutheran perspective this is problematic in at least two ways.  First, it compromises the "simul" of Christian existence.  It leaves us with a person who is "partially righteous" and "partially a sinner."  And although Luther actually does speak this way sometimes, it tends to be from the perspective of one's actions in the kingdom of the world, where I do many good things based on my faith, and where I do many bad things because I am still corrupted flesh.  Before God, things are different.  I am a totality, that is, I am seen either from perspective of the totalizing judgment of the law or the totalizing righteousness that is to be found in Christ.  From this perspective, any partial righteousness is non-compliance with the law, and therefore is sin.  Any sin is also totally covered by the righteousness of Christ received by faith.  Secondly, the other major problem with thinking in terms of a subject that builds up its predicates is that assumes that as the Christian life progresses, the less one needs Jesus. Jesus is for sinners, and if you have less sin in you, presumably you need Jesus less.  But if sanctification is rooted in faith, and progress means a strengthening of faith, then quite the opposite will be the case.  The flesh will rage more against the Spirit- Christ does after all give rise to Anti-Christ!  We sin every day, and our regrets about our sin in our later life are greater than those in our younger life.  So we need Jesus more, and not less.  (Anyone who doubts any of this, sit down and talk with a pastor who has worked in the nursing home!).  As sanctification grows, sin grows too!

9. How do we talk about progress then?  Is our account of the Christian life that people get faith and then that makes them free to lie in their own vomit?  That account doesn't much work with what Scripture or the Confessions say, and so we need to have a different paradigm for understanding the human self.  Luther often speaks about how through faith we live outside of ourselves.  Part of the problem of sin is the fact that, to use Augustine famous phrase, we are "curved in on ourselves."  Human beings were created by God's creative Word and therefore were intended to live through faith in a state of receptivity to that gracious Word.  They therefore were meant to live on the basis of something outside of themselves, not what was within themselves.  In the Fall, humans removed themselves from a trusting and receptive relationship with God, thereby becoming centered on themselves.  Paul tells us in the NT that a new creative Word has been manifested through Jesus.  Our new life isn't inside of us, Paul says, but is outside of us "hidden in God in Christ" (Colossians 3:3).  Paul says that he "no longer lives" but "Christ lives in " him, that is to say, he "lives by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians).  Hence, faith and sanctification are not about the self getting other qualities added onto it, but rather it is about breaking the self's centered existence and taking on the new existence of faith, which one might call "ecstatic."  We live ecstatically live "in Christ by faith, and in our neighbour by love" (Freedom of a Christian).  This means then, that we are two selves.  We remain something in ourselves, i.e., sinners.  And we are another self "in Christ," outside of ourselves.  Consciousness of what we are in ourselves (sinners) drives us every day more and more to recognize and rely upon what we are outside of ourselves (righteous in Christ).  Therefore, if we speak of "progress" that is progress that we should be primarily talking about.

10. But how does this work?  A good illustration (used by N.T. Wright, of all people), is a room with a view.  A room with a view is an interesting thing, because it isn't defined by it's content.  Rather, it's defined by something outside the room, namely, the view.  The view itself makes the room, even though it is in no way a property of the room, or even something in the room.  Let's go beyond Wright and give the analogy some more depth.  We might say that a sinful person in a state of unbelief is rather like a hotel room that could have a view, but it perhaps has no windows.  Christ has of course died and forgiven the sins of the whole world, much as there is a fantastic view behind the wall of the hotel room.  But alas, bricks block the windows and therefore make this impossible.  In baptism though, the walls are knocked down and the view can be seen.  The room becomes something entirely new, but not because of anything inside of it, but because of the view of that which is outside of it.  Indeed, the room over time may age, it's furniture may become more ugly. In fact, the hotel may use the room as a place to store ugly or old furniture.  In the same manner, we sin every day and as the Spirit sanctifies the flesh, our flesh revolts all the more.  Nevertheless, as time goes on, this ugliness of the room is only all the more reason for the guest to not pay any attention to how the room is furnished and to instead look out the windows to glories of the view.  The more they do this, the more their life in the room will be defined by the view and not by the contents of the room.

11. Now for a couple of other thorny questions: Why do you keep on talking about Christ sanctifying us?  Don't we cooperate in our sanctification?  And then, also, what about the third use of the law?  Don't we get sanctified by getting the third use of the law preached to us?  These concerns I think are based on a couple of misunderstandings of what Lutherans have historically meant by "cooperate in sanctification" and "the third use of the law."  First, this issue of cooperation in sanctification.  Certainly this is a way of speaking that is adopted by both our Confessions (notably, the FC) and by many of our greatest theologians (Pieper).  Luther talks also in Bondage of the Will of us "cooperating" with God after we are regenerated.  What many people misunderstand at this point is how the term "cooperate" is being used.  Most Americans, when they hear the words "cooperation" think in terms of what philosophers call "libertarian free will."  In this view, the human will can in an undetermined way will whatever it so chooses.  The difficulty with all this is that it assumes that the human will is something neutral.  But if our will exists, as Luther points out in Bondage of the Will, it must have qualities and something with qualities is not neutral, but determined.  A good will has good qualities and therefore does good things, just as a bad will does bad things because it has bad qualities.  This is all based on a boilerplate Augustinian account of what Luther calls the "necessity of immutability."  God or external forces do not somehow manhandle the human will into doing what it does (the "necessity of compulsion").  Nevertheless, the will can only do what it desires and humans are not the authors of their own desires.  This clarifies what Luther (and indeed the FC and Pieper!) meant when they speak of human "cooperating with God."  It does not mean, as I think many in the "antinomian crisis" group thinks that it does, that humans with their libertarian free will decide to be responsive to God or not once they have the Spirit.  Rather, what it means, is that because the Spirit writes the law on the person's heart through faith, that they do what they want to do, namely, they desire to obey the law.  In this, God's action does not somehow replace human agency, but rather supervenes on it by shaping and directing it.  Human beings act, but because God has given them the impulse to act through the power of the Spirit.  Luther describes this as being like a horse ridden by its rider (an image he took from Medieval theology).  The horse really does go faster or slower.  The horse himself really does change directions.  But only because he is directed by the rider.  The rider shapes the horse and its behavior.  Nevertheless, it is the horse that runs, and not the rider.  And so, in this sense, they cooperate together.

12. This places the third use of the law in a new perspective.  The third use of the law is not a means of making people want to do good works.  Only the gospel can do that.  Rather, according to our Confessions, it is a negatively and positively tool for believers.  First, as the FC states, the third use is primarily aimed at our old nature.  And our old nature has all sort of impulses that that remain contrary to those of our renewed inner person.  The third use gives the person of faith knowledge of what impulses are evil and need to be beaten back.  It also gives the renewed mind a knowledge of what specific actions God wants, so as to be a curb on the sinful nature's tendency to invent self-chosen and "childish" (Augustana) works.  Lastly, it positively serves as a "channel" (Luther, Large Catechism) for impulses of the renewed person of faith.  As is evident and as the FC makes explicit and clear, the third use therefore is not aimed at sanctifying the person or giving them impulse to do the law.  Rather, it is, as the FC puts it, primarily aimed at the old nature which frustrates the new nature.  It is a recognition of the simul of Christian existence.  Insofar as we remain under sin, law, and in midst of creation, we need the law in order to live out our Christian existence.  Of course, it should be observed that the law serves multiple functions all at once. The preacher is not the agent of the uses of the law, but rather the Holy Spirit is.  The Holy Spirit uses the law in multiple ways when it is preached.  So, it is irrelevant that the preacher only intends to instruct believers in the vein of the third use of the law; he will also always condemn his hearers with the second as he does so (Melanchthon is quite clear about this in the Apology).  I recently read a Luther pastor claim that because Luther and Paul obviously intend that their preaching of the law be used as instruction in certain cases, the law in those cases did not really condemn and so, in our preaching, we should think that the law does not always condemn as well.  And the point that I would make (along with many modern literary theorists) is that we cannot even control how Robinson Crusoe is experienced and that is merely a human book.  So, we how much more is it the case that we cannot control how our sermons and proclamation of the Scriptures (which are both instrumentals of the Holy Spirit) are heard?  For this reason, the minister must always make certain that any moral instruction that he undertakes be make in the larger context of gospel proclamation.  Any law a pastor proclaims will in one way or another condemn.  That being said, the law also always contains ethical information.  Hence, as I often point out to Fordeites, just as one cannot prevent the law from always accusing, one also cannot prevent it from instructing as well!  Contrary to what many people seem to think, there's no reason it cannot do both at once!  So, if proper preaching is taking place, insofar as the believer is condemned by the proclamation of the law, they will be driven to Christ and sanctified by the Spirit present in the gospel.  And, insofar as they receive new impulses from the work of the Spirit in the gospel, they will use that same law that condemned them as a channel and a tool to suppress the old nature and live out their faith through specifically proscribed actions.  


  1. The image from the confessions I have the most problem with in this discussion is the stubborn, recalcitrant donkey (FC, Solid Declaration, Article VI, 24). This is the old creature. On some level I can see this fitting with Jesus' description of his sleepy disciples when He says, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). But the disciples here seem like they're being spoken of as being willing. The donkey is not. Now if we say, "Yes, but the donkey is part of them and not all of them," it seems to help some. The disciple is to discipline his unwilling flesh. Yet how? What should they have done? Jesus' counsel is to pray that they not be put to the test. For there is a level of testing which we cannot be expected to withstand (1 Cor. 10:13). That seems different from expecting to get more out of the weak donkey. Are we to imagine the disciples ought to have used the threats of the Law on themselves at this point?

    This is even more perplexing if we bring the good and evil tree imagery into the discussion. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit" (Matthew 7:18). Is the person with a willing spirit but weak flesh a good or evil tree? I think many of us would say both. Insofar as the tree is good it bears good fruit. But the evil tree clings to it. So are we trying to make the evil part of the tree bear good fruit along with the good tree so that we have more fruit overall? If we beat the stubborn, recalcitrant donkey to get work out of it, is this good work, or bad work? If it is good, doesn't that suggest we can get good fruit from an evil tree? If it is evil, then why do we want it? The most promising answer I have heard is that the Spirit is producing these works for the sake of the neighbor. The works are helpful, even if they are not righteous. Perhaps that has some promise. I would not want to term it "sanctification," however.

    There also seem to be more than two ways the two natures could be conceived of as relating to each other. There is the total/total relationship. And there is the partial/partial relationship. But with partial/partial, we could have only one side being the center of identity. Or both sides being so. It might even be that all three ways of speaking have their place. But if so, we have to be very slow about creating technologies of renewal using them. For when we move from one way of speaking to another, we may carry over assumptions about identity that don't hold for the one we're moving into.

  2. A suggestion Dr. Kilcrease:

    You seem to be reacting against some particular group of people, or at least have some in mind. I would enjoy seeing you and those of the "antinomian crisis group" interact on some of the particular points that you raise.

    Thus, it may be profitable to point out some examples of what you are describing or invite a response from one whom you see as embodying this position.

    [BTW, I understand the desire (as it seems to be where you are coming from) to keep the conversation not about people but rather the issue(s) at hand, however, it seems kind of inescapable in this case since you are critiquing a particular group/people. So that readers can test your evaluation and/or understand better what precisely you are describing, I think a concrete specimen or document would be beneficial.]

  3. David, I'm mainly talking about popular misconceptions. The "popular" account of sanctification is not one that any specific LCMS minister has given me, but much of what is said is often implies that account. Many laypeople have rather directly said things to me like this. The account of progressive sanctification that I outline seems actually to be a fairly standard Reformed/Evangelical one. The account of popular preaching is so self-evidently the case and common that I don't even feel I need to justify it. Lastly, the remark about being able to separate the condemning from the instructive properties of the law completely was made by a person on his blog a ways back and considering I have had about 4 laypeople assert the same thing to me on FB in the last 2 hours, it's presence in our synod is a given. I don't need I think, to mention the specific individual who made the original remark. In any case, I think that the main point of the article was a constructive position. If people don't like what I've written, then they should argue with my conceptualization of sanctification and not get worried about the idea that I somehow am secretly talking about them.

  4. So, as one who generally sees himself in the...well, I guess the "antinomian crisis" group...I'm hoping we have a better name at some point...

    Anyway, I think overall this is a very fair and very good account of the situation. I do think that your initial point about the Law being preached — and specifically the sort of Law (against homosexuality) — is part of the problem that many of us see and not good news. And other things we can quibble about.

    But the line that I find most interesting in the article is this one:

    "The third use gives the person of faith knowledge of what impulses are evil and need to be beaten back."

    Can you unpack this? Because I see this as the core of the issue. How exactly does one beat back evil impulses?

    Especially in terms of a horse and rider.

    See, I think this beating back of evil impulses is exactly the sort of growing in sanctification that a person might talk about.

    1. How do you beat them back? Well, first of all, you have a impulse from the Holy Spirit to obey God and keep his commandments. And because you have this impulse, and have the law as a way of identifying sin, your will overcomes temptation by the power of the Holy Spirit when it comes upon you.

    2. See, that is what I would have thought — that the active statement "need to be beaten back" is really not an accurate one. The individual does not beat them back — rather it is the Holy Spirit acting through the individual that beats back the sin.

      I have found that one of my issues in the discussion is the passivity of the Christian in these discussions. Not that I don't understand the metaphors. Just that I don't understand how they jive with Paul and his words.

      Paul is so many situations speaks about the Christian actively beating back sin. Romans 6:12-14. Romans 13:11-14. Galatians 5:1.

      These passages — and others — don't simply act as reminders of the Holy Spirit working in the believers. Rather they speak about the believer being actively involved in the beating down of sin.

  5. I'd like to make another comment about so-called "use of the Law".

    Let's say we have an individual who watches a lot of porn. He goes to church and he hears a pastor preach about sexual sin. "Watching porn is sinful!" Holy Spirit convicts him. At that point he does not want to watch porn any more. He is repentant and his new man doesn't desire to watch porn.

    But he is sinful and does. And he repents and knows it is wrong. But he does.

    One Sunday, the pastor (obsessed with preaching on porn), says "If you are watching porn, come speak with me. Don't hide in darkness; come and speak with me and we will battle this together!"

    This is the law right? But it is not the same second use from the first Sunday. Now a person might have the same second use reaction — oh, what I'm doing is wrong — but overall there is a helpful distinction between the work of the two.

    Because if the pastor just continued the second law statement — "Porn is sinful" — would the person be able to beat it back?

    The third use statement "If you are battling against porn, come and speak with me" is the sort of practical third use sort of speak that we crisis-antinomians would like to see.

    1. Well, just because the pastor want to use God's commandment to combat sin, doesn't mean that the second use isn't in play. The only reason to bother with the idea of "battling this together" is becasue it is bad. And if it's bad, then the law is still accusing. So, there's really no reason to deny the law can't function in multiple ways at once.

    2. This is always one of the challenges of theological conversations — when people miss your points.

      I thought I was clear that "the person might have a second use reaction — oh what I am doing is wrong" — so let me once again, agree with you that yes, the second use is indeed in play.

      But that is not my point. My point is that with the second use form — "Porn is sinful" — the third use is NOT in play.

      That is to say, there is not the helpful, beneficial instruction of how exactly I battle against the sin.

      Now, as I state above, I think that this is the main issue because it is an issue of passivity. The issue that we ("The Crisis Team" — I am imagining us as super-heroes) is that the antinomians are content to only use the second use, imagining that since they can't control the use, it doesn't matter.

      And the new man and Holy Spirit will have the individual acting rightly.

      I just question whether that is an accurate model — is that how Paul deals with these situations in the epistles?

      So, once again: If the pastor just continued to use a second use of the law statement — "Porn is sinful" — would the person be able to beat it back? And is that demonstrated by Paul in his writings?

    3. Right, but you are getting at the point I make in the final paragraph. I too do not care for the idea that the law only accuses, something, I do not think you find in Forde or Elert (for example), but which popularly people who follow these guys tend to think. Both Forde and Elert think that law can instruct as well, they just don't call that "the third use of the law"- they added the third to the first. What my point was, is that just as you cannot prevent the law from always accusing, so too you can't prevent it from instructing either. When the pastor says "porn is sinful" he is also say "don't look at porn." That's not a leap of logic- because if identify some as bad, then you obviously shouldn't do it. And so, the person who looks at porn can 1. Feel guilty and look to Christ, which will both sanctify them and justify them. 2. Know in the future not to look at porn and then, choose not to look at it- hence the third use of the law! So, all law does both 2 and 3rd use activities.

      So, I suppose I don't get what you are getting at. Are you conceptualizing the third use of the law as somehow "strategies" for overcoming habitual sin or something? I don't think that that would be how Lutheran have historically conceptualized the third of the law in preaching- though perhaps in civil government and catechesis. I'm not saying that part of ethical formation (that may occur in families, churches, or through civil government) cannot be the development of good habits or strategies for overcoming individual vices. I just would say that I'm not certain that a sermon would be an appropriate place for all this- since the chief purpose the sermon is to deliver Christ and his benefits. The civil order and family does a pretty good job of moral formation, most of the time, and the church through catechesis will fill in the gaps in that. So, the main use of the law in the sermon should be the second. Also, in cases of moral formation, I would of course also say that any instruction will always also be accusation. "Clean your room" means your room isn't clean. "Here's the best strategy for keeping your room clean" also means that your room isn't all that clean or even clean at all.


    4. A few different things:

      #1. Paul changes tone and content when preaching a predominant second and third use of the law. You see that again in Romans. There is a distinction between Romans 2 and Romans 8.

      I'm not saying that it is total and complete — the law does both — but I am saying that the pastor does indeed shade the side he is speaking on.

      #2: I do think it is appropriate for a sermon to contain practical application for the daily life of the Christian. And this runs to my point earlier about the Law that you hear in sermons. The sermon is also the church acting through catechesis.

      We have to admit now that for many people the sermon is the only encounter on Sunday morning that people have with God's Word. If they don't hear it in the sermon, then all of the rest of their life they will be hearing it elsewhere.

      Now, as far as civil order and family — sure, when talking about raising people who don't murder each other, steal, etc. Watching porn though? Giving to the church? Being faithful in wedding vows?

      Now, I understand all of the "increase in holiness" issues that get involved with this — I think that language is unfortunate. I'm not saying "We are going to be turning out awesome people!" But I do think that pastors don't have to be afraid to give practical instructions for their listeners on Christian living.

      Could a pastor have a sermon on fasting during Lent? I would say yes. Would it be mainly second use of the Law? Sure. I agree with that statement. Are people who fast less sinful? No, the more you grow, the more you know how sinful you are.

      But you know what, fasting is not a bad idea. Normal people can do it. We don't because we don't hear sermons about it.

      Note: I'm not saying that all sermons need to read like proverbs either. I hold fast to the Voelzian view of Einstein/Newton when it comes to Scripture ("Newton and Einstein at the Foot of the Cross")

      But for me, I see the crisis in the fact that there are no sermons that speak to the practical living of life. Your own experience suggests that this is true as well. It doesn't have to be.

    5. And #3: Pastors don't think they have to have any practical application because a second use of the Law followed by the Gospel is just going to produce all these good works that come through the Christian who passively receives the work of the Holy Spirit. So the reason we don't hear these sermons is also because pastors don't think it is necessary.

  6. Dr. Kilcrease,

    I don't know (or really care too much) who thinks you are talking about them or not. I just want an example of what you are describing. If it is just the run of the mill Reformed preaching and teaching that has been infecting our Synod for a while now, ok. However, you seem to be a whole lot more specific. If you are going to label a group and its characteristics, it would be helpful to provide an least for me as I too have not followed every twist and turn of the whole sanctification debate and would like to understand and recognize what precisely you are responding to (in their own words as well as your description).

  7. Jack, I don't remember the last time I agreed with you, and for good reason. We live on largely opposite sides of our common faith, but what you've written here is so absolutely commendable as Lutheranism that I have to applaud it.

    Of course, I have to go on in my own way and talk about gospel ethics in opposition to the so-called "third use," but sanctification is the root of ethics, not vice versa, and on that limited point I think we may be in substantial agreement.

    1. Thanks Matt. I'm glad I wrote something that you like.

  8. Jack,

    "The point that Christ’s forensic action that creates faith and sanctifies me, and thereby changes my orientation. It does not change the ontological composition of my being."

    Of course, when a person becomes a believer, there really is a change in the ontological composition of our being, correct? Only the Christian really has two natures, as opposed to only an old man.

    "The preacher is not the agent of the uses of the law, but rather the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit uses the law in multiple ways when it is preached. So, it is irrelevant that the preacher only intends to instruct believers in the vein of the third use of the law; he will also always condemn his hearers with the second as he does so (Melanchthon is quite clear about this in the Apology)."

    Jack, I understand that you are just now deciding to get into this debate. Therefore, I think I just need to point out to you here that I have not seen any of the "crises group" (I suppose this would be me) say that a pastor should think third use preaching will not also condemn. This is a straw man argument that needs to be avoided. This post is helpful:

    And I must say, when I read this:

    "This clarifies what Luther (and indeed the FC and Pieper!) meant when they speak of human "cooperating with God." It does not mean, as I think many in the "antinomian crisis" group thinks that it does, that humans with their libertarian free will decide to be responsive to God or not once they have the Spirit…."

    My eyes rolled way back into my head. *Who* in the world are you talking about?

    If there is one post that I would recommend you take a look at, it would be this one:

    The conversation that follows is very interesting as well... I notice at the end someone says "no such thing as a real-world Antinomian" and links to you. My quick response would be that that is correct in one sense (for all will make laws for themselves and others) and in another wrong: we can be Antinomian specifically in the sense that we are talking about pushing back against the law of the One True God - and in fact, this should be our primary way of understanding the word.

    Finally, I think you really do need to respond to mqll on March 25, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    Will check back again in a few days. Any conversation here on my part will have to be intermittent.


  9. Nathan,

    It depends on what you mean by "ontological change." Is there a change in the ontological composition of our being? No. That would be the Catholic view, with the doctrine of created grace, something Luther absolutely rejected. Of course, there is union between us and God, but that does not mean that God ontologically becomes a part of me and that I change ontologically. I am a creature and a total sinner and that does not change. Is there a change in our relationship to God, and therefore, one could say according to the model of relational ontology, that there is a change? Yes, in that I have a new ecstatic relationship with God and I now live out of that relationship.

    "say that a pastor should think third use preaching will not also condemn. This is a straw man argument that needs to be avoided."

    Nathan, I can name to you at least two LCMS pastors off the top of my head who have asserted this view to me, in spite of the fact that it contradicts our Confessions. Secondly, it is a widespread misunderstanding of the laity. I endorsed the view that "the law always accuses" on FB yesterday and I had at least 3 or 4 lay people tell me "no, you are wrong! Sometimes it just instructs like in the third use of the law." So, this is a widespread belief and not some false image of people's theology that I'm putting up.

    Lastly, the libertarian free will one. Well, again, a popular misconception, that's I've encounter numerous times. But if you want a good example of this, look on FB to the short piece written by Sven St. Claire and his view is essentially that by receiving divine grace, we gain a libertarian free will, and then proceeds to criticize those of us who do not agree with him as teaching a kind of deterministic Manicheanism.

  10. Jack,

    Real quick: I'd say, no, we really are a new creation ontologically and the new man is us - who now live in communion in, with and through Christ (eternal life knowledge of God - John 17). Second, interesting about FB - I'd say the ontological new man is instructed, or at the very least, recognizes God's law when he hears it (a little Polanyi here: we know more than we can tell : ) ). Third, I have not read Mr. St. Claire's post, but it doesn't sound good to me...that said, I urge you to answer mqll on March 25, 2014 at 5:27 PM.... because I think, that is ultimately the kind of thing this debate is about and non-answers likely provide fuel to fires kindled and maintained by those like Sven.


    1. What do you mean by new "ontologically"? How is this different than the Catholic created grace stuff? How do you maintain the simul, and don't go for partim-partim?

  11. Jack,

    First of all, What is your understanding of this concept - the "Catholic created grace stuff"? Second, could you explain what you mean by your second sentence?

    I mean, the way I understand it, Lutherans have historically said that the Scriptures show we have two natures, really and truly. This is clearly what Luther himself believed, even as persons complained the philosophical problems they saw with it.


  12. "Two natures" is not a great way of putting it. In any case, part of the confusion is here is the mental holdover from Aristotle and the notion of people as substances, that have qualities or "accidents" that increase or decrease. Becuase this the case, sanctification has to be thought of as an ontological change in people, that is, an adding of a new quality to them. This has the problem of suggesting that humans 1. become less and less sinful as time goes on, so where's the simul? 2. They therefore needJesus less and less, and the proclamation of law and gospel is more and more meaningless to them. Catholics are fairly consistent about this theory. They state that in baptism new capacities are added onto and augment our soul. These are the capacities of faith, hope, and love. And they allow us to respond to God in and of ourselves- while at the same time, they come to us by God's grace. Luther and historic Lutheranism completely rejected this idea and the attending notion that sanctification means a change in us, that is, an adding on of new capacities to our nature for the reasons mentioned above.

    The Lutheran alternative, I would suggest, comes from the notion (something Aristotle didn't have) of creation comes about by the Word of God speaking it forth, creatures are constittuted relationally and ecstatically by the word of God. So, instead of a substance with accidents, you can talk about a what you are insofar as the Word of God addresses you- since you exist on the basis of the Word of God's address! And so the simul works because you are different things insofar God speaks to you differently thorugh law and gospel. That's what I was getting at.

  13. Jack,

    OK - real quick again. Did not look at Sven yet.

    I think Eric is right on here - and I note that just because academics have stopped talking about things like essence, substance, qualities, etc. does not mean they don't assume them all the time! When Luther and the early Lutherans talked about two natures, they meant just that. Much like the two natures in Christ. This is all over in Luther himself (see the paper from a Conference last year I linked to on my blog here: )

    Here is the main idea: "Our relationship with God is based upon the essential righteousness of Christ, sacrificed for us. Within that relationship, God would make us, by His Holy Spirit, also essentially righteous [where we reflect the love of Christ (God)]. This work He begins in our baptisms and brings to a completion in the resurrection." (how my pastor explained it to me a while back)

    We do have a bit of a medicinal understanding of grace that heals man's nature in our doctrine of sanctification. Not in justification to be sure - this must be zealously guarded and is, in fact, contra Kolb and Arand, the only reason for the doctrine of the two kinds of righteousness.

    Again, when one banishes these "Aristotelian" concepts one simply cuts off the branch on which one sits. Folks like Bayer who embrace the notion of sanctification as a purely relational ontology evidently don't see this.


  14. Sven,

    Looks pretty good!


    A couple more comments here. You are right to point out that Luther certainly emphasized the category of relation. That said, he never pitched substance, or essence - because we can't. You can't have "relation ontologies" without substance. When it comes to some things in this world, we can't not talk in language that indicates we dealing with essences - even if we deny this or talk about how these "forms" are only shadows of truer Forms or whatever. The modern world does not like this truth because they want to believe that, when it comes to the world of facts (fact-value split...) the only essential things we can speak about are the fundamental particles of life and nature's laws, and these are the truths in this realm for which we strive. They may also see "essential things" in things like individuals or races or this or that religious group (mine!) but these things, though “real” in some sense and important to all of us emotionally, are less stable, not permanent, and vary, change, evolve in accordance with their more fundamental basis in the material realm.

    This way, all religious language - and thankfully, traditional biblical Christian language in particular! - loses its bite. Videos from crackpots like Ray Comfort (his new movie about the Flood - quite excellent in many respects - can be safely dismissed) You know, the Scriptures do not attest to actual truths, but the experiences of those who lived them (this is Bayer).

    One need not embrace the entire Aristotelian metaphysic to make observations like this – the church takes what is good and wise about Aristotle and uses it to explain things in a way that makes sense and can be defended

    "Obvious Lutheranism has run through a number of metaphysical paradigms."

    Help me out here Jack. Are you referring to anything prior to the mid – 19th century? (when the “Confessional” Erlangen schools new ideas begin to flower – fiercedly criticized by Walther and Peiper). It seems to me that all of those who came out of confessional revival movements like Walther’s basically would have resisted other metaphysical approaches.

    “In any case, I do not deny that the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with his gifts. My only claim is that divine grace or the Spirit are not ontologically fused into my being and so I am not ontologically changed by them in the sense that new properties are added to my reality.”

    How is there really a Christian then? The question ultimately is: is there anything new in the Christian that's not in the unbeliever. What is the new heart in us? Or is there nothing new in us and the new man is ultimately Christ who lives in us?

    Again, Luther speaks of sanctification in terms of the conquest of the Holy Land by the Israelites, driving out the Canaanites more and more.

    Another friend of mine pointed this out to me as well: think about the Lord's Supper where modern theologians have ruled out any "substance ontology" in favor of a purely relational approach to the sacrament. Evidently, the "is" goes right out of the window that way!

    I hope you at least agree that there is a lot to chew on here…


  15. Nathan,

    Our righteousness in Christ is not Christ's "essential" righteousness --- but our relationship with Christ. What you are advocating is Osiandrism.

    This is basic Luther theology and Lutheranism. Our righteousness is not that by which God Himself is righteous but by that which He makes us righteous, i.e. by the proclamation of His Word. To use an analogy or rather to borrow from EO terminology, we don't become righteous by our union with the essence but the energies.

  16. The irony is that those who advocate the distinction between justification and sanctification are in fact separating them.

    The analogy with the good tree producing good fruit is very apt. Justification is the good tree; sanctification is the good fruit. Both cannot be separated.

    Sanctification then has to be grounded in justification --- like how SJ must be grounded in OJ (so that there cannot be any union that precedes our justification, i.e. the forensic Word is always prior to anything else).

    If sanctification has to be grounded in justification, then it precisely means sanctification is none other than the justified life.

    What it means in practice is that sanctification cannot reflect Aristotelian progress -- towards the telos. The movement conceived in sanctification defies and is at odds with all human conception of progress (including Romanist and yes, Byzantine).

    So the type of progress Luther had in mind was discontinuous and total and yes, passive (not in the sense of not experiencing or doing anything but in the sense of being acted upon).

    What this means is that in sanctification - which is the fruit - the experience is growth is discontinuous from the "previous" experience of sin and is total. The divine energies are what they are: *divine* --- every bit is totally divine ...

    This is why in the Lord's Supper we receive the entire Christ: Body, Soul & Divinity (to quote rather reluctantly from Romanism).

    So that the growth of sanctification is a discontinuous and total growth --- every experience of growth is experienced as a breakthrough, a complete and total victory even when it does not feel like it ... every crisis is the total movement of the total against the partial, i.e. the partial which stands between the two aeons, the partial of the transition between the two totals ...

    This is why the patristics do not distinguish between justification and sanctification in the Sacraments ... Baptism & the Lord's Supper are both the Sacraments of Justification & Sanctification.

    And not only does the fruit does not and cannot outcompete the tree in size and stature and the fact that it depends on the tree and the tree alone, just like the tree, the whole fruit is contained in seed that gives birth to the tree itself.

    Hence, sanctification is nothing else than the *justified* life.

    1. I don't think that those advocating the separation are saying that they have nothing to do with each other. I certainly am not.

      But I don't understand how we can say the sanctified life does not represent progress. To some degree, it most certainly does.

      Let's talk about my example from above: the person watching porn does not think that there is anything wrong with that. They he learns there is something wrong with it. Then he desires to stop watching but he does not. Then he does stop watching. Then he begins to tell people about the dangers of porn.

      Now that is progression. Is the person less of a sinner? Well, no, not really. He might struggle with pride now instead of lust now. He might have an even greater realization of his sinful nature.

      But when he is by himself, he doesn't watch porn any more. That improves his relationship with his spouse, kids, etc. It is a good thing.

      That is the sort of thing that Paul is looking to do with his exhortations. Why exhort a good tree? Cause we are not trees, we are people, and we do have a battle within us of good and evil. And practical guidelines to help us avoid sin ought to be welcomed and not pretended as though they are not needed.

      Sanctification is the justified life. But it is also learning how to live that justified life.

  17. mqll,

    I think that it is critical to be a able to talk about increasing in sanctification, and not just at the level of external behavior, but at the deepest level - even if I don't feel like I experience it personally (or perhaps deceive myself that it is true in my case when it is not).

    As I have written before, "not to embarrass Pastor Will Weedon too much, but when I talk about sanctification and holiness, his name comes to mind (and another Lutheran saint in particular, Pastor Kurt Marquart)."

    Speaking of...

    Augustinian Successor,

    "What you are advocating is Osiandrism."

    No. I give you Saint Marquart. Reading this will help:

    While Lutherans do accept theosis, we are nevertheless eager to make some important distinctions (see here for *the only reason* why: ). And yet while we do make these distinctions, note that we do not believe that any human being will be finally justified who has not begun to be sanctified. Finally, I note that we did not fight against monasticism per se, but monasticism of a particular kind....

    Will check in again tomorrow.


    1. Nathan, I understand that the Christian is indeed new — he is a new creation, he is now connected with the death and resurrection of Christ — and so if that is what you want to say by sanctification at a deeper level, that is fine.

      But to me the issue is really one of proclamation: that is to say, what do pastors preach? This is what the issue is all about for me.

      So, I'm just not as interested in the Christian and nailing down what this sanctification is to him. I'm more interested in asking "Do we change people by our preaching? Or is that not at all the purpose of the sermon? Or do we just preach Law and Gospel and not worry about what God does — so, don't worry about preaching on fasting and porn and the like? That is the core of the sanctification issue to me.

      So, what is the critical aspect of talking about the internal change of sanctification anyway?

  18. mqll,

    They certainly contradict each other ... its Lutheran versus Amish theology ... that's the whole point. Sanctification is not meant to rival justification -- or even take the driving seat as justification gets left behind or rather take the back seat.

    And on the tree and fruit analogy --- we are the tree --- the good tree to be precise ... we don't feel it. That's the whole point ... it's not meant to be felt or else it's Pietism, Revivalism and now Pentecostalism and Charismaticism ...

    It's only by faith that we know we are the good tree ... not a mental assent to be sure (not at all) but by hearing and receiving the Gospel in Word and Sacraments ... That's how we know we are the good tree ... not by looking inside and so on and so forth ... but precisely by looking outside of ourselves --- that we know that we are the good tree ...

    As such the progress can only be a progress which defies and contradicts (exactly as the Cross - under the form of opposites) human conceptions and expectations ...

    I put it to you that we agree with our Romanist brothers under the yoke of the Antichrist who is at the same time the venerable Bishop of Rome that justification is indeed a movement but not a process ... it is a movement characterised by discontinuous and opposite steps -- death and resurrection ... where each movement is complete and total in and of itself ... that is to say, where each movement is both the beginning and the end simultaneously ...

    What this means in practice is that we always look outside for our holiness ... keeping good works in the sphere of civil righteousness ... using the Law for the sake of the neighbour (whereby the 3rd use of the Law become subsumed under the first two uses and therefore become the 2nd use of the Gospel as the late William Lazareth liked to say) ...

    That's the whole point why Luther said God does not need our good works but our neighbour does ...

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Contradict each other? I don't quite see how. But I also don't see how my position is Amish...of course, I don't know what the Amish position I don't know whether it is close to mine or not...

      My issue though is that Paul's metaphor for the sanctified life is not just the good tree. He speaks in other ways as well. That is the whole issue of his exhortation. Why tell a good tree something like "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:25-26)

      Why do that? A good tree doesn't need to know that. So, why say it at all? Paul seems to think that the good tree can actually sense when it is doing not-so-good tree things...

      Where you get my position wrong is where you say:

      "It's only by faith that we know we are the good tree ... not a mental assent to be sure (not at all) but by hearing and receiving the Gospel in Word and Sacraments ... That's how we know we are the good tree ... not by looking inside and so on and so forth ... but precisely by looking outside of ourselves --- that we know that we are the good tree ..."

      Because my point is, "Yes, I absolutely agree with this." That is not what the issue is.

      The issue is that Paul seems to think there is a real chance that Christians are going to slip up and go back to old ways and so he exhorts them not to. To take care. To watch. To not become conceited, etc.

      The issue is, in this discussion, that one side sees the one and only metaphor of sanctification as being the Good Tree. And they use that for every part of the discussion. But it is not the only way that Scripture speaks about the new life in Christ.

      You say:

      "As such the progress can only be a progress which defies and contradicts (exactly as the Cross - under the form of opposites) human conceptions and expectations ..."

      I don't think that is accurate at all...I mean, unless you are talking about the world vs Christians, which gets a bit confusing...but in all honesty I'm confused by this entire paragraph:

      "What this means in practice is that we always look outside for our holiness ... keeping good works in the sphere of civil righteousness ... using the Law for the sake of the neighbour (whereby the 3rd use of the Law become subsumed under the first two uses and therefore become the 2nd use of the Gospel as the late William Lazareth liked to say) ..."

      I'd like you to explain it in a different way.

      All I can say is, I agree again about our good works — our neighbor does indeed need them. Which is why I don't understand why the progress would contradict expectations. Most people understand when people treat them like crap or treat them well. It would not be hard for people to see others change in how they are treated and how others treat them.

      Once again, the guy not watching porn, the guy not swearing all the time, the guy who doesn't think that slavery is ok — all of this is a progression. Is the individual "better"? Less of a sinner? Maybe not, but for most people, he is much more pleasant to be around. I'm satisfied with that.

  19. Nathan,

    The sainted and late Dr Marquart was wrong.

    Lutherans do not believe in theosis. Lutherans do not hold to divinisation but humanisation. That's what the Incarnation and the Cross and yes, even the Resurrection was all about.

    God the Son came down to become man so that we can become truly human like God the Son.

    The Old Adam (with his divine ambition) is killed only to be raised up anew to be truly human --- that is a creature who lives by faith alone in the Creator.

    Lutheranism rejected monasticism in toto and ab initio. Lutheranism strikes at the heart of monasticism ... there is no common ground in this area between us and our Romanist brethren. None whatsoever ...

    Monasticism, inter alia, requires the destruction of the priesthood of all believers because of the distinction between ordained secular and religious priests.

    Monasticism destroys the distinction between the two kingdoms either or rather by the simul of both separation and at the same time creating an unsustainable hierarchy where the church breaches its eschatological limits.

    That's the whole point --- in other words, rejection of monasticism by Lutherans is based on nothing else than justification by faith/ Gospel.

    Theosis is based on epektasis - movement of the soul to the Goal ... Lutherans do not hold to epektasis for the simple reason coram Deo, we live or *walk* by faith alone.

  20. mqll,

    I'm not saying that your position is Amish ... but that your separation of justification and sanctification is like pitting justification against sanctification and therefore akin to the opposition between Lutheran and Amish theology.

    No, of course, you're not Amish. But in talking about the relationship justification and sanctification, we are not comparing antelope and amardillo but precisely tree and fruit.

    There is no progress ... because Lutherans do not measure progress ... discern progress ... evaluate progress as non-Lutherans do ...

    The progress is the progress of being *human* ... not thinking highly of ourselves as St Paul admonishes us ... seeing the world the a humanised person does. Sanctification the way the Romanist, Puritan, Pietist, etc., conceives which is to distinguishes ourselves by the Law.

    Lutheran Christians distinguish themselves from non-Christians only by the Gospel - the alien righteousness or justification by faith.

    Faith alone makes a Christian. Love then is faith working through it for the sake of the neighbour, as per St Paul.

    Progress then means being more and more human, in our way of thinking and doing ... *learning* to be human in our *daily* experience with our neighbour ... and the same time, simultaneously *learning* to trust God ... this is the Lutheran experience of sanctification ... having our egos and pride (superbia) crushed and killed in relation to our desires and relationship to our neighbours ... a daily "event," a daily experience ...

    Thus, sanctification is "co-related," is based and conditioned on, determined by justification which is the death of the Old Adam and resurrection of the New Adam.

    In other words, sanctification is none other than the mundane or daily experience of justification.

    1. but that your separation of justification and sanctification is like pitting justification against sanctification

      Why? Jesus is God and man. They are not the same thing. Having that distinction does not put one against the other.

      But in reality I am somewhat agnostic when it comes to the vocable "sanctification" — if you want it to mean justification, I'm good; if you want it to have a narrow meaning, I'm fine. Whatever.

      The basic point is, there is a difference between the declaration of righteousness and our actions. I think we ought to have a distinction between the two.

      There is no progress ... because Lutherans do not measure progress ... discern progress ... evaluate progress as non-Lutherans do ...

      HA! That is funny.

      Yes we do. Go on to another thread and say "Can I commune with other Christians?" and you will see quickly how others want you to progress.

      Or look at the latest article on "Why I changed my mind about WO."

      Or, post a blog that says "I used to be a CoWo guy but now I'm liturgical — here is why"

      All of these receive accolades. We do indeed believe in progression. We just measure it differently from others.

      So, I just think your claim is wrong.

      The progress is the progress of being *human*

      I also disagree with this. Many humans are jerks. I want people to progress and be not so jerk-like.

      Progress then means being more and more human, in our way of thinking and doing ... *learning* to be human in our *daily* experience with our neighbour ... and the same time, simultaneously *learning* to trust God ... this is the Lutheran experience of sanctification

      I just think this is crazy. So, obviously I'm not understanding you correctly. What do you mean by "human"?

      I don't want the boys my daughter dates to be human. I want them to be Christ like. I want them to reign in their passions and their sinful desires.

      And when they don't and I kick them out of my house, then when they come back and say "I've changed. I'm better now." (growth in sanctification) Then I might give them another chance.

      I would never say "They became more human so I let them date my daughter."

      Thus, sanctification is "co-related," is based and conditioned on, determined by justification which is the death of the Old Adam and resurrection of the New Adam.

      Sure. Who disagrees with this? No one I would know.

      In other words, sanctification is none other than the mundane or daily experience of justification.

      Sure. Also correct.

      But sanctification is also the practical advice of "Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses." (1 Timothy 5:19)

      That does not seem to be a life of suffering that you are referring to, does it? No, it is practical, simple advice to live by. And that too is a part of our sanctification.

  21. The idea of an essential righteousness ... we might as well talk about the *outpouring* of that righteousness into our souls more so when we are talking about substances ...

    What Luther had in mind was the right words that *create* the right relationship by the re-creation of the right person.

    A righteousness that is not a quality in God which then God shares with us as a quality in us but righteousness in the way God acts where the Person and Work are the same (as per the patristics) so that the Word refers to both.

    God is righteous/ justified *outside* of Himself --- in His Words/words ...

    As David says in Psalm 51, "so that Thou mayest be justified in Thy words" (that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest)

    As the EO (at least the traditionalist) would say, the essence of God is none of our business ... it is what God has revealed that we encounter -- in the divine liturgy ...

    An essential righteousness would involve a confusion in the ordo theologiae --- where the essence stands between persons. We don't get to the person via the essence --- it is the opposite, i.e. we are indirectly united to God's essence in, with and under the Person of Jesus Christ --- neither being absorbed into nor communicating with the essence but union and communion "around" (peri) the essence in conjunction with the divine energies of the divine person.

    So that the righteousness of God which is Word of God is actus purus, i.e. to say, pure act ... the Word is the Deed; the Deed is the Word -- the Word does what is says and says what is does ... the promissio (promise) ...

    God the Son did not die in His essence; He died in His Person so that He gave of Himself, holding nothing back ...

  22. Sanctification is life of suffering ... the way of the cross .. hence the theologian of the cross and the theologian of glory ...

    Suffering which contrary to monasticism is not something that we seek after but which comes to us -- precisely because suffering is a form of opposite by which the Holy Spirit works in and through us -- to produce the *fruits* of holiness ...

    Suffering then is not about becoming more holy but about experiencing the holy Law of God as judgment and the holy Gospel as justification -- one and the same time ...

    Suffering as sanctification then is simply to be a co-crucified with Christ -- where growth and progress are irrelevant ... but faith, hope and love ... expecting and waiting patiently for the vindication of the Coming One ...

    Thus, the growth and progress is growing and progressing in faith, hope and love as the entire person -- rather than qualities or virtues in the soul ... it refers to the growth and progress of *experiencing* faith, hope and love where the experience is the *fruit* and faith, hope and love is the tree.

    In other words, the experience of the New Testament saints are indeed *no* different than the experience of the *Old* Testament saints (where talk of the kind sanctification associated with Romanism, Puritanism, Pietism and so on is virtually impossible if not risible) ....

    Both lived *and* suffered under the shadow of the promise -- of the Word of God ...

  23. Dr. Kilcrease,

    This is simply brilliant. Having come from the evangelical/reformed confessions this very much peels apart what has been VERY confusing by some Lutherans who have sounded little more than Calvin meets Arminious in a Baptist church one day.

    This is pure gold. I don't think we realize in our day and age just how much Aristotle infects us without it being formerly "Aristotle" per se.

    You've done the Christian faith a GREAT service here.


    1. The Reformed faith is infected with Osiandrism. I forgot to mention that the Reformed view of (progressive) sanctification is Romish/ Roman. I suppose this probably account for the higher rate of conversion to Rome from the Reformed than the Lutheran (if I'm not mistaken on this but I seem to get the impression that it is so) ...

  24. Here is a model sermon demonstrating how Lutherans can, and should, faithfully teach and preach about the Christian life. I may have to break this into several parts due to its length.

    TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY MARK 7:31–37 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. Dear friends in Christ! Last Sunday we considered the extremely comforting story of how the fallen tax collector became righteous before God. This story tells us that it is not our righteousness and piety, it is not our good works, by which we become righteous; it is all grace, which God gladly gives to all who need and long for it. From this story we see that God does not reject even the greatest sinner but gladly receives him again to grace. Even if a person has absolutely nothing, even if he can produce no good work, even if he sees in himself nothing but sin and can only cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” God still wants to hear his anxious sighs and give him the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. Who should not obtain courage and hope from the good news that someday he can be with those who stand at God’s right hand? Whoever knows this Gospel can never doubt as long as he still considers it the truth and does not willfully throw it away. Oh, if only all would heartily accept this precious doctrine! The majority, however, gladly let it be preached to them; they listen with pleasure. They rejoice that heaven opens readily to all men; but they also progress only as far as this pleasure. The majority who still come to church approve of this doctrine, but that is all which they do; that is all which goes on in them. They do not yet have an open heart.

  25. Continued...

    Yes, there are even such hearers who abuse the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, and even this precious medicine for the soul is turned into poison. They willfully misuse grace. If they hear that God forgives even the greatest sins, they consider the greatest sins insignificant. When they hear that the tax collector was justified when he cried, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” they think if they copy this word with their tongues and with a pious mien, the work of conversion is completed also in them, even if the old spirit remains. And so many postpone their conversion until the hour of their death, supposing that there is always time to join the tax collector in beating their breast. If such hear that one does not become righteous before God by his good works, they conclude that it is unnecessary to be earnest and zealous in one’s sanctification. From all this you can see that the Gospel is a doctrine only for the anxious whose sins oppress them, only for souls fed up with this world. Even today the important passage from Isaiah is confirmed, “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD” (Isaiah 26:10).

  26. Continued...

    Now my dear hearers, a week ago I showed you how a person becomes righteous by grace through faith; let me now show you how such a justified Christian lives in the Christian life. The text: Mark 7:31–37 The miraculous cures in which Christ healed the sick are a picture of that which Christ does to souls through His grace. Christ confirms that it is so when He says of Himself, “I am a physician not for the whole but for the sick,” namely, for their souls. On the basis of the story of today’s Gospel, permit me to speak to you of The Christian life of a justified person. 1. It is genuine. 2. It never becomes completely perfect. I. Not only the doctrine of justification but also the doctrine of sanctification is of great importance for us. We see that from the way Holy Scriptures speak of the Christian life. We, for example, read in the Book of Hebrews, “Strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14). Paul says in agreement, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9b). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

  27. Continued...

    According to God’s Word, the Christian life, or sanctification, is not an appendage which can be reckoned to Christianity or not. It is something without which one cannot possibly be a Christian. Perhaps many will immediately think, “If this is true, will not the doctrine of justification alone by grace through faith be overthrown again? If a person becomes righteous and blessed by grace, why does he have to live the Christian life?” GOSPEL SERMONS 118 My friends, this is only an apparent contradiction. It is and remains eternally true for the perfect comfort of all sinners that we do not earn salvation by our works. Salvation is given to us when we believe in Christ. The subject matter of sanctification is not how a person becomes righteous, but how a person who has already become righteous lives from day to day. Today we do not ask what the tax collector had to do in order to go down to his house justified, but how the tax collector lived in his home after he returned justified. All this will become even clearer when we consider the example of the deaf man in our Gospel. At first, he was a very miserable person. He thus becomes a picture of men as they all are spiritually by nature.

  28. But this deaf man was brought to Christ that He might help him. Christ received him in a gracious and friendly manner. And that is a picture of how a person becomes righteous before God—if he learns from God’s Word to see into his great misery of sin. If with sorrow he sees that up till now he was deaf over against God’s Word and dumb in praising Him. If he recognizes that the ruin of his heart is so inexpressibly great that he cannot even deliver himself from God’s wrath and eternal damnation. If in such a person frightened over his sins there arises a heartfelt longing for grace. If he prays for it. If in this misery he turns to Christ because he hears in the Gospel that Christ is the Savior of sinners. If the sinner begins to implore, “Oh Jesus, You have suffered and died for all, will You not have mercy also upon me? Oh help me also; oh Jesus, be merciful to me. a sinner!” If matters go that far, then Christ receives him in a very friendly way and in God’s tribunal is absolved from all his sins, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him, and he is received as a child of God. That is justification. Oh blessed, blessed, is the person who travels that road; his salvation stands forever firm. He who with pain and sorrow over his sins turns to Christ should hold fast to the Word of the Gospel. He should firmly believe that he is also received by grace, even if he feels absolutely nothing of it in his heart, yes, even if he is sensible of nothing but death and damnation. And even if the heart should say, “No!” he should consider Christ’s Word more certain. However, my friends, we hear that Christ did not only receive the deaf man in a friendly manner; we read, “He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:33b–35).

  29. Continued...

    Here we have a picture of sanctification. As the Savior graciously healed his infirmity after He had in grace received the deaf man, so the Savior also treats the soul of him who finds grace in Him. Justification goes on in heaven. Yes, a person, mourning over his sins, often does not even know that he is already justified. He still cries tears of repentance while all the angels in heaven rejoice over him. But justification does not remain without influence on a person. The firstfruits of it are that he is born again, that is, he receives the Holy Spirit; he receives a new heart and disposition. He no longer lives in sin but becomes fond of God, His Word, His will, and gladly lives the Christian life. If the heavenly Father through justification calls a person His child for the sake of the reconciliation of Christ, the Holy Spirit begins the work of sanctification in his heart. This sanctification does not consist in this, that a person no longer curses, commits adultery or lives in the gross works of uncleanness, gets drunk, or openly deceives and lies. Even the heathen can abstain from such out and out vice; but sanctification consists in this, that the justified person becomes an entirely different person. He begins to live no longer to himself but to the Lord Jesus. He does not go to church only now and then, hearing God’s Word out of custom or curiosity, but to one who is sanctified, God’s Word is more important than the whole world. God’s Word lies day and night on his mind; he arises with it and goes to bed with it. The concern for his soul’s salvation unceasingly occupies his heart; he therefore would rather speak only of heavenly and divine things, of the one thing needful. Even if he is busy at his earthly calling, he does it with a mind directed to God. He also begins to watch over his thoughts and desires; no longer can he indifferently let evil thoughts go through his mind, and if they do arise, he prays against them. He hates sin; he no longer fosters sin with great care. He does not let them rule over his will, but battles against sin, even his pet sins. If out of weakness he heedlessly falls into sin, he does not continue in it, but is ashamed of himself, confesses it to God with heartfelt humility, and prays for forgiveness.

  30. Continued...

    He lets his fall serve as a warning, becoming only more humble and watchful over himself. A sanctified person views the pleasures of the world as vanities; he no longer acts like the world. He finds more pleasure in God’s Word and in interests common to Christians. If such a Christian has a day of rejoicing, he seeks to enjoy it in the Lord. If he possesses earthly goods, he takes care that his heart does not cling to GOSPEL SERMONS 120 them but alone to God. If suffering comes, he prays to God for patience, guards himself against murmuring against God, and comforts himself with the glory of heaven which awaits him. A sanctified Christian seeks to dedicate his whole life to his neighbor. He does not seek his own but his neighbor’s prosperity. He loves his neighbor dearly, not only in appearance, not only with words, but in deed and in truth. He helps him willingly in trouble; he rejoices at his good fortune and sympathizes with his misfortunes. He gladly covers the weaknesses of his neighbor; he is willingly reconciled with him who offended him. He is concerned for the salvation of his neighbor’s soul. Finally, what is the most noble, the sanctified Christian sees more and more of his failings rather than the good which is worked in him by God’s grace. As a result, he considers himself nothing in God’s eyes. He humbly considers himself among the least. That is the new heart and life which the Holy Spirit begins to work in those who have become justified through faith in Christ Jesus. Perhaps there will be few of us who do not consider themselves justified. Let me now ask everyone: Have you become another person after the justification which you believe you have experienced? Have you received a new heart? Were you driven by another Spirit, namely the Holy Spirit? Has your whole disposition now turned away from earthly toward heavenly things? Have you become an enemy of sin? Do you consider the things in which the world seeks its peace as vanities? Do you rejoice as though you did not rejoice? Do you own as though you did not possess? Are you ready, if it is God’s will, to take up your cross? Is your heart no longer so cold, but is it warmed by the fires of love? Do you find in yourself what Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Or did you perhaps only for show imitate the tax collector, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”? Did you suppose that that takes care of your salvation? Do you want to remain sitting peacefully in the ship of the Church and imagine that even if you remain the same old person, you have arrived in the new Jerusalem? Ah, how many, how countless many, who here considered themselves Christians, will someday find themselves deceived! Without sanctification, no one will see the Lord.

  31. Continued...

    Not because a person must first through sanctification receive grace, but because he who has received the grace of Christ will from his heart also be sanctified by the Spirit of Christ. As soon as the tax collector Zacchaeus experienced salvation he immediately wanted to give half of his goods to the poor and repay those fourfold whom he had THE TIME OF THE CHURCH 121 deceived. Just as much had been forgiven the woman who was a great sinner, so she also loved much. II. Ah, my dear hearers, as sweet, as boundless in comfort, the article of forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation by grace is, so easily can one forfeit this comfort. Let no one willfully deceive himself. Let everyone earnestly apply this to his soul’s salvation. The usual experience is that those who should be frightened remain for the most part secure and think that their salvation is assured; but those who should not be frightened easily become despondent and fear that they are deceived. For these last I must in the second place add that the Christian life of justified Christians is genuine, but it will never be completely perfect. We find an indication of this in our Gospel. Those who brought the deaf man to Christ were, as we can hope, already justified. God had already begun the work of sanctification through His Spirit in their hearts. Christ forbid them to tell anyone of the miracles which had taken place. But as we read, “But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’ ” (Mark 7:36b–37). Undoubtedly these people meant well when they publicly praised this wonderful miracle, and yet they sinned.

  32. Continued...

    Their zeal was not completely pure because they transgressed a command of Christ; their good work was spotted with willfulness and disobedience. They acted without a call. Yet they did not do this maliciously but from weakness. We must note this: Justification occurs in a second. As soon as a sinner sorrowfully recognizes his sins and desires grace and redemption, God speaks one word in heaven and justification has taken place. Sanctification, on the other hand, does not take place so suddenly. It proceeds by degrees and continues until the end of our life. Justification is instantly complete because everyone immediately receives complete forgiveness of his sins, the entire righteousness of Christ, and each becomes a child of God as well as apostles Peter, Paul, and all the great saints. Sanctification, on the other hand, comes after justification. At first it begins weakly and though it must grow until death, it never becomes perfect. GOSPEL SERMONS 122 In justification all Christians are equal, equally clean, holy, and righteous, but according to sanctification there is a great difference. One has progressed more, another retrogressed; one is strong, another weak. One has more love, more humility, more zeal, more knowledge, more self-denial and self-control than another. Not everyone reaches Paul’s degree of sanctification; he could say, “I worked harder than any of them” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Not everyone has attained the patience of Job, or the zeal of Peter, or the love of John, or the ingenuousness of Daniel, or the strong faith of Abraham, or the joyfulness in death of the sainted martyrs. Nevertheless, they must all confess again and again, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (Philippians 3:12). You see, the question is not whether we are already perfect, for that is impossible in this life; the question is only whether we are among those who actually pursue the goal of sanctification, or whether we still are secure and dead in sins. If we are among those running the spiritual race, if we pursue the treasure, happy are we! That is a sign that we are made alive through grace. Sad to say, many enthusiasts allege that a person can be perfect in his sanctification; but let it be said that in this life the Christian life will always be imperfect. Only a hypocrite or a self-blinded person, only one who is not ashamed to exalt himself over all the apostles and prophets can say that his Christian life is perfect. Anyone who thinks he is perfect can no longer pray the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer; consequently, he no longer needs a Savior and the Gospel. Oh, what great blindness! Oh, what frightful abuse of the merit of Jesus Christ and His dearly won grace! Of course, the apostle Paul speaks of perfection, but read the passage which follows. There he says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded” (Philippians 3:15, King James Version). Minded how? As the apostle had said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.” Christian perfection consists chiefly in honestly recognizing his imperfection and viewing himself as perfect in Christ Jesus. There are many who doubt that they have the true marks of their state of grace, because they find so much sinfulness in their hearts. They think, “If I am in the state of grace, I must also have such a powerful feeling of grace that I would be victor over sin, the flesh, the world, and the devil. Instead of that, I must daily wrestle with sin and feel as if my faith has no power to THE TIME OF THE CHURCH 123 conquer the world and sin. I cannot say with Paul Gerhard, ‘I laugh at the world.’ ” In this connection we notice the following: If a person is justified, God in the beginning usually lets him taste many sweet impulses of His grace in order to draw the sinner away from the world and to Himself.

  33. Final part...

    A beginner then often supposes that he has progressed far beyond the world, sin, and Satan in his Christianity. If he would keep this idea, he would soon become secure and proud. God therefore, as a faithful Shepherd, withdraws from most the sweet feeling of grace and power. He gives it to him sparingly and exercises him more in humility. Now a person becomes truly poor, must obtain everything daily from God by begging for it, and must ever more cling to Christ’s Word of grace in order that he might not be lost. If God’s gracious work in a person is the work of sanctification, he recognizes this above all from the fact that his spirit struggles against his flesh. If he experiences that sin rages in him, but that there is another something in him which restrains him from the control of sin, driving him again and again to prayer and God’s Word, compelling him to go to Christ and beg for forgiveness, when sin takes him by surprise, then he can be completely certain that he is not dead, for a dead heart does not fight sin. Now my dear friends, you who are even now engaged in this struggle, continue courageously in it. Do not spare yourself. Do not fight in your own power, though; draw daily from the fount of divine grace in Christ Jesus and you will certainly not fall fatally injured but will finally carry the field and obtain the victory. Amen.