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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Commenter: If one minimizes the Law... one minimizes the Gospel.

(This post was amended on 7/3/2013 to add a quote from the Lutheran Confessions)
(This post was amended on 2017-05-16 to add quote from Bente's Historical Introduction)
I received a comment on the previous blog post that bears an extended reply:
"Re Natural Law: if one minimizes the Law, also by denying natural law, one minimizes the Gospel."
I suppose your statement could be understood correctly, but so could the term "in view of faith" (intuitu fidei).  But just as Walther sounded the alarm against the danger and false usage of "intuitu fidei", so I say the danger of the above statement is the reason it should be abandoned.  The reality is that there is no proper  distinction  between Law and Gospel unless the Gospel (i.e. the Doctrine of Justification) is correct.  And when the proper distinction is lost, then all  Christian teaching is lost.  The danger of your statement is that the poor sinner might think that he had better not "minimize the Gospel", therefore he had better not "minimize the Law" but rather maximize the Law – for his motivation against sin, for his salvation's sake.  And so I will stick to Pieper's teaching that one must avoid "maximizing the Law" because of this danger... because the Law "shows my sin" and never saves.  Ah, but when the pure Gospel is preserved, there the proper distinction can be maintained and so the Law is preached in all its spiritual usage – with a severity to drive the carnally secure from their carnal security. (Christian Dogmatics, I, xi)

Some Bible verses come to mind:
  • Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. – Romans 3:28
  • For what the law could not do, [Luther- "for what was impossible for the Law"...] in that it was weak through the flesh,... – Romans 8:3
 ==>>The Law is not minimized in these verses, it is excluded!  If the Law is not excluded for our salvation, for our justification, the Christian religion falls.

George Stoeckhardt and Friedrich Wyneken are witnesses to the fact that it was not the Law that comforted them, it was only the pure Gospel.

The Lutheran Confessions speak on this also (as Pieper quotes C.D. II, 458) in the Apology (or Defense) of the Augsburg Confession, Article III, paragraphs 144-145:
[144] But works become conspicuous among men. Human reason naturally admires these, and because it sees only works, and does not understand or consider faith, it dreams accordingly that these works merit remission of sins and justify. This opinion of the Law inheres by nature in men's minds; [145] neither can it be expelled, unless when we are divinely taught. But the mind must be recalled from such carnal opinions to the Word of God. We see that the Gospel and the promise concerning Christ have been laid before us. When, therefore, the Law is preached, when works are enjoined, we should not spurn the promise concerning Christ. But the latter must first be apprehended, in order that we may be able to produce good works, and our works may please God, as Christ says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing.
And Franz Pieper says it best when he wrote:
Only by hearing the Gospel is conversion brought about; no man can remain in the state of conversion unless he continues to use the Gospel.... men will be converted to God only when Law and Gospel are preached in the proper order and with the proper distinction. –  (Christian Dogmatics, II, 459): 
Pieper and Walther are hardly "Antinomians" – Pastor Jeremiah Gumm of the WELS testifies to how harsh and blunt Walther's preaching of the Law is... "for the letter killeth", 2 Cor. 3:6.  Do you want to maintain the "proper distinction between the Law and Gospel"?  Then learn from Walther on "The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification".

There is a lot of usage of terms in recent CPH publications like this: God's people should find out God's will for their lives", which is much like how the Reformed talk.  Baker Book House churns out book after book after book (hundreds!) with "God" talk along this line. There is a lot of "God" talk today, but not much about this will of Him:
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4
I will accept your thanks for my site... with some reservations. I will thank you that your statement has driven me back to Pieper's Christian Dogmatics to refresh myself on the teaching of "the Law" and "natural law" (especially vol. 1, pgs 374-375, vol. 2, pgs 458-459, etc).  Even I, BackToLuther, am not so strong that I don't need to go back and sit down at the feet of Pieper and listen to pure Christian teaching.  If the teaching on the "Natural Law" does not also "stress its inadequacy and utter insufficiency in bringing man to salvation", then it is not Christian teaching.

I would more have enjoyed a comment from you like the 2 commenters (Jeff & Timothy) on where their eyes were opened to the Gospel that Walther and Pieper restored and defended... on the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.

It is evident this subject is not a minor one and I will soon be publishing an English translation from Australia of Franz Pieper's 1892 essay "The Practical Importance of the Right Division of Law and Gospel." [Nov. 26, 2014: see this blog post for this essay]
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2017-05-16 Addendum: See also F. Bente's Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions (Triglotta p. 161) where he states  in section XVII. The Antinomistic Controversy, #183:
“Wherever the Law is despised, disparaged, and corrupted, the Gospel, too, cannot be kept intact. Whenever the Law is assailed, even if this be done in the name of the Gospel, the latter is, in reality, hit harder than the former. The cocoon of antinomianism always bursts into antigospelism.”
This is brought out in Eugene Klug's Getting into the Formula of Concord, pp. 47-48. 

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