Timothy Kauffman's Recent Critique of Brown, Tchividjian & Keller

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by The Sola System, Mar 14, 2012.

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  1. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I am not aware of any reformed writers who refer to grace as "unmerited divine influence." I see where you're going with this, but, are you sure that you want to lose sight of grace still being "unmerited favor"? It's a fine tightrope we have to walk, and many, like myself, cringe when we hear phrases like this. It lead me back to the old scraping within myself and the absence of the joy and delight that unmerited favor brings. It alters the "guilt, grace, gratitude" formula, because grace now becomes influence instead of a motivator to good works.

    I'll bow out for a while, as I know you're wanting your questions answered with Jack.

    Blessings and fellowship!
  2. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member


    This is a most excellent question.
    Do I want to lose sight of grace being just a narrow definition of this? No. Not if it is Biblical. Do I want the full understanding of Grace to be understood. Yes. Do I believe it has been? NO!. Grace has been dumbed down. Is it free and unmerited? Yes. Are you sure you have the right understanding of it. I have posted for years on this topic and it is just now being questioned by someone in this manner. Thank you.

    Wow, the search engine for years back is not helpful.
    Gotta find old posts I made.

    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    The great difficulty in this discussion is trying to precisely put one's finger on the problem in a way that those who are being criticized will recognize themselves in when criticized.

    It's not really the issue that this movement denies the necessity of personal holiness. You will hear them speak of the third use of the law as well as the definitive nature of sanctification.

    Where I believe the main point of departure is on the definition of the Gospel and the relationship of the Law to it. I was listening to D.A. Carson recently who observed that the problem with some teachers is not that they don't have certain insights into an aspect of theology but that they make certain issues all-controlling.

    I believe the all-controlling issue in this is a Law/Gospel distinction that sees Law as "Do" and Gospel as "Done". Put another way, Law is imperative (do this) while Gospel is indicative (Christ has done). You will often here this movement speaking of a confusion of the Law/Gospel distinction whenever law is seen as anything sanctifying in the life of the believer. Here's an excerpt that describes the view well:

    I think, on the surface of things, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Sanctification is preserved in the Gospel after all. The issue, if you can detect it, is how the Gospel is defined.

    Notice that law is seen as commands and Gospel is seen as Promise and so there's no way in which commands can become promise. A divide is made because the controlling Law/Gospel distinction is of this nature.

    What the WCF operates on, however, isn't a view of the Gospel or the Law that sees one as Promise and the other as command. The classic understanding is that, while we are dead, Law only condemns because our flesh will only rebel against its holy precepts. In the Gospel, however, men are brought from death to life. The reason the Puritans spoke of turning commmands into promises is not because the nature of the law has changed (it reflects God's holy character) but because the nature of the person has changed.

    This is why Calvin spoke of the primary use of the law as what we might call the 3rd use. If I'm born again, the law does not come to me as "Do this and you will live..." but "Because you're alive, you have been set free to do this...." As Luther put it: We are free to obey. Slavery in the Scriptures is not that we are enslaved to commandments but that we are slaves to sin. The freedom we have in Christ is the freedom to obey His commands. Our new natures are not in hostility to God so that all we can do is sin.

    This is why the Law=Do and Gospel=Done distinction is not helpful but, because it's all controlling, the only way the Law can be viewed is as something that reveals a command that I cannot perform. Notice how it is noted that it "...cannot become the Gospel..." because the Gospel is restricted to the notion that God has Promised to accomplish everything. When I'm talking about God accomplishing righteousness for us then I'm talking Gospel in this schema but when I'm talking about commands of God that we can't accomplish perfectly I'm talking Law.

    But this gets back to my note about how Carson said that people tend to make one true aspect all controlling. It's not that the Gospel is not a Promise or that I have to then call commands I cannot perform perfectly Gospel. The issue is this: the Gospel is defined much more broadly than just God accomplishing righteousness in Scripture. The Gospel is also God transporting us from death to life. The Gospel includes our participation in the age to come where all things are new. It includes that we were slaves ton sin and now are free.

    I am not the Gospel and my actions are not the Gospel but it is the Gospel that made it possible for me to live a new life. I'm adopted by God and He's now my father. That's Gospel. It's not merely a promise of something that God has accomplished but it is a present reality for me because I'm now His son. I'm freed to obey God now. It's not only a promise of that which God has accomplished but a reality that I enjoy today. How am I to view the commands of my father? Must I choose to think of them as unable to do anything but condemn me for my inability to perform them? May I not delight in them? May I not see in these the words of my Father? When He is disciplining me by my failure to be a son, may I not stay rooted in the Promise of my status as a son, and view the discipline of the law not as condemning but as a rod in the hand of a loving Father?

    You see, I think the problem is that the Law/Gospel distinction makes us suspicious of God's law as only being able to condemn me and not as anything that can sanctify. Notice how the above sees only the Promise of accomplished work (done, indicative) as the only thing that can sanctify. The Law cannot serve that purpose under that schema. Put plainly, they believe the Law cannot sanctify because they view Promise/Done/Indicative as Gospel and, by this definition, only this can sanctify. The nature of the Gospel is limited in the process to describe the things that God has done. Now, in saying this, I'm not saying it's not utterly fantastic to note what God has done but I also think it sad to limit the definition of the Gospel to make God's law impotent to sanctify when I believe that part of what the Gospel bears with it is a change in our status to where the Law can now serve the purpose it was truly intended for.

    I know this has been circuitous but I hope helpful. It's not so much that this idea denies law altogether and it doesn't deny definitive sanctification altogether. What is believes, however, is that only the announcement of God's completed work can be the means for sanctification. It tends to downplay or outright deny any role that the law can have in sanctifying the believer. Any effort or sweat that the believer is seen to put into this is viewed with suspicion as the believer is not resting in Christ's accomplished work.

    From my perspective, this is a basic denial of the light of nature and our own analogy of human parenting. My sons never, for one moment, doubt that they are my sons. I've seen them work really hard to please me and never, for one moment, did they believe they were doing this in order to be sons of Rich. They did this because they were my sons. We need to return to a view of sanctification that has a proper view of the Gospel and the Law.

    Before Christ came we were dead in sins and trespasses. In our blindness we thought this was the way: "Do and live".

    When the love of Christ dawned in our hearts, our lives were transformed. We were no longer slaves to sin but slaves to Christ. Christ put sin as power to death on the Cross for us. We have been united to His indestructible life in the Resurrection and we are freed to obey. We live and because we live, it opens up the entire Kingdom of God to us where the commands of God are not a burden but the loving words of a Father.

    This is the proper distinction. It is the distinction between death and life. It is not a distinction between Gospel=Done and Law=Do. The Gospel includes that Christ has secured our freedom to obey and the new universe created by the Gospel makes the entire Word of God sanctifying to that end.

    NOTE: I've read and re-read what I wrote and am convinced it's a bit rough and needs some editing. I'm sorry if I'm not as articulate as I could be if I had more time but I typed this out quickly so please forgive me if there's stuff that's difficult to read.
  4. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I'm afraid I don't know exactly which blog posts or which post in this thread you want me to focus more time on. I've read what you posted in this thread. I carefully read the Kauffman article that began the thread. I responded to that early on, agreeing with some of what he wrote but contending that his critique failed to accurately represent what the Grace Movement guys usually mean by "effort."

    Yes, I'm defending the Grace Movement guys. I like to defend people when I feel their views have been misunderstood or misrepresented, even if I disagree with them. But in this case, I do agree in large measure.

    - I agree that we must foster a passion for holy living.

    - I agree that to better appreciate our justification, our adoption, or any of God's definitive grace to us helps in our ongoing quest for greater holiness. It fosters gratitude and love for our Father.

    - I agree that to better appreciate the promises of eternal life, glorification, or any of God's other promises for his children also helps in our ongoing quest for greater holiness. The "hope of heaven" is part of what keeps us going.

    - I agree that our definitive sanctification is part of the good news of God's grace to us. We are changed and made able to obey God. To better appreciate this also helps. It gives us confidence in our battles against sin and keeps us from defeatist or lax attitudes, which would be inappropriate for God's holy people.

    - I agree that our ongoing sanctification is also part of the good news of God's grace to us in Christ. Understanding this, we ought to strive for holiness dependently, faithfully looking to God instead of merely striving on our own as if his work in us is already complete. This too helps in our quest for holiness, giving us confidence that works alongside real spiritual power to overcome sin.

    And I could go on. I could list many, many other things God gives us that help us to be holy. But I don't feel a need to try to list all of them every time I mention one of them. If I mention appreciating our justification, for instance, I would like folks not to assume I deny the others.

    Some of the Grace Movement guys have been rightly critiqued for emphasizing how we must appreciate our justification to the exclusion of other things that also help us to be holy. But this doesn't mean that what they have to say about appreciating our justification is wrong. It's actually a good point. They just might do well to branch out sometimes.

    They've also been critiqued here for speaking against "effort." That, I think, is a less valid criticism. I've not known any of them to be opposed to the sort of effort that strives, very hard, alongside the Spirit. As long as it's an in-touch-with-Christ sort of effort, they applaud it.

    Finally, the discussion of what is most helpful in our quest for holiness must take into account the individual. Some people need more warnings. Others need more reminders of some aspect of God's grace. The skillful pastor knows his people.
  5. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    This is true but the Law also showed me someone who I could trust. I was actually drawn to God because of the Law. I wanted to know someone like this. That is something that a lot of people don't get. I have led a few people to Christ because of His beauty that is revealed by the law. Purity is a wonderful thing to long for. Especially since we know we don't posses it. In our right minds we all want someone we can love and trust. The Law showed me who that was. And I need Him and want Him so desperately. Sorry if this is off topic. Thanks Rich.
  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Jack I tried to help by making the print bold. Is this really that hard?

    BTW, I whole heatedly love this.
  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor


    Good thoughts. Expained well. Thank you.

    Just keep in mind this (and I think you said something like it early on): Not all who believe that the announcement of God's completed work is a great help in living a holy life would also apply the law/gospel distinction the way you spoke of it. For example, I love to remind believers of their justification, adoption, and so on. I think it's a critically important help in living a holy life. But I still believe the law is also a critical and helpful tool in attaining holiness for those who are born of the Spirit.

    Now what would you say about this statement:

    The law easily feels burdensome, though, and is not helpful—even in believers—when the good news of completed justification, adoption and such are forgotten or ignored. So most of the time, when we teach the law it is wise to teach these things alongside it.

    ---------- Post added at 10:32 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:02 AM ----------

    I'm afraid I have little interest in another extended discussion about how broadly we ought to use the word "gospel."

    Suffice it to say that all of God's saving work is connected, and to remove any piece of it (including what God does in us) is an injustice to Christ and makes his triumph seem too small. Yet, it is often helpful to remember that the good works we do in Christ flow from his work for us; they are not equal to it. Jesus calls us to lose our lives "for my sake and for the gospel's" (Mark 8:35). So although our transformation is included in the gospel, there's also a sense in which the gospel and our good works done in Christ are not the same thing.

    Again, the word is not used in Scripture as it would be in a theological textbook. There's a range of meaning. We probably ought not to insist that everyone else always use it exactly as we tend to use it.

    Getting back to the topic, it this just a matter about usage of the word? Or are you trying to make a point about the nature of our effort in sanctification? Again, I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm just struggling to see the connection and to understand why this came up in this thread.
  8. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    There is nothing extended here. I just asked you a simple question. Can you answer simply? It isn't that hard of a question for you to answer. Just answer the question. There won't be any argument. Just say what you think. I just want to know what you think. Yes or No.

    Is the Gospel only an outward declaration as some have put it?
  9. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    No. But Scripture sometimes speaks of Christ's death for sin and his resurrection as the core of the gospel (as in 1 Cor. 15). So I don't get too riled up if some people use the word that way. Paying attention to that core can be helpful. It doesn't mean they deny the importance and connectiveness of God's transforming work in his children. No one I know does that.

    ---------- Post added at 10:54 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:48 AM ----------

    Ah, but simple yes or no is seldom the best way to answer that kind of question, as this thread shows. It opens the door for people to assume you believe things you might not believe, like what's happened to the Grace Movement guys when they've said simply that effort is bad. It'd be better to explain that a bit. Same thing with some of your questions. I want to be understood, not limited to one word that might be taken wrongly.
  10. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Jack. I appreciate that. Never said they deny the connectiveness.

    Yes, a simple yes or no refutes those who say that it is only an outward declaration. You have placed yourself in a theological bent now. Am I incorrect here? Especially when people make such blanket statements and accuse others of serious error because they think the Gospel is something that is outside of themselves.

    Am I misrepresenting you here? Just wanna make sure.

    Tell me if I incorrect here. I have a 21st birthday to do right now. My Son turned 21 today.
  11. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Um, I think you're correct about me. I believe God's saving grace includes our personal transformation and ongoing sanctification. I'm not particular about whether you call it all "gospel" or use that word in a narrower sense.

    Broad sense: "Gospel" = all of salvation
    Narrow sense: "Gospel" = the declarative aspects of salvation

    I tend to use the word mostly in the broad way that includes ongoing sanctification. Yet I recognize that the Bible sometimes uses it more narrowly. And since sanctification is ongoing, it does build on the life we already have in Christ and on what God has declared of us. Therefore, I don't have a problem with people who say we grow in Christ as we more fully believe the gospel. That's one way to use the word. It still allows us to also affirm that personal Christian growth is, in a broader sense, itself part of the gospel.

    So what "camp" am I in?

    I think of myself as part of the Grace Movement. This is because I believe there's great value in the discipline of dwelling on all the aspects of God's grace to us. It helps to advance holiness. It's not the only thing that helps with holiness, but it does help greatly. This does not mean I will agree with everything that everyone associated with this movement might say. But I was mentored by men who were on the leading edge of the movement back in the 70s—men with a deep appreciation for the ongoing value of believing all the doctrines of grace. Their view of the gospel was never simplistic or small. It was large, powerful and Christ-centered. It produced humble people who acted with boldness and repented with joy.

    I don't find anything there inconsistent with Reformed theology or the passion of my friends here on PuritanBoard.
  12. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    First of all, I deeply apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Got tied up with other things, among them a young 8th grade lady who seriously needs to have boundaries and parenting... but that's another topic.

    I have not read your blog, I confess. I have seen it, have said "Oh cool! I'll have to check that out!" more than once... and have not. I've seen a couple of the headers for what you've posted here and said "Wow! I was thinking about that the other day! I'll have to check that out!"... and have not. Slothfulness and procrastination, unfortunately, have not been entirely ruled out of my life.

    As to the meat of your post above, I wholeheartedly agree... now. If you had tried to talk to me in my Arminian/pentecostal/early Nazarene days, I would have said "You can't talk about grace like that!" So zealous was I for making sure that people didn't forget the law that I had to (sometimes obnoxiously, now that I think about it more) hit people (figuratively) over the head about it anytime that grace was brought up. And it was an easy thing to do, because it's what I heard. It was "Yes, grace, yes forgiveness.... now eat some law!" I guess that's sort of the natural fallout for a system that believes in losing salvation, though.

    That's what Calvinism did for me; it made the gospel sweeter, richer, more meaningful, more relevant than it had ever been before. It made grace grace, and not just "grace, then law." Yes, obedience and sanctification come, but it's in gratitude rather than fear. I use the analogy of my relationship with my wife: am I good to her because I honestly love her, or just because I don't want her to divorce me? That's not a perfect analogy, but I think it makes the point well.

    Did your preaching in the Nazarene church occur prior to your coming to Calvinism?
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Well, if we forget we're adopted sons then we're acting contrary to who we are in Christ. When Christ tells us that "...if you love me, keep my commands..." then how do I look at this? Some will conclude that Love is the summary of the Law and the Law can only tell us what to do but can't give us any strength. This then gets re-translated to "Christ has loved for us and kept the commands for us...." In such a way of looking at it, I strip anything out of the idea of a disposition in me that can actually love (by Christ's power) and be impelled by His Spirit to do what He commands. Obviously, not perfectly, but I'm still a child of God now and I have in me the Spirit Who enables me. I believe, then, that I can see in myself a lack of commandment keeping that stems from a lack of love for Christ in my life. I pray not merely that I remember that Christ has died for my failure and has paid the penalty for my sin of loving less than I ought but I also pray that I might be transformed in such a way that His commands instruct me and build me up and sanctify me.

    It's not a matter of simply falling back on indicatives. I believe, again, that the differentiation is that the law has sanctifying power for the believer because he is a new Creation and God uses the Law toward that end. Some deny that the Law (as they conceive all imperatives to be) to have any sanctifying power but only indicatives but notice what the Confessions say:


    I. They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.


    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,414 so as thereby they are neither justified415 nor condemned;416 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;417 and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness,418 and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.419

    Notice that, in addition to show us how much we are bound to Christ for fulfilling it and enduring its curse we are provoked to thankfulness and provoked to express the same in our greater care to conform ourselves to it.

    In other words, the Law functions not only in one way (that Christ has fulfilled it and endured our curse - indicative) but it also provokes us for our good. God uses it to sanctify us according to the Confessions and this is denied by some.

    Again, it's not my point to deny that others see holiness as a requirement for believers but I think it is substantial that they deny that the law has any sanctifying power and this is the key difference. It arises out of a Law=Do/Gospel=Done distinction that I do not believe the Confessions support.
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    If you believe that the law is the "other thing" then you are not in agreement with the movement on this point.
  15. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I didn't have in mind just the law. But, yes, the law is a positive influence in a believer's life. It helps him to be holy.

    However, this does not mean the law alone is recommended. Preaching and teaching only the law (or mostly the law, where the indicatives are assumed but seldom explored with any depth) is not a helpful model for discipling. The indicatives have a critical role that ought not to be ignored. I work with kids and they, especially, tend to be hammered with imperatives and hardly introduced at all to the depths of Christ's love and grace in his indicatives. In my mind, this problem is what the Grace Movement addresses.

    If some relative newcomers to the movement who're still working this out have tipped things too far, I don't buy that their version defines the movement. Even if they sell some books. It's also possible that some of the stuff in some of those books remains helpful to believers who, through ignorance of grace, feel burdened by the law.


    I also want to sharpen myself when it comes to this issue, so I welcome suggestions for how to better communicate this (or tweak my theology, if that's needed). A HUGE difficulty within the Grace Movement is communicating these thoughts so that we speak to both (1) today's typical evangelicals and (2) theology-inclined folks who attend seminary and read the Puritans. Often, these two groups hear the same words and think we're saying very different things.
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Augustine seemed to have some insight into this: "It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud."

    Any "grace" movement that cannot speak of God giving grace to the humble is simply not a biblical grace movement.

    I honestly conceive the problem to arise because this is one of those "back to basics" movements. No other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid -- Jesus Christ. Very good! But once you have laid the foundation you must build upon it with "something." The possibility that one might build on it with wood, hay, or stubble does not justify leaving the foundation bare.
  17. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I'm sure this is something of a sidelight from a small perspective, but reading through this thread I was so struck by this statement of Luther's in Mr. Plauger's explanation of his thought. For in some sense it does ring so very true to what I have learned, and what I see in the lives of women I try to learn from: what are we here for, but because we are still, in ways we sometimes can't fathom, needful for one another, in serving one another here -- however much better it is to simply be with the Lord -- and certainly we can earn nothing further from Him with all these daily motions. But unless our good works are fundamentally God-ward -- accepted by, and taken up and used by, a gracious and merciful God -- it seems to me they can never be good enough for one another (however backwards such a statement seems). We would only destroy each other in the imperfection and the bitter futility of our efforts and the remaining corruption of our hearts if our works were not acceptable to, and sanctified by, our righteous Lord: it seems to me one of His greatest mercies to us, and one of the sweetest securities, that He promises to make His people a blessing on the earth, in spite of themselves.
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Mrs. Zartman, I understand you wouldn't take it in the wrong direction but I can see this is one of those striking statements that could easily be misunderstood and misapplied. It could easily be taken to undermine the fundamental truth that man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever. We cannot add to God's essential glory but the truth is that we are given the capacity as human beings made and renewed in the image of God to manifest, declare, and reflect His glory. It ought to be "for God" that good works are done. First, as a means of glorifying Him ourselves. Secondly, as a means of leading our neighbour to glorify our Father in heaven. What makes good works imperative is the fact that God requires them in order to manifest His glory. Any benefit that flows to our neighbour is entirely dependent on this God-centredness. If God-centredness is taken out of godliness we are left with a form of godliness which denies the power thereof. Again, I know sincere believers would not ordinarily take the statement in this direction, but it is worth clarifying the point for the sake of a little one who might be naively led astray by it.
  19. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Thank you Rev. Winzer. I always very much appreciate your clarity and your concern for even the small perspectives some of us are able to take away from these discussions. I was trying in a bumbling way to say something of the same about how our works must first be offered to God to even be profitable to a neighbor, but it is because His glory is the focus even in serving our neighbor (and it is a great comfort to me that He is so gracious in accepting our faulty efforts to glorify Him, by serving others).
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Mrs Zartman, there was definitely no bumbling in what you were saying, and I was only looking to affirm the insight you offered by drawing attention to the problem inherent in the statement. Some statements, like run-down houses, require so much renovating that it might be better to just tear it down and build another. Blessings!
  21. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    Rev. Winzer,

    And you're right, because Luther's theology does not build from this foundation of Calvin's. It's more of a two-kingdom citizenry approach, with duties for each.

  22. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Yes but his quote is still true and applicable. God has no need per se for our works in the sense that He depends on us for them in a needful way.
  23. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I agree very much...
  24. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Mr. Plauger, I appreciated your explanation of Luther very much. I thought that perhaps the quote was fine as mere *description*, but that in any sort of prescriptive light, it is problematic? (For one is then directing service to be focused laterally, rather than to the Lord.) It is only because God doesn't *need* our good works, that He can, in His fullness, receive our very imperfect efforts, and bless them to declare His glory, and to give to those who are in need. One also loses something of the wonder of a God who is glorified in our serving of one another (as He came and served us), if our works are not primarily done to His glory.
  25. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is equally true that God does not depend upon our works to supply the needs of our neighbour. The quotation is equivocal in the way it is using the word "need." If it comes back to the point that God "requires" our good works in relation to our neighbour, it is equally true that God "requires" good works in relation to Himself.
  26. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    You're welcome! I appreciate your thoughts and agree with them. I'm pulling this from memory, but, I think Luther saw things from the vantage that, in this earthly kingdom, we are called to serve man with our various gifts from God. God did not need anything from us, but his creation needed from him, and the means through which God met those needs was through each other. He leveled the field so that all works were considered good works, if they performed this fuction of being God's hands and feet and helped others. The housewife at home was performing equally as good of a work as the minister in the pulpit. In a time where the "holiest" men became monks and isolated themselves in monastaries, secular gifts were viewed as less important and seen as having no spiritual value. The idea of God placing man here as his vessels through which he provided for their care was not emphasized. Instead, it was spiritual to leave your service to others and your vocation and serve God. Common works did not please God; only fastings, prayers, and pilgrimages did. Luther brought a spiritualness to the vocational calling of man, that these were our good works. The easiest way for the common man to grasp this was to paint the picture of two kingdoms in which we serve. Both are under God's rule. Yet, in the earthly, we are God's instruments even in our vocations, whether we are the carpenter or the minister, and we don't have to feel guilty or less spiritual if we remain there. In the heavenly, we are God's children and worship him in spirit and in truth. His theology was very practical, and sought to address the problems of his time. He didn't start where Calvin did, namely that our highest calling was to glorify God. It probably wouldn't have done much, as the monks he was addressing would say they were doing that already.

    Here's a link to his "A Treatise on Good Works", if you're interested in skimming it. It's probably comparable to about a 30 page book, and will provide good insight into his theology on the topic. A Treatise on Good Works by Martin Luther - Project Gutenberg

    Here is an excerpt:

    III. If you ask further, whether they count it also a good work when they work at their trade, walk, stand, eat, drink, sleep, and do all kinds of works for the nourishment of the body or for the common welfare, and whether they believe that God takes pleasure in them because of such works, you will find that they say, "No"; and they define good works so narrowly that they are made to consist only of praying in church, fasting, and almsgiving. Other works they consider to be in vain, and think that God cares nothing for them. So through their damnable unbelief they curtail and lessen the service of God, Who is served by all things whatsoever that are done, spoken or thought in faith.

    So teaches Ecclesiastes ix: "Go thy way with joy, eat and drink, and know that God accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity." "Let thy garments be always white," that is, let all our works be good, whatever they may be, without any distinction. And they are white when I am certain and believe that they please God. Then shall the head of my soul never lack the ointment of a joyful conscience.

    So Christ says, John viii: "I do always those things that please Him." And St. John says, I. John iii: "Hereby we know that we are of the truth, if we can comfort our hearts before Him and have a good confidence. And if our heart condemns or frets us, God is greater than our heart, and we have confidence, that whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." Again: "Whosoever is born of God, that is, whoever believes and trusts God, doth not commit sin, and cannot sin." Again, Psalm xxxiv: "None of them that trust in Him shall do sin." And in Psalm ii: "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." If this be true, then all that they do must be good, or the evil that they do must be quickly forgiven. Behold, then, why I exalt faith so greatly, draw all works into it, and reject all works which do not flow from it.

    IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself when he does what is good or what is not good; for if he finds his heart confident that it pleases God, the work is good, even if it were so small a thing as picking up a straw. If confidence is absent, or if he doubts, the work is not good, although it should raise all the dead and the man should give himself to be burned. This is the teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv: "Whatsoever is not done of or in faith is sin." Faith, as the chief work, and no other work, has given us the name of "believers on Christ." For all other works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a sinner, may also do; but to trust firmly that he pleases God, is possible only for a Christian who is enlightened and strengthened by grace.

    That these words seem strange, and that some call me a heretic because of them, is due to the fact that men have followed blind reason and heathen ways, have set faith not above, but beside other virtues, and have given it a work of its own, apart from all works of the other virtues; although faith alone makes all other works good, acceptable and worthy, in that it trusts God and does not doubt that for it all things that a man does are well done. Indeed, they have not let faith remain a work, but have made a habitus of it, as they say, although Scripture gives the name of a good, divine work to no work except to faith alone. Therefore it is no wonder that they have become blind and leaders of the blind. And this faith brings with it at once love, peace, joy and hope. For God gives His Spirit at once to him who trusts Him, as St. Paul says to the Galatians: "You received the Spirit not because of your good works, but when you believed the Word of God."

    V. In this faith all works become equal, and one is like the other; all distinctions between works fall away, whether they be great, small, short, long, few or many. For the works are acceptable not for their own sake, but because of the faith which alone is, works and lives in each and every work without distinction, however numerous and various they are, just as all the members of the body live, work and have their name from the head, and without the head no member can live, work and have a name.

    From which it further follows that a Christian who lives in this faith has no need of a teacher of good works, but whatever he finds to do he does, and all is well done; as Samuel said to Saul: "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt be turned into another man; then do thou as occasion serves thee; for God is with thee." So also we read of St. Anna, Samuel's mother: "When she believed the priest Eli who promised her God's grace, she went home in joy and peace, and from that time no more turned hither and thither," that is, whatever occurred, it was all one to her. St. Paul also says: "Where the Spirit of Christ is, there all is free." For faith does not permit itself to be bound to any work, nor does it allow any work to be taken from it, but, as the First Psalm says, "He bringeth forth his fruit in his season," that is, as a matter of course.

    VI. This we may see in a common human example. When a man and a woman love and are pleased with each other, and thoroughly believe in their love, who teaches them how they are to behave, what they are to do, leave undone, say, not say, think? Confidence alone teaches them all this, and more. They make no difference in works: they do the great, the long, the much, as gladly as the small, the short, the little, and vice versa; and that too with joyful, peaceful, confident hearts, and each is a free companion of the other. But where there is a doubt, search is made for what is best; then a distinction of works is imagined whereby a man may win favor; and yet he goes about it with a heavy heart, and great disrelish; he is, as it were, taken captive, more than half in despair, and often makes a fool of himself.

    So a Christian who lives in this confidence toward God, a knows all things, can do all things, undertakes all things that are to be done, and does everything cheerfully and freely; not that he may gather many merits and good works, but because it is a pleasure for him to please God thereby, and he serves God purely for nothing, content that his service pleases God. On the other hand, he who is not at one with God, or doubts, hunts and worries in what way he may do enough and with many works move God. He runs to St. James of Compostella, to Rome, to Jerusalem, hither and yon, prays St. Bridget's prayer and the rest, fasts on this day and on that, makes confession here, and makes confession there, questions this man and that, and yet finds no peace. He does all this with great effort, despair and disrelish of heart, so that the Scriptures rightly call such works in Hebrew Avenama, that is, labor and travail. And even then they are not good works, and are all lost. Many have been crazed thereby; their fear has brought them into all manner of misery. Of these it is written, Wisdom of Solomon v: "We have wearied ourselves in the wrong way; and have gone through deserts, where there lay no way; but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us."

    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  27. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Thank you Mr. Plauger. That excerpt raises a jumble of questions/thoughts, but they are probably too simplistic and certainly too much off topic for this thread. In my much lesser readings than yours, I do find Luther electric and worth reading, even where one questions. It does certainly tie into the points you made earlier in the thread about the way the article handled Luther.
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