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Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace discuss Bavinck on Lutheran view vs. Reformed view of the Third Use of the Law in the Theology forums; The reason that I am posting this is that I believe that this has much to do with the ongoing 'Law/Gospel distinction debate'. I also ...

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    Bavinck on Lutheran view vs. Reformed view of the Third Use of the Law

    The reason that I am posting this is that I believe that this has much to do with the ongoing 'Law/Gospel distinction debate'. I also think that this sheds some light as to why objections are being raised.
    There are those who say that there is no difference between the Lutheran view and the Reformed view when it comes to the Third Use of the Law. However, according to Bavinck, that is not true.

    Lutheran View
    Lutherans almost exclusively have an eye for the accusing and condemning function of the law and therefore know no higher bliss than deliverance from the law. Law is necessary only because of sin. In the state of perfection, there is no law. God is free from the law; Christ was in no way subject to the law for himself; the believer is no longer subject to the law. Granted, Lutherans do speak of a threefold use of the law, not only of a political, that is, civil, use for the purpose of restraining sin, and of a pedagogical use to arouse the knowledge of sin, but also of a didactic use of the law to be a rule of life for believers. This last use [Third Use], however, is solely necessary since and insofar as believers still continue to be sinners and have to be restrained by the law and led to a continuing knowledge of sin. By itself, when faith and grace come on the scene the law expires and loses all its meaning.
    Reformed View
    "The Reformed held a very different view. The political use and the pedagogical use of the law have only become "accidentally" necessary because of sin. Even when these earlier uses cease, the most important one, the didactic or normative use, remains. The law, after all, is an expression of God's being. As a human being Christ was naturally subject to law for his own sake. Before the fall the law was inscribed on Adam's heart. In the case of the believer, it is again engraved on the tables of his heart by the Holy Spirit; and in heaven all its inhabitants will conduct themselves in accordance with the law of the Lord. The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel. Freedom from the law, therefore, does not mean that Christians no longer have anything to do with that law, but the law can no longer demand anything from them as a condition for salvation and can no longer judge and condemn them. For the rest they delight in the law in their innermost being [Rom. 7:22] and meditate on it day and night [Ps. 1:2]. For that reason that law must always be proclaimed in the church in the context of the gospel. Both law and gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, are the content of preaching. Accordingly, among the Reformed the law occupies a much larger place in the doctrine of gratitude than in that of misery. [Here Bavinck has a footnote providing bibliographical references relating to the views of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Zanchius, Witsius, De Moor, Vitringa, Schneckenburger, Frank, and Gottschick.]
    [Emphases mine]

    Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4. 2008 Edition. pp. 454-455.
    If you want to read more, you can access Dr. Kloosterman's translation HERE.

    Note: I am in no way implying that the 'Law/Gospel distinction' should be rejected because it is said to be primarily Lutheran. It is clear to me that this distinction is part of Reformed theology. However, it makes me wonder why there are those who insist that there is no difference.
    Joel de Leon
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    R. Scott Clark's Avatar
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    At the risk of committing further Puritanboard heresy: Could Bavinck have erred in his assessment of the Lutherans? Did Bavinck tell the truth, the whole story or did he repeat a received story about Lutherans? I've certainly found Lutherans of the same period repeating received, false, stories about Reformed theology and the Reformed confession.

    Before someone else says it, I'm no Bavinck, but I do read Luther and some of the older Lutheran theologians and I have read the Book of Concord. Read Luther's Large Catechism (1529) where he teaches the third use extensively.

    The Epitome of the Book of Concord, on the Third Use says:


    VI. OF THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW.

    ----------

    STATUS CONTROVERSIAE.

    The Principal Question In This Controversy.

    1] Since the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be urged or not upon regenerate Christians. The one side has said, Yea; the other, Nay.

    AFFIRMATIVA.

    The True Christian Doctrine concerning This Controversy.

    2] 1. We believe, teach, and confess that, although men truly believing [in Christ] and truly converted to God have been freed and exempted from the curse and coercion of the Law, they nevertheless are not on this account without Law, but have been redeemed by the Son of God in order that they should exercise themselves in it day and night [that they should meditate upon God's Law day and night, and constantly exercise themselves in its observance, Ps. 1, 2], Ps. 119. For even our first parents before the Fall did not live without Law, who had the Law of God written also into their hearts, because they were created in the image of God, Gen. 1, 26f.; 2, 16ff; 3, 3.

    3] 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith.

    4] 3. For although they are regenerate and renewed in the spirit of their mind, yet in the present life this regeneration and renewal is not complete, but only begun, and believers are, by the spirit of their mind, in a constant struggle against the flesh, that is, against the corrupt nature and disposition which cleaves to us unto death. On account of this old Adam, which still inheres in the understanding, the will, and all the powers of man, it is needful that the Law of the Lord always shine before them, in order that they may not from human devotion institute wanton and self-elected cults [that they may frame nothing in a matter of religion from the desire of private devotion, and may not choose divine services not instituted by God's Word]; likewise, that the old Adam also may not employ his own will, but may be subdued against his will, not only by the admonition and threatening of the Law, but also by punishments and blows, so that he may follow and surrender himself captive to the Spirit, 1 Cor. 9, 27; Rom. 6, 12, Gal. 6, 14; Ps. 119, 1ff ; Heb. 13, 21 (Heb. 12, 1).

    5] 4. Now, as regards the distinction between the works of the Law and the fruits of the Spirit, we believe, teach, and confess that the works which are done according to the Law are and are called works of the Law as long as they are only extorted from man by urging the punishment and threatening of God's wrath.

    6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7, 25; 8, 7; Rom. 8, 2; Gal. 6, 2.

    7] 6. Thus the Law is and remains both to the penitent and impenitent, both to regenerate and unregenerate men, one [and the same] Law, namely, the immutable will of God; and the difference, so far as concerns obedience, is alone in man, inasmuch as one who is not yet regenerate does for the Law out of constraint and unwillingly what it requires of him (as also the regenerate do according to the flesh); but the believer, so far as he is regenerate, does without constraint and with a willing spirit that which no threatenings [however severe] of the Law could ever extort from him.

    NEGATIVA.

    False Contrary Doctrine.

    8] Accordingly, we reject as a dogma and error injurious to, and conflicting with, Christian discipline and true godliness the teaching that the Law in the above-mentioned way and degree is not to be urged upon Christians and true believers, but only upon unbelievers, non-Christians, and the impenitent.
    Does Bavinck's summary adequately account for this Lutheran language?
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    Actually, Dr. Clark, parts of the Book of Concord quote lead me to wonder whether Bavinck may have a point. I'm not sure, though, so perhaps you could elucidate a few sections.

    5] 4. Now, as regards the distinction between the works of the Law and the fruits of the Spirit, we believe, teach, and confess that the works which are done according to the Law are and are called works of the Law as long as they are only extorted from man by urging the punishment and threatening of God's wrath.

    6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7, 25; 8, 7; Rom. 8, 2; Gal. 6, 2.

    7] 6. Thus the Law is and remains both to the penitent and impenitent, both to regenerate and unregenerate men, one [and the same] Law, namely, the immutable will of God; and the difference, so far as concerns obedience, is alone in man, inasmuch as one who is not yet regenerate does for the Law out of constraint and unwillingly what it requires of him (as also the regenerate do according to the flesh); but the believer, so far as he is regenerate, does without constraint and with a willing spirit that which no threatenings [however severe] of the Law could ever extort from him.
    What the Book appears to be saying is that an unbeliever (unregenerate) will obey commands only by coercion. On the other hand, the believer is not entirely regenerate (the Book appears to be using "regenerate" to mean actual sanctification), but so far as he is regenerate, he does not need the law, considered as threatenings and rewards, in order to fulfill its demands. In fact, his obedience, to be true regenerate obedience, cannot take note of threats, punishments, or rewards. So, it is the still unregenerate (yet to be sanctified) part of the believer's nature that the law speaks in its law-ness. This, anyway, was what I gathered from the above portions.

    Perhaps, though, my reading is colored by my prior reading of Paul Althaus' The Theology of Martin Luther, which includes a chapter, "Law and Gospel." In this chapter, Althaus argues that Luther affirms the third use of the law, but it is for believers only insofar as they are still carnal and not led by the spirit. “As long as the Christian is still ‘flesh’ and ‘old man,’ the law is not abrogated for him as it is for the new man…. Insofar as the Christian is still an old man, the law must still carry out its spiritual function on him and show him his sin.” As the believer is sanctified, the Spirit teaches the new man what to do without the help of the law, but the law remains useful for us insofar as we are not fully filled with the Spirit. According to Althaus, Luther also makes the distinction between "the works of the Law" being coercive and the spontaneously offered "works of grace."

    In short, Althaus' reading of Luther aligns perfectly with Bavinck's reading of Lutheranism, and seems to fit what I bolded in the Book of Concord. As I understand Reformed theology, it does not teach that true obedience is totally free from consideration of threats, punishments, and rewards. In fact, does WCF 14.2 not state the opposite?
    2. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.
    Charlie Johnson
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    M. A. Villanova University
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    Oecolampadius's Avatar
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    Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for posting your response to this thread. I am a reader of your blog and I admit that I had you in mind when I said that there are those who state that there's no difference between the Lutheran and Reformed perspectives on this matter. I've been waiting for your response to Charlie Johnson's post. I know that you're a busy man but I would really appreciate it if you could take the time to respond once again.
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    I find this thread fascinating over all but want to point out that I'm more interested in determining streams of thought within Reformed orthodoxy and how they compare to streams today. While the Book of Concord may provide a framework for a third use of the Law, I certainly don't see any reflection in current Lutheran writings that there is a robust use of it. I find Bavinck to ring true at the "street level" when you read what Lutherans write. Luther also had a robust view of the bondage of the will that was softened in later Lutheranism.

    I guess a fundamental question would be whether you could find many Lutheran ministers who would heartily agree with the below (as I believe it is a great summary of the Reformed view of the Law):
    Quote Originally Posted by Oecolampadius View Post
    The Reformed held a very different view. The political use and the pedagogical use of the law have only become "accidentally" necessary because of sin. Even when these earlier uses cease, the most important one, the didactic or normative use, remains. The law, after all, is an expression of God's being. As a human being Christ was naturally subject to law for his own sake. Before the fall the law was inscribed on Adam's heart. In the case of the believer, it is again engraved on the tables of his heart by the Holy Spirit; and in heaven all its inhabitants will conduct themselves in accordance with the law of the Lord. The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel. Freedom from the law, therefore, does not mean that Christians no longer have anything to do with that law, but the law can no longer demand anything from them as a condition for salvation and can no longer judge and condemn them. For the rest they delight in the law in their innermost being [Rom. 7:22] and meditate on it day and night [Ps. 1:2]. For that reason that law must always be proclaimed in the church in the context of the gospel. Both law and gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, are the content of preaching. Accordingly, among the Reformed the law occupies a much larger place in the doctrine of gratitude than in that of misery. [Here Bavinck has a footnote providing bibliographical references relating to the views of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Zanchius, Witsius, De Moor, Vitringa, Schneckenburger, Frank, and Gottschick.]
    In other words, it may be historically interesting that Lutherans in the past might have once had a strong understanding of the third use of the Law but is it relevant today when you don't see any reflection of it in modern writing/preaching?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Semper Fidelis View Post
    In other words, it may be historically interesting that Lutherans in the past might have once had a strong understanding of the third use of the Law but is it relevant today when you don't see any reflection of it in modern writing/preaching?
    True dat. I have talked to several really old - and some young - LCMS chaplains and the response has been fairly monolithic. I really enjoy LCMS chaplains - for a number of reasons - but I've learned a number of things from them. One of which is that practically speaking, the Lutheran doctrine of salvation begins and ends with justification. As soon as you start talking about fruit of the spirit being evidence of new birth, they say "that's works salvation" and are very adamant to back away from that. Second, they'll confess that the 3rd use of the Law is technically there in Lutheran theology, but it is most definitely not a point of emphasis.

    While not exactly related, nonetheless talking about emphasizing something not normally given emphasis reminds me... I humbly propose that this is possibly what Horton has done - he's taken concepts that are technically present in the writings of Reformed writers, but were never functionally dominant themes, and has given them emphasis. I don't want to be seen as "slandering" the guy, because I have great respect for him, but his seems to be - in my humble estimation - a Lutheranized Reformed theology. Maybe that's good, I don't know. Or maybe I'm off base.
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    ChristianTrader is offline. Puritanboard Graduate
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    What I find interesting is that Rev. Winzer has pointed out that certain emphasis were declared to be antinomian by the Reformed, and then over the years it has lead to....Antinomianism.

    CT
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    Here are a few articles/links for those interested in doing some further study on the topic:

    - Some Lutheran theologian perspectives on the Law/Gospel.
    - The last article is from a Church History Professor at Gordon Cromwell that describes the history behind the different emphasis of Luther and Calvin, and the later Puritans.

    http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scae...antheology.pdf (Good analysis of the distiction between Luther and Calvin regarding sanctification)

    "The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel" by C.F.W. Walther

    http://www.crossings.org/archive/ed/CFWWalther.pdf

    >Walther's Law and Gospel

    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PD...5-035_JETS.pdf
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    Quote Originally Posted by moral necessity View Post
    ...The last article is from a Church History Professor at Gordon Cromwell that describes the history behind the different emphasis of Luther and Calvin, and the later Puritans.

    ...

    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PD...5-035_JETS.pdf
    Not related to the topic but this quote is a keeper from the article:

    ...the ascetic method of sanctification was by amputation, not by healing. If the
    believer is having trouble with sex, give up sexual relations. If he or she is
    having difficulty with covetousness, give up private property. If he or she is
    tempted by power, give up independence. The monastery and the nunnery are
    sanctification machines that guarantee the surest victory over the sinful use
    of money, sex and power...
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    Bavinck
    The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel
    I don't know what Bavinck means here and don't think all the Reformed would agree with him. The redeemed will now and forever keep the law in the context of the Gospel.

    E.g.
    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.(John 13:34, ESV)
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    armourbearer is offline. Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Tallach View Post
    I don't know what Bavinck means here and don't think all the Reformed would agree with him. The redeemed will now and forever keep the law in the context of the Gospel.
    I don't think Bavinck meant to imply that the "effects" of each are eternal or temporary, but rather their "origin." The law is a part of man's original consitution, the gospel was given post-fall for the purpose of restoration.
    Yours sincerely,
    Rev. Matthew Winzer
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    Victoria, Australia

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Tallach View Post
    Bavinck
    The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel
    I don't know what Bavinck means here and don't think all the Reformed would agree with him. The redeemed will now and forever keep the law in the context of the Gospel.
    The context wherein Bavinck made that statement is the preaching of the Word. A few sentences after that he states: "For that reason that law must always be proclaimed in the church in the context of the gospel. Both law and gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, are the content of preaching."

    And the title of the chapter from which that quote was taken is "The Spirit's Means of Grace: Proclamation"

    Therefore, with that context in mind (i.e. the proclamation of the Word), I interpret Bavinck to have said that because, at the Second Coming and afterwards, there will be no more Gospel proclamation (Offer of Salvation); no more call to repentance and faith in Christ.
    Joel de Leon
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    I think it's a mischaracterization to say that the Lutheran view of the Law is devoid of "desire" and chiefly concerned with "threats."

    Luther on Psalm 1:2:

    The "will," which is here signified, is that delight of heart, and that certain pleasure, in the law, which does not look at what the law promises, nor at what it threatens, but at this only; that "the law is holy, and just, and good." Hence it is not only a love of the law, but that loving delight in the law which no prosperity, nor adversity, nor the world, nor the prince of it, can either take away or destroy; for it victoriously bursts its way through poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell, and in the midst of adversities, shines the brightest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WAWICRUZ View Post
    I think it's a mischaracterization to say that the Lutheran view of the Law is devoid of "desire" and chiefly concerned with "threats."

    Luther on Psalm 1:2:

    The "will," which is here signified, is that delight of heart, and that certain pleasure, in the law, which does not look at what the law promises, nor at what it threatens, but at this only; that "the law is holy, and just, and good." Hence it is not only a love of the law, but that loving delight in the law which no prosperity, nor adversity, nor the world, nor the prince of it, can either take away or destroy; for it victoriously bursts its way through poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell, and in the midst of adversities, shines the brightest.
    The point still stands that for Luther, considerations of reward and threat are inappropriate for the regenerate. And, though he may not say this every time he talks about law, when he distinguishes "works of law" from "works of grace," the central feature of "works of law" is their threatening and rewarding nature.

    By the way, and this may not be material but it may be, Luther's works on these Psalms dates from very early in his career, either 1513-1515 during his first Psalms lectures, or in 1519, when he did some more commentary work on the Psalms.
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    Bavinck says:

    "Lutherans almost exclusively have an eye for the accusing and condemning function of the law and therefore know no higher bliss than deliverance from the law. Law is necessary only because of sin."
    But the Epitome of the Book of Concord says,

    "6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7, 25; 8, 7; Rom. 8, 2; Gal. 6, 2."
    Notice the phrase in boldface. I take this to mean as obeying the Law out of love for the Law. Taken alongside my previous citation of Luther's commentary on Psalm 1:2, it appears Bavinck's generalization may not be too accurate after all.

    It seems for Luther, the Law both threatens the Christian and is loved by the Christian, which I think aligns with the Reformed position.
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    As has been stated in previous threads I think pointing to what Luther or even the Book of Concord says concerning this subject is a bit anachronistic to the point at hand. Others have made mention and it has been my experience that contemporary Lutheran practice and theology would not necessarily agree with these statements.
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    jogri17 is offline. Puritanboard Junior
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    Dr. Clark,
    Do you think it would be helpful if we Reformed folk actually read historic and modern Historic dogmatics from the Lutheran tradition? I don't usually see people actually quoting Lutheran dogmatics when certain folk say the Lutheran and the Reformed are not that far apart.

    If your response is yes, then where does one start?
    Joseph P. Grigoletti II
    Bellingham, WA
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  19. #19
    jwright82's Avatar
    jwright82 is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    Quote Originally Posted by jogri17 View Post
    Dr. Clark,
    Do you think it would be helpful if we Reformed folk actually read historic and modern Historic dogmatics from the Lutheran tradition? I don't usually see people actually quoting Lutheran dogmatics when certain folk say the Lutheran and the Reformed are not that far apart.

    If your response is yes, then where does one start?
    I gave some good papers from Lutheran points of view on this subject. Here is a good resource that I use Concordia Theological Seminary - Walther Library - Pro Bono Ecclesiae.
    James
    Pinewood Presbyterian church (PCA)
    Jacksonville, FL
    My blog: http://thereformedcafe.wordpress.com/.

  20. #20
    armourbearer is offline. Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by jogri17 View Post
    If your response is yes, then where does one start?
    By learning Latin. The Lutheran scholastics haven't been translated.
    Yours sincerely,
    Rev. Matthew Winzer
    Australian Free Church,
    Victoria, Australia

    "Illum oportet crescere me autem minui."

  21. #21
    WAWICRUZ's Avatar
    WAWICRUZ is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    So is the argument akin to the "Calvin against the Calvinists" controversy, i.e., Lutheranism somehow veered away from Luther's original thought on the Law?

    Privileged to be learning from you guys.
    Warren Wilfred L. Cruz
    Pasig Covenant Reformed Church
    Trinity URC Church Plant
    Philippines
    Six Forms of Unity
    http://underdogtheology.blogspot.com

  22. #22
    SolaScriptura's Avatar
    SolaScriptura is offline. Puritanboard Softy
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    Quote Originally Posted by WAWICRUZ View Post
    So is the argument akin to the "Calvin against the Calvinists" controversy, i.e., Lutheranism somehow veered away from Luther's original thought on the Law?
    Lutheranism's doctrinal formulations and ethos owe more immediately to Melanchthon than to Luther. Indeed, Chemnitz is practically more significant as well. (There are many others, of course.) Futher, the pietist movement arose from within Lutheranism - as did theological liberalism. I wonder how/if the reactions against these movements are still felt in orthodox Lutheran theology.
    Ben
    Chaplain, US Army
    Columbia, SC
    TE Potomac Presbytery, PCA
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    "Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, 'would an idiot do that?' And if they would, I do not do that thing." -- Dwight Schrute

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  23. #23
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    Oecolampadius is offline. Puritanboard Sophomore
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwright82 View Post
    Here are some more papers by contemporary Lutheran theologians to elaborate on this.
    http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/beck...ofmissouri.pdf.
    James, first of all, thank you for providing the links. I have read or skimmed through most of them but the one above is the one that I found most helpful.

    After reading the article written by Carl Beckwith, I am now convinced that if Bavinck was referring to classical Lutheran doctrine pertaining to the Third Use then he was most likely misinformed. However, we also have to put into consideration that perhaps he made that observation based on the contemporary Lutheran practice during his time since, as I have pointed out previously, the context of the quote is the Proclamation of the Word or Preaching.

    However, I also discovered from this article that the Lutherans themselves are concerned about the effect of overemphasizing the "Law/Gospel distinction." According to the article, such an overemphasis or viewing it as the "ultimate horizon for theological reflection" could lead to Antinomianism. For those who wish to read the specific paragraph where this is mentioned, check out the post I made on the Law and Gospel thread.

    So, instead of becoming wary of Lutheran perspective on the matter, I believe we should learn from them.
    Joel de Leon
    under care - Christ Presbyterian Church, OPC
    SLC, UT

    "To doubt God’s mercy because our faith is feeble, is rather to rely upon our faith than upon the Lord. It is not the excellency and great measure of faith that makes us righteous before God, but Christ whom faith does receive and apprehend: which a weak faith can do as well as the strongest.” - John Ball (Puritan)
    1 member(s) found this post helpful.

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