A Strange Review: Broken

Reading Jonathan Fisk’s Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible is not unlike watching one of his webcasts. The energy, the humor, the pop-culture references, the easy glide into theological language, it’s all there. The only thing missing is that Gorgon-looking creature who groans “Eeeeee-mail.”

Yesterday, I reviewed a review of Broken by David Snyder, a Reformed Baptist. I was taken aback by how he ended his assessment: “Broken does a great job of exposing false gospels, but also tends to underestimate the power of the true one.” I then used that as the basis for a very long post on what I thought was missing, not necessarily from Broken, as I admitted I had not read it, but from too many Lutheran pulpits, especially in relation to reaching young people.

Now I have read it.

As Snyder affirmed, Fisk is very good at culling from the culture the many false starts at finding God, as well as the attempts either to tame Him, internalize Him, or reduce Him to mere moralism. Young Christians trapped in legalistic churches that have reinterpreted the Faith as little more than trying harder will find welcome relief from passages such as these:

Guilt is the firstborn son of Moralism. You set your rules, and then you break them. You put off your judgment by judging others. You slide the scale to make it go away. But following Moralism’s rule is like trying to erase answers on the SAT. As hard as you rub the pink rubber eraser, the black number 2 lead still lays engrained in the page.

And I found both fun and funny his takedown of New Age nonsense like The Secret — which he counterintuitively embeds in his chapter on Rationalism, and frames with references to Star Wars and the botch that was the second trilogy. It may seem like a mish-mosh, or at least mish, but Fisk pulls it all together and makes it work:

Mentioned for the first time in the “new” Star Wars movies . . . midi-chlorians were something no self-respecting Star Wars had ever heard of or dreamed of. They are microscopic organisms that live inside Jedi Knights, acting as conduits by which the Force can be used.

But wait a minute. Huh? Exactly. The Force was supposed to be an inexplicable, mystical energy field that held all things together and was channeled through sheer strength of will, aided by religious devotion. . . .

But, nope. Sorry to disappoint you. As it turns out, that was mostly mumbo jumbo. It was not a convenient, if ignorant, lie. Luke Skywalker did not guide those two proton torpedoes into the Death Star’s exhaust with super tenacious prayer juju. Instead, he merely inherited from his father a very unique (and quite advanced) bacterial infection. . . .

So what this means is that, a long, long  time ago, on a weekend in 1993 [sic], Rationalism crushed Mysticism’s Rebel Alliance to overthrow pop culture. . . .

This is why when author Rhonda Byrne sold her secret knowledge of “how to manipulate the universe in three easy steps, like Star Wars before her, she, too, needed to explain her religious “Law of Attraction” with an appeal to science. The postmodern mystic won’t buy just any old voodoo. But a bottle of snake oil  empowered by the marvel of cutting-edge quantum physics?

Fisk riffs through restorationist ecclesiology, the great church do-over, which never quite gets done, and so finds itself starting all over again, a near relation to church hopping, the consumerist approach to the church that “works” for me. (Although there’s a strange disconnect between the way Fisk opens the door for a variety of worship styles and his later commendation of tradition. And where is the emphasis on the right administration, and theology, of the Sacraments as a sign that you’re on the right track in picking a church?)

He tackles erroneous ideas about prosperity—or lack of it—bearing a direct relationship to your standing with God. While he highlights the Trinity Broadcasting–type hucksters and megachurch stuff, this actually has deep roots in certain strains of Puritanism. Again: the search for our election in something other than the promises of God, in, say, temporal blessings. (Which is not to say we should expect to be poor, lonely, sick, and confused all our lives. At least I hope not.)

Finally, Fisk closes Broken with the ultimate delusion: that we find God, as opposed to God finding us. And he ties up the “Broken” theme nicely with an exposition of how Christ was broken for us.

I find the subtitle a tad “off,” somehow. Although Fisk calls his rules “Christian,” I think most readers will recognize most of these ideas or tendencies more as wayward paths that are on sale as alternatives to Christianity, although variants can certainly sneak their way into the tabernacle in devious ways. But that’s a quibble.

The book could definitely have used more editing, some tightening up. It tends to wander and miss necessary connections it should be making. There is also need for some clarification of language. For example: “Just as His incarnate flesh was not merely human, so now His own human words are still breathed whenever they are spoken with a total spiritual divinity.” This comes across as somewhat monophysistic, which I’m certain was not his intention. Jesus’s flesh was certainly human and his person comprises two natures—human and divine—such that His words are truly God’s words. Yes?

With all of that said, and in light of my post from yesterday, would I add or retract anything regarding what David Snyder saw as missing from Broken and what I saw as missing from too much of Lutheranism today?

No.

Fisk addresses the problems with “freedom” as manifested by lawlessness as just another God dodge, but doesn’t sustain an argument for what this means in the life of the individual believer. In the chapter “Never #4: Ozymandias and Me,” he speaks about his youthful rebellion, his drug use, and how he ended up praying to be forgiven for his sin and to be relieved of his addiction, which he insists was a Sisyphusean act of futility. The chapter then veers off into another direction entirely, but finally circles back to his conclusion:

In the war waged against one’s own soul, sanctification’s most certain fruit in an everlasting awareness that for every sin you manage to leave behind, you find six more, all worse than the first, that you didn’t even know you were harboring within. . . .

Getting away from my mental dependence on marijuana took a long time and a great amount of Gospel. At last it was not about the dangers and sinful self-destruction that brought about the change, nor was it a visionary moment of superpowered reversal. It was forgiveness. . . . But I make no mistake. My sin is not gone, nor will it be this side of the Last Day.

This opens so many cans of worms, I could open a store. I wish Fisk had rested here a while and talked about addictions that don’t necessarily heal with the balm of forgiveness. Is it always wrong to pray to be relieved of the burden of a particular habit, sin, or obsession? (From things I’ve heard him say online, he tends to de-emphasize particular “sins” as opposed to Sin. As I asked in my post yesterday—what of auricular confession to a pastor? Is this just a morbid dwelling on particulars when the penitent should be focusing strictly on the universal?)

Fisk also rings the self-worship bell so often—the depths of our depravity, our sin hiding only more sin—that one wonders whether there’s an I at all that isn’t merely a catalog of horrors. He’s walking a thin line between a realistic assessment of our separation from God and what appears to be a separation from anything recognizably human. He does remark that this theology “frees the you in yourself to not always have to be about Me.” But then he appears to take it all back, because even love for fellow sinners can easily revert to being about how free you are, and thus it becomes all about Me again. But my goodness, man, at what point does even the struggle with Me-ism become, well, all about Me? How easy it is to fall into the maze of solipsism that even to pray for release is just another self-interested sin!

Now, it is absurd to expect a confessional Lutheran pastor to write a book that will please a Reformed Baptist like Snyder or even an opinionated smart aleck like me all the way down the line. I have no doubt Fisk wrote the book he set out to write. And it may seem churlish to groan about the book he didn’t write.

Bu-u-u-u-u-t . . . if his primary audience is composed of the young, restless, and misguided, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a chapter, even a coda, on What now. “OK, Rev. Fisk: you’ve pointed me in the right direction—the Word of God. I’ve learned not to trust my feelings or scientism or ‘progress.’ I trust only in the Cross. I lean not on my own understanding but on the promises of a God who is faithful. But what now? Can I pray to be healed of this or that addiction, compulsion, illness? Or is that some form of self-worship? Can I pray for guidance in choosing a career, a home, a spouse? Or is that to look for God’s word outside the Bible? Should I be simplifying my lifestyle so I have more disposable income to give to the poor? Or is that works righteousness? Am I allowed to do anything but confess that I’m a sinner? I really need to know. Because I’m afraid I’m confusing law and Gospel without even knowing it.”

My fear is that the portrait Fisk paints of the faith is one of an endless series of booby traps, spiritual no-nos, landmines, one after another, such that the uninitiated will begin to sense not freedom but that they’re being set up to fail—no “dos” but a thousand and one mental and conceptual “dont’s.” Yes, a confessional legalism.

Lest I seem overly negative, what Fisk does accomplish, however, is no small thing. If teenagers and college kids need anything, it’s focus. Their minds, hearts, loyalties are diverted by a thousand different siren songs. They need a focal point in their field of vision to reorient them, to keep them moving on through the narrow gate. And Fisk is very good at that—refocusing his readers’ eyes onto the Cross.

When all is said and done, there’s enough good stuff in Broken that I have no qualms about recommending it so long as my caveats are kept intact. The language is certainly accessible to even a theologically illiterate reader, and at the very least it can prove the starting point for some interesting conversations, and even pushback along the lines I have expressed. Plus, the man has 248 children to feed. Have a heart, you miserable pikers.

Here’s what I hope. There are 2.3 million members of the LCMS. I hope 1 percent—one measly, minuscule percent—of LCMSers buy this book. Believe me, I’ve been in publishing long enough to know that those sales figures will result in police showing up at Concordia Publishing House because of all the calls about the partying going on there. Consequently, Rev. Fisk will be motivated to write a second book: Risen: Living the Gospel Life Like Only a Lutheran Can. 

Let me leave you with this. I watch The Journey Home program on EWTN from time to time. As I have written before, two of my former Lutheran pastors have appeared on that show. Both are now Catholic priests. One of the issues raised on a pretty consistent basis is how Protestantism doesn’t have a way to deal with suffering the way Catholics do. You know, offering it up for the Holy Souls in purgatory to mitigate their misery kind of thing. With all due respect to my Catholic friends, it’s at that point I usually roll my eyes and turn on reruns of WKRP in Cincinnati.

From Fisk:

To combat this inherited evil dwelling in you, God also insists that you experience a little water slapped in your face, along with the regular taste of a bit of bread and wine on your lips. About these experiences He speaks to you and tells you that they are of Christ. He says these words and signs are His imputation. His binding of your death, debt, and failures to the cross of Jesus, and the great converse grafting of Jesus’ resurrected heath, eternal wealth, and divine prosperity into you … through faith alone. You don’t see Him, but you believe in Him (1 Peter 1:8). His mind is your mind (1 Corinthians 2:16). His future is your future (2 Timothy 2:11). He is safe (1 Peter 1:4), immortal (1 Timothy 1:17), imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:54), having conquered death once, never to die again (Romans 6:9), having overcome this perishing world (John 16:33), having prospered (Matthew 28:6) in the true, God-given way (John 14:6), for you (1 John 4:4).

With that vision of the Great Exchange, what need for purgatory?

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77 thoughts on “A Strange Review: Broken

  1. Risen: Living the Gospel Life Like Only a Lutheran Can.
    I challenge you to write it yourself. That’s a book I would actually buy.

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  2. I agree with Rich. I’ve gained LOTS from your postings of the last two days. I haven’t read “Broken”, but as an early-in-life “ingrafted” Mo. Synod Lutheran I see a lot of my faith in your struggles, without the urges to go after postal workers. While we have great pastors & teachers in the LCMS, sometimes I think our laypeople are also used by God to encourage each other in our faith walks. Keep up the great work!

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  3. So question, Anthony, if Fisk adds to his book as you’ve mentioned, or writes another one about living the Christian life, how can that be done without it being like giving the Gospel with one hand and then taking it away with the next? When you mention the “What Now” idea, why isn’t it enough to hear, “You are forgiven, you are free,” and allow the power of that Gospel to bear fruit on its own? I’m kinda confused here. This is my personal question because when I read the book, my response to being free was a greater desire to love my neighbor. And the book didn’t need to tell me that. The Gospel that it preached so clearly did that. So how is your suggestion not just a return to what you already left behind? Please read this as an honest question and not an attack or anything.

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    1. No, problem, Peter. An honest question!

      I don’t understand why you would be taking the Gospel away with other hand. In fact, that you would be worried about that IS, in a nutshell, the problem, or confusion, or dilemma, I’m trying to point out.

      Does the Gospel, once embraced, have no effects in the life of the Christian? Yes, there is the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of salvation–first and foremost. In regard to these, we are surely passive. But what about in the life of the Christian? Is there no power there? Or is it only a matter of more and more sins to be revealed?

      There are so many caveats in the book (and in so much confessional Lutheran preaching, at least in my experience over the years) to everything we do as Christians that I think that even loving one’s neighbor becomes a field of landmines (as even Pastor Fisk illustrates, as I stated in my review). Of course, this need not be the case. But I find pastors so diffident about, even wary of, preaching on what that love of neighbor looks like for fear that someone will come along and say: You’ve confused law and gospel, start again.

      Please note: I have never attended an LCMS church that did not have missions going on, food banks, clothing drives, etc. Now these certainly are good pointers — but to a young Christian in the pew, can it not be seen as something strictly for retirees to do in their copious spare time?

      I guess my other concern is that there’s this notion that once you have embraced the Gospel, good works spring automatically, without any forethought, and so why even bring them up? Now, of course, as both Paulson, and Luther before him note, such works should begin to be a more organic and spontaneous part of our life in the world. The law should have no place mediating our relationships with others in that regard. But that takes time. And, yes, work.

      Here’s another subject I would like to see addressed more thoroughly from a Lutheran perspective: is there a difference between what, say, Reformed evangelicals mean by “sanctification” and Wesleyans (and Catholics) mean by “holiness” and by what Lutherans mean by good works? In other words, I have NEVER heard a pastor talk about the Christian’s call to holiness. Is that because there is no such category in the Lutheran schema, given that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, and can only ever be extra nos? Is there no Lutheran concept of growing in Christ? I see this in Scripture but I see Lutherans only shaking their heads.

      Consider for a moment this:

      “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’”

      In the Lutheran understanding, do we work out our salvation, even though we also confess that it is God who works in us, to become blameless and pure?

      Is there room in the Lutheran vocabulary for “become”?

      I don’t mean to put you on the spot, Peter! I don’t expect you to have ready-made answers, either! But I fear that Lutherans, in attempting to cut to the chase with the Gospel message, can also complicate things terribly.

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    2. Someone linked to this http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2013/04/progressive-sanctification-lutheran.html somewhere in all the goings-on here.

      Note this quote from the Defense of the Augsburg Confession: “Therefore Paul states that the law is established, not abolished, through faith, because the law can be kept only when the Holy Spirit is given.” Ap. IV. 132

      And reading further on in the Apology: “But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost so that now we are able to think aright concerning God, and to fear and believe God, etc. From these facts it is apparent that the Law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Ghost. We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more. And at the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works [the good heart within and works without]. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works while they not only require these, but also show how they can be done [that the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites].”

      Would anyone think, from reading Broken, as just one example, that Lutherans believe the law can now be kept in light of the Spirit’s gifts?

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  4. Oh don’t worry, I don’t feel put on the spot. I’m the one who jumped in with the questions. 🙂

    I started writing a long response, but need more time to think it through. My brain is all over the place right now…

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  5. I think your review of the book is spot on. You put your finger on a very sore spot in contemporary Lutheranism and I appreciate the nuanced and careful approach that you take (what a strange mix of Luther and Melanchthon you are!). i, too, have struggled with how best to communicate the new life we have in Christ. In our zeal to proclaim Ephesians 2:8-9 (or is it an inordinate fear of pietism?) we pretend verse 10 doesn’t exist. But we much too easily end up being friends with the world when we go that route.

    I believe casting the relationship between faith and works in Luther’s terms of the two kinds of righteousness is helpful. And if you want a resource for reclaiming the concept of holineness in Lutheran teaching, take a look at Jon Kleinig’s commnetary on Leviticuus in the Concordia Commentary Series.

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  6. Not sure if it’s because I read a lot of Gene Veith’s blog posts and his works, but I’ve always thought Luther’s doctrine of Vocation was the practical side of Lutheran theology. I wish more Pastors discussed this. At the same time, is this one of the doctrines you are trying to make a point with your questions regarding the “What now?” after hearing the Gospel?

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    1. To me the vocation issue, and Dr. Veith speaks more eloquently on it than anyone from the Lutheran perspective, is certainly one aspect. How do we as Lutheran Christians approach our work on a day-to-day basis? As merely a means to pay bills? Or something given us from God to exercise our skills, mind, or muscles for his glory, no matter how menial the task may seem in the eyes of the world (or our own!). It was revolutionary in its time, the idea that a bishop or a monk was no “closer” to God than a shoemaker. (I wouldn’t say Luther thought someone responsible for ministering the means of grace — Word and Sacrament — had no more important role, necessarily, than a shoemaker, just that he had no first class ticket to heaven while the rest of us would have to settle for coach.)

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      1. Anthony,

        Would you care to comment about that Veith blog post I noted above – and whether Redeemer Presbyterian, which you mentioned, would be able to give a hearty “Amen!” to it?

        I am curious – I did listen to Pastor Keller quite a bit yesterday (You Tube clips) and liked much of what I heard. Certainly, we don’t want to be afraid to be learning from folks when we should be, but when I look at even some of these large growing Gospel-Coalition-friendly congregations, it makes me wonder. Not sure if you saw this video Fisk did vs. David Platt: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/broken-jonathan-fisk-versus-christ-following-david-platt-reformation-vs-rome/

        I also think that even if Platt was more careful in how he motivated folks (that video Fisk reviews certainly was highly problematic), there is also the matter that a lot of smaller, lower middle class congregations don’t have the kinds of resources that many of these megachurches have due to the often upper middle-class makeup of the parishoners.

        +Nathan

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      2. Above or below?? Getting lost in the thread here. I will try and watch that Fisk video as soon as I can and follow up. Thanks.

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  7. Travis,

    That’s a great question. I look forward to see what Anthony has to say about that.

    What occurs to me though is that even if we do point to vocation (and that is no small thing – this post from Veith years ago was golden: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2010/12/vocation-vs-churchianity/?utm [Anthony – would that be something Redeemer Presbyterian would emphasize as well?])

    That said, I think that would still leave this part of Anthony’s post unanswered:

    “…if his primary audience is composed of the young, restless, and misguided, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a chapter, even a coda, on What now. “OK, Rev. Fisk: you’ve pointed me in the right direction—the Word of God. I’ve learned not to trust my feelings or scientism or ‘progress.’ I trust only in the Cross. I lean not on my own understanding but on the promises of a God who is faithful. But what now? Can I pray to be healed of this or that addiction, compulsion, illness? Or is that some form of self-worship? Can I pray for guidance in choosing a career, a home, a spouse? Or is that to look for God’s word outside the Bible? Should I be simplifying my lifestyle so I have more disposable income to give to the poor? Or is that works righteousness? Am I allowed to do anything but confess that I’m a sinner? I really need to know. Because I’m afraid I’m confusing law and Gospel without even knowing it.”

    My fear is that the portrait Fisk paints of the faith is one of an endless series of booby traps, spiritual no-nos, landmines, one after another, such that the uninitiated will begin to sense not freedom but that they’re being set up to fail—no “dos” but a thousand and one mental and conceptual “dont’s.” Yes, a confessional legalism.”

    This is huge, I think. And I know that traditional Lutheranism has a good answer for them – but often I think we modern Lutherans give the impression that if we do say yes to all of the above, it comes off as being very much peripheral…

    For example, the other day my wife was reading the Lutheran youth magazine “Higher Things” (this issue: http://higherthings.org/magazine/issues/winter2012 – not available for free). It one article Pastor Cwirla in no uncertain terms tells his audience that God has no plan for their life, and encourages them to look to Luther’s Table of Duties in the catechism. Now, I think there may indeed be a time and place to direct a person to the Table of Duties when they are wondering what to do and seem obsessed about not “hearing from God”. But is it really true what he says? (again, I sympathize, because as I often say to persons anxiously seeking a spouse, “don’t think there is just one special person God has planned for you that you have to find”) Not really. Its not an either-or. But what impression is given? (by the way, I have questioned Pastor Cwirla online in the past and want to make it clear that in this circumstance I was on the side defending him a bit… : ) )

    Interestingly, my pastor made a popularized translation of Luther’s work years ago to directly address this “now what?” question of Anthony:

    http://www.lutheranpress.com/htlacl2.htm

    From the introduction….

    Christian bookstores nowadays are full of books
    written about the Christian life. Such books try to
    explain how to “live like a Christian” by answering
    questions such as: How can I increase my faith? How
    can I live my life in the world as a Christian? How can
    I be a Christian employee? How can I know God’s will
    for my life? How can I have a Christian marriage? How
    can I love my spouse? How can I raise my children to be
    Christians? How can I talk to people who are not
    Christians? How can I have true inner peace? All of these
    questions are certainly important and are asked by those
    who, having come to faith in Jesus Christ, basically
    wonder: Now what?

    In the short work that follows, the great Reformer
    Martin Luther answers this “Now what?” by heading to
    the writings of Apostle Paul and pointing out that the
    Christian, having come to faith in Christ, is a lot like
    Jesus Christ Himself.

    Those are my pastor’s words, but it is interesting how it appears that some of Luther’s earliest stuff written for public consumption was addressing issues that Anthony sees Fisk’s book failing to address.

    +Nathan

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    1. Nathan, thanks for this. And I think you have hit on something very important here.

      Have Lutherans imbibed too much of evangelicalism, even if some have never been a formal member of an evangelical church? Should Lutherans simply put no stock in these personalized appeals to God? Is God indifferent to these kinds of requests? Are we sinning when we ask for God’s guidance, or direction, when buying a new home or taking a new job or choosing between two options in medical care? Is Scripture (and, presumably, the Confessions??) the only place we can find answers that are relevant to our Christian life? Is the rest of that stuff simply worldly? Is the Two Kingdoms doctrine more than just about church and state? If so, what does Philippians 4:6 mean? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

      Requests for what?

      Maybe there is this hard line of demarcation between what Lutherans should and should not be doing in light if their theology and what much of evangelicalism — Reformed, Arminian, and Anglican — appear to find in Scripture that isn’t really there.

      Unless it is there. And the Lutheran confessions, or at least the latter-day LCMS interpretation of those confessions, have trumped the plain reading of Scripture… Which is what a good part of what the Reformation was about, no?

      I’m not trying to be snarky here (for once). If confessional Lutheranism draws these stark lines, then so be it. If not, why is that the impression being given?

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  8. PerhapsI am inserting myself needlessly here, but my study of Galatians produced this understanding: the Law in relation to my salvation has been fulfilled in Christ and no longer applies to me, but the law in relation to my daily life (sanctification, “holy” living) remains. Otherwise, Luther had no need to pose the question, “What does this mean?” in the explanation of the Commandments. His “don’t” (the letter of the Law that I am incapable of fulfilling) is always followed by the “do” that represents the freedom to fulfill the spirit of the law in daily living as one forgiven by Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. This is Paul’s spiritual act of worship in which we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The transformation of one’s heart and mind occurs in order that we might understand God’s will, including how we are to honor him through good works (prepared in advance for us to do). I think the concept is too simple for the Ph. D.’s to grasp.

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  9. Anthony,

    Thanks for your last reply (just saw it).

    I think you are definitely on to something.

    Months ago, there was a post on the Wordlview Everlating site (the “WE Team”) that went like this:

    Are conservative Lutherans anti-Spirit led?

    from Worldview Everlasting by Admin

    I’ve been watching your videos for a while now. You seem to be anti-spirit led. In that everything we need for this life is in the word, and it is, but certain issues or decisions can arise in your
    life where you need direction and the Bible doesn’t have a “clear” answer. Like choosing between 2 jobs or what college to attend. Or simply just asking the Lord for direction in your life. I believe if we ask we will receive. ~B

    Dear B:I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.What does this mean? I believe that God has made me together with all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.When it comes to decisions we make which there is no clear command or prohibition from the Word of God, we have freedom to make such a decision. For this, God has given us our reason. Yes pray about it, but if for one minute you begin to think that God is speaking to you outside of His external Word, don’t believe it, for there is no certainty there. In fact it is quite often that Satan appears as an angel of light, deceiving one into thinking that his activity is the activity of the Holy Spirit. How do you know the difference? You look to God’s Word, and where there is freedom and God’s Word is silent, you can use your reason and decide how best you can love and serve your neighbor.

    Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
    Messiah Lutheran Church
    La Crescent, MN
    http://www.messiahlacrescent.or

    I immediately copied and pasted it, so I could do a follow-up blog post to it (never got to it).

    Since that time, this appears to have been taken down, which is good. That said, the fact that if ever went up should be telling.

    On the one hand, I know what the Pastor is saying. But on the other hand, is this all we want to say here? (again, evidently not, as it was taken down – I commend the WE folks for doing so).

    Even so, what does this mean? Why did the early Lutherans and Lutherans still today talk about the prophecy Hus made being fulfilled in Luther? (even though we don’t put our hope in this). Why do we assume Luther in the Smalcald articles is saying more than simply “we don’t make church doctrines out of things that are outside God’s word”? Obviously, what Luther wrote elsewhere, he certainly believed in prayer being answered and Christians taking comfort in God’s answers to their specific prayers….

    No, I think we can pretty clearly say that the person hearing from God about what color to paint our kitchen table is probably not a person to go to for spiritual direction.

    That said, in I Kings someone loses an ax head and God cares enough to help them find it after Elisha prays. My wife reminds me that 2 years ago, my son lost a small toy during a 4th of July Fireworks display. She prayed with him about it and miraculously found it on the ground far away. She is also convinced that God sent an angel to untie a solid know on our cat’s leash so our cat didn’t hang himself on our neighbor’s fence last year.

    We don’t put our hope in this. This is not gives us certainty of our salvation. But are we wrong to have some robust confidence about these things nonetheless? Saying “its a God thing”, as some evangelicals do, is not necessarily about them, but simply about a general confidence in God’s providence and that he answers prayers.

    +Nathan

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    1. OK, re: the Veith post: Yes, sometimes we need to be reminded that most of us are called to leading quiet, un-headline-making, quotidian existences — but that these too are forms of witness. Every vocation is a witness when done to the glory of God. It’s not always about setting out to set the WORLD ON FIRE FOR JESUS! which usually results in people just getting burned out.

      But what if you feel called to do just that? Be a missionary or an apologist or set up some ministry in the local congregation to reach unbelievers with the Gospel? Is this to be despised?

      In other words, are they mutually exclusive? Yes, people shouldn’t be shanghaied into stopping strangers on the street to ask them if they’re saved. That’s manipulative and obnoxious and will only end up with a lot of guilt-ridden parishioners feeling they have failed, either because they’re uncomfortable doing this kind of thing or because no one ever stops to listen to them finish a sentence.

      And that leads me to Rev. Fisk’s video. (Turns out I had seen it.) I don’t know much about Platt. I know Tim Keller thinks highly of him, though. And yes, it’s easy to manipulate people into thinking that “carrying one’s Cross” means you’re not working hard enough, or miserable enough, and to mistake going the extra mile for the Gospel message itself. It’s not. It’s the fruit of faith. Got that. Honestly.

      But what if there’s no fruit? What if there’s little faith? What if the Christian life and the on-Christian life look strangely similar, and so it only makes sense to take the path of least resistance? I assume Rev. Fisk would say, “Preach the Gospel again.” Harder? Louder? “Heard this already, Rev. Got it. I’m good. I’m already a Christian because I was baptized. I’m already saved because of what Jesus did. Has nothing to do with me or anything I do. Got it. If I die today, it’s straight to heaven for me. Can I go now? Football’s starting in five minutes.”

      Here’s another question that was sparked by something Fisk said about baptism: If we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, if we are regenerated and justified and sanctified at baptism, and this strictly a monergistic act of God, is faith also part of this gift? Or is the infant already a believer by virtue or his or her utter dependence? If I’ve been baptized and want nothing to do with God later in life, if I have made shipwreck of my faith, as Pastor Fisk says is a distinct possibility (and which the Lutheran tradition plainly teaches), but then hear the preaching of the Gospel again and suddenly believe — really get a sense of myself as a sinner, as lost, but now saved purely by the love and mercy of God, and am overwhelmed by this, even to the point of — wait for it — feeling something — what is that? Is that new faith? Revivified faith? Conversion? Emotionalism, not to be trusted? Am I doing the believing? If so, is faith a work, something I do? Is God forming faith in me? Again? First at baptism and again when I am “reawakened”? Where am I in all this that’s going on? Am I merely an inert piece of dreck that’s simply worked on and who slowly begins to — what? Love people who before I only hated? Make sacrifices for people who otherwise I would have left to their own devices? Is this automatic? Am I then an automaton? Should I be waiting for some signal? Or is that trusting my feelings? Should I simply obey, because Jesus is Lord? Or is that confusing Law and Gospel.

      It shouldn’t be this difficult, I know, I know, I know. Children get it and as someone below said, PhDs miss it. But the more I hear Fisk preach, the more these questions come to mind. And I assume his answer will always be the same: You’re trying to do when you should just be listening. The Gospel is “You have been saved.” Not, presumably, “You will be saved if you believe,” because that puts the onus on us, but you have been saved. Over and over and over again. He doesn’t want to talk about a Christian life because that’s pietism and legalism and all the rest of it.

      Believe me, nothing much was asked of me as a teen, other than to come to church and hear the preacher preach and receive the Sacrament. And I did. Until I didn’t. Because I had no idea why I should. Since everything was just fine. And it had nothing to do with me, what I did, or what I should do. So I did nothing. And eventually that included going to church.

      I may just be hard-hearted or hard-headed or perhaps I just imbibed too much Evangelical-speak. And I am perfectly willing to admit I’m wrong, that I’m looking for some kind of blueprint for discipleship where none exists, or that I’m trying to light some spiritual fire when I shouldn’t be doing anything at all, or that I’m coming at this issue from the wrong direction.

      All I know is that the more time I spend in Lutheran churches, the more distant God seems. The more alien. The more a product of confessional statements, distinctions, and paradoxes. And again, I’m willing to admit that this may say much more about me than it does the churches. If I thought I had all the answers, believe me, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS DISCUSSION AT ALL.

      Have nothing left to add.

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  10. I think it would be a great idea for Pastor Fisk to write one on living the Christian life. He said that he got his idea for Broken and loosely based it off of Adolf Koeberle’s “The Quest For Holiness.” In the first chapters Koeberle shows the futile attempts of man to sanctify himself. In the second half of the book Koeberle tackles the issue of the Christian life. Koeberle’s book is a great read! It made me less afraid to discuss the law and good works. If Fisk wrote a second book based off of the second half or so of “The Quest For Holiness,” I would very much look forward to reading it.

    I have noticed that even with reading Bayer’s “Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification” that although he has some really good stuff, his short book does not make some of the very crucial points Koeberle does about good works and sanctification. For example, Koeberle discusses the admonitions of the Apostles toward good works. He points out that the admonitions are given with the very real recognition of the ever-present danger of falling away. So as The Augsburg Confession (and Apology) article 20 on Good Works does, Koeberle discusses the perseverance of the Christian. The problem with other portrayals of sanctification is that just because the inner man does good works under no compulsion, they present the law for the Christian as not really accusing anymore. Koeberle tackles the issue of growth in sanctification from the point of view of the theology of the cross, not dancing around the importance of practicing righteousness. I believe that if Pastor Fisk has the time, it would be great for him to come out with a second book elaborating on the themes of the latter part of Koeberle’s book.

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  11. While I haven’t had time to respond at all like I had hoped, I have been following all of this and talking with Pastor Fisk about it. Because this concern is one that goes far beyond this blog, he’s thinking about doing a video on it next Friday. It may turn in to more than one video.

    I agree that you should definitely read Koeberle. He can be slow going from what I’ve heard, but the material is gold. I’ve got him on my shelf, too, but haven’t taken time to start reading him yet.

    In the meantime, I’ve got a tough question(s) for you to mull over, Anthony. No response is needed. What if simply hearing the Gospel is enough? What if this entire paragraph:

    “But what if there’s no fruit? What if there’s little faith? What if the Christian life and the on-Christian life look strangely similar, and so it only makes sense to take the path of least resistance? I assume Rev. Fisk would say, “Preach the Gospel again.” Harder? Louder? “Heard this already, Rev. Got it. I’m good. I’m already a Christian because I was baptized. I’m already saved because of what Jesus did. Has nothing to do with me or anything I do. Got it. If I die today, it’s straight to heaven for me. Can I go now? Football’s starting in five minutes.”

    …is simply a holdover from your Reformed days? In terms of the questions you are asking and the fruit you are looking for. What if they are the wrong questions asked by a different doctrinal foundation? Because those are questions that bind me back to the law, that lay burdens on me and cause me guilt and anguish because I KNOW I haven’t done enough. I’ve been pounded by the Law. As I should be. But don’t leave me with that. Give me Gospel because that is what will really motivate me. Only it has the performative power to cause me to love my neighbor and bear fruit. The Law that is staring you in the face when you ask the question, “Where is the fruit? Where is the evidence of faith?” …it can’t do that. It will only ever say, “There isn’t enough fruit. There isn’t enough faith.”

    I’ll leave it at that. I don’t have final answers, but these are the questions I personally have struggled with as I’ve made the move to Confessional Lutheranism. I don’t know what direction Fisk will go next Friday, but at least it will give you more to think about.

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    1. Thanks for your contribution here, Peter. Much appreciated.

      And yes — I am always willing to admit that I have imported too much of my Evangelical and Reformed conceptual baggage to Lutheranism. If that is, in fact, the case.

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  12. I have now tried to type out a long comment about all this TWICE, both failing halfway from not knowing where I was actually going. In a nutshell:

    Mr. Sacramone, I agree with you completely.
    Mr. Slayton, I agree with you completely.

    Now imagine trying to articulate that concept in a long, detailed response. I failed twice, but I hope to try again tomorrow…

    uuugh

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    1. It has been recommended here twice now — with you, three times! I have quite literally just ordered it. Should arrive Friday, unless one of the neighbor kids steals it before I get home.

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  13. JEH,

    Thanks for the note. I do think that post is problematic. I understand the desire to be succinct, but this response was not as detailed as it needed to be.

    It seems that in order to guard against abuse – an abuse and temptation I acknowledge myself to be pretty susceptible to – a position was taken which would seem exclude the guidance of the Holy Spirit altogether.

    I think the Holy Spirit certainly does “speak” to sometimes to give us particular guidance in this or that area as we use our reason as well (trusting in God as we “row towards shore”). I fully acknowledge that a lot of the guidance that we need is found in the word and that it is the only guidance we can assert with certainty as regards church teaching and spiritual guidance for the church as a whole. Still, we can – and I believe should – sometimes believe that God has answered our prayers in certain ways. He is concerned about some “little things” in our lives, and if we know the Word well, we should be able to have more confidence of his Providence in guiding us.

    Anthony,

    I think I will try to read Koberle with you. That said, I do think it is perhaps telling that that is the one book that we are all pointing to. Is there nothing that approximates this highly theological tome for popular consumption?

    When you talk about re-conversion my initial impression is that that is God completely bringing us back again – a “re-justification” of sorts. He is giving us faith again to say “I am baptized” and not “I was baptized” – our effective baptism becomes efficacious once again. If we trust any feelings or experience here, we trust the experience of Him making us see this again through His word.

    After that though, sanctification is indeed synergistic – our cooperation is weak as the Formula says, but it is there. The “new man” is not just Jesus working in us. There is an “I” in all of this! Also, no spiritually mature person is going to be happy with where they are in their sanctification, or say “I think I’m about 50/60/70/80/90% sanctified now…). Progress is real, and Paul even tells Timothy to make sure others see his progress – even if we are indeed going to be seeing more and more sin in the process

    I don’t want to totally discount Platt. I do see the Gospel in much of what he’s written – in spite of that horrendous video. The You Tube trailer for Radical is both inspiring and terrifying to me. Still, this man acknowledges that when he thinks of some Christians he knows reading Radical, he is concerned! He notes that there are many who do get the mindset that they are making themselves pleasing to God and are not at peace. To them he preaches the Gospel quite beautifully (as a good Reformed Baptist can). That said, I did resonate with an article that Veith had on his blog critical of the “radicals”, and I note that the author made a few key points that lined up with just what Pastor Fisk had said:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2013/03/radical-christianity-vs-regular-christianity/

    Hope Pastor Fisk takes this up.

    Blessings to you. No more from me again (I need to subdue my Old Adam for not only my own benefit, but for my neighbor, as I read again in Luther’s Freedom of the Christian man again over the past day… : ) )

    +Nathan

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    1. Nathan, I was following the comments over at Jordan Cooper’s Just and Sinner site, and things seemed to get bogged down on the meaning of “sanctification.” I think many Lutherans have been taught to view that as something either Jesus or the Holy Spirit does, something that makes us able to stand before God: separate from justification, but related.

      “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”

      “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

      “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

      “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”

      Although, there’s also this:

      “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:”

      (These are all KJV translations, obviously.)

      And so a hard distinction is made between “sanctification” proper, which is static, a gift, and good works, which are something we do, and must do, but inevitably fail to do, or fail to do as consistently as we should, or or fail to do with the highest motives, such that we must even repent of our good works.

      This is why the idea of “progressive sanctification” makes no theological sense to most Lutherans. A deeper knowledge of Scripture, hence Christ, sure (I guess, I hope). But that results only in our coming to a deeper understanding of what a mess we are.

      Now, here’s another question: what is the relationship between sanctification in the static sense and good works in the active — something I do — sense? The ME part, the I DO part, is usually so buried in rightly dividing Law/Gospel that even those good works appear to be something that just magical spring out of me by some hidden work of the Spirit.

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  14. Anthony,

    Thanks. Tomorrow! For now though, here is a clip of a post I’m working on…

    God is determined to have His way with His bride. This correspondingly, this means that believers, as they grow in faith and love, will actively pursue Him and His will more and more – in the midst of both their sufferings and their works towards their neighbor. But when it comes to discussing this kind of conscious activity in the believer, we must not get here too quickly, for there is something even more foundational to discuss – namely that God’s word is always working in His people, and not only when we are conscious of making active responses to it (I Thes. 2:13). In other words, His beloved baptized children may indeed find themselves “caught up” in doing that which is good – that is, realizing only after the fact what it is we have been doing because of His grace and power. It is like Luther says in his introduction to Romans:

    “This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace.”

    When we recognize things proceeding this way in us, it is sometimes a very welcome surprise. We rejoice that it happens, for it is also true that sometimes we are only aware of the mixed motivations that war within us (the old man vs the new man) as we go about living our lives in Him.

    In any case, in order for there to even be a possibility of being “carried away” in this fashion, we must certainly have the One Good thing that can “sets loose” all the other goods – in other words, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, as detailed above this is something that God works in us wholesale – as our will finds itself under the sway of His love. Like the happy and cooing baby who cuddles up to his mother’s breast. Or perhaps even like – brace yourself – the woman caught up in a torrid romance with the lover, it “just happens” (unless it doesn’t – there are times men reject God’s advances, for reasons we cannot fully understand). Really and truly, the whole idea of “falling” under the sway of love, either as children or adults (“falling in love”) is impossible to avoid…..

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    1. “This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures.”

      This Luther guy is on dangerous ground. He’s going to get called out for being one of those pietists. Feelings? Oh, he’s in for a world of hurt now…

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  15. Anthony,
    The doctrine of vocation is not just about our work. It really is the Lutheran doctrine of the Christian life. We are brought to faith through Word and Sacrament and then we live out that faith in love and service to our neighbors. “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). And God assigns us and calls us to various and multiple tasks in the orders that He has created for human beings: the household (the family plus economic labor), the church, the state, and what Luther called “the general order of Christian love” (the informal relationships of friendship, interactions with others, as in the Good Samaritan parable, etc.) Vocation is where sanctification happens, where we exercise our faith, where we battle with sin, where we grow “in faith towards you, and in fervent love for one another” (as it says at the end of the liturgy, when we are sent back into our vocations).
    I wonder if the problem is the ordinariness of the good works that take place in vocation. As Einar Billing says in Our Calling, “In all our religious and ethical life, we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary.” You say that when you were growing up, it seemed like all the Lutherans you knew were just plodding along in a middle class lifestyle, with lots of respect for authority. Well, you speak of that as if it were a little thing. I suspect that whether they were pursuing a “middle class” or a “lower class” lifestyle, they were attending to their families, to their work, and to their communities (going to Kiwanis, stopping at the tavern, watching a game). These all have to do with vocation. Now I recall that when I was young and didn’t particularly have vocations of my own, I looked down on the mundane life of my parents and other adults, but now I have a lot of respect for that.
    It was John Wesley, I believe, who, though coming to faith by hearing Luther’s Commentary on Romans, said of Lutherans that they were good on the Gospel but “weak on sanctification.” Lutherans shouldn’t brag on that, but rather deny that it is true. Wesley was really strong on sanctification and became a model of pious behavior. And yet his marriage was miserable. He mistreated his wife and she mistreated him. Luther would say that there is something lacking when a Christian does great things for the Lord, but neglects his calling in marriage. (All due respect to Wesley, by the way, a great evangelist. He was, in fact, the great preacher and exemplar of sanctification, the call to holiness, attaining the second gift of perfection. And yet he and his wife refused to love and serve each other.) Sanctification without vocation tends to be reduced to minor asceticisms (not drinking or smoking), or to monastic-style doing works for the Lord (becoming a missionary or starting a ministry of one kind or another). Those can indeed be worthy vocations for some people. But for most Christians in this vein, when you ask them what works they are doing that are so good, so sanctifying, they usually aren’t that spectacular either. Being a good husband, a good father, a good worker, a good citizen. These things are hard. They are frustrating, filled with trials and tribulations. They’ll make you plenty holy if you do them in faith.
    You talked about the constant repetitions of Lutheranism, a sense that there is no progress being made. We sin, we repent, we receive forgiveness in church, we go back into our vocations, whereupon we sin, we repent, we receive forgiveness in church. Lather, rinse, repeat. But this is a cycle, like the days of the week or the seasons of the year, an order of life. Yes, in our vocations we often do not love and serve our neighbors (like our wife, our children, our customers); rather, we want them to love and serve us. So we sin in and against our vocations. Then we come to church, and, as the Catechism says about “what sins we should confess,” we consider our various “stations” (i.e., vocations) in light of the Ten Commandments and we receive absolution from the pastor as from Christ himself (“as a called [vocation reference] and ordained servant of the word”), God working through our vocations too all along. And we hear God’s Word and we are built up in our faith. Whereupon we are sent back into our vocations to live out that “faith working through love.” That’s how we grow and how we make progress, though with much slippage along the way. But it’s a real thing that is happening. As for conquering the sins we struggle with, believe me, individual confession and absolution is the best and most powerful way to do that, as many will testify.
    Luther is actually the best theologian I have read about ethics and the Christian life. He says that for a good work to be “good” it should actually help someone. That is, it should be directed to one’s neighbor, as opposed to being directed to God.
    Do read Gustaf Wingren’s Luther on Vocation, the book that made the scales fall off of my eyes about the Christian life. (Read Koeberle’s Quest for Holiness too, as has been recommended.)

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    1. Dr. Veith,
      Thank you for your significant contribution to this discussion.
      If only more Luther were actually read out in the churches.
      A
      (And yes, Wingren is next!)

      P.S. And yes, I do have to keep reminding myself of the broader, multi-dimensional implications of vocation.

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  16. What now? What about a life of receptive spirituality? But first we need to understand the passive voice.

    In our modern day Western Civilization, the passive voice sounds foreign to our ears. We are a culture that does things; we are neither comfortable nor familiar with being acted upon. Even computer word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, flag the passive voice as improper grammar.

    Unfortunately, our inclination to the active voice does impact our reading of the New Testament. The result is that we will often interpret New Testament passives as things that we do, verbs that we need to act upon rather than what God is doing to and for us, verbs that God is doing to us. The difference is huge because it can change the whole meaning of a passage.

    I commend to this discussion the following gifts:

    Receptive Spirituality: Segments from John Klenig
    http://www.pastormattrichard.com/search/label/Receptive%20Spirituality

    Understanding the Passive Voice of the New Testament
    http://www.pastormattrichard.com/2011/09/understanding-passive-voice-of-new.html

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    1. OK, I don’t want to sound spooky or mystical or anything, but I am on Kleinig’s site right now. For the very first time. I downloaded about a half an hour ago one of his lectures on Spirituality and Experience and also have open a journal article he wrote back in 2007: “Paul Gerhardt as a Teacher of Lutheran Spirituality.”

      Coincidence?

      Probably.

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  17. Oh, yes. You have GOT to read John Kleinig’s “Grace upon Grace.” That’s another paradigm shifter. That’s the best book I have found on Lutheran spirituality, or any other kind of spirituality.

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  18. It’ll be a great day in Mudville when Lutherans stop looking inward (toward their sanctification) and relax, and just live freely, outward, for the neighbor. And repent for all that they fail to do.

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  19. Anthony,

    I like much of what Pastor Messer said here (and elsewhere! – his comments are usually very wise), but disagree with him here. I commented on his blog.

    I agree with Anthony and Veith about Klein, who I mentioned to you earlier as well (but as someone to look at alongside Starck, whose early 18th c. prayer book was loved and revered by both Orthodox and Pietist Lutherans for some 200 years – 100s of editions! – before falling into disuse only recently)

    “This is why the idea of “progressive sanctification” makes no theological sense to most Lutherans. A deeper knowledge of Scripture, hence Christ, sure (I guess, I hope). But that results only in our coming to a deeper understanding of what a mess we are.”

    You are exactly right. Unfortunately, here we have something to learn from the Baptists. We should all be paying attention to Jordan Cooper’s posts. And while I appreciate the points that Gene Veith makes about vocation, there is more to be said specifically about the nature of sanctification (like the stuff Jordan Cooper and Holger Sonntag [the guy on Issues ETC who spoke on progressive sanctification last week]).

    “Now, here’s another question: what is the relationship between sanctification in the static sense and good works in the active — something I do — sense? The ME part, the I DO part, is usually so buried in rightly dividing Law/Gospel that even those good works appear to be something that just magical spring out of me by some hidden work of the Spirit.”

    You are right here. I agree with Pastor Richard about the life of receptivity, but there is more to be said about how it is good and right to encourage believers by the mercies of God to daily subdue their old man through spiritual exercises (listening to the word and receiving the sacraments to be sure, but also prayer, fasting, alms, etc to discipline the old man as one lives in accordance with the 10 commandments), for they are baptized, and this is just what their baptism into Christ signifies. The power to do these things is something else we receive from God. Pardon and power.

    The catechized believer does not someone to keep teaching these things, but according to their new man, they delight in such reminders grounded in their life in Christ (more chances to, by the Spirit of God, kill old Adam!), even as according to their old man they want to plug their ears.

    I have written a more fulsome defense of this position here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/holiness-what-does-this-mean-the-christians-sanctification-as-measured-by-god-part-i/ and http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/holiness-what-does-this-mean-the-christians-sanctification-as-measured-by-god-part-ii/

    I debated Scott Diekmann, a fine Lutheran apologist if there ever was one, on this very topic at his old blog: http://stand-firm.blogspot.com/2012/11/are-lutherans-weak-on-sanctification.html

    The topic was this quote from Pastor Bill Cwirla: “You can only say you’re weak on sanctification if you view sanctification as your work.”

    And in case persons want to accuse me of thinking I am really holy or something, please spare me that! I know better and am reminded this day by day. But by God’s grace, I will indeed will and do as He pleases. Always imperfectly, but making progress. Not because I can see it, but because He says that He does it in me.

    This is because believers who are more mature in Christ – who have a higher level of sanctification – will be very humble(d) persons who know their sin. They know they grow not because they do not fall, but because Christ gives his hand to pick them up again. Their sin bothers them greatly, and they know they could take a terrible fall, a la Chutes and Ladders, or even lose their faith altogether (i.e. justification) through faith-destroying and doubt-inducing sin (hearing Paul’s “do not be deceived” regarding doing evil deeds). Rest assured, “keeping track” of any good they do is an attitude they flee and repent of, and when Paul encourages believers to take pride in their own deeds in Galatians, he speaks to the simple of course.

    And when Paul urges Timothy to make sure that everyone “sees His progress” this does not mean that Timothy has to start trusting in himself.

    +Nathan

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    1. Unless I am missing the point of my interlocutors: Nathan, you are HOLY, in Christ. That is why you are both SAINT and sinner. That status is extra nos. There is no point looking at yourself, because you won’t find it there. Only look to the Cross, where perfect obedience was made manifest for the whole world.

      As for good works — that is something you do. But the more you focus on your own failures in that regard — whether it be certain habits, a lack of patience, a lack of generosity or empathy or gratitude, a judgmental attitude, whatever — the more you will miss the SAINT for the SINNER. There is a tension, the simul, that must be maintained.

      If there is a holiness tradition in Lutheranism, it is what Kleinig calls a receptive holiness. A matter of receiving from God rather than giving to God what we don’t have to give in the first place.

      You wrote: believers who are more mature in Christ – who have a higher level of sanctification – will be very humble(d) persons who know their sin. They know they grow not because they do not fall, but because Christ gives his hand to pick them up again. Their sin bothers them greatly, and they know they could take a terrible fall, a la Chutes and Ladders, or even lose their faith altogether (i.e. justification) through faith-destroying and doubt-inducing sin (hearing Paul’s “do not be deceived” regarding doing evil deeds). Rest assured, “keeping track” of any good they do is an attitude they flee and repent of, and when Paul encourages believers to take pride in their own deeds in Galatians, he speaks to the simple of course.

      If I’m hearing anything, Nathan, is that there is no higher level of sanctification. No growth or process. And so my question remains: what is the connection, then, between sanctification and good works? There is much talk about these things springing freely and spontaneously and without reference to the law. OK. But how? Should I just expect it, as the Spirit manifests himself in my life? Is this something I am aware of? If not, because that would make it all about me, then who is it, exactly, who is doing those works? Is it the Spirit making Himself manifest through me? Am I merely a conduit? The vehicle? I’m not being snarky here: I think that in fact is what is being communicated.

      And how do I confess my sins when I’m not supposed to be paying attention to me? Or do I pay attention only to sinner me? WHY should I confess my sins, when they have already been forgiven?

      And what am I supposed to do with this? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

      Everyone wants to eviscerate the I, the Old Adam, who won’t stay dead. And he, or, rather, I, can only do evil, even when doing good. So how do I access the SAINT me who is eager to look after the widows and orphans and who should keep himself from the pollutions of the world? Or is that “saint” hidden with Christ? Does it become a kind of inner compulsion, because Christ can only be himself, and that is who Christ is? (I’m thinking out loud here.)

      This is all beginning to sound like the mysticism that is being decried.

      AND NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THE ONE THING I WAS POINTING TO, REALLY, IN MY ORIGINAL POST: “discipleship.” Or is that a matter of vocation?

      Does this debate come down to a matter of semantics?

      To what extent do confessional distinctives make the plain reading of Scripture more difficult, not less? Are we guilty of what we accuse Catholics of (and yes, you can end a sentence in a preposition)? Elevating the traditions of men to a status they do not deserve? Or is it a matter of needing “a teacher,” as the Apostle says. And the confessions are our teacher.

      But who interprets them? (I have noticed debates breaking out on other blogs about what constitutes “authoritative” texts in the Lutheran tradition. The Book of Concord, sure. But how about Melanchthon? Chemnitz? Quenstedt? Gerhard? Walther?)

      As you can see, I didn’t think things were difficult enough, so I decided to add some more fuel to the barby. (Sorry, was listening to Kleinig’s Australian accent till late last night…)

      Now I know there’s probably a less opaque way of viewing all this that has gotten lost in this debate. I’m hoping Koberle will shed some light.

      Like

  20. Tony, perhaps this little nugget of wisdom from Professor Kurt Marquart, long time professor at the LCMS seminary in Fort Wayne, may be getting at what you find missing in many conversations about justification and sanctification. Here is something he said a number of years ago:

    Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?

    An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?”

    I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428).

    The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives one the other, but the Lord would have us do both!

    Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:

    “That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee s if t were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adultery, a wordmonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

    Where are the “practical and clear sermons,” which according to the Apology “hold an audience” (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains:

    “The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”

    “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that I steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”

    Kurt Marquart

    Concordia Theological Quarterly

    July/October 2003
    Pages 379-381

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    1. “They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach … “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).”

      That’s it. That’s it. That’s it.

      So why am I getting another message entirely, as if “transform” is little more than Reformed self-absorption and “abstain” pure Weslyean cant?

      Like

      1. From the link provided by Andrew: “Only the gospel produces sanctification, since only the gospel can provide the proper motivation which enables us to produce works pleasing to God. The gospel of free and complete forgiveness sets us free from futile attempts to save ourselves by our deeds. No longer driven by fear of God’s judgment or by our own self-interest, we are given power to serve God freely, not in order to earn his favor, but to show our love for him who loved us first. The gospel of grace is not merely the most effective motivation for good works.”

        Does the gospel “produce” sanctification? Or bestow it? Because I’m getting mixed messages here.

        “Power and motivation.” That was what Snyder thought was missing from Broken. The power of the gospel to transform lives. Does that preach in a Lutheran pulpit?

        Like

  21. Anthony,

    Shoot. Was I that confusing? 🙂

    “If I’m hearing anything, Nathan, is that there is no higher level of sanctification. No growth or process.”

    No, no, no. If we are regularly in God’s word (this is something our new man seeks) we will indeed be progressing in holiness. Are we going to see this? Maybe – and if so, we will give glory to God alone for the times we simply find ourselves “caught up” in doing good as well as the time that we, empowered by His Spirit, cooperate with the various good things He gives us to choose from or the stricter duties that Luther says we are to “make a pleasure”.

    But because of our sin and because of the attacks of Satan, it is just as likely that we are not going to feel like we are progressing at all. But here we need to cling to His Word of forgiveness which says He always is eager to cover even the evil that clings to the good we do and also the clear words He gives us which tell us that we will be growing.

    In any case, we do want to have discipleship, the pursuit of holiness, etc. This primarily means putting down the old man when he stears us away from time in the word (in worship [with the Supper!] but also other time we have to do this but squander). But this also means our new man subduing old Adam by making time for fasting, prayer, alms as well. In all this there is vocation. And the ten commandments. This does not necessarily mean I should be in a small group Bible study although for some persons (esp. those without families) I think this may be very helpful to them.

    In vocation, I think we do need to make room for persons to do “ministries” at church – let them loose with their gifts! But churches can be pretty self-righteous in all the “programming” they do – I’ve seen it. Also, we have to be careful about “guilting” people when they don’t get involved in everything like this. I for one have 5 boys and I will tell you I think going to Platt’s church would kill me. We try to be generous for example, but the resources are sparse (I’m a librarian – my wife works about 10 hours a week and homeschools our boys).

    For the 10 commandments this is key. As I’ve said: The Law of God describes that objective form of life wherein (not whereby) our relationships with God and neighbor are nourished and are brought to fulfillment. That said, all of these are summed up in love and the applications of these commandments in their positive forms are endless. There are many ways we are free to seek God’s face (not to be closer to Him in one sense since He is already as close to us as He can be, but for us to realize all we have in Him more and more – like Mary, sitting at His feet!) and serve our neighbor!

    Am I growing as much as I should be? I don’t think I am and do honestly think I’ll feel that way my whole life. There is more I could be doing for sure. Not to be saved, but because I have been saved. I want to re-start this process of pursuing holiness every day, for I am baptized! Even as I long to be found outside of myself – in other words where I loose the “me” and am “lost” in the joy of simply being where He is (where I am there my servant will also be) – finding Christ in everyone I meet even as I, being in Christ, am a “little Christ” to all.

    Still, there is a me. There is an I. The “new man” is not just Jesus or Jesus in me. And that is glorious for He knows all the hairs on my head and treasures even me. I participate with Him in synergy.

    And so do we all.

    +Nathan

    Like

  22. Anthony,

    Others share your frustration:

    Kelly Klages recently said on a blog:

    “This whole argument has been full of red herrings, from beginning to end. Those who suggest that Lutherans have always taught growth in holiness are at once Calvinists, holier-than-thou pietists, dominate all their preaching with Law, are trying to measure their holiness to prove their Christianity, don’t do good works because they’re too busy talking about works… you can’t have a conversation with this noise in the background.”

    EDH at Jordan Cooper’s blog said this:

    “Trying to find the word progressive in the confessions is like trying to find the word Trinity in the Bible. And two senses of a word is hardly a cop out – what about the different senses we use for gospel? Or repentance?

    The fact that this is arguable in Lutheranism is quite embarrassing. It’s no wonder we are caricatured so horribly! It’s true! I am thankful for faithful pastors like William Weedon and Jordan Cooper – not that they have merely remained faithful, but they have remained faithful in our communion. Thank you!”

    I must admit I feel the same way sometimes! But look at what the Apostle Paul does! And look at Luther’s preaching! Something has gotten away from us. It is Lutheranism’s unique temptation I think to fall down here. The Gospel is so good, and wanting to do everything we can to protect it, we are failing to see the bigger picture.

    I need to be done for today. God bless all here.

    +Nathan

    Like

  23. “But this also means our new man subduing old Adam by making time for fasting, prayer, alms as well.”

    And this is done to further subdue our old Adam.

    +Nathan

    Like

  24. I just read this in Chemnitz this morning:

    “The testimonies of Scripture are clear, that the renewal of the new man, as also the mortification of the old, is not perfect and complete in this life but that it grows and is increased day by day until it is perfected in the next life, when this corruptible will have put on incorruption. Profitable also and necessary in the church are exhortations that the regenerate should not neglect, extinguish, or cast away the gifts of the Spirit which they have received but that they stir them up with true and earnest exercises, calling on the help of the Holy Spirit, that He may give an increase of faith, hope, love, and of the other spiritual gifts; for what the punishment of spiritual negligence is the parable of the talents shows. There is also no doubt that faith is effectual through love, that it is the mother of good works, and that good works please God through faith for the sake of Christ. And in this sense the statement of James 2:21-24 can be understood and accepted appropriately and rightly, that through the numerous good works that followed Abraham is declared to have been justified by faith, and it is shown that faith is not empty and dead, but true and living.” Examination of the Council of Trent, 1.538-539

    Also, from earlier in his work:

    “It is a far different thing to speak of the powers or faculties of the mind, will and heart of man before conversion, before he has begun to be healed and renewed through the Holy Spirit, than when once he has begun to be healed and renewed. For then, through the gift and operation of the Holy Spirit, there are present and follow new movements, in the mind, will, and heart. Also the healing and renewal itself is not such a change which is immediately accomplished and finished in a moment, but it has its beginning and certain progress by which it grows in great weakness, is increased and preserved. But it does not grow as do the lilies of the field, which neither labor nor worry; but in the exercises of repentance, faith, and obedience, through seeking, asking, knocking, endeavoring, wrestling, etc., the beginnings of the spiritual gifts are retained, grow, and are increased, as in Luke 19:13…”1.424

    Like

  25. Appreciate your writings Anthony! I have recently joined the LCMS church, but have struggled with sanctification and holiness throughout the journey to this place. I am not a formally educated person, just an elderly ranch wife, but I finally found a satisfactory answer to this question in my recent (and first) reading of Hammer of God. I would commend any of Bo Giertz’s writings.

    Like

      1. And we were having such a lovely discussion. But there’s always one.

        Embarrassing? Where on earth did I write that or even intimate it? Why would I encourage people to go out and buy BROKEN if that were the case?

        I’m the only Lutheran who understands Luther? Again? Where in the thousands of words did I whip out some pedigree to declare that? On the contrary, I have admitted that I am perfectly willing to (a) learn and (b) admit that I am wrong. BUT given the many different comments below, is it not the case that maybe there is more than one way to come at this issue?

        And I happen not to believe that what I am proposing would result in Wesleyanism — unless the quotes from Chemnitz and Marquart are examples of such.

        Obviously I have touched a nerve — and that usually makes people jumpy. Or in your case nasty. I notice there is no name attached to your post. If you’re going to dump in public, you should at least sign your name to it.

        Or would that prove too embarrassing?

        Like

  26. If only more Luther were read out in the churches then what? Then we in the LCMS lumpenproletariat would look closer to your idea of what Christians ought to look like? Its like you want to affirm Lutheranism in principle but the actual Lutherans you are forced into fellowship with are a terrible disappointment to you. Or maybe you are the only Lutheran who understands Luther. Get over yourself.

    You should read Veith’s input carefully. He points out very incisively how the Lutheranism that you are proposing is indistinguishable from Wesleyanism.

    And that book that you think Fisk should write about the Christian life? Its already been written. Its called the Purpose Driven Life and no Christian should read it.

    Like

  27. Honestly, I think Fisk’s book is one of the best books ever written for the average Christian. Walk into your local LifeWay and you can find every one of the 7 counterfeits on display. Many of us have grown up in such a vacuous theological environment, that we will be duped by any or all of them. I’m thankful for this book, and for its plain accessibility.

    Like

  28. Anthony, I would direct you to a distinction made in the Formula of Concord art II on “Free Will”

    There Chemnitz lists a battery of quotes from the earlier confessions concluding that we cannot cooperate in even the smallest way in our Conversion, enlightenment… or our sanctification or preservation in the faith.

    Then later he says this: We MUST cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our daily life of repentence. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our death this says We cooperate in our Mortification of Old Adam.
    This is where Christians take up the Law and kill themselves, literally, doing it. For their neighbor. Not for God. God doesn´t need those Good Works. Our Neighor does!

    So for Lutherans, Good Works are not about working on our sanctification. That happens, alone, by hearing the Gospel. Rinse. Repeat.
    Lutherans work on their mortification, and they do that in order to force their Old Adam flesh to be useful to serve the creaturely Romans 8 perishing goodness and mercy that are Good Works.

    The life of a believer is all about mortification. The Life of a believer is ALL hidden in the Works of Another. The Believers life is all death. The believer´s Life , and so also entirely his sancitification, is the fact that his Life and also his life, are all hidden , completely, in the Life that is Christ.

    Like

  29. Frank has finally found his way here.

    The believer’s life may be principally mortification but it is not only mortification. It is also resurrection. This new life is not the basis of or part of the action of justification but it does flow out of justification. Yes, Luther would say that what we do outwardly is indistinguishable from the acts of love of an unbeliever but he would also say that inwardly they are entirely different–flowing from faith that has Christ working in me. And the new Adam in me can be encouraged to listen to the Holy Spirit, recognize and assent to what is coming from Christ, and, yes, actually do it…me, bride AND Bridegroom, two acting as one. Otherwise New testmanet exhortations such as Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
    ” make no sense.

    Like

  30. Anthony asks this question:

    Is there room in the Lutheran vocabulary for “become”?

    Absolutely! But where do Lutherans place this work?
    (Hint: it IS hard work, and it IS something God demands of ALL men to…. DO!)

    “Concerning Morality nothing can be demanded beyond the “Ethics” of Aristotle.” (Lutheran Confessions, Apology IV “On Justfication”)

    Aristotle: To become a virtuous person, one must pratice DOing what a virtuous person does until it becomes a habit.

    Rome, via Augustine and Augustine´s #1 disciple St Aquinas:
    This Aristotelian “becomeing” is meritorious and is necessary preparation for Justificaton.

    Reformed (and many Lutherans):
    This [aristotelian] “becoming” can only happen after Justification, and is the necessary fruit of justification and is called “sanctification”.

    Lutherans (via St Paul):
    Law:
    This Necessary Aristotelian Process is worked by God by the Law written in Reason (Rom 2:15)
    Natural man can fully know and do this with No Holy Spirit, No Christ, and No Bible.
    Thus the reference to Aristotle´s Ethics. What part of “Nothing” is there to understand?
    The “becoming” that happens from the practice of the self-virtues we call: mortification (latinate for deathing) and contrition (latinate for grinding down)
    Gospel:
    The Holy Spirit and Christ are , alone, necessary, alone, to have inner, invisible “new heart movements” that are the true fear, love and trust in God (ie Faith) that, alone differentiates Christians from non-Christians.
    And thus:

    “This distribution is useful to know where the Holy Spirit is necessary” (Lutheran Confessions, Apology, Art 18 “Free Will)

    and thus (as Anthony quoted!):

    But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost so that now we are able to think aright concerning God, and to fear and believe God, etc. [we are able to keep the First Table that can be kept alone by Faith and not at all by any DOing]

    From these facts it is apparent that the [first table of the] Law [that demands, alone, faith, alone] cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more.

    And at the same time we comprehend both:

    spiritual movements [that are the keeping of the first table that is , alone, faith] and

    external good works [the good heart within and works without].

    Therefore… we teach good works… but also …
    show how… the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites. [That is: how the First Table Law that demands faith, and cannot be kept by anything we can DO, but rather cannot be done by our own reason or strength.]

    Bless you dear Anthony!

    Like

  31. Peter Slayton:
    I disagree with the blog you pointed to because the author says we can cooperate in our “sanctification”. Bear with me please! I think I will present something you don´t expect:

    Formula of Concord , Solid Declaration, Art II “Free Will” quotes from various other Confessions and then says this:

    No where in the above quotations can it be found anywhere that we can cooperate, in any way at all, in our conversion, enlightenment, sanctification or preservation

    Then this:

    It is the hearing of the Holy Gospel, alone, in God´s Word, that God works these things

    Then:

    Even natural man, using his human powers and free will, is able to show up in Church and hear a sermon

    Then this wonderful article says where we MUST and CAN cooperate with the Holy Spiri

    The believer cooperates with the Holy Spirit in,,, his daily life of … repentance !

    To Summarize:
    We can´t cooperate in our Sanctification. It is the hearing of the Word of Gospel that, alone, can work this. But we can and must cooperate , in our daily life, in …. repentence.

    So where do you suppose the Confessions define what this “repentence ” is? It defines it, in the Catechisms in the sections on Holy Baptism. The Large Catechism makes this remarkable statement: “Baptism is nothing other than … repentence!”

    Here is what it says. And I will now quote precisely (from http://www.bookofconcord.org):

    These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify ..putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, … a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued.
    For this must be practised without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth.
    66] But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it. 67] Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, haughtiness.

    73] Where, therefore, faith flourishes with its fruits, there it has no empty signification, but the work [of mortifying the flesh] accompanies it; but where faith is wanting, it remains a mere unfruitful sign.

    74] And here you see that ..repentance, 75] … is really nothing else than Baptism.

    For what else is repentance but an earnest attack upon the old man, that his lusts be restrained, and entering upon a new life?

    Summary:
    Repentence is Mortification of the flesh [ the Aristotelian practice of self-virtues] in the “Narrow sense” (FC, SD, “Law and Gospel), and…
    is Mortification + Sanctification [done, alone by the practice of showing up, of our free will, to hear a sermon and God´s Word] in the Broad meaning or Baptismal meaning of the word “repentance”.

    Like

    1. I am, and thanks.

      Still receiving feedback — also reading same on other blogs. Will try and do a summary post at some point, when I can wrap my mind around the various points of view.

      UPDATE: Just read “Fearsome”‘s posts. Remain amazed at the reactions this subject still garners among clergy and laity. I don’t know if there is simply confusion on the topic or a confusion of terms.

      Like

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