Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Same ole Song and Dance:

Here's a brief summary of my current thinking about church and its relationship to theology as stated many times here previously. This also touches importantly on the distinctions that exist between denominations (as posted on Pontifications). I thought a discussion (should you so desire) might be in order on my blog as well:

"Fitz Allison once remarked: “You know you are preaching the Gospel when people start calling you ‘antinomian’.” What Lutherans call ‘the offense of the Gospel’ is found predominantly in the fact that the Gospel denies our ability to do anything “good” or “righteous” apart from God’s gracious intervention. Calvinists believe that, post-conversion, Christians exist in a new relationship to the Law in that they can now, at least at points, respond positively to the Law (they posit the 3rd Use of the Law to be primary to the Christian life, i.e., as it exhorts/instructs the hearer, rather than, say, convicts, which is the 2nd Use), thereby in some sense co-operating with the Will of God. Lutherans dispute the matter. Melancthon and most Lutherans confess a 3rd use of the Law, though most still deny its primacy. Some Lutherans though, such as Elert, deny its practical reality altogether. This is the ground where the NP’s understanding of Grace and the more “hard-core” Lutheran one part ways (i.e., this is not covenantal nomism, the thing which the New Perspective on Paul suggests to be good Protestant Christianity). It lines up better with Calvin than Luther definitely, not to mention the end of Article IX of the 39 Articles that refers to “sin perpetuate in the regenerate”. I’m an Anglican who holds the Lutheran position on this issue (as it relates to the reception of the Gospel by human beings), though I part ways with the LCMS (and Luther) on other issues (e.g., sacraments, etc.). This produces a view that suggests the message of God for people is identical for both Christians and non-Christians alike. For this reason, no matter what any Lutheran believes, because they deny the 3rd Use’s primacy, Calvinists always think me/us anti-nomian. It is true that, in Luther’s famous commentary on Galatians, he speaks only of “The Two-fold Use of the Law” (I.e., not “The Three-Fold Use of the Law”). The distinction plays out significantly in a Sunday service. Both start with the Law (in its 2nd Use), but one service concludes with the Gospel (Lutheran), the other reasserts the Law in the sense that it can (supposedly) now be received post-Gospel (Calvin). It seems to me that this difference is not so glaring between the Roman Catholic understanding of the Christian life, and Calvin’s, though not Luther’s. Am I wrong in thinking there to be less tension where Calvin and Rome are concerned?"

9 comments:

David said...

When I was in Birmingham over Christmas, I heard Graham Tomlin speak about pastoring a "provocative church." He was quoting Dallas Willard and really pressing the third use.

I assume he is a Calvinist because the idea didn't necessarily seem to be personal piety as much as creating some slice of the coming kingdom for nonbelievers to see.

I also assumed this had to do with "Sola Deo Gloria" which some Lutherans have been hesitant to adopt.

I'm still puzzled as to why Calvinists believe the bondage of the will might be broken such that believers can synergistically work with God toward sanctification.

It would seem that "Sola Deo Gloria" would use the horizontal goodness of works driven by the new heart rather than the vertical which would be totally depraved and unacceptable.

So, where is the tie-in and what part of Scripture tells me I am capable of cooperating with God after conversion?

Ethanasius said...

Here is my problem. I do not believe in the primacy of the third use of the law. At the same time, the Apostle Paul seems to think that a freed-by-grace person will live a particular way, and he seems in certain places to command them, on the basis of being "in Christ," to live as such.

Therefore I cannot deny the third use (the didactic one) because the Apostle Paul seems to use it. Paul does seem to think that Christian people, fueled by the Holy Spirit, are enabled to be obedient to 'the law of faith.'

At the same time, the third use cannot be the primary one, namely because the "old adam" while dead in one sense is certainly still kicking away. The Calvinist version of this doctrine seems to naively assume too high an anthropology for Christian people.

I suppose I am a modified Lutheran. I cannot deny the third use out right, nor can I get rid of the many prescriptions in the New Testament. At the same time, I do not believe that the Calvinist vision is sufficiently biblical or realistic when it comes to the Law. For example, when Ferguson and co. speak of the "grace of the law," I want to yack.

Here's to throwing-up metaphors for the third use!

John Zahl said...

I think that one could easily re-title Graham's "Provocative Church": "The Un-Provocative Church". He has turned his back on the good stuff,...in a typically Anglican move. I had to sit through 9 lectures on that stuff. We got into it, and I blew my stack a few times. At one point he made the comment: "I didn't think you were going to like this, John..." etc. The silly "let's compartmentalize justification by faith as something that applies to salvation, but not necessarily the christian life thereafter (i.e., "we must divide sancification from justification")." Needless to say, my boots don't exactly reside under GT's bed. He's a really cool, sharp, witty guy -- girls get mad crushes on Graham Tomlin! --, but I barked up that tree and fell on my ass! It may be worth noting that GT has never served as a parish minister, though he worked as a chaplain briefly while finishing his (pretty awesome) PhD.

David said...

John, Graham said his new book was going to be titled, "Spiritual Fitness." I don't know if I should get a case of Gatorade or a fifth of whiskey.

Tom Becker said...

Spiritual Fitness. Ugh. How about, "On Being a Theologian of Glory"

Colton said...

Guys, thanks for the discussion. So awesome. Why is it that theological jokes are always the funniest?

Tim Galebach said...

Because they reinforce the norms of a small in-crowd and let us feel superior to the law-bound peons?

Kevin Taylor said...

Methodists, along with Calvinists, also uphold the concept of sanctification. God ain't done with me yet! Shazam!

Calvinists (and Methodists and others) believe that while sin still resides in the Christian, its overwhelming hold is broken. This is a high view of regeneration. I don't think it's very orthodox to split justification and sanctification--they are simultaneous, aren't they? Twin sides of the same coin. Yet Calvo-Methodist-Catholics see the regenerative power of sanctification as breaking sin's hold. Sin remains but does not reign. Others are just frightened. It's okay, it's okay...

Glad your dad has gotten good reports, and hope he is home soon from the hospital.

I hope this Oxford blog will respond shortly to the supposedly gay policehorse accusations... can it be true?? What's going on over there?

Jeff Dean said...

The more I read for my thesis, the more I side with Thomas Cranmer on this issue.

Medieval Catholicism characterized good works as a necessary and constituitive cause for salvation.

The earliest Protestants characterized good works as a beneficial result of salvation, but not a neccessary or constituitive cause for it.

Cranmer characterized good works as a necessary result of but not constituitive cause for salvation.

That might be explained as follows:
Medieval Catholicism:
If not saving faith, then not necessarily not good works.


Luther:
If not saving faith, then not good works.
If saving faith, then good works.
If not good works, then not necessarily not saving faith.


Cranmer:
If not saving faith, then not good works.
If saving faith, then good works.
If not good works, then not saving faith.

Cranmer seems much more Biblical; when this theology plays out in his liturgy, the result is a wonderful, pastoral, Catholic enactment of the Gospel