Lutherans Have an Eternal Life that They Can Lose

A Lutheran: Some people really do have eternal life before they lose it. I guess I have never doubted this, and it has always been something I have had some concern about— making shipwreck of my faith, not just being “faithless” but disowning him.

mark: So when you say “eternal” life, you are thinking in some qualitative way, not of a life that necessarily continues forever? It seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between now having “eternal life” and that time on the last day when God will raise up the justified elect and give them immortality. But isn’t “eternal life” now the verdict declared already of “immortality in the age to come”? Isn’t it the verdict that a person will not come into the judgment?

John 5:2 4 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

And so the Reformed question: how can a person who has passed from death to life, then pass back to life? What is the practical difference between accusing the Reformed of not knowing if they have life (or if they now believe) and a Lutheran saying: I know I believe now, but that does not mean I will keep believing. I know I have eternal life now, but it might not be eternal forever, it might not be life forever.

1. I don’t see how Lutherans have escaped the Reformed problem–how can you really know that you even really believe now? You go to church? Well, Reformed people do that also. 2. It’s the old Cromwell question. Supposedly he relied on a syllogism on his death bed–if I believed once, then I cannot lose my justification, and I know that I believed once, therefore….

But there are problems with that
1. He’s believing in his belief. He’s looking at himself believing, not at Christ.

2. So Lutherans think the solution is to get our eyes off of themselves, off of the question if they are believing, and think to do this by telling everybody that they all are justified, before believing.

3. But it does not work for more than a moment, because Lutherans (at least those who are not universalists) also say that they can’t be sure that they themselves (previously justified) will keep believing and will keep the “eternal life” they once had.

4. So they have come around to the same place as the Reformed–—are you believing now? And you can’t prove it with your living, since that attempt is not believing.

5. So what was the difference? It was the gospel, the object being believed. The Reformed say, you are not justified apart from believing, not justified before believing. (And I agree with this, even as I insist that God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness is before new birth and faith.) But the Lutherans tell us— believe that you are justified, instead of believing to be justified.

I am not making this complicated. The differences are more complicated than I have shown. For one thing, the word “justification” is being used in more than one way. For a second thing, Lutherans seem to agree that we need to keep believing in order to stay justified.

But, even in this case, in the tomorrow and the day after that, the object of faith is not the same gospel. “Believing that you are justified” is not the gospel. The gospel is not the Velveteen Rabbit, in which what we believe makes something real. Reality does not disappear because you don’t believe in it. If we are justified before faith in the gospel , then ignorance of the gospel and absence of faith in the gsopel does not make justification disappear.

So if we want to avoid Barthianism or universalism, if we agree that those who do not believe the gospel are not justified, then we had better stop telling people that they are justified before they believe the gospel. And we certainly should stop telling people that they have passed from death to life, if we need to also tell them they can now pass from life to death.

But if we run away from Lutheran “objectivity”, do we end up in a Jonathan Edwards place where he says that God’s justification is conditioned on “future grace” (future acts of faith created by God in us)? I hope not. I certainly know that many Reformed persons are now in this place––they hate “eternal security” more than any Lutheran does. They put perseverance first every time over God’s preservation because they despise the idea of “once justified, always justified.”.

I don’t know enough about Lutherans to know the differences (except between no wrath ones like Forde, vs conservatives). But I do know that not all Reformed are alike. Not all Reformed rely on a practical syllogism which is looking at the I who is believing, and saying, well that’s God also, since it’s God the Spirit working in the I. No, not all Reformed are like that.

Lutherans can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that Jesus even died for those who perish And Reformed people can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that water is a “seal” about justification being conditioned on faith. Those who have that kind of water are in no better place than others without the water but are hearing the gospel.

The question still comes down to–—what is the gospel? Do we look at a verse in Acts and say, all you need to say is “Jesus is Lord” and nothing else should or needs to be said, even if you think that a person is saved by doing what the Lord tells you to do? But the gospel does not make faith a condition of election, because the gospel tells us that faith is a result of election.

And that gospel does not tell you or anyone that they are elect. That gospel tells us that “all for whom Jesus died will be justified.” If you don’t like definite particular effectual atonement, you don’t like the gospel. And if you don’t like the gospel, then you might want to say it’s a gnostic idea that almost nobody knows or believes.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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41 Comments on “Lutherans Have an Eternal Life that They Can Lose”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    lutheran: it could happen by putting too much faith in our faith – but even here I think that it is not wrong to be concerned about the strength of one’s own faith so long as one is grounded in the biblical narrative and realizes that the first and most important thing to say about faith is that it has an Object, which is our Lord Jesus Christ.

    mark: I agree that there is a difference between making our election sure by looking at our calling and faith, and having faith in our faith. Indeed, II Peter 1 tells us that God won’t accept our works (not for justification but as good works) unless we first have faith (assurance). So I agree that the question about who Christ is the main thing.

    Is Christ the one who died for everybody, or is Christ the one who died only for the elect?

    Is Christ the one who saved people with His death?

    Is Christ the one who saved all the people for whom He died?

    If not, then Christ did not save anybody with His death.

    There was something else.

    Romans 8:32 does NOT say He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for every sinner

    Romans 8:32 does NOT SAY He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for everybody, how will he not also with him graciously give some of those people all things?

    a fraction of those God loves will get food and drink (and some will starve)?

    a fraction of them will get eternal life but then lose it?

    a fraction of that fraction will receive….


  2. markmcculley Says:

    Lutheran: God desires all to be saved” and their unbelief is tragic in His eyes. Hell was not made for men, but men will end up there if they fight in the wrong side of this war. God demands perfect obedience from us here. And He also freely gives His mercy in Christ to those who will see their need for Him.

    mark: If God desires all to be saved, but only elects some of them to be saved, that is not only a tragedy for man but for God. And it’s not a paradox, but a contradiction. The only way that people can call his contradiction a mystery is that they refuse to submit to what God has revealed about hardening some on purpose (not plan B) for His own glory. So they put what they think they know along with what the Bible clearly says, and conclude that it must be a paradox since what they think can’t be wrong.

    The second death of the non-elect brings glory to God. The second death of the non-elect is not a tragedy for God.

    And before I go on to deal with the— but what you think about “the difference between God’s command and God’s desire”is also wrong (or no less wrong)—- let me deal with the tragic conditionalism in the statement above. I know it only wants to condition “hell” on the sinner, but in doing that, it cannot escape also conditioning salvation on the sinner.

    Lutheran: “if they fight in the wrong side of this war”

    mark: I know you were justified before you believed. (were you justified when you were watered, or before that?) But let me ask you–are you today fighting on the right side of the war? how do you know? 100percent? never on the other side? What about tomorrow? Remind me again about what you said about the Reformed looking to their faith and not to the Christ who already justified everybody.

    Lutheran: “to those who will see their need for Him.”

    mark: I know the guilt problem was solved for you before you saw your need for a solution. But let me ask you, do you still see your need for it? Or has a justification which you can lose left you needing to believe that you are continually (not always, but as a pattern, most of the time, often) seeing your need of it, but what happens if suddenly you don’t? Tragedy. It turns out that God will NOT give non-resistance to all for whom God gave the Son, because only a fraction will do that.

    And since the non-resistance is scarce (less than everybody) what makes you think you are so special that you will be one of those who will “resist sin” and therefore “not resist gospel”? I mean, the death of Christ does not make you special—that was for everybody. So what does make you special?

    Oh, I remember, you were baptized with water.

    Here’s another slogan. “Hell” being created for non-humans does not mean that it was not created for humans.

    Proverbs 16: 4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.

    John 10:26, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you

    I Peter 2: “The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”8 and “A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”
    They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

    Romans 9: 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction

  3. markmcculley Says:

    a Lutheran : how limited atonement could shake his assurance when the possibility of future apostasy doesn’t? Here’s the answer in two parts: 1) It’s not just Lutherans who believe apostasy happens. Or more correctly, who observe that it happens. If that can shake assurance, then you’re in the same boat we are, because Calvinists lose their salvation too, they just have a different post hoc explanation for it: “I guess he was never really saved / elect in the first place.”

    mark: Yes and no. Apostasy from profession (or from water) is real in both cases. But the difference is between losing justification and finding out you were never justified (not yet justified). So in either case, you might find out that you are not justified now. And in either case, you might still be justified in the future, because you might come to hear and believe the gospel yet.

    But no, apostasy looks (and feels) different to a Lutheran who thinks he needs to be re-justified, who thinks he has been justified and lost it, but that he can be justified once again. First, there is a question of what the Bible says about the possibility of repentance after apostasy. In some cases (the unforgivable sin, Judas) , it seems repentance is no longer an option. I know Arminians and Wesleyans disagree with each other about this. But I don’t know enough about Lutherans to know what they say on the topic.

    But second, the idea of losing justification and then (possibly) regaining justification raises serious questions about the nature of justification. Is justification something which increases and decreases, as the Roman Catholics teach? What is it that makes justification decrease or disappear? if not any sin, what sins, and how much sin? (I take it as a fact that all Christians are still sinners, sinning as a pattern and characteristic of life, and justified at the same time, despite being sinners.).

    Third, are Christians being ‘re-justified” every day, so that you don’t have to think of justification as an once and done “passing from death to life” or “having eternal life”? (John 5:24). There are many questions here–when was Abraham justified, in Genesis chapter 12 or 15? Was Abraham rejustified in chapters 15, 17, 22?

    Let me say that the question of assurance is not an abstract theory for me. I thought I was a Christian from the time I was 12, but then I found out (from the power of the gospel, I think) that the gospel I believed then was a false gospel, so I lost my assurance, and that was a good thing, as far as I am concerned, because when I was in my 40s, I was delivered to a different gospel (Romans 6:17) and now I am ashamed not only of my moral sins but of my attachment to that old false gospel (Romans 6:21, things of which now ashamed). I say all this not to start a discussion about me, or even about what the old gospel is, or what is the new gospel, but to say that I agree that assurance is a serious concern for all of us, no matter what our “first principles”.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    a Lutheran: Calvinists lose their salvation too, they just have a different post hoc explanation for it: “I guess he was never really saved / elect in the first place.”

    mark: . When the Lutheran says that Calvinists lose their salvation also, he’s simply repeating how he sees it, even as he points out that Calvinists don’t think they lost their salvation, but found out that they were never saved. I don’t see how this helps advance the discussion.

    Better to say: both sides can come to think that they are not justified yet, even when they thought they were. The Lutheran addition to this says “and they really were” does not solve the problem of finding assurance now in the gospel. Indeed, as I have suggested above, it raises beg questions about the nature of justification. Is justification something which can be lost.

    But I am still agreeing that discovering that you are not now justified before God is a problem that both Lutherans and Calvinists and baptists have. (We cannot escape it by taking the Charles Stanley approach of saying–even if you don’t believe now, you walked the aisle once, and it’s like a tattoo you can’t remove.)

    Lutheran: At least we can be sure that Christ really did die for us, which being-sure is faith, through which we are saved.

    mark: I have tried to understand this statement. I can’t. The being sure is faith? Being sure that Jesus died for everybody, including those who perish, is the same as faith that Jesus died for everybody, including those who perish? Being sure is faith? Well, sure, but this is simply saying the same thing over again. If it’s not the death of Jesus which saves, so what if Jesus died for you? And it seems clear, that on Lutheran first principles, not everybody will be saved, even though Jesus died for everybody. So I fail to see the assurance. So what?

    lutheran:. Even if I eventually reject the faith (Lord have mercy), I am not believing a lie right now.

    mark: if Jesus died for everybody, then Jesus died for everybody. It’s not a lie, no matter if you believe now or don’t believe it now. But that besides the point. It’s not true that Jesus died for everybody. And what good did it do for you to “believe it”? And what does it change if you stop “believing it”. Faith does not make reality happen. (no matter what Hagin and Copeland and Osteen might say)

    Lutheran:: Whereas, if you eventually reject the faith, and you are right about Limited Atonement, then you are completely deluded at the moment about God’s love and forgiveness to you-ward.

    mark: I think I understand this one— if you believe in election (which most Lutherans seem not to), but you find out that you don’t now believe the gospel, then that might mean that you are not elect, and if you die not believing the gospel, then that does mean that you were not elect, even though you believed the truth about God having an elect people. Yes, this is true.

    The gospel never tells anybody–you are elect. The gospel never tells anybody–Christ died for you. If you believed in election but did not believe in the gospel, this does not mean that there is no election in the gospel, and this does not mean you were deluded about election. But if you never believe the gospel, this is evidence that you were not elect.

    So much for the situation of the Calvinist. But where is the Lutheran advantage? First, while you were justified, before you lost your justification, you had the advantage of thinking that Jesus died for you? is that an advantage? in what way? So what? Second, even after you lost your justification, you can still say that Jesus died for you, since that’s what the Lutheran gospel says. Your believing it or not believing doesn’t change it being true, or not true. So if it were true that Jesus had died for you, but today you had lost your justification, what comfort or assurance could there possibly be in your idea that Jesus died for everybody including you?

    Was not your believing the source of all your comfort, which you have now lost, even though you still abstractly assent to the idea that Jesus died for everybody? (or did your unbelief involve your becoming a Calvinist who denied that Jesus died for everybody? Did it involve you becoming an atheist who denied that Jesus even existed or died for anybody? I am asking, even in your unbelief, is it “Lutheran unbelief” in that you still agree that Jesus died for everybody but that this does not necessarily mean anything or save anybody, as in your case, when your unbelief makes the real difference?

  5. markmcculley Says:

    We Lutherans do not believe God imputes our sins to us. Our sin is something that infects our good human nature, poisoning it and making it bad.

    mark: Maybe I don’t know. Lutherans don’t talk about sin or sins being imputed? If so, this is news to me, and I need more education. I know that some Lutherans talk of sinners exchanging their sins in return for Christ’s righteousness, but I think that is a category mistake. God is the one who makes imputation, and any “reckoning” that we do is based on that. See Romans 6.

    And God does not count faith as the righteousness. Faith is unto righteousness, and God counts the object of faith (Christ’s righteousness) for what it is, once it is legally shared (imputed by God) to those who are to be justified. What is the “it” which is the object of faith? Christ’s death, with the meaning given by Scripture (FOR, whatever that means, for whoever that means)

    But save that topic for another day. Please help me know what Lutherans do or do not say about the imputation of sins. Do Lutherans say that only the corruption of Adam but not the guilt is passed on to the children of Adam (all of us)? This is not a debate question. I simply don’t know. Corruption is not “imputed”. Guilt is “imputed”.

    Do Lutherans deny imputed guilt from Adam?

    Do Lutherans say that Christ died “for sinners” but not “for sins”? I have no reason to think that Lutherans make this distinction, but maybe you do. Though John 3;16 does not say the words “sins” or “sinners”, I had assumed that both were involved in the the need for eternal life. Even though the words “the forgiveness of sins” are not in the context, the idea that people are condemned “already” seems to be saying that people will “perish” because of being sinners and because of their sins . How were we born corrupt and God be just if we were not born guilty?

    And of course there are two other imputations, first the one above, in which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to those who believe the gospel. But for those who believe in a penal substitutionary atonement, is there not also another imputation–a legal transfer (to the Substitute) by God of the sins of the sinners for whom Christ is the Substitute?

    I know not all Lutherans now believe in a “penal substitutionary atonement”. I know even some “conservative” (non-universalist) Lutherans deny penal substitution. But I was under the impression that some Lutherans did teach that God imputed the sins of some sinners to Christ.

    Was I wrong on that? Or is it impossible for one Lutheran to tell us what Lutherans believe about imputation of sins? I do want to keep talking about “extent” questions, and about”‘assurance” questions, and everything else. I am sorry I am so far behind. But now i did want to ask this question about “imputation”.

    Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord IMPUTES not iniquity

    Romans 4:6– David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
    8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not IMPUTE his sin.”

    Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not IMPUTED when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

    Romans 6: 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now IF we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must IMPUTE yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

    Colossians 1:14–”In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.

    Hebrews 9:22– “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    I am alarmed at the “yes but’ gospel. Propitiation for everybody, but many will perish by means of God’s wrath. But it was their fault, and not God’s, that God does have wrath toward them, but this is despite Christ bearing all their sins. But one. All but one sin, the sin of rejecting Christ. Christ did not bear that sin for them ( or anybody), So it seems that “god’s yes” is not enough, but almost enough. A propitiation which is “sufficient” for everybody, except for it not being enough to prevent many sinners from being justly punished for their sins.

    So here is problem #1, a gospel which is less than good news. Problem #2 then follows–it turns out that we make the difference, or that what God does in us makes the difference. There being no difference in the cross, since Lutherans teach that Jesus died for all sinners just the same.

    mark: “So the propitiation has not quite taken away all the wrath? Your own “yes” makes the ultimate difference?”

    Lutheran: : No. The wrath remains on those who do not believe but that does not mean we talk about our “own ‘yes’ making the ultimate difference”. Good preachers never do that,

    mark: I am beginning to see that Lutheran preachers always hold back on some of the truth (even what they know), because they reject other parts of the truth, and they want to avoid language which openly displays the “strings attached” nature of what they are saying. When Lutherans get done preaching, it seems that the hearers ought to make one of two conclusions.

    Possible conclusion One, God is an universalist. We all are born objectively justified, and no matter what, God loves us, and there is no caveat attached, and this means none of us will ever be condemned. We have it if we want it, and if we don’t want it now, surely we will want it then, and so we will have it.

    Possible conclusion Two, God is not going to save everybody, even though Jesus died for everybody, and this means that there have to be other factors but we have to be cautious about when and how we talk about these other factors, and we must never ever say that the whole thing depends on God getting us (by grace) to say yes, because we don’t want to say that, because we want to say it all depends on Jesus.

    Lutherans want to say—you are accepted, accept your acceptance, but what if you don’t, well that’s on you (if we must say it out loud for some stubborn people) but in any case, even if we say that the no is on you, we must still be careful to not say that the “yes is on you” because that would shed too much light on the con-game being played.

    It’s God yes, not your yes, but if you say no, well that’s you. But if you don’t say no, that means you say yes, but that yes is not yours, your yes is God’s doing in you. So it was yes, by default, you were born justified, but then you lost it by your no. But of course, only in one sense, you never lost it, because God will still be saying yes to you, even as you perish in the second death.

    Even infralapsarian Calvinists start at the other end. By default, we all begin as condemned sinners, and then election saves some. I myself think that infralapsarian Reformed theologians flatten out Romans 9 so as to make it seem reasonable and non-objectionable, but even they do read the default as we all being lost sinners.

    But the Lutheran default seems to run the other way–God is saying yes to everybody, and you will be justified, unless you say no. Your no will stop God from getting what God’s wanted but your no will be an excuse (theodicy) to explain why it’s still not God’s fault because at least you all started with a “common” justification.


    Lutherans think that all sinners are redeemed, but not all elect They are “post-redemptionists”. The universal redemption they teach is hypothetical, conditional, worthless unless we believe, and Lutherans deny any irresistible grace to cause anyone to believe.

    In what sense was Judas “redeemed”?


    the truth that some sinners have been baptized into Christ
    is no evidence that I have been baptized into Christ
    not all sinners have been baptized into Christ
    and not all sinners watered have been baptized into Christ

    those who have once been in Christ stay in Christ
    it did not depend on sin or faith for them to be in Christ
    nor does it now depend. on sin or faith for them to stay in Christ
    those put in Christ by God’s imputation will now always be out of Adam

    not everybody is God’s own child, :
    Jesus died for Christians
    the gospel is for Christians
    not everybody is or will be Christians

    not everybody is baptized into Christ!
    even though everybody needs His death to pay for
    ALL their sins, even their unbelief
    Christ did not die for every sinner, and not every sinner died with Him

    Christ gave the full redemption price only for those who believe
    And this redemption causes them to believe
    This is why even their believing is not part of the payment
    Christ did not pay the price for those who will not be redeemed

    Do I need clergy and sacrament
    to make sure that eternal life lasts
    at least until I die
    Or is salvation free because Christ paid it all?

    The water cannot comfort
    because many with water perish
    but none die the second death for whom Jesus made the sacrifice

  9. markmcculley Says:

    In particular I am comparing a Lutheran approach which asks (do I believe now) as opposed to a puritan approach (we are only one justified, and if once, then we have eternal security and will always be justified).

    Cary That’s just how Christian faith goes, a continual struggle when unbelief is in fact stronger than the faith of our own hearts, and we have no hope at all except the truth of God’s promise in Jesus Christ. But that’s enough. For precisely the experience of the inadequacy of my efforts to believe is what convinces me that I must put my trust in Christ’s word alone, not in my ability to believe. So Anfechtung is agony of conscience but not a struggle to come to the belief that I truly believe. Save me from such inwardness, I say.

    We need to see that conversion happens many times in life, I think, if we are to understand exactly what Luther means by justification. As he puts it in the famous 1519 sermon on the two kinds of righteousness, the alien righteousness by which we are justified before God ” and whenever they are truly repentant.”
    So justification occurs many times, as often as you repent. We are converted whenever the Holy Spirit teaches us to take hold of Christ himself in his Word, rejoicing at the preaching of the Gospel. We are justified and converted many, many times in life.

    But that’s not how the formula of Concord seems to put it: “The chief issue is solely and alone what the unregenerate man’s intellect and will can do in his conversion and regeneration….” Here too conversion marks a before and after: before conversion, I have no free will that can cooperate with God or do anything good by way of faith or obedience; afterwards my will is freed by grace to believe and obey God with gladness, making a real inward co-operation between God and man possible. Identifying this turning point, this before and after, is a crucial move in the Formula of Concord’s effort to clarify the sense in which our free will can and cannot co-operate with the grace of God, which is the key point at issue in the synergist controversy.

    The Formula of Concord does not follow Calvin’s lead, however, in making the event of conversion irrevocable, as if after conversion there is no going back to what was before. On the contrary, it speaks of the possibility of sinning against conscience in such a way that sin reigns again in their hearts, so that they “grieve the Holy Spirit within them and lose him” and therefore must be “converted again.” but only this passage explicitly draws the striking but necessary conclusion that there may be more than one conversion in a person’s life.

    ,Here are my two questions:

    1. How would Lutherans explain the imputation of righteousness to a once justified person who then becomes an apostate and loses their justification? a. I understand that you don’t think Christ only died for the imputed sins of the elect so b. you don’t think of the righteousness of Christ as having been earned and intended only for the elect in the first place, but even so, c. would you say that an apostate who loses their justification can repent and be justified again, or is this at some point impossible? and d. how would the Lutheran tradition explain the non-imputation of Christ’s righteousness after it has always been imputed to a person?
    I understand that “the righteousness is always in heaven”, that the righteousness always belongs to Christ, even when it is legally shared with justified sinners. I understand that the righteousness of Christ is not simply His vicarious law-keeping but also (mainly) His death. But those two points alone don’t help me to be clear about a process of continual justification.

    I can see somebody who thought they trusted Christ alone finding out that they don’t (and thus never did), and I can even understand a person saying right now, they both believe and don’t believe the gospel, so (Schrodinger’s cat) they don’t know if righteousness has been imputed to them, but the idea that a person can be certain that they believe now (and thus have righteousness imputed to them now), but might not later…well, that I don’t understand…

    2. Have you read the Reformed Doctrine of Justification by Edward Boehl? It is dismissed by many Reformed as being too Lutheran, but I really like it, because he clearly puts the emphasis on forensic imputation as opposed to regeneration (change of natures). The very problems that Berkhof mentions in his introduction to Boehl are things that attract me to Boehl.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 9:12, “Christ entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” As an “eternal” punishment does not mean punishing forever but punishment which is final and permanent, even so” eternal” redemption does not mean that Christ is and will be redeeming forever, but rather that by one death, Christ has obtained a redemption which is final and permanent

    Like a punishment which lasts and cannot be reversed, this redemption for the elect lasts and cannot be reversed. This redemption is not the payment of a price without a guarantee that those paid for will be freed from guilt and its consequence death. Biblical redemption secures freedom for each particular elect person so that when that very person will be (or has been, OT) joined to Christ’s death and thus justified from sin and no longer under law or death.

    But the false gospel never talks about election, and so it cannot talk about either redemption or security for the elect. It can only talk about security on the condition of faith. Some with the false gospel say you can have security because of your faith, and then lose your faith and your security. Others with the false gospel say that faith is like getting a tattoo that cannot be removed, and that even if you lose your faith, you can be secure.

    But all in the false gospel are agreed in profaning the death of Christ. All in the false gospel say that Christ died for every sinner, even those who add that Christ died with extra intent for the elect. All in the false gospel say that Christ is the mercy seat for every sinner. According to this common mercy, many die unjustified but none die without mercy. They say that God would have and could have and did have mercy on all sinners, at least until they died. They say that Christ in His death showed mercy to every sinner, but that such mercy was not enough alone to save any sinner.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    once regenerate, always regenerate, is important for the nature of regeneration
    once justified, never again condemned, is important for the nature of justification

    but the permanent nature of justification is a different question from
    these two—

    am I now justified?
    am I now permanently justified?

    if Christ bore my sins, why do I need to baptized (not with water) into Christ’s death?

    leave me out of it, leave assurance out of it

    if Christ bore the sins of an elect person, why does that elect person need to be
    baptized (not with water) into Christ’s death?

  12. markmcculley Says:

    The Lutheran teaches that the water does not take away from us “our ability to fall from grace.”. Lutheran water is not effectual in that way.

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Garcia, “Christ and the Spirit”, in Resurrection and Eschatology, ed Tipton and Waddington

    p 426–“For Lutherans, both believer and unbeliever partake of the substance of Christ but with differing outcomes, one to life but the other to judgment.”

    “The matter now disputed between us, is whether unbelievers receive the substance of Christ without his Spirit.”

    “Lutherans say that if Christ is truly present He is present independent of the communicant’s faith or unbelief.”

    p 429 “Calvin says that one cannot truly partake of Christ without partaking of His life-giving Spirit.”

  14. Alien Pebble Says:

    Lutherans resort to mystery for their view of universal atonement. I don’t deny mystery, but mystery is different from mystification. Unfortunately, the “mystery” of universal atonement is not a mystery, but a mystification to suppress the truth of limited atonement.

    Lutherans, among others, charge limited atonement proponents of “rationalism” for attempting to logically harmonize “paradoxical” teachings. “The bible teaches both, we confess both, it’s illogical.” Only the last sentence is true.

    In reality, they are still using logic. One logical phenomenon is the principle of explosion: if you allow contradictions, you can infer anything. Since their “mystery” is actually a contradiction, from this foundation they can deduce anything they want to say. In the end, I interpret the scripture as I wish, since “all things are lawful” (sarcasm).

    Just as the legalist and the antinomian are one in refusing to submit to the righteousness of Christ’s death, the secular rationalist and the religious irrationalist are one in denying the logical implications of Scripture.

  15. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin–“The first thing to be explained is how Christ is present with unbelievers, to be the spiritual food of their souls, and in short the life and salvation of the world. As. Hesshusius adheres so doggedly to the words, I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins?” Theological Treatises trans. J. K. S. Reid (1954) p. 285.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    You can see, reader, that the man is pulled both this way and that. He wants to appear to be opening a battle against the whole party of the Lutherans, not against any individual member of it. But he cannot attack us all at the same time except as a united body. Grudgingly he is brought to acknowledge that there is agreement between us.

    —John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will, 30.

  17. markmcculley Says:

    In the Lutheran churches, for example, a form of Eutychianism emerged that serves that church’s peculiar view of the relationship of Christ’s body to the physical elements of the Lord’s Supper. This may be seen in the Lutheran representation of the “communicatio idiomatum” (“communication of attributes”), whereby our Lord’s divine nature at His virginal conception virtually “divinized” His human nature by communicating its attributes to the human nature. Thus, the latter is ubiquitous, Lutherans insist, and is really physically present “in, with, and under” the elements of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But, such a christological construction, in the words of Charles Hodge, “form[s] no part of Catholic Christianity.”

    From: A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert L. Reymond (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 615.

  18. markmcculley Says:

    This guy explains “imputation” as done by the clergy without regard to any other objective event or any explanation or doctrine about any other event (except the clergy imputing)

    Jason Loh
    Posted October 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Be that as it may, justification by faith alone was not a theological formulae in its original setting. Justification by *faith* alone refers to an event. Since faith in its Reformation setting as re-appropriated by Luther was never defined as a mental assent but situated in relation to the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacraments, justification by faith was not defined as faith in theological propositions including imputation.

    Instead of being a theological formulae that was part and parcel of the wider theological system, imputation was a reference to the concrete act of pronouncing the forgiveness of sins as embodied in for example, the absolution. That is to say, imputation simply meant that the word does what it says and says what it does.

    Good news is rooted in the concrete and tangible (and tactual) act of the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacraments in a specific context in time and space which is the living present of “I-to-you.” In other words, the Reformation was not about the true meaning of the external word of the gospel refashioned according to doctrine but the other way round.

    Once this is understood then we can proceed to say that the continuity between the Reformation and the medieval and patristic Church was grounded precisely in what the word and sacraments *actually* do to us. If Papists are to be saved or can be saved within the Romish Church it is because of the underlying or latent layer of the hidden gospel beneath the encrustation in the proclamation of word and sacraments.

    A non-confessional Protestant is saved despite jis non-Reformational confession because of “blood of Jesus Christ” as applied in baptism — one baptism for the remission of sins.
    Faith therefore is in the external word and sacraments — such is the simplicity and down-to-earth nature of the gospel. Faith is not in a theological system..

    This is why the Reformation can maintain continuity with the pre-Reformation churches. This is why the pre-Reformation Christians are justified even though the theological formulae of justification by faith alone and the corollary of penal substitution were alien to them.

    I realize this comes as a shock to the Reformed & Presbyterian but this is what the Reformation was about. This is why Calvin held to a high view of baptism (and not only the Lord’s Supper). This is why the Reformers could claim that there were true believers in the Roman Whore Church. This is why the Book of Common Prayer crafted by the Protestant Archbishop Cranmer maintained a realist language of baptism whilst exhibiting ambiguity in relation to the Lord’s Supper.

    Baptismal regeneration is not in conflict with justification by faith alone but is the concrete expression thereof. The issue is whether all baptised are regenerated or not. The language of baptism which is the language of proclamation is to be held in existential tension with the doctrine of election.

    One particularises the doctrine of election by the use of personal pronouns of “I-to-you” in the concrete setting of proclamation of the gospel. That is instead of being held back by the doctrine of election, proclamation is the doing of the electing of the ungodly itself.

  19. markmcculley Says:

    ap—-In Lutheranism, the cross obtained merit for each of us, and now it is up to us to take and keep that merit to pass the judgment day.

    In Lutheranism, there is no real justification outside the sinner, as the sinner’s (enduring) faith becomes the condition of justification. As a result, there is no real justification in the present, since you can lose “justification”, so effectively there is a “final” justification, and that is the real one that counts.

    Thus, in Lutheranism, election is all about election to (enduring) faith, which effectively functions as the righteousness in Lutheranism.

    It’s almost like they are saying, “if you believe it, it will happen.” Believe everything is good, and everything will be good. Bad things happen, but don’t let that kill your dream, then the dream will come true..

    sounds like you can choose to reject this “election” by unbelief, so that God stops giving you the means of grace. Some will persevere to the end and some will finally apostatize, but you don’t think about the end, just now you are in a state of grace…

    Atonement for all (no election)
    “common” election for all those currently having the means of grace
    “hidden” election for those who persevere to the end

  20. markmcculley Says:

    Luther does not think of alien righteousness as received all at once. He says that the righteousness of Christ is given in baptism as well as anytime a person is truly repentant. Furthermore, he speaks of a progression in this righteousness
    Luther– “Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow. For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death “Two Kinds of Righteousness,” (LW 31: 299)

    Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Moo’s essay in the Carson f (Understanding the Times)—Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight, p 35-41). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God ( making justification the product of union with Christ) CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification=stemming from our union with Christ.”
    mark: No way! so they don’t deny election or legal atonement or legal imputation, but in the end they continue to make “actual justification” the result of “union” which is for them a “faith-union”. They still put faith first (and not God’s imputation of Christ’s death) in the “real justification” . They start by saying there is no order of application and then turn around and make faith first in the order of application and then end up agreeing with Luther that faith itself is the righteousness.

  21. markmcculley Says:

    For Luther, progress is faith is a growth in alien righteousness … For Luther, the believer‟s righteousness is NOT Christ’s death as the satisfaction of the law, because for Luther, the believer’s righteousness is nothing other than Christ himself, who has been united to the believer like a husband is united to his wife

    Paul Althaus—, It is not enough, however, to say either that faith receives justification. Luther‟s thought must be expressed more definitely. Justification is received in the form of faith. Faith is the work and gift of God. God justifies a man by giving him faith. Christ is the righteousness of men and to this extent this righteousness is outside of us. But Christ is my righteousness only if I appropriate him and make him my own. Only the Christ who LIVES IN MY HEART through faith, is my righteousness. Christ is not only the „object‟ of faith but is himself present in faith. Through faith righteousness (Christ the person) is present with and in a man. Only in faith are Christ and man so joined together,and made one. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, Fortress, 1966), p 231

  22. markmcculley Says:

    For Luther, justification by faith does not refer to faith as that which receives righteousness, but rather as the righteousness itself that God gives to the believer through the gospel.
    For Luther, faith is what truly fulfills the law of God. By ascribing to God truthfulness, faith fulfills every divine demand, according to Luther Unlike Calvin, Luther does not speak of faith as something empty in and of itself. For Luther, faith is the righteousness of a Christian.
    Luther’s argument that faith is the righteousness depends on a distinction between commands and promises, a distinction that would later be formulated in terms of law and gospel. I agree with that distinction between law and gospel, but I still (with Calvin at this point) reject the notion that faith is the righteousness, because Christ’s death (not faith) satisfies the law. The law requires either perfect obedience or death. Not both.
    Faith is not perfect obedience. Faith created in us by the gospel is not perfect obedience. Christ’s presence in us is not perfect obedience.
    Faith in Christ’s death is not the same thing as Christ’s death. The object of faith is not the same thing as faith. The presence of Christ in us is not the same thing as faith. The presence of Christ in us is not the righteousness. The object of faith is not Christ’s presence in us.

    Of course I reject Melanchthon’s reject of the bondage of the will and endorsement of synergism, but I do agree with Melanchton (and with Piper vs Seifrid) in making it clear that faith is NOT the righteousness.

    Luther is more Augustinian on the bondage of the will, but also more Augustinian in his view of justification being Christ in us (not what Christ works in us, as in Augustine) but nevertheless on faith in us, as Christ in us, as therefore the “alien righteousness” IN US.

    By 1543 Melanchthon locates righteousness in Christ and affirms that faith is merely an instrument that grasps Christ, and, as such, is intrinsically unworthy in itself: . . . we are righteous by faith, that is, through mercy for the sake of Christ we are righteous, not because faith is a virtue which merits the remission of sins . . . . Therefore we do not say that we are righteous by faith in the sense that this is a worthiness of such great power that it merits remission, but in the sense that there must be some instrument in us by which we lay hold upon our Mediator who intercedes for us, and on account of whom the eternal Father is favorable toward us. Melanchthon, Loci Communes 1543 (trans. Preus), p 109.

    Some have argued that the rise of the third use in Melanchthon indicates an encroachment of law into gospel, resulting from a truncated (only forensic) doctrine of justification.

    Mark A. Seifrid, “Luther, Melanchthon and Paul on the Question of Imputation: Recommendations on a Current Debate,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), p143.— “Since „justification‟ no longer had an effective dimension, the Law (in its „third use‟) moved in to fill the vacuum left behind.”

    see also Timothy J. Wengert, Law and Gospel: Philip Melanchthon’s Debate with John Agricola of Eisleben over Poenientia (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997). p 190

  23. markmcculley Says:

    Luther, works, 22:169—-“Christ bears all the sins of the world from its beginning. This implies that Christ also bears your sins, and offers you grace.”

  24. markmcculley Says:

    mark: 1. Pelagius did not think that grace was necessary for humans to do the right thing. Pelagius denied both original guilt and original corruption.
    2. For the idea that Christ’s death satisfied the law for the elect and merited justification for all for whom He died, you need to find some references for that in Augustine. If you can show me where Augustine says that the sins of the elect have been imputed to Christ, please do so.

    Philip Cary—-“To ask about Augustine’s view of justification is already something of an anachronism. To begin with, Augustine does not make a distinction between justification and sanctification. He speaks a great deal about righteousness and holiness but these terms are not related to each other the way the later Protestant tradition relates justification and sanctification….Still less does Augustine distinguish between an event of justification and a process of sanctification. In fact for Augustine justification, so far as he discusses it at all, is not a particular event but the activity of God throughout our lives.”

    mcmark–When Mark Jones and Richard Gaffin warn us of the “not yet aspect” of justification and the necessity of grace enabling our works, they get close to Augustine’s “catholic” view of justification.

    “The linking of justification with a one-time event of conversion is often read back into the famous “conversion” narrative in Confessions 8. But Augustine is clear that he already had a personal faith in Christ as savior at that point (Confessions 7:5.7, end, and 7:7.11, beginning). The outcome of this narrative is not faith in Christ, which he already had, but the decision to get baptized, which he had been resisting for many years. And Augustine is abundantly clear that his sins are forgiven and he is born again, not because of the change of heart he narrates in book 8 but because of his baptism, which he narrates in book 9.”

  25. markmcculley Says:

    John Calvin, Institutes 3:11.15: “Augustine’s view, or at any rate his manner of stating it, we must not entirely accept. For even though he admirably deprives man of all credit for righteousness and transfers it to God’s grace, he still subsumes grace under sanctification, by which we are reborn in newness of life through the Spirit. But Scripture, when it speaks of faith righteousness leads us to something far different: namely, to turn aside from the contemplation of our own works and look solely upon God’s mercy and Christ’s perfection.”

    A bit more from Philip Cary—-Some time in the middle ages the term “justification” came to be used to describe the outcome of sacramental penance (cf. e.g. Aquinas, Summa Theologica III 85.6 ad 3 and I-II 113.1). This means justification is an event that recurs many times in life, beginning with baptism and repeated every time we truly repent of our sins and are forgiven—in contrast to the classic Protestant doctrine of a single event of justification that is closely connected with, if not identical to, a once-in-a-lifetime conversion.

    Luther is with Aquinas on this score. For him justification is the repeated event in which the righteousness of God “is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant” (from his famous sermon “On Two Kinds of Righteousness,” LW 31:297).

    For both Luther and Aquinas, the first time one is justified is in baptism and then all subsequent events of justification are also results of repentance—which for Luther consists of nothing other than a “return to baptism.”

    So when someone asks whether justification is an event or a process, the first thing to notice is what the question implicitly leaves out. Typically the hidden assumption is that “event” means a once-in-a-lifetime conversion, not repeated events of repentance and forgiveness. Indeed, typically the default position is assumed to be that justification is a one-time event, and the person asking the question wants to know whether justification might also involve a process stretching beyond the one-time event.

    So the first thing to say to such a question is that it takes for granted the novel Protestant view that justification is a one-time event, which is not even shared by Luther, much less by Aquinas or Augustine or any previous Christian theologian. Having clarified that point, you can say: yes, justification is an event, but one that happens many times in life, just like Aquinas and Luther teach.

  26. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—must I first know I believe (i.e. must I have reflective faith) before taking the sacrament, or can the sacrament itself be a means of giving me a faith I am not confident I really have? In short, can the sacrament strengthen weak faith, or does it demand faith?

    To receive the sacrament without faith does a person no good, because that way one receives a sign of grace without the grace it signifies. But for the Lutherans and Catholics, those who receive the sign of the sacrament without the thing it signifies still receive the body and blood of Christ, but do so to their own harm.

    Must I know—or at least believe—that I believe (i.e. must I have reflective faith) before I approach the sacrament? If so, then the sacrament is not likely to strengthen those who have weak faith.

    Like Augustine, Calvin teaches that in order to save us God gives not only the intitial gift of faith but also the gift of persevering in the faith until the end. But unlike Augustine, he sees these as one and the same gift: when God gives true saving faith, he necessarily gives us persevering faith, for a faith that does not persevere to the end does not save.

    mcmark—-whichever way you think of faith, if you think of faith as that which satisfies the law, then the object of faith is faith and not Christ’s law-satisfaction by death.

  27. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—-For Augustine and the whole Christian tradition prior to Calvin, it is perfectly possible to have a genuine faith and then lose it. Apostates, in other words, have apostasized from the true faith. For Calvin, on the contrary, there is a kind of faith I can have now which I am sure not to lose, because it comes with the gift of perseverance. What is more, I can know that I have such faith rather than the temporary kind.

    For anyone who adds to an Augustinian doctrine of predestination the notion that we can know we are saved for eternity will necessarily believe that we can know we are predestined to be saved. For if Augustine is right about predestination, it is logically impossible to know you are saved for eternity without knowing that you are predestined for such salvation. That is precisely why Augustine denies you can know you are predestined for salvation.

    Philip Cary—To require faith that you are predestined for salvation before admission to the sacrament is… to make faith into a work

    mcmark—I am reminded of Socinians, who argued that if the object of faith was penal satisfaction, then the object of faith could not be forgivness. Cary is saying that faith must have as its object present faith but not future faith AND not penal satisfaction . The idea of sins having already been paid for by Christ’s death has no place in his discussion. Cary also is caught in a discussion about the nature of faith, in which he says that other people’s faith is a work, because he thinks the object of other peoples’ faith is not true.

  28. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion.

    Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me

    In this way the Gospel and its sacraments effectively give us the gift of faith. I do not have to ask whether I truly believe; I need merely ask whether it is true, just as the Word says, that Christ’s body is given for me. And if the answer is yes, then my faith is strengthened—without “making a decision of faith,” without the necessity of a conversion experience, and without even the effort to obey a command to believe.

    For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe).

    It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. If I cling to that in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me. Thus precisely the kind of faith that is insufficient to get me admitted to the Puritan sacraments—which is to say, mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need.

    the Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. The logic of the matter, it seems to me, makes it impossible to split the difference between these two positions and get the best of both.

    mcmark—-Talk of the sacrament “for us” always replaces talk of definite atonement only for the elect, and crowds out any good news of justice requiring the final salvation of all for whom Christ died. The Lutheran “us” claims to be everybody, but for Lutherans, it’s not the death for “us” which saves anyone, because what saves anyone is present faith. Present faith, present salvation, and losing faith is losing salvation, and Christ’s satisfaction of the law has nothing to do with it.

  29. markmcculley Says:

    a Lutheran-but in sanctification, we are not talking about dead people—even when we say every act is tainted by sin, the sin is not necessarily essential, i.e., of the substance of the act, but rather it is accidental on account of the lingering sinful nature which burdens us and resists

    a lutheran– if one says that the Christian in this age is not able not to sin — then the reality of the Spirit’s work in us is denied.

    mark: I disagree. I can and do say that Christ is truly human, and yet not able to sin. In the case of Adam, since he did sin, I don’t see much point to insisting that Adam was able not to sin. And in the case of justified regenerate (no such thing as one without the other) sinners , I deny that now in this age we are able not to sin, without denying the great discontinuity in the age to come by which elect humanity will no longer be able to sin. Sin is not essential to human nature, but it is inevitable for all Christians in this age—we are dying and have not yet been given immortality—we are sinning and have not yet been glorified

    Christ is now truly human–Christ was not ever sinful, and Christ never will be sinful.

    Even in this age, justified regenerate (no such thing as one without the other) sinners can do good works, make sacrifices of worship acceptable to God

  30. markmcculley Says:

    Therefore there is a great difference between baptized and unbaptized men. For since, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, (Gal iii, 27), all who have been baptized have put on Christ, and thus are truly regenerate, they have now a liberated will), that is, as Christ says, they have been made free again, (John viii, 36); whence they are able not only to hear the Word, but also to assent to it and accept it, although in great weakness (Formula of Concord SD II, 67).

    Formula Concord SD II, 65-66: As soon as the Holy Spirit, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should co-operate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1 ).

    But this is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God. But if this were understood thus…that the converted man cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon, this could in no way be conceded without prejudice to the divine truth.

    Here also we add something concerning rewards and merits. We teach that rewards have been offered and promised to the works of believers. We teach that good works are meritorious, not for the remission of sins, for grace or justification (for these we obtain only by faith), but for other rewards, bodily and spiritual, in this life and after this life, because Paul says, ‘Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor’ (1 Co iii, 8). There will, therefore be different rewards according to different labors. But the remission of sins is alike and equal to all, just as Christ is one, and is offered freely to all who believe that for Christ’s sake their sins are remitted. Therefore the remission of sins and justification are received only by faith, and not on account of any works (Apology V [IV II], p73

    For the old Adam, as an intractable, refractory ass, is still a part of them, which must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles, until the body of sin is entirely put off, and man is perfectly renewed in the resurrection, when he will need neither the preaching of the Law nor its threatenings and punishments, as also the Gospel any longer; these belong to this [mortal and] imperfect life. But as they will behold God face to face, so they will, through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, do the will of God [the heavenly Father] with unmingled joy, voluntarily, unconstrained, without any hindrance, with entire purity and perfection, and will rejoice in it eternally.

    Accordingly, we reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent (Formula Concord SD VI, 24-26).

  31. markmcculley Says:

    the adjective becomes adverb

    temporary faith becomes temporary believing

    “born in the covenant” becomes “but never even the once justified”

    o how does it come about that in Scripture faith is ascribed to the reprobate when Paul teaches that faith is a fruit of election? The answer he gives is ‘though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father.’ (Inst. III.2.11)

    Here’s one significant difference in Calvin’s treatment of the nature of perseverance; true faith, the faith which continues to the end, persevering faith, is assured faith. (III.2.11) ‘However feeble and slender the faith of the elect may be, yet as the Spirit of God is to them a sure earnest and seal of their adoption, the impression once engraved can never be effaced from their hearts, whereas the light which glimmers in the reprobate is afterward quenched.’ It is not only that Calvin features assurance and Augustine doesn’t; his understanding of assurance is that it is a distinctive impression made known to the believer through introspection, self-knowledge, which tells him that however weak his faith may be it can never be extinguished. By contrast, in referring to ‘perseverance’ (Calvin never uses the word in this discussion, though he had earlier (II.3.10-13) referred approvingly to Augustine’s remarks on merit and perseverance), Augustine never mentions assurance as far as I can see, but uniformly refers to ‘piety’ as the sign of perseverance, indeed as what perseverance is.

    The prominence that Calvin gives to assurance as an interior impression suggests that he reckons that the believer knows that he will endure to the end, because he presently is favoured with an infallible sign of his adoption as a child of God. By contrast the use of the language of ‘perseverance‘ by Augustine suggests a linear progression, a walk, a race, a fight, a climb. Then the answer to the question of personal belief is grounded on the fact that the Lord continually makes the person to stand. That is, the Lord enables him to press on as a Christian, to have ‘pious thoughts’ which produce faith which works by love. (Gift of Perseverance, ch.20) There is also a suggestion of regeneration through baptism.

    Augustine refers to the laver of regeneration which both those who persevere and those who come not to, enjoy, but this need not be to have any more sacramental implications (or less) than Paul’s ‘washing of regeneration’. There is no suggestion of baptismal regeneration in Calvin, And this continuation of the believer’s ‘standing’ is expressed by Augustine in terms of obedience, virtue, and continued communion with visible church.

    In my view Augustine’s emphasis, rather than Calvin’s on assurance, makes much more sense of Scripture’s warning passages. This is another difference between Calvin and Augustine. The Bishop of Hippo discusses the warnings of the New Testament as integral to the question of perseverance, but Calvin is silent on them in the Institutes in his treatment of temporary faith. The reason for Calvin’s silence is presumably that if someone has a God-given, infallible assurance that he is adopted into God’s family, one of the elect, what need of warning? Nothing that could happen to him could dislodge him, for having the inward impression he can be confident that no-one can pluck him out of the Father’s hands.

    In his treatment of I Cor. 10.12, which Augustine also discusses, Calvin says ‘we must not glory in our beginnings’, [that is, our ‘conversion story’]. And he is concerned about the Papists [who]

    wrest this passage for the purpose of maintaining their impious doctrine of faith, as having constantly doubt connected with it, let us observe that there are two kinds of assurance. One arises from reliance on the promises of God which yet keeps in mind its own infirmity, casts itself upon God, and with carefulness and anxiety commits itself to him. This kind of assurance is sacred, and is inseparable from faith…..The other arises from negligence, when men, puffed up with the gifts that they have, give themselves no concern, as if they were beyond the reach of danger, but rest satisfied with their condition’. (Comm. I Cor 10.12, italics added.)

  32. markmcculley Says:

    Tianqi Wu Many Lutherans make our “dying” (sacramental experience) more important than the one finished death of Christ for the elect alone. They turn even “death” into a work-therapy for sinners. This is ironic, given that they boast in their “theology of cross”. When I was in the snare of universal atonement, I felt guilty for “killing” “Jesus” trying to save me and “wasting” his blood for me by not trusting enough in it to make it work for myself. I was all about “low anthropology”, about us murdering God showing our total depravity and need for Jesus… But the irony, or contradiction inherent in all this “theology of cross” of mine is that I never actually believed in total depravity (and thus never believed in need for Jesus). I was merely refining partial depravity over and over again – since whatever degree of depravity I admitted, I made my confession of that depravity my righteousness, so that though Christ died for all, the death worked for me because I finally confessed my depravity (killing Jesus) while others did not. I made my supposed lack of self-righteousness my righteousness. How dumb I was! It’s only in the gospel that I for the first time faced the reality of sin – God had chosen an elect to display his unconditional grace and Christ came with their sins imputed and died for their sins alone, and that sin-taking-away death was THE reason (alone, sufficient) that they are justified before the holy God. No more “theology of cross”, here is the real cross, one that does not depend on the sinner, but is wholly of God. Not our “dying”, not our apology for “killing Jesus”, not preaching “killing and making alive” now, not our “exchanging sins” – but God punishing the God-man with death for the sins of God’s elect, happened and finished outside all sinners.

  33. markmcculley Says:

    Q: Following a Communion service, what are the prescribed means for the disposal of the consecrated wine and wafers?

    A: To begin with, care should be taken that inordinate amounts of bread and wine are not consecrated at each service, but rather just what is needed for that service.

    While Scripture does not tell us whether Christ’s body and blood are still present in the blood and wine after Communion, we should still treat what remains with greatest reverence. The point here is to recognize the fact that these elements were used in the service to deliver our Lord’s very body and blood to us. How we treat them after the service should never lose sight of that great mystery of faith.

    There are two places to find helpful information on this topic. One is Section B.2.c. of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ 1983 document titled, Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper.
    B.2.c. Post Communion Reverence

    The consecrated elements which remain after all have communed should be treated with reverence. This reverence has been expressed by Lutherans in various ways. Some have followed the ancient practice of burning the bread and pouring the wine upon the earth. Others have established a basin and drain-piscina-specifically for disposal for the wine. The elders or altar guild may also return the consecrated bread and wine to specific containers for future sacramental use, or the elders and pastor can consume the remaining elements. All of these practices should be understood properly. The church is not, thereby, conferring upon the elements some abiding status apart from their use in the Lord’s Supper itself.
    The other point of reference is page 89 of The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service book Edition, by Dr. Lee Maxwell that says:
    “If any of the Lord’s body and blood remains, they can be disposed of in a number of ways. The best way is to consume the remaining elements, since the Lord said, “Take and eat … Take and drink,” and did not provide for anything that was left over. There is historic precedent for reserving the remaining elements against the next communion. The hosts can be stored in a pyx or ciborium (apart from unconsecrated hosts), the blood of the Lord in a suitable cruet or flagon (apart from unconsecrated wine). What remains in the chalice, however, should either be consumer or poured into the piscine or onto the ground, since there may be crumbs or other foreign matter in it. The reserved elements may then be kept in the sacristy or placed on the altar or credence and covered with a white veil. It is un- Lutheran and irreverent to place unused elements in the trash or to pour the remainder of what is in the chalice or flagon into the common drain.”
    As noted in the manual, the general practice of the Lutheran Church has been NOT to mix consecrated and unconsecrated elements. If the elements are saved for future use, it is best they are kept separate. The practice of consuming the remaining elements also has a long history in the Lutheran Church.

  34. markmcculley Says:…/when-doctrine-becomes… The Lutheran thinks that thee old adam is the bad nature which was drowned in his water baptism, but which still needs to continue to be drowned so that he can be continually justified. The Lutheran doesn’t think that there is a before and after of justification–he thinks justification is continuing and can be lost

  35. Warfield: “It is only the Reformed system that it retains the purity
    of its conception and resists the tendency to make it a doctrine of
    justification on account of; instead of by, faith. It is true that
    Lutheranism is prone to rest in faith as a kind of ultimate fact,
    while Calvinism penetrates to its causes, and places faith in its due
    relation to the other products of God’s activity looking to the
    salvation of man. And this difference may, on due consideration,
    conduct us back to the formative principle of each type of thought.
    But it, too, is rather an outgrowth of the divergent formative
    principles than the embodiment of them.

    Lutheranism, sprung from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul seeking peace with God, finds peace in faith, and stops right there. It is so absorbed in rejoicing in the blessings which flow from faith that it refuses or neglects to inquire whence faith itself flows. It thus
    loses itself in a sort of divine euthumia, and knows, and will know
    nothing beyond the peace of the justified soul. Calvinism asks with
    the same eagerness as Lutheranism the great question, “What shall I do to be saved?” and answers it precisely as Lutheranism answers it. But it cannot stop there.

    The deeper question presses upon it, “Whence this faith by which I am justified?” And the deeper response suffuses all the chambers of the soul with praise, “From the free gift of God alone, to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Thus Calvinism withdraws the eye from the soul and its destiny and fixes it on God and His glory. It has zeal, no doubt, for salvation but its highest zeal is for the honour of God, and it is this that quickens its emotions and vitalizes its efforts. It begins, it centres and it ends with the vision of God in His glory and it sets itself; before all things, to render to God His rights in every sphere of life-activity.

  36. markmcculley Says:

    In Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel (Concordia, 2000), Jacob Preus writes: “Faith is necessary to appropriate the reconciliation of Christ. However, our faith does not make Christ’s work effective. It is effective even if no one approves it, even if no one is saved.” (p140).

    Lutherans have an “objective reconciliation” that does not reconcile. That kind of objectivity is not gospel. It’s not good news to make salvation depend on “appropriation”.

    Even if you say that grace has to overcome the bondage of your will to “take it” , there are two problems with the false gospel of Lutherans like Preus.

    One, there is no idea that Christ’s death purchased the work of the Spirit and faith for the elect. Even if God by grace gives the faith, that faith is not a certain result of Christ’s work, even though the Bible teaches that it is (I Peter 1:21;II Peter 1:1; Eph 4:7-8; Phil 1:29).

    Two, there can be no notion of a penalty for specific sins imputed, and therefore Lutherans end up with a propitiation that does not propitiate, a ransom that does not redeem, and a reconciliation that does not reconcile.

    Part of the problem with the Preus chapter on reconciliation is that he seems to have no idea of God Himself being both the object and subject of His own reconciliation. Preus limits the concept to the sinner’s enmity to God, and not to God’s enmity to unjustified sinners.

    Even when writing about the Father and the Son (p142), Preus tells us that “Christ was at enmity with God”. This is not mystery: it is simply wrong. It is a result of not talking about the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    Instead of seeing that Christ was “made sin” legally because of imputation, Preus turns Christ into a sinner angry at God. Christ is and was human, but in no way a sinner except by imputation.

    But of course no Lutheran who teaches an universal objective atonement can dare talk about the imputation of the guilt of the elect to Christ. They cannot even talk about God’s imputation of the elect’s punishment for that guilt to Christ.

  37. markmcculley Says:

    nfant water is the best because infants bring nothing to the table?

    do you bring to the table the fact that you bring nothing to the table?

    do you take pride in your water baptism?

    do you bring your infant water baptism with you to the table?

    do you take pride because at least the water is not you

    pride that the water is what God Himself gave you?

    at any rate, it’s too late for me, I never got the infant water

    and now I bring to the table my faith in the gospel and claim that God
    gave me that faith in the gospel through the power of the gospel

    so now that I already believe the gospel, it’s way too late for me and water

    too bad i didn’t get some water from the Mormons or the Roman Catolics

    and then you could have given me some gnostic adjustment
    and instruction about what God was doing when God baptised me into Christ

    now it’s too late
    despite your assurance that God imputed all our sins to Christ
    I’m not an infant anymore
    there’s no way for me now to get Christ’s death to me

  38. markmcculley Says:

    The words, Ye are fallen from grace,’ (Gal 5:4) must not be taken lightly. They are important. To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians)

  39. markmcculley Says:

    The “for you” does not comfort the Lutheran if it’s not for everybody, therefore for the Lutheran the “for you” IS for everybody (in church who hears the preacher)

    But this “for everybody” would mean a “proposal of marriage kind of promise”, therefore “for everybody” means Christ died for all sinners but now it’s up to you and the Holy Spirit.

    Against both Scott Clark and the Lutherans, I am so “rationalistic” that I want to deconstruct the Lutheran Forde’s stupid explanation about the DIFFERENCE between “theology about the cross” and “theology of the cross”

    Forde is not the only sacramentalist who has a theory about how “sacraments” work “for you” without God teaching you a “theory” or an “explanation” about how Christ’s death worked.

    Forde’s explanation depends on a difference between fact and value/ meaning. Forde’s theory rejects anything in the Bible that sounds like the “marketplace”. So long “redemption”.

    “Something has happened” apart from your “freewill”. To Forde and many other Lutherans this means that we still don’t know how God thinks and why Christ died because of sins.

    “Christ has your sins and Christ is not going to take your sins back and yet somehow, without the preacher and the splash of the water, you still might not have life?”

    “You are being saved”, but yet somehow in the end, maybe you won’t be saved

    Because Forde and many other Lutherans are offended at what the Bible says about propitiation, they explain that the offense of the cross is that we don’t have an explanation. They explain that the offense of the cross is that God doesn’t have an explanation.

    Does “For you” mean “corporate everybody” or does “for you” mean “individual persons”?

    Forde’s law says that Christ’s death cannot be explained or justified by law. Forde disagrees with Romans 4:25 that Christ was raised from the dead because of the justification of sinners. Forde’s reason for Christ’s resurrection is that there is no reason, and Christ being risen is lawlessness.

    Forde has his own explanation for Christ’s death–we killed him.
    God didn’t plan the death for the sake of God’s justice (forget Romans 3:25)
    Forde turns Christ’s death into law–you all killed him.
    Then Forde confuses law with gospel—therefore since you all killed him, Christ died “for you”, for everybody

    And if you don’t agree with Forde’s explanation, he has some more accusations against you
    1. you must prefer Christ dead to Christ, since you think the death was so necessary.
    2. if you think the Son removed the wrath between you and the Father, then you must think the Father did not send the Son, you must think that the Father only loves you because of the Son, you must think there must now be a separation between the Father and the Son, because you used to (foolishly) think there was a separation between the Father and you, because of your sins
    3. Forde accuses all who disagree with his theory about Christ’s death of being people who think their “assent by their freewill to propositions” is the “currency that buys off God”

    Forde puts the “others” into Arminian mode, but he denies being universalist. So what keeps the “for everybody” of Christ’s death from working foreverybody? Not our freewill, but our not hearing the preacher and getting the splash of water and swallowing Jesus in the sacrament?

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