Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weak on sanctification

And they seem to be proud of it too.

I went to a country church a few Sundays ago. There was a fine elderly gentleman who greeted with me and sat beside me all through the divine service. After the service, they had fellowship over coffee/tea. We got to chat at length and I got the chance to speak to him of my journey. This fine Christian man, now retired used to work for a prominent publishing company. He said he took care of the religious publishing division of the company and he got to read a lot of theological stuff. If I am not mistaken, he even explored for a time, other denominations outside the Lutheran Confessions too. So after hearing of my journey, he asked me with much concern - "do you not consider Lutherans weak on sanctification"? I said, "yes, I do, and I am perplexed by it because you would think that the one strong on justification would have been strong on sanctification too". It seemed my gentleman host has been bothered by this too and did not know what to do with it. See another one bothered about this too.

Over the years, I have heard Lutherans in the Internet proudly said of themselves - weak on sanctification. Mind you they do not say this with shame, they even boast about it. Like one time, I heard a pastor said that when he is amongst some Baptists - the more he would drink beer in front of them, so he could show them how free he is. I suppose the man wants to purposely offend.

1 Cor 10:9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 1

It is one thing to admit one is weak on sanctification but sad about it, versus saying one is weak on sanctification and boast about it too. I would say the first one is coming from a repentant heart, the second one I suspect is coming from an anti-nomian bent (either consciously or unconsciously).



28 comments:

Pr Mark Henderson said...

The old Lutherans were definitely not weak on sanctification, but they enjoyed their beer too [although your point about being considerate of weaker brethren is valid, Lito, even if they are Baptists! ;0)]. I do believe a lot of our problems, such as the antinomianism you mention, stem from an ignorance of orthodox Lutheran theology (Chemnitz, et al) and a consequent distortion of the faith into modernistic "hyper-Lutheranism". Ad fontes - back to the sources, I say!

LPC said...

Pr. Mark,

The old Lutherans were definitely not weak on sanctification

That is what I gathered reading the BoC.

I do not know where that concession of being weak on sanctification came from. Of course, I would dare say the Baptists are also weak in sanctification (although by this I mean the consciousness of sin, the more we age in Christian life, the more we realize how sinful we really are).

Ok there is something I do not know, what is the modernistic "hyper-Lutheranism"? Could that be the triumphalism I hear some LCAust pastors criticize in so called conservative Lutheranism?

Pride goes before destruction so the good book says.


LPC

Gregory L. Jackson said...

UOJ = Antinomianism. The UOJ advocates know they represent the "anything goes" attitude toward the Commandments, so they excuse it with "weak on sanctification."

I heard that excuse, verbatim, from a WELS pastor.

William Weedon said...

Might be of interest on this topic:

http://weedon.blogspot.com/2007/09/progression-in-sanctification.html

Mediaeval said...

LPC,

greetings once again! I finally got a google account so I can leave comments on your site once again. I see UOJ is still a hot topic!

From the friend formerly known as joel in ga

LPC said...

Dr. Greg,

You hit the nail on the head and where I am getting at.

I will explain later.

LPC

LPC said...

Hi Joel,

I am wagering that this easy concession to "weak on sanctification" motto has something to do with how one understands the Waltherian doctrine of UOJ. It seems the natural consequence of this. I will also explain as I respond to Pr. Will.

LPC

LPC said...

Pr. Will,

I went to your post. Some points there definitely worth saying. However I have a different take on your first cut of the human nature when you said I would propose that the human nature is thus something distinct from the old Adam (which is the corruption of the nature) and the New self (which is the perfection of the nature).


You correctly pointed out the BoC Furthermore, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be healed only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. However this healing is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come

My observation is that when you dwell on Walther's Theology, you get a Manichaeism which confuses the sinful human nature with SIN itself.

This confusion is never allowed in the BoC. The BoC clearly distinguishes original sin from human nature.

I find the BoC you quoted explaining the whole matter succinctly and in an orthodox fashion I add.

Our human nature is sick, there is no need to have a separate category as you propose, though I applaud your attempt at an explanation.

That sin that taints us simply dies, in other words, it is a restoration in one sense.

In this case too - it is worth studying the nature and character of this faith in the Gospel. If this is an empty hand that grasps that is already there - hence, justification is faith that you are already justified as per 1932 LC-MS Brief Statement Article 17a, then this faith is not a miracle brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Now I just dropped a bombshell in my alluding to Manichaeism so I will let careful thought prevail first so we can discuss this stuff in a calm and intelligent manner.


LPC

LPC said...

In summary, when one confuses sin with human nature itself, then there is no expectation from him/her that there is any qualitative change necessary, hence, it violates the teaching of BoC - one then assumes that Faith brought about by the Holy Spirit can co-exists with mortal sin.

This is the reason why I say that when a Lutheran admits he is weak on sanctification and is sad and sorry about it, that is a state of repentance. But when a Lutheran admits he is weak on sanctification and is proud about it - the guy is simply outworking the fruit of his doctrine - which is anti-nomianism, the result of quasi universalism.


LPC

Gregory L. Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gregory L. Jackson said...

Lito, UOJers are not weak on sanctimony. That is their strong suite.

LutherRocks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LutherRocks said...

Sanctimonious piety I dare say. "I forgive you regardless of how you feel about it."...even though they may actually be in the wrong. I just want to scream...

William Weedon said...

Hi, Lito.

I'm not sure I understand how you connect Walther's theology with the false teaching of Manichaeism, which, of course, Walther utterly rejects. It was Flacius who confused human nature with the sinful corruption, and the Lutheran Church (including Walther!) always has taught that he got that utterly wrong. Do you have a specific citation of Walther you had in mind to demonstrate your point?

LPC said...

LutherRocks,

One time I got involved in a discussion in one blog - he is an ex-Calvinisticus like me. At any rate there was someone over reading the exchange of comments and this over reader told me to repent, but that they have forgiven me already anyways.

I said, but God has forgiven me already before I ever repent, why do I need that if I already believe I have been forgiven already before anything else. Kinda circular but I guess you know why I too wanna shout.

LPC

LPC said...

Pr. Will,

I will look for a proper quote from Walther which I believe is being mis-applied due to his idol status amongst his admirers.

I come from a thesis that Walther made some good points but made some mis-statements too or over statements you might say.

Off the cup, my observation is that when one does Law-Gospel ala Walther, the 3rd Use of the Law vanishes. When the 3rd Use of the Law vanishes, and you do not get to hear that, then what is left but to equate human nature with sin itself?


My thinking is that a Christian by virtue of that Faith created by the HS does like the Law, after the inner man as even St. Paul said. It is wrong to say he is lawless, or to think that he is a walking sin, or to threat him as such, rather the Christian obeys the Law he just does not obey it perfectly.

There is sanctification, it has begun, it is just not completed here and not in his life time.

I will come back later on a quote that way it is a concrete and sensible discussion.

LPC.

William Weedon said...

That would be the same Walther who preached:

The Christian should be a person of progress. He should never stand still, but always seek to go forward. He should always be found actively doing the will of God, always in battle for the treasure, always in the race for the crown of glory. With each day he should come closer to the goal, that is, seeking to become holier and more like Christ. In the narrow sense, sanctification is nothing but the restoration of the image in which God created us, that is, in His image. There are three parts to sanctification: 1) an always greater illumination of the mind; 2) an always greater purification and renewing of the heart; 3) an always greater zeal for a life of good works. (God Grant It!, p. 271)

Or this:

Woe, therefore, to those who, after they have come to faith in Christ, think they have now received a license freeing them from earnest pursuit of sanctification. Woe to those who believe that because of their faith the heavenly Father will readily overlook in them the same sins He punishes in unbelievers. Woe to them if they then secretly engage in whoremongering or adultery or shameful unnatural self-defilement of their bodies, or if their hearts give way impure lusts and desires, thereby making their bodies, which should be a temple of the Holy Ghost, a cloak of the spirit of unchastity. ...Woe to them if they become drunk, lie to extricate themselves from some difficulty, fill their tongues with slander, or become seized with anger to the point of plotting revenge against one who has offended them. (God Grant It! p. 274)

Or this:

The Apostle Paul says here that pardoned Christians are not released from the duty of holiness but that all people are obligated to this duty. In fact, the call of grace, which they have received, has no purpose other than their holiness. (God Grant It! p. 275)

Many, many more along the same vein. I think that one ends up with a distorted notion of Walther, if one knows only *Law and Gospel* and not his fine sermons. FWIW.

LPC said...

Pr. Will,

Thanks so much for these illustrative quotes.

I am trying to think if the quotes you provided are actually supporting my theory, because these quotes are from God Grant It and not from Law & Gospel book.

My thinking is that perhaps Walther itself may not be the problem but the fans of Walther who misinterpret him. Often I hear statements being made by pastors in the internet that virtually wipe out the 3rd Use of the Law and these guys are Walther fans. To me this happens when the 2nd Use is all there is.

I appreciate your the points you made in your blog when you say this...
I would propose that the human nature is thus something distinct from the old Adam (which is the corruption of the nature) and the New self (which is the perfection of the nature).


My question with that formulation is in the language (terms). Human nature is not the same as sin itself but what about the new self? The statement now has 3 categories. Human nature, old adam and the new self. The distinction between our human nature and sin itself counters Manichaeism (your old Adam terminology), but what about the new nature? Could it be bringing it back in?

My point is that when God created us, he said it was good for in the garden we were originally made in the image of God already, there was nothing wrong with it until sin. Is not regeneration the restoration of our former state in the garden?

There is an old axiom of the Fathers that come to my mind, I forget who said it - anything that is not assumed (by Christ) can not be redeemed.

Anyway I have not forgotten my homework, I need to supply some quotes from Law & Gospel where Walther might be misinterpreted - I only made some mental notes when I was re-reading it.

I will be back as soon as I finish some things I need to do for little old me.

LPC

sma9231961 said...

Are Lutherans weak on grace?

Huh?


Who gives grace?

Who sanctifies?

Lutherans ought be STRONG on sanctification, because that is also something else which WE DO NOT DO.


This is Lutheranism 101.

sma9231961 said...

.

Read Luther's explanation to the 3rd article of the Apostle's creed.

And then there is St. Paul who said, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion...IF ONLY YOU WILL COOPERATE."

LPC said...

sma,

Lutherans ought be STRONG on sanctification, because that is also something else which WE DO NOT DO.

Es la verdad.

You would have thought that is why I wonder.


LPC

sma9231961 said...

Muchas gracias, amigo!

sma9231961 said...

Forde on Christian growth:

"Christian growth is forgetting about yourself."

Mediaeval said...

Another reason Lutherans are weak on sanctification, I perceive, is that in Lutheran preaching there is often so much emphasis on justification--UOJ aside--that the topic of practical holiness gets relegated to the sidelines. I can't remember the last time I heard someone in the pulpit talk about mortification of the flesh. I'm a little surprised no one mentioned this in the comments yet. Isn't this the elephant in the room?

joel in ga

LPC said...

Joel,

You have a good point. I think the sermonators are afraid that if they speak about sanctification they will become Calvinist who turns everything to a law. Though this gets the point of Calvinism, it misses the point of Lutheranism.

I think Walther's admirers are prone to this. Though they say they believe in the 3rd use of the Law, virtually they function as if there is no such use.

Going back now to watch the Paquiao-Mossley fight.

LPC

joel in ga said...

LPC,

I think you are quite right about the undue fear of Calvinism.

The fight--hmm, I wonder which one you favor? :^)

LPC said...

Joel,

Some Lutherans believe that since Calvinists got the sacraments wrong, everything they spew out must be wrong too. Yet they do not do that with Romanists. They do not conclude that since Rome got justification wrong, everything they spew out must be wrong too. No sir, not at all.

Observe if I am correct, watch how Lutherans speak about Calvinism and how they speak of Romanism. They got nothing good to say.

In truth Calvinism and Romanism are founded on the same philosophical paradigm.

I think the proper course is to accept where a thing is right, and reject the thing that is wrong. Even Scripture speaks this way.

Yet Lutherans under play what Calvinism might have gotten right, the 3rd Use and in the end, virtually denying it. They do not want guilt by association. Well... when we deny what is right, we are wrong.

Lutherans want to be distinguished negatively rather than positively.

The truth too is that both Calvinism and Romanism miss the real idea of the means of grace though both have a taxonomy for the term - 'means of grace'. Both really do not have it like Lutherans do.

In Australia, I have detected a certain cynicism by some pastors here against the "triumphalism" they have observed amongst their Lutheran counter parts in the US.

That word "triumphalism" is how they labelled it.

LPC

joel in ga said...

LPC,

Taking a charitable approach such as you have boldly advocated here would probably help end Lutheranism's self-imposed isolation (I speak as a WELSer). Good point also about triumphalism. Let's leave that where it belongs--with the Anglicans :^)