Law and Gospel

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Pergamum, Jan 27, 2011.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think this phrase deserves it own thread.
  2. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    The WHI guys are against the Emergent Church trend of "living the gospel" (e.g., one statement they are especially critical of is the quote attributed to Francis of Assissi: "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words."). They are attacking the idea of a neo-Social gospel instead of the proclamation of the gospel through preaching.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Law and Gospel

    Last I checked John Frame was not emergent, nor Bridges or Piper or Keller or Mahaney and they all use the same terminology. See the link by Frame.
  4. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for that link. It really helps crystallize some issues.
  5. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    Great article, thanks Perg. Does this commentary not describe to some degree the constellation you mention?

    6. Law/Gospel and the Christian Life
    The Formula’s distinction between law and gospel has unfortunate consequences for the Christian life. The document does warrant preaching of the law to the regenerate, [7] but only as threat and terror, to drive them to Christ Epitome, VI, 4. There is nothing here about the law as the delight of the redeemed heart (Psm. 1:2; compare 119:34-36, 47, 92, 93, 97, 130, 131, Rom. 7:22).
    The Formula then goes on to say that believers do conform to the law under the influence of the Spirit, but only as follows:
    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. (Epitome, VI, 5).
    So the law may threaten us to drive us to Christ. But truly good works are never motivated by any command, threat or reward.
    In my view, this teaching is simply unbiblical. It suggests that when you do something in obedience to a divine command, threat, or promise of reward, it is to that extent tainted, unrighteous, something less than a truly good work. I agree that our best works are tainted by sin, but certainly not for this reason. When Scripture presents us with a command, obedience to that command is a righteous action. Indeed, our righteousness is measured by our obedience to God’s commands. When God threatens punishment, and we turn from wickedness to do what he asks, that is not a sin, but a righteous response. When God promises reward, it is a good thing for us to embrace that reward.
    The notion that we should conduct our lives completely apart from the admonitions of God’s word is a terrible notion. To ignore God’s revelation of his righteousness is, indeed, essentially sinful. To read Scripture, but refuse to allow its commands to influence one’s conduct, is the essence of sin.
    And what, then, does motivate good works, if not the commands, threats, and promises of reward in Scripture? The Formula doesn’t say. What it suggests is that the Spirit simply brings about obedience from within us. I believe the Spirit does exactly that. But the Formula seems to assume that the Spirit works that way without any decision on our part to act according to the commands of God. That I think is wrong. “Quietism” is the view that Christians should be entirely passive, waiting for the Spirit of God to act in them. This view of the Christian life is unbiblical. The Christian life is a battle, a race. It requires decision and effort. I am not saying that the Formula is quietist (Lutheranism rejected quietism after some controversy in its ranks), but as we read the position of the Formula, it does seem that quietism lies around the corner from it.
  6. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    From Footnote 7 in the article:

    But in Lutheranism, it is often said that “the law always accuses.”

    The "law always accuses" would be fairly synonymous with "the law only condemns".
  7. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 115:

    Why then does God so strictly enjoin the ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?

    First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; secondly, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.
  8. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Please don't tell me you cited this catechism section to support the idea that the "the law always accuses" or the "law only condemns".
  9. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    No, but he is transformationalist, which creates all kinds of ecclesiological problems, and might be considered as the germ out of which emergent ideas have developed.
  10. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    Ursinus, on Q. 115

  11. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Please read on:

  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Rev. Winzer:

    I am sorry, I don't know what a 'transformationalist" is. Can you explain?
  13. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks, Rev. Winzer for supplying what was left out. Again.
  14. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Thankyou for pointing this out. Please note that in this repudiation we have an avowal of one of the tenets of Antinomianism. It is in this statement: "The law does what only the law can do: reveal God’s moral will. In doing so, it strips us of our righteousness and makes us aware of our helplessness apart from Christ and it also directs us in grateful obedience. No one who says this can be considered an antinomian." I regret that I have to inform those who strongly advocate Dr. Horton's position that this is precisely what the Antinomians of history have taught. I urge you, Christian brethren, to prove all things. Please compare Dr. Horton's statement with the repudiation of Antinomianism by Zacharias Ursinus which I quoted a few posts ago. He explcitly rejects Dr. Horton's Antinomian tenet and insists that the law joined with the gospel "also commences to become the Spirit, which is effectual in the godly." There, my dear Christian brethren, is the point at issue. One should be on his guard against being entrapped in an error on a most serious point: "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." I point it out to you once more, not for the sake of fear-mongering, but in Christian love, that you might be delivered from the counsel which causes to err. What do you believe? Do you hold the antinomian tenet of Dr. Horton that the law does what only the law can do? or do you maintain with reformed theology throughout the centuries, as represented by faithful teachers on many continents, what Dr. Horton considers to be a most serious error, that the law is changed by the Spirit into something that is effectual in the believer's progressive sanctification? They are two different views, repeatedly contrasted, which an individual cannot believe at one and the same time.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
  15. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    The question was whether there is anything in the HC which is analogous to "lex semper accusat."

    According to HC 115, there is clearly a pedagogical aspect to the law, even in the tertius usus. Ursinus says as much.

    No question whether, as Ursinus says, the gospel transforms our relation to the law. Amen and amen!

    The law is wonderful, holy, and good but WE SINNERS are not yet, fully sanctified, and therefore the law continues to accuse us sinners, even as the Spirit is at work in us to conform us, to continue our regneration (in the old sense, in which Ursinus was using that term, of sanctification) in the image of Christ.

    It's not an either/or choice. It's a matter of Both/And.

    The problem has never been the law.

    The problem has always been with sin and with sinners.
  16. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Rev. Winzer,

    How would question Question 97 of the Larger Catechism fit in this discussion?

    Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?

    A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet, besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The Standards are a unit. The Catechism must be read in the light of the Confession and as a teaching instrument of it. Westminster Confession 19.6, after declaring the use of the law to a believer in the same sense as Larger Catechism 97, proceeds to state, "The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace." Promises, God's approbation of obedience, blessings -- UNDER GRACE. That is the point which needs to be rediscovered today.
  18. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Thanks Rev. Winzer!
  19. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    No, the question was NOT whether there is a pedagogical or first use of the law. The question was whether the law "only condemns". That is your theological proposition. Just by the mere light shed by the section of Ursinus which you curiously omitted, it does no good for you to continue to pretend "only" doesn't mean "only". Better that you recover the Reformed confession and amend your theological proposition: The law and gospel are NOT always opposed. The law does NOT only condemn.
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yes, and that would mean that we recover the old confession, not write a new one. The cloudiness with which this subject is being enveloped is argument enough why the reformed are not in suitable circumstances under Providence to write a new confession of faith.
  21. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Dr. Clark,

    This is the theological propostion Elder Van Der Molen is responding to.

    THESES THEOLOGICAE (Theological Propositions)
    It is on this page under Soteriology.
    Westminster Seminary California
  22. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    To be fair, Randy, # 6 Under Ethics in the same link states this:

    I've read elsewhere that Dr. Clark has held to the three uses: The Three Uses of the Law « Heidelblog

    Note in the above link Dr. Clark says, "We don’t say that it only accuses, however! There’s a difference."

    There is much value in this thread, but it shouldn't be sidetracked by arguments born from misunderstanding. I may have missed it, but when I read through this thread I don't see Dr. Clark asserting what mvdm is stating:

    I note that “lex semper accusat” is not really the same thing as "the law only condemns." I think one can say, on one hand, "the law always condemns" and also say that the law is the norm for Christians.

    So, if there are to be accusations, let them at least be accurate.
  23. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    I didn't realize that you were responding to the theses theologicae. I thought we were discussing the HC 115 and Ursinus' interpretation.

    My concern here is with the claim that there is nothing in Reformed theology like lex semper accusat. There is. The teaching of HC 115 is that, even in the third use, the law continues to accuse. That doesn't mean that is all that the law does.

    Thesis 5.36,

    comes under the heading soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. Relative to soteriology, that's a true statement. Relative to our justification, narrowly and our salvation broadly, the law does not and cannot help us. It's got no power to help us. It's not the intended function of the law to deliver sinners from the judgment of the law. The law says: do and live. The law gives us sinners no power to do and live.

    There is an entire section of the theses devoted to the Christian life and the function of the law. Clearly any reasonable person who reads through the theses and reads 5.36 in context and continues to section 8 would see that the "only" of 5.36 is not intended to be taken absolutely but relative to section 5.

    Here are some selected theses from section 8:

  24. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I think I am trying to be fair Vic.

    I think I understand what you are saying at the same time. I am not declaring that they deny the third use of the law. I am not declaring them to be antinomian either. I am thinking that the Gospel is being dumbed down to just the doctrine of justification. Some of what they are saying can lead to it. Just as anything I say can lead to something that is wrong.

    Vic, In my previous post I was only trying to clarify where the word only was coming from. It was brought up in another place on this topic. Dr. Clark noted that it was under the topic of soteriology. Is Soteriology solely concerned with the doctrine of Justification? I don't believe it is. Am I incorrect here? That proposition is listed under soteriology. It does say the Law only condemns in the proposition. Maybe Dr. Clark hasn't been clear enough and needs to restate the proposition in the context of justification. After all the sentence itself is incomplete and needs correction. At least it appears that way to me.

    So maybe he needs to be more clear. Maybe he just needs to be more definitive concerning the distinct use of the Law as it relates to justification by faith alone instead of making this blanket statement as it relates to the whole subject of Soteriology. Sorry I am not making sense. I need to get to bed. I had a busy day.

    Anyways, I am have to get up early and go get some medical tests run. I have more to ask and state. But I just don't have the time. I will say that Dr. Cornelius P. Venama's review of 'The Law Is Not of Faith' is very enlightening and there are some strong questions that I am obtaining for the Westminster California guys. I wish I had more time to spend on this but I don't.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
  25. proregno

    proregno Puritan Board Freshman

    Here is my 2 cents :scratch:

    Along comes the theonomist and see the danger of 'antinomianism' and therefore emphasize 'sanctification' while acknowledging justification by grace through faith alone, the first impossible without the latter.

    Some do not like this (personality clashes from 'both' sides maybe ?), and therefore blame and brand them as being 'legalist', because they do not 'emphasize' justification 'enough' (WTSC/WHI group?)

    The latter group see the dangers of 'legalism', and therefore emphasize 'justification' while acknowledging the necessity of sanctification as the result/fruit of justification by grace through faith alone.

    But, some do not like this and label them as 'antinomian' ... etc etc etc ...

    David wrote: "I long for Your salvation, O LORD, And Your law is my delight." (Ps.119:174)

    Gospel and Law, distinct but unbreakably linked together, are both the delight of the Christian man and the true Church of our Saviour and King, Jesus Christ.

    Someone else wrote it already: if someone emphasizes some specific doctrine, then it does not necessarily mean they reject another important doctrine. Maybe it is all about 'balance', teaching all the doctrines as faithfully as possible (Acts 20:27), but I think no man on earth, not the best of our theologians could ever do it. Therefore we need to be understanding and careful with all the 'labels', both the 'legalist' and 'antinomian' label, from both/all camps within reformed christianity.

    HC "Q. 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments? A. No; but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live not only according to some, but all the commandments of God."
  26. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Vic, if you can tell me how "only" permits exceptions, I'd be happy to hear it. Also, I well understand that those who hold to this law/gospel DICHOTOMY {vs. "distinction"} will go on to say they affirm the third use of the law. But saying it doesn't mean they have a good theological ground for making such affirmation. F.V. folk make seemingly clear statements affirming justification by faith alone, but that does not mean it is so when we consider other portions of their theological statements.

    So affirmations of the third use of the law must be read in the context of the corpus of their project to re-fashion covenant theology {e.g. republication thesis and its progeny R2k}. I could flood this thread with such context, but I suspect we'd prefer to keep this more narrowly focused. In the meantime, Randy's suggested reading of Venema's review would help spell out this fundamental problem more thoroughly for you.
  27. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Mark, my point was that "lex semper accusat" does not mean "the law only accuses." When I looked over the thread, I didn't see anybody introduce "only" except when you did (on this thread). I was rushed, so may have missed it.

    The argument is based on your reading that Dr. Clark is saying "the law only accuses." I just didn't see him say that here.

    As has been pointed out, he has said something like that elsewhere, and elsewhere it has been discussed. My problem is importing arguments from other threads or realms that one cannot follow in a self-contained thread. People stop by and read one thread and will not get what is going on because they haven't been reading all the related threads at once.

    And, as indicated by Dr. Clark's response, he didn't know what the argument was about either. So, to be clear, a challenge in any given thread needs to articulate exactly what is at dispute. Please don't assume that everyone on the board has been following every discussion and reference to other threads. Try to keep each thread sufficiently self-contained or hyperlink to points raised elsewhere.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  28. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I thought this might be useful for the thread. This is from Venama's book, Accepted and Renewed in Christ. See pp.240-247 for how he interprets Calvin to say there is both a contradition and a harmony between Law and Gospel.

    Accepted and Renewed in Christ: The ... - Google Books

    Perhaps, when refuting Neonomianism, removing the cancer may involve carving away some of the good cells they are attached to, not for the rejection of them, but rather the better restoration of them. Once they have the proper separation of Law and Gospel, then they will be better suited to recover the Law's proper use for the believer. That's how I tend to see it.

  29. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    Semper is a Latin adverb for "always." The simplest Latin adverb for only = modo.

    The slogan "lex semper accusat" = "the law always accuses." It doesn't mean that that is all that the law does.

    All confessional Protestants have always taught that the Law does more than accuse. I was just reading Luther's lectures on Genesis (c. 1535-36) in which he taught, at length, the normative use of the moral law for the believer. The Lutheran Book of Concord teaches the third use of the law explicitly. Remember, the Harmony of Reformed Confessions (1580) included the Augsburg Confession. The antithesis that some seek to draw between the Lutheran confessions and the Reformed confessions, on the normative/third use of the law wasn't highlighted in the classical period.
  30. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Dr. Clark, I do want to offer a humble comment on the last statement of yours which I have highlighted. I hope (and sincerely pray) that you will read the comment in light of what I say in the remainder of this message and in light of the profound respect I have for you and your erudition.

    I think it should be a plain, demonstrable fact that, at least among the British Reformed (I can't speak for the continental theologians), certain teachers felt the tension between their expressions of Law/Gospel and the Lutherans' expressions thereof. A reading of Burgess' Vindiciae should make that evident (lectures 26 and 27, for example). While feeling the tension, it appears they also wanted to minimize its appearance - and the specific, historical reason for that seems plain: the Antinomians were attempting to claim Luther for their side. Rutherford and Burgess go to great lengths to rescue Luther from the Antinomians and claim him for orthodoxy. In this context, it should be understandable that no one would want to highlight what they considered problematic statements from orthodox Lutheran teachers, or to highlight any point of similitude between their tenets and those of the Antinomians. Let me be emphatically clear: these British theologians considered their Lutheran brethren superlatively Orthodox with respect to justification; on this article, I think it is inescapable that the differences between them resulted in an "in-house divergence," if I may use the term. They did not regard them as antinomians. This is not to say, however, that they did not regard the nature of the disctinction itself to be Antinomian or similar to antinomian principles. They were not considered Antinomians, but this says nothing as to what they thought of the nature of certain tenets they espoused through inconsistency.

    Now, bringing this to bear in the present discussion, I hope I can attempt a mediation of sorts? I do not mean a middle-ground between the teachings, as I of course realize there are two fundamentally different principles being espoused; rather, I mean to mediate between persons. I would not dare presume to speak for Mr. Winzer, but, unless I am mistaken, he has not stated that "Michael Horton is an Antinomian;" I think he has, indeed, stated that he believes certain tenets which are rooted in antinomian misunderstandings are being espoused, being maintained in tension with an orthodox gospel. Whether one agrees with the statement or not, I do hope all will see how those two differ. (Of course, if Mr. Winzer is asserting more than this, I will leave it to him to state that plainly.) The very nature of internet discussion boards has made this discussion (in my opinion and to my regret) get entirely out of hand, and I fear that in in the minds of many people more seems to have been said than has been said. Just as Rutherford or Burgess, I believe, would see the historically equiavalent issue as a fundamentally in-house debate, I think the same can be said for any similar statements which have been made here: again, if this is not the case, I am sure Mr. Winzer will correct me as I do not intend to speak for him. I think it is beyond safe to say that all members of this discussion board are profoundly thankful for the great service Dr. Horton has done in making such wonderful Reformed truths known so widely through his various engagements - his constant speaking out in behalf of the visible, institutional church, his emphases upon the means of grace and corporate piety, his stand against "contemporizing" the church, his advocacy of confessionalism, etc. are things for which everyone here has great respect, and for which they embrace him as a brother and co-laborer in Christ. Those who differ with him on these in-house issues, though they disagree earnestly and strongly, do so in that spirit, and I hope all will see that and seriously consider their participation and the manner of their conduct in these conversations, and whether it becomes the gospel of Christ.

    I can honestly say, as a more general note, that these recent threads have grieved me, and have strongly turned me off from internet discussion boards as a fruitful medium of conversation. I would personally love to see a discussion of the law/gospel distinction continue, both with respect to its historical and theological nature: it is a profitable discussion in an area in which my own understanding has evolved in recent years. I entreat all, however, to examine their hearts and only take up this discussion with a prayerful spirit.

    Moderator Note
    Please note none of the above was said in a role as a board moderator; only as a fellow board member and brother in Christ; also, the bulk of this message is not aimed chiefly at this thread, but in consideration of the numerous recent threads on the topic.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
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