Author Topic: Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction and justification as metalinguistic rule  (Read 812 times)

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Offline Daedelus1138

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I have been wanting to talk about this for some time, to get some discussion going.

What exactly is wrong with the Lutheran distinction of Law and Gospel from an Orthodox perspective?

First, lets describe briefly the modern Lutheran conceptualization of justification by faith as meta-linguist rule:

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"This doctrine describes nothing at all, neither God’s justice nor the process of our becoming just. It is instead an instruction to those who would audibly or visibly speak the gospel, a rule for preachers, teachers, liturgists, and confessors. This instruction may be formulated: So speak of Christ and of hearers’ actual and promised righteousness, whether in audible or visible words, whether by discourse or practice, that what you say solicits no lesser response than faith—or offense” (Robert W. Jenson, Unbaptized God, p.22-23)

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.. But what kind of discourse provokes faith or offense? Unconditional promise! The gospel is proclamation of the story of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, in the performative mode of promise. “The whole point of the Reformation,” declares Jenson, “was that the gospel promise is unconditional; ‘faith’ did not specify a special condition of human fulfillment, it meant the possibility of a life freed from all conditionality of fulfillment” (Lutheranism, p. 37).

Next, lets talk about how Orthodoxy hears justification by faith alone:

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... One can search far and wide in the writings of the Eastern Fathers for discussion of justification by faith, and the few times one finds it discussed (as in the homilies of St John Chrysostom) it is clear that the divine justifying act is understood as effective and transformative. What one does not find in the Eastern Fathers is a forensic imputation of righteousness. The Orthodox Church is consumed by theosis. Ask an Orthodox priest about justification by faith alone, and you will most likely receive a quizzical look, if not a shake of the head. When one reads the correspondence between Patriarch Jeremiah II and the Lutheran theologians of Tübingen, for example, it’s clear that the Patriarch could only hear the Lutheran formulations as asserting the non-necessity of repentance and good works. “The Church demands a living faith, which is made evident by good works,” he pointedly writes; “for as Paul says, faith without works is dead [Jas 2:17]. … If then, we have sinned in some thing, let us approach the Sinless One through sincere repentance and confession, and let us demonstrate complete abstinence from evil things. Let us openly come to repentance in order to receive mercy and anything else we ask. There is no sin which has overcome God’s love for mankind” (Augsburg and Constantinople, p. 37). Everything Jeremiah writes is true, yet he misses the point of the Reformation doctrine



More on Fr. Aidan Kimel's blog:

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/preaching-gospel-as-gospel-or-why-the-orthodox-catholic-and-protestant-churches-need-the-reformation/
« Last Edit: September 01, 2016, 02:22:44 AM by Daedelus1138 »
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Offline Onesimus

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Re: Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction and justification as metalinguistic rule
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2016, 07:49:26 AM »
The Law / Gospel distinction (as taught by Protestants) is artificial and false and takes Paul's words to a place they were not meant to go.   It has made its way into the consciousness of many ORthodox as well.  There is a place for a distinction, but it is very nuanced and taken to unhealthy and spiritually damaging extremes and false dichotomies by Protestants.  (I will attempt to deal with this later down the road.)   

Now, to begin with, I will not be dragging in Fr. Aidan's blog or post into this.   We have everything at our fingers within Scripture to exegete a proper understanding of the Law.   The failure by many (most) to do so is only a continuing testament to the words of Saint Peter;
 
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Consider also that our Lord’s patience brings salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom God gave him. He writes this way in all his letters, speaking in them about such matters. Some parts of his letters are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, beloved, since you already know these things, be on your guard not to be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure standing.

But, I think a good place to start is with the quote you provided from Jensen.

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This instruction may be formulated: So speak of Christ and of hearers’ actual and promised righteousness, whether in audible or visible words, whether by discourse or practice, that what you say solicits no lesser response than faith—or offense.  But what kind of discourse provokes faith or offense?   ”Unconditional promise! The gospel is proclamation of the story of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, in the performative mode of promise. “The whole point of the Reformation,” declares Jenson, “was that the gospel promise is unconditional; ‘faith’ did not specify a special condition of human fulfillment, it meant the possibility of a life freed from all conditionality of fulfillment” (Lutheranism, p. 37).

There are simply too many assumptions and misconstruals which form the basis of the above thought to de-tangle them in any short time frame.   The basis of the doctrines espoused here have their origins in the polemics of heresy between the RCC and Protestantism, with "merit" based salvation at its core.   Such "merit" is foreign to the Orthodox faith.   All formulations of the Law/Gospel distinction were a result of heresy trying to fight heresy with heresy.   Fighting fire with fire simply creates more fire.  Only the Living Water of the Spirit can douse these flames.

Let us begin with the following part of the above;

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...was that the gospel promise is unconditional; ‘faith’ did not specify a special condition of human fulfillment, it meant the possibility of a life freed from all conditionality of fulfillment.”

Is this true?

There is a big issue here to be discussed about in the term "fulfillment."  We do not fulfill the Law in our person(s).  This is true.  But this utterly belies the point of "faith."   Christ "fullfills" the Law in his human/divine person.   We share in that fulfillment through PARTICIPATION.   We take that which is fulfilled and fill ourselves with it and live in it.   We take the gift given (which we could not engender) and it becomes fuflilled in us through the co-operation with the Holy Spirit.   The Law becomes "written on our Hearts."   It becomes not simply the Law of external rubrics, but the "Law of Love."  It becomes "Faith working through Love."   

There are a couple of major issues with the inability to discern here.  It takes no account of the economy of the Son and the economy of the Spirit and their actions in relationship to faith.   Christ enables the gift of salvation as possibility and promise.   Without Christ's incarnation, there is no salvation.   In that sense alone, the reunion of the human nature and the Divine nature by grace - can one rightly say there is no condition of fulfillment.   

But this is where Protestants have no further grounding.   The accomplishment of God in Christ is the offer of promise.   It's reception is a continuing act of accepting and working with the grace of the Holy Spirit is "walking in" the promise.   In this - there is condition of walking in the fulfillment and participating in the fulfillment.  The promise must be constantly received and nurtured as faith and "walked in."  It must be done.   Faith is not simply "belief."   

Christ and the Apostles give witness to the conditions of fulfillment;

The "promise" of the Law is not unconditional; 

It is a dual promise...and that dual promise is not changed in the least by Christ - but fulfilled (made complete) in Him and through Him.   The dual promise remains.
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"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants...

The Law sets forth the choice of either promise.   The promise of blessing, or the promise of curse.   This promise continues to be set forth in and through Christ.

Matthew 5:17-20:   

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“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 7:21-27

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“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

See also Matthew 10:38-39, Matthew 12:36-37, Matthew 12:29-50 "whoever does the will of my Father",
Matthew 13:40-43, "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness."   Matthew 13:49-50, Matthew 18:3-9, Matthew 19:16-30, Matthew 21:28-32, Matthew 22:1-14, Matthew 23:1-12, 23:23-28, Matthew 24:9-14, Matthew 24:45-51.  Matthew 25:1-29, Matthew 25:31-46.
Matthew 28:18-20;  "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you...

I could go through the rest of the Gospels in the same manner and elucidate the same emphasis on DOING. 

But let us move to the Epistles of the Apostles.  What is their witness?

Hebrews 10:26-31, 10:32-13:18.  Romans 2:1-16.  (I have run out of time to elucidate further)  All of Romans and the discussions of the law must be understood under the dual promise of God regarding the law.   The law has a promise of both "Spirit" and of "flesh" --- The promise of life and the promise of curse.   Paul juxtaposes the Law of the Spirit with the Law of the letter, delineating the two promises in the One Law.   The law delivered by Moses is a "shadow" of the true Law;  The true Law is Christ.   

There is much more to say about this.

I am out of time...and will attend to this further over the weekend.

Please refrain from responding to my post until such time as I can lay out some of the rest of this over the weekend.  Please just ruminate and pray about the words of our Savior in the Gospels regarding the DOING of faith - which is far from a call to unconditional response.   It is a call to respond positively, and our salvation and union with Him is predicated on our reception and nurturing of His gifts of Grace.  We cannot earn the Grace offered to us.  We do not merit Grace.  But we do receive the gift of Grace and use it to overcome our fleshly inability to fulfill the Law in and through ourselves, by allowing the Spirit to fulfill it in us through Christ.   "Faith working in Love."  The Law of Love.   The surrender to the Spirit, in whom the Law is made a part of our Spirit...not simply an external curse and rubric.

Grace makes the Law complete.    It does not abrogate the Law.  The Law/Gospel distinction as it exists in Protestantism cannot discern the dual promise of the Law, which finds its telos in Christ.

More to come.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2016, 08:09:53 AM by Onesimus »

Offline mcarmichael

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Re: Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction and justification as metalinguistic rule
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2016, 01:32:49 PM »
I have been wanting to talk about this for some time, to get some discussion going.

What exactly is wrong with the Lutheran distinction of Law and Gospel from an Orthodox perspective?

First, lets describe briefly the modern Lutheran conceptualization of justification by faith as meta-linguist rule:

Quote
"This doctrine describes nothing at all, neither God’s justice nor the process of our becoming just. It is instead an instruction to those who would audibly or visibly speak the gospel, a rule for preachers, teachers, liturgists, and confessors. This instruction may be formulated: So speak of Christ and of hearers’ actual and promised righteousness, whether in audible or visible words, whether by discourse or practice, that what you say solicits no lesser response than faith—or offense” (Robert W. Jenson, Unbaptized God, p.22-23)

Quote
.. But what kind of discourse provokes faith or offense? Unconditional promise! The gospel is proclamation of the story of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, in the performative mode of promise. “The whole point of the Reformation,” declares Jenson, “was that the gospel promise is unconditional; ‘faith’ did not specify a special condition of human fulfillment, it meant the possibility of a life freed from all conditionality of fulfillment” (Lutheranism, p. 37).


meh.

If you are right, just have faith, and then return to the Orthodox Church. Right guys?
« Last Edit: September 01, 2016, 02:13:42 PM by mcarmichael »
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Offline Onesimus

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Re: Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction and justification as metalinguistic rule
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2016, 04:18:32 PM »
Daedelus,

The false dichotomy is built by dissecting parts of Scriptural passages, isolating them from contexts, and patchworking them together in a false way and giving new definitions to words (that are false), creating a completely distorted and misleading narrative.

Its like a person taking  a dozen pictures of people and cutting their faces into pieces....a dozen noses, two dozen eyes, and dozen mouths, etc... and then pasting them all together in a different order and saying that they're a picture of my mother.





You've pointed in another thread that John 1:17, makes a "distinction" between law and grace and the two being opposed to one another.

But this is directly contrary to what the Scriptures actually says.   This is what you quoted John 1:17 as saying;

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For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

But you've completely taken this out of its context and if you hadn't done that, it says exactly the opposite of what you are claiming it says.

Place it in the context of the verse before it.   

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16From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 17For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God andb is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.

Grace upon grace.  One cannot skip past this.  God has given Grace upon grace - or more properly; grace in place (alongside, in exchange for, corresponding to) grace.   There are two deliveries of grace...both from the fullness of Christ.  The first grace from God is choosing Israel and the giving of the Law through Moses.  "I chose you, not because you were many in number, but because of your fathers."   Deuteronomy 7:7,   The second grace "upon" that grace is Christ Himself.   The first grace is "delivered" through a mediator in Moses and ministered, the fullness of grace "came" in the incarnate Son of God.   There is no "distinguishing" between the two in the manner you propose...they are BOTH forms of grace, though not equal.   

It is fine to make distinguish in a nuanced way between the two...but there is a certain point past which a true teaching becomes an utterly false one and there is a point where people are being taught NOT to read what is right in front of them.   

This verse does not make a Law vs. grace oppositional proposition as you would have it through Lutheran eisegesis.  It describes both the Law and Christ as "grace."   

This is the consistent reading of the Church, the Fathers testify to this.   The Greek testifies to this.   I could take this into any Protestant text critical analysis and no other meaning could be attributed.  Your eisegesis ignores the text and imposes upon the text what it does not say. 

This formulation of the text is situated in what is called a chiastic structure common in biblical literary form.  In this section the focus is on two graces given by God.  From His fullness we have all received graceupon grace. For(literally = since, because) the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


You have proposed NOT what the Scriptures say....but what you've been taught they say and mean...and what you wish to have them mean in order to justify what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace."

I invite you to start laying out your Scriptural "proofs" of this false teaching, and I look forward to showing you how  each of them are being manipulated (either purposefully or innocently) to keep well meaning people divided from the truth.


 


Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Lutheran Law-Gospel distinction and justification as metalinguistic rule
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2016, 12:18:19 AM »
I cannot recognize the religion you critique here as being preached in the parish I attend.  God's Law (the Ten Commandments) is not "bad", merely inadequate for saving us.  And the commandment to love God and our neighbor is ultimately fulfilled through the Spirit abiding in us, not through legalism.

I'll have more to say on this in later posts.  I will try to dig up some quotes by Bonhoeffer and another 20th century Lutheran theologian I encountered recently discussing the moral law (I seem to remember him agreeing that the Law of love for God and our neighbor does apply to Christians today, but as I said it is fulfilled by the Spirit in us, and not by some legalistic application of the Torah).  Tonight I'm off to bed.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2016, 12:22:53 AM by Daedelus1138 »
"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."   - Martin Luther