The first use of the Law

We’ve talked here quite a bit about the doctrine of vocation and the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. But there is one other teaching in what we might call the Lutheran theology of culture: the first use of the Law.

To review, the first use of the Law is as a curb, reigning in external sinful behavior so that human society is possible. The second use of the Law is as a mirror, showing us our sinfulness and our need for Christ’s forgiveness; the third use is as a guide, showing Christians what kind of actions please God. The latter two uses get the most attention, but let’s reflect on that first use.

This “civil use” does not create righteousness and is only concerned with external behavior. I may be so angry that I am killing someone in my heart (such is my sinful nature), but I would never kill that person in reality–not just because I fear getting caught but because I would be too ashamed and my conscience would not allow it. The first use of the Law is working. Despite my external obedience to the civil use of the Law, though, I still need the Gospel to grant me forgiveness, and I need Christ to change my hatred into love of my enemy who is also neighbor, whom I am to love and serve particularly in my vocations.

OK, now help me out:

(1) What is the relationship between the first use of the Law and the laws of the civil authorities? (I can see that the two are not coterminous, since the first use works through conscience and not just civil power. But isn’t the civil power obliged to enforce the first use of God’s Law as it relates to civil order and the agency described in Romans 13?

(2) The first use of the law is for all sinners and not just Christian sinners. That is, there is no question of a separate morality for believers and non-believers, at least not in the law’s civil use. Is there?

(3) Doesn’t the first use of the Laws regarding sexual morality apply to the entire culture?

(4) Some Christians are saying that we should let the state set its own standards for marriage and the like–including allowing for same sex marriages–but that the church can insist on its own standards for its members. Wouldn’t that violate the first use of the Law?

(5) It seems that at different times and with different people, the various uses of the Law have been under attack: the legalists rejected the second use; the antinomians rejected the third use. Aren’t we seeing now in our culture the rejection of the first use? And shouldn’t Christians defend it? Or does God’s law need to defense, since it will be at work no matter what man’s laws and customs dictate? If so, how will the first use of the law manifest itself in a morally relativistic, pro-choice-in-all-things culture?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • jb

    This is a very interesting topic. I can’t wait to see what others say.

    Secular society doesn’t recognize that country/state/city laws originate from God’s laws. If you try to explain this to an unbeliever, they get hostile and anti-Christ in a hurry. I experienced this last night on the internet. I tried to explain that “Marriage” was God’s invention and that the government should get out of it (although your post is making me reconsider). Of course, the next step was to deny objective history. Can’t really have a conversation at that point.

    Do local laws line up perfectly with God’s laws? Are they one and the same?

  • jb

    This is a very interesting topic. I can’t wait to see what others say.

    Secular society doesn’t recognize that country/state/city laws originate from God’s laws. If you try to explain this to an unbeliever, they get hostile and anti-Christ in a hurry. I experienced this last night on the internet. I tried to explain that “Marriage” was God’s invention and that the government should get out of it (although your post is making me reconsider). Of course, the next step was to deny objective history. Can’t really have a conversation at that point.

    Do local laws line up perfectly with God’s laws? Are they one and the same?

  • Nemo

    Is there room in Lutheran doctrine for some sort of natural law? If so, what does it look like and how is it applied?

  • Nemo

    Is there room in Lutheran doctrine for some sort of natural law? If so, what does it look like and how is it applied?

  • Tony McCargar

    Ok, I’ll bite. Are you assuming a civil authority who holds conviction to the law? And that their state or national statutes are written as such? If so, then yes they should enforse the first use of the law. Can you imagine in our modern system having our courts go through the law to evaluate the reach of that law? When there was a Christian consensus this could have occured, but today? Nah! Does that mean we shouldn’t work toward that end? Nope. We should pray that God would move upon men to make their calling (vocation) evident that they may work towards that end. And we should then pray for them and others in the civil authority.

  • Tony McCargar

    Ok, I’ll bite. Are you assuming a civil authority who holds conviction to the law? And that their state or national statutes are written as such? If so, then yes they should enforse the first use of the law. Can you imagine in our modern system having our courts go through the law to evaluate the reach of that law? When there was a Christian consensus this could have occured, but today? Nah! Does that mean we shouldn’t work toward that end? Nope. We should pray that God would move upon men to make their calling (vocation) evident that they may work towards that end. And we should then pray for them and others in the civil authority.

  • Nemo

    You must also take into account Aquinas’ four types of law: Eternal Law, Natural Law, Human Law, and Divine Law. Many of the hang ups stem from confusion among these, rather than the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd use of the law.

  • Nemo

    You must also take into account Aquinas’ four types of law: Eternal Law, Natural Law, Human Law, and Divine Law. Many of the hang ups stem from confusion among these, rather than the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd use of the law.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    I’ve argued in other venues that the “first use of the law” is in some tension with the typical modern Lutheran understanding of the “two swords,” where the civil sword is blandly identifed with a secular state and religious disestablishment.

    That said, your examples above are too modest. Recall that the Apology of the Augsburg appeals to the emperor:

    “It is your special responsibility before God to maintain and propagate sound doctrine and to defend those who teach it. God demands this when he honors kings with his own name and calls them gods (Ps. 82:6), ‘I say, “You are gods.”’ They should take care to maintain and propagate divine things on earth, that is, the Gospel of Christ, and as vicars of God they should defend the life and safety of the innocent.”

    Note that “sound doctrine” and those “teaching it” are external things. So those can fall within the domain of the prince. The pastor preaches in public, and doctrine is something that is publically affirmed. So this is consistent with limiting the domain of the civil government to things that can be observed and that are external to the conscience, yet the magistrate can nonetheless assert jurisdiction over these matters a la the first use of the law.

    My point is this: You can’t just open this door because you want to say something about homosexual marriage. The implications of the teaching cannot be limited to that specific topic. So the question is this — are you so opposed to homosexual marriage that you are willing to defend the additional implications of the “first use of the law” view when those implications do not have quite that level of popular support that opposition to homosexual marriage has (e.g., limiting divorce, suppressing heresy, punishing fornication or adultery, forbidding blasphemy).

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    I’ve argued in other venues that the “first use of the law” is in some tension with the typical modern Lutheran understanding of the “two swords,” where the civil sword is blandly identifed with a secular state and religious disestablishment.

    That said, your examples above are too modest. Recall that the Apology of the Augsburg appeals to the emperor:

    “It is your special responsibility before God to maintain and propagate sound doctrine and to defend those who teach it. God demands this when he honors kings with his own name and calls them gods (Ps. 82:6), ‘I say, “You are gods.”’ They should take care to maintain and propagate divine things on earth, that is, the Gospel of Christ, and as vicars of God they should defend the life and safety of the innocent.”

    Note that “sound doctrine” and those “teaching it” are external things. So those can fall within the domain of the prince. The pastor preaches in public, and doctrine is something that is publically affirmed. So this is consistent with limiting the domain of the civil government to things that can be observed and that are external to the conscience, yet the magistrate can nonetheless assert jurisdiction over these matters a la the first use of the law.

    My point is this: You can’t just open this door because you want to say something about homosexual marriage. The implications of the teaching cannot be limited to that specific topic. So the question is this — are you so opposed to homosexual marriage that you are willing to defend the additional implications of the “first use of the law” view when those implications do not have quite that level of popular support that opposition to homosexual marriage has (e.g., limiting divorce, suppressing heresy, punishing fornication or adultery, forbidding blasphemy).

  • Dan Kempin

    Interesting take.

    To begin with, a clarification: The first use of the Law does not take place through conscience, but through fear. Conscience (guilt) is the second use, and remorse (shame, desire to be righteous) is the third.

    The Law of God applies to all people and all nations, even when they deny it. If the kingdom of the left (civil authority) should reject the divine Law, they will be held accountable, and those who fear God must keep his commandments in spite of civil consequences. There is no separate morality in the end, for there is only one judge. You could say, though, that there is a separate morality de facto since the people who fear God live among those who do not.

    Regarding #4, it is not a question of what we (the church?) “let” the state dictate. Caesar will be Caesar, and those who serve the vocation of political power (kingdom of the left) will have to answer for the discharge of their vocation. Their failure, however, does not relieve us of the obligation to “fear God rather than men.”

    Regarding #5, yes, I think our culture is rejecting the Law of God, particularly in its first use, since there is no fear of God. If there is no fear of God, then the Law has no compelling power.

  • Dan Kempin

    Interesting take.

    To begin with, a clarification: The first use of the Law does not take place through conscience, but through fear. Conscience (guilt) is the second use, and remorse (shame, desire to be righteous) is the third.

    The Law of God applies to all people and all nations, even when they deny it. If the kingdom of the left (civil authority) should reject the divine Law, they will be held accountable, and those who fear God must keep his commandments in spite of civil consequences. There is no separate morality in the end, for there is only one judge. You could say, though, that there is a separate morality de facto since the people who fear God live among those who do not.

    Regarding #4, it is not a question of what we (the church?) “let” the state dictate. Caesar will be Caesar, and those who serve the vocation of political power (kingdom of the left) will have to answer for the discharge of their vocation. Their failure, however, does not relieve us of the obligation to “fear God rather than men.”

    Regarding #5, yes, I think our culture is rejecting the Law of God, particularly in its first use, since there is no fear of God. If there is no fear of God, then the Law has no compelling power.

  • http://www.truthwaypress.com Barb R.

    I think the culture accepts the first use of the law – they just have a different view of what the law should be. Rather than accepting God’s word as law, they follow the dictum “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s okay to do it.”

    I still think it’s appropriate to fight against such practices as homosexual marriage to protect the kids that would be a part of those marriages, but I would also like to see more effort put into fighting the problems the church is dealing with, such as divorce.

    It’s easy to speak against homosexuality from the pulpit, since most churches (except for the very liberal ones) don’t have practicing homosexuals in the congregation. It’s hard to speak against divorce for fear of offending people since divorce is so prevalent in the church.

    The Bible says those who remarry after divorce commit adultery, yet this teaching is almost never presented in the church. I can sympathize with the impulse not to hurt the feelings of those who have already remarried, yet by keeping that Scripture quiet, many might remarry not knowing that they’re not supposed to (I recognize that there is some controversy over this teaching.)

    Here’s another interesting question – if you have two homosexuals who have kids together and later become Christians would you expect them to split up? No one would expect two divorced people who became Christians after marrying each other to split up.

    Do we have a double standard with divorce and homosexuality? Sorry, I realize this a little off-topic.

  • http://www.truthwaypress.com Barb R.

    I think the culture accepts the first use of the law – they just have a different view of what the law should be. Rather than accepting God’s word as law, they follow the dictum “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s okay to do it.”

    I still think it’s appropriate to fight against such practices as homosexual marriage to protect the kids that would be a part of those marriages, but I would also like to see more effort put into fighting the problems the church is dealing with, such as divorce.

    It’s easy to speak against homosexuality from the pulpit, since most churches (except for the very liberal ones) don’t have practicing homosexuals in the congregation. It’s hard to speak against divorce for fear of offending people since divorce is so prevalent in the church.

    The Bible says those who remarry after divorce commit adultery, yet this teaching is almost never presented in the church. I can sympathize with the impulse not to hurt the feelings of those who have already remarried, yet by keeping that Scripture quiet, many might remarry not knowing that they’re not supposed to (I recognize that there is some controversy over this teaching.)

    Here’s another interesting question – if you have two homosexuals who have kids together and later become Christians would you expect them to split up? No one would expect two divorced people who became Christians after marrying each other to split up.

    Do we have a double standard with divorce and homosexuality? Sorry, I realize this a little off-topic.

  • EWR

    Dr. Veith,
    Thanks for bringing up this topic of the uses of the Law. I think it can help shed much light here.

    Regarding Questions 2,3,and 4: I think there is a problem if you affirm that there are two sets of moral standards (one for Christians and one for pagans)in the law’s civil use.

    Two Observations:
    1. It seems to me that most Christians who take this “two standards” position tend to view the Bible as the only place that God has set down His Law. It’s the position of the “peace-making fundamentalist”. Some fundamentalists want to fight – and some just want everyone to get along. These folks are from the latter crowd. This leads to my second point.

    2. It also seems to me that the Christians who advocate for this position can’t help but advocate a retreat from the culture. “You have your rules – we have ours – and ours are better because ours are based on the Bible” seems to be the mentality.

    I think that in order for there to be some sort of meaninful discussion of issues like same-sex marriage, our opposition to it must be grounded in some sort of Natural Law. I agree with the comments above that we need to carefully flesh this out. I am not sure if you can completely remove the role of conscience from the realm of the 1st Use of the Law (as Dan suggests in #6).

  • EWR

    Dr. Veith,
    Thanks for bringing up this topic of the uses of the Law. I think it can help shed much light here.

    Regarding Questions 2,3,and 4: I think there is a problem if you affirm that there are two sets of moral standards (one for Christians and one for pagans)in the law’s civil use.

    Two Observations:
    1. It seems to me that most Christians who take this “two standards” position tend to view the Bible as the only place that God has set down His Law. It’s the position of the “peace-making fundamentalist”. Some fundamentalists want to fight – and some just want everyone to get along. These folks are from the latter crowd. This leads to my second point.

    2. It also seems to me that the Christians who advocate for this position can’t help but advocate a retreat from the culture. “You have your rules – we have ours – and ours are better because ours are based on the Bible” seems to be the mentality.

    I think that in order for there to be some sort of meaninful discussion of issues like same-sex marriage, our opposition to it must be grounded in some sort of Natural Law. I agree with the comments above that we need to carefully flesh this out. I am not sure if you can completely remove the role of conscience from the realm of the 1st Use of the Law (as Dan suggests in #6).

  • EWR

    Dan @ #6 said:

    “Regarding #5, yes, I think our culture is rejecting the Law of God, particularly in its first use, since there is no fear of God. If there is no fear of God, then the Law has no compelling power.”

    Is this one of the effects of the Church abandoning a healthy fear of God? When much of the Church doesn’t even seem to take God seriously – why should the pagan?

  • EWR

    Dan @ #6 said:

    “Regarding #5, yes, I think our culture is rejecting the Law of God, particularly in its first use, since there is no fear of God. If there is no fear of God, then the Law has no compelling power.”

    Is this one of the effects of the Church abandoning a healthy fear of God? When much of the Church doesn’t even seem to take God seriously – why should the pagan?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But isn’t the civil power obliged to enforce the first use of God’s Law as it relates to civil order and the agency described in Romans 13?”
    Quite honestly, I don’t think so. And lets remember that Romans 13 was not written about a Christian emperor, nor was the state looking over the 10 commandments. If there aren’t two separate moralities, or to put it in a different light, if Christians are not called to live to a higher standard of morality, why does Paul tell us it is those inside the church we are to judge and not those outside the Church?
    luther rites in “On Secular Authority” that God has established to governments or authorities, the spiritual that fashions true Christians through the Gospel, and the secular or worldly “which holds the unChristian and wicked in check and forces them to keep the peace outwardly and be still, like it or not.” (I think one must remember here too that Luther would not consider one murdering, or committing adultery etc. to be a Christian, at least not while doing these sins of which he says grieve the Spirit and force him to leave. Saint and sinner goes only so far for Luther and Melenchthon in the Apology. Not to say a Murderer could not repent and return to the fold. But so long as he was not repentant he would not be considered a Christian. So the secular law is only for the unChristian and wicked, to hold them and make them keep the peace.)
    I tend to find this work to be the best exposition Luther ever gave on the two kingdoms. Calvin butchered it, starting out with the claim that all men are subject to both authorities which hopelessly confuses the two kingdoms, law and Gospel, and makes the Church, not the bride of Christ, but an authoritarian school marm with her hair in bun and what not else in a bind.
    Off that aside. Here, and I tend to believe this is the biblical use for the secular authority, and the reason god gave it to us, the purpose of secular government is to keep peace, then I don’t think this is going to align with God’s law or the ten commandments. The Christian rightly despises pornography and would teach his sons not to look at it, and his daughters not to pose for it. The Christian shopkeeper would forego the profits and not sell it. But I am not sure how disturbing to the peace it is that my neighbors daughter poses for it, and my other neighbors son looks at it. I don’t tend to be disturbed by it when I see it at the bookstore. Tempted at times maybe, but not disturbed. And passing laws etc, against it might actually do more to disturb the peace. (What just punishment is there for that beyond the grounding I got when I was 13?) Is it disturbing the peace for two people of the same sex to share a bed? If I walked in on it it might disturb my peace, not sure it would disturb “the” peace.
    The government does well to provide a safe environment in which its citizens can go about their daily lives in peace. (History says this is a tall enough order for most governments.) So no civil Authority does not have to enforce people going to church, or believing in one God, or not using the Christian God’s name in vain. Nor does it need to make sure I am not coveting my neighbors ass and or ox. I don’t think it needs to put people to death for committing adultery, but it might be a little more lenient on behalf of the jealous husband for committing murder. Or in the case of divorce, recognize breach of contract. Remember when society treated all marriages as if there was a Prenup behind it?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But isn’t the civil power obliged to enforce the first use of God’s Law as it relates to civil order and the agency described in Romans 13?”
    Quite honestly, I don’t think so. And lets remember that Romans 13 was not written about a Christian emperor, nor was the state looking over the 10 commandments. If there aren’t two separate moralities, or to put it in a different light, if Christians are not called to live to a higher standard of morality, why does Paul tell us it is those inside the church we are to judge and not those outside the Church?
    luther rites in “On Secular Authority” that God has established to governments or authorities, the spiritual that fashions true Christians through the Gospel, and the secular or worldly “which holds the unChristian and wicked in check and forces them to keep the peace outwardly and be still, like it or not.” (I think one must remember here too that Luther would not consider one murdering, or committing adultery etc. to be a Christian, at least not while doing these sins of which he says grieve the Spirit and force him to leave. Saint and sinner goes only so far for Luther and Melenchthon in the Apology. Not to say a Murderer could not repent and return to the fold. But so long as he was not repentant he would not be considered a Christian. So the secular law is only for the unChristian and wicked, to hold them and make them keep the peace.)
    I tend to find this work to be the best exposition Luther ever gave on the two kingdoms. Calvin butchered it, starting out with the claim that all men are subject to both authorities which hopelessly confuses the two kingdoms, law and Gospel, and makes the Church, not the bride of Christ, but an authoritarian school marm with her hair in bun and what not else in a bind.
    Off that aside. Here, and I tend to believe this is the biblical use for the secular authority, and the reason god gave it to us, the purpose of secular government is to keep peace, then I don’t think this is going to align with God’s law or the ten commandments. The Christian rightly despises pornography and would teach his sons not to look at it, and his daughters not to pose for it. The Christian shopkeeper would forego the profits and not sell it. But I am not sure how disturbing to the peace it is that my neighbors daughter poses for it, and my other neighbors son looks at it. I don’t tend to be disturbed by it when I see it at the bookstore. Tempted at times maybe, but not disturbed. And passing laws etc, against it might actually do more to disturb the peace. (What just punishment is there for that beyond the grounding I got when I was 13?) Is it disturbing the peace for two people of the same sex to share a bed? If I walked in on it it might disturb my peace, not sure it would disturb “the” peace.
    The government does well to provide a safe environment in which its citizens can go about their daily lives in peace. (History says this is a tall enough order for most governments.) So no civil Authority does not have to enforce people going to church, or believing in one God, or not using the Christian God’s name in vain. Nor does it need to make sure I am not coveting my neighbors ass and or ox. I don’t think it needs to put people to death for committing adultery, but it might be a little more lenient on behalf of the jealous husband for committing murder. Or in the case of divorce, recognize breach of contract. Remember when society treated all marriages as if there was a Prenup behind it?

  • Nemo

    Dan @ 6

    If the first use of the law doesn’t involve conscience, but only fear, and if the first use is the only one that civil law (human law to use Aquinas’ term for it) can appeal to, than human law (government) is entirely based only on fear. There is thus no common ground between the believer and the unbeliever as to what constitutes a good law—there can be only power.

  • Nemo

    Dan @ 6

    If the first use of the law doesn’t involve conscience, but only fear, and if the first use is the only one that civil law (human law to use Aquinas’ term for it) can appeal to, than human law (government) is entirely based only on fear. There is thus no common ground between the believer and the unbeliever as to what constitutes a good law—there can be only power.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Dan Kempin,

    Where did you get that? 1. Fear 2. Guilt 3. Shame? Sorry, but I think you are working with a false dichotomy there. Doesn’t God use all three the curb sinful behavior in the world?

    Anyway, here’s my thoughts about each of Veith’s questions:

    1. God has given all civil authority to enforce the first use of the law which society will do imperfectly. As I see it, Civil law and its enforcement should (I know many don’t see this as civil responsibility, but they still do it to some extent) sharpen consciences and in that way curb sinful behavior. Setting boundaries and the just penalties of crossing those boundaries are very good for any society.

    2. Right. There are not seperate moralities for Christians and non-Christians according to the First use of the Law. Though for the Christian, through meditation and study of the Word of God, the conscience may be more aware of Gods law – the law written on every heart, so that the Christian may in effect ideally hold himself to a higher curb even in the civil realm.

    3. Right. Everyone’s conscience still works, though our society seems to work awfully hard to kill it in regards to sexual morality. But we each still know its wrong to take another person’s spouse. The law always works and certainly it is in the interest of society to have civil laws which pertain to sexual morality.

    4. If in the civil sphere there is one standard, and in the church there is another and they try to be one society, it won’t work. That is by definition the break down of society. We all need to “play” by the same rules. This is what makes a society civil. Marriage laws and laws related to sexuality definitely should be included in this.

    5. I think Christians should point out this first use of the law more, yes. But it doesn’t really need “defended” but built. It is what is on every man’s heart, but we must build up the infrastructure to make use of it. Certainly, true civil servants should seek to sharpen consciences through the first use of the law even if such curbs are unpopular. It is good stewardship to build such lovely curbs in and around our neighborhoods and communities. As Christians we have much work to do in this area nationally – but this begins at home and in local jurisdictions.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Dan Kempin,

    Where did you get that? 1. Fear 2. Guilt 3. Shame? Sorry, but I think you are working with a false dichotomy there. Doesn’t God use all three the curb sinful behavior in the world?

    Anyway, here’s my thoughts about each of Veith’s questions:

    1. God has given all civil authority to enforce the first use of the law which society will do imperfectly. As I see it, Civil law and its enforcement should (I know many don’t see this as civil responsibility, but they still do it to some extent) sharpen consciences and in that way curb sinful behavior. Setting boundaries and the just penalties of crossing those boundaries are very good for any society.

    2. Right. There are not seperate moralities for Christians and non-Christians according to the First use of the Law. Though for the Christian, through meditation and study of the Word of God, the conscience may be more aware of Gods law – the law written on every heart, so that the Christian may in effect ideally hold himself to a higher curb even in the civil realm.

    3. Right. Everyone’s conscience still works, though our society seems to work awfully hard to kill it in regards to sexual morality. But we each still know its wrong to take another person’s spouse. The law always works and certainly it is in the interest of society to have civil laws which pertain to sexual morality.

    4. If in the civil sphere there is one standard, and in the church there is another and they try to be one society, it won’t work. That is by definition the break down of society. We all need to “play” by the same rules. This is what makes a society civil. Marriage laws and laws related to sexuality definitely should be included in this.

    5. I think Christians should point out this first use of the law more, yes. But it doesn’t really need “defended” but built. It is what is on every man’s heart, but we must build up the infrastructure to make use of it. Certainly, true civil servants should seek to sharpen consciences through the first use of the law even if such curbs are unpopular. It is good stewardship to build such lovely curbs in and around our neighborhoods and communities. As Christians we have much work to do in this area nationally – but this begins at home and in local jurisdictions.

  • http://www.truthwaypress.com Barb R.

    Are we ever commanded in the Bible to make the world follow God’s rules? (This isn’t a rhetorical question – I was actually wondering if anyone knows of a Scripture for this.)

  • http://www.truthwaypress.com Barb R.

    Are we ever commanded in the Bible to make the world follow God’s rules? (This isn’t a rhetorical question – I was actually wondering if anyone knows of a Scripture for this.)

  • Matt C.

    (1) There is some legitimate pragmatism introduced when the first use of the Law is given to the civil authorities. Their purpose is to restrain wickedness, and so the civil goverment may allow moral infractions if their actions to curb them would result in greater wickedness (e.g. divorce is wrong, but Moses tolerated it within certain doundaries due to the nature of the people he was leading).

    (2)There is absolutely no separate morality. The “new” or secular moral systems are merely the natural law with certain aspects blocked out and others exaggerated.

    (3)Yes. And most cultures’ laws have reflected that.

    (4)That depends on the exact circumstances. A church shouldn’t tolerate divorce (with the Biblical exceptions in mind, of course), but as the Law of Moses demonstrates, sometimes a government should. The two concepts need not be identical, but the extent to which they can appropriately differ depends on the particular culture and the natural law.

    (5)Christians should defend it. God’s law will remain written on our hearts regardless of different philosophies and cultures. However, sinful men will try to ignore it, and both good citizenship and good government necessitate making it more difficult to ignore. As to how it will manifest in a relativistic culure, there are two broad possibilities. The first is that the culture will go so far outside the natural law that it will die by natural selection and be replaced by a culture that is more fit. The seconds hinges on the fact that relativists aren’t really relativistic because it’s an incoherent philosophy. Even the staunchest relativist believes in good and bad–their views are just myopic. The task of a good citizen is to connect the dots from the little bit they do see back to everything they are ignoring.

  • Matt C.

    (1) There is some legitimate pragmatism introduced when the first use of the Law is given to the civil authorities. Their purpose is to restrain wickedness, and so the civil goverment may allow moral infractions if their actions to curb them would result in greater wickedness (e.g. divorce is wrong, but Moses tolerated it within certain doundaries due to the nature of the people he was leading).

    (2)There is absolutely no separate morality. The “new” or secular moral systems are merely the natural law with certain aspects blocked out and others exaggerated.

    (3)Yes. And most cultures’ laws have reflected that.

    (4)That depends on the exact circumstances. A church shouldn’t tolerate divorce (with the Biblical exceptions in mind, of course), but as the Law of Moses demonstrates, sometimes a government should. The two concepts need not be identical, but the extent to which they can appropriately differ depends on the particular culture and the natural law.

    (5)Christians should defend it. God’s law will remain written on our hearts regardless of different philosophies and cultures. However, sinful men will try to ignore it, and both good citizenship and good government necessitate making it more difficult to ignore. As to how it will manifest in a relativistic culure, there are two broad possibilities. The first is that the culture will go so far outside the natural law that it will die by natural selection and be replaced by a culture that is more fit. The seconds hinges on the fact that relativists aren’t really relativistic because it’s an incoherent philosophy. Even the staunchest relativist believes in good and bad–their views are just myopic. The task of a good citizen is to connect the dots from the little bit they do see back to everything they are ignoring.

  • Dan Kempin

    Nemo #11,

    Yes to your first sentence. I am not sure how the second sentence follows. The Law is not the place where we find common ground. The Law is good in and of itself, and the Law always accuses.

    Bryan, #12,

    The whole concept of “three uses (or workings) of the Law” is to help distinguish and clarify thought. There is only one Law, and it is always in force and at work. God uses the Law to curb sinful behavior in the world–that is true. Nevertheless, there are three distinguishable ways in which it (the one divine Law) works.

    The first is through fear. Without changing hearts, it curbs outward wickedness–not through a desire to do good, but simply to avoid punishment. That is the first working of the law.

    The second is through spiritual devastation. The Law reveals the brutal truth about our “goodness” and destroys any hope we have of self justification. This is does without offering any hope or solution. Thus my description of this work as “guilt” or “condemnation.”

    Thirdly, the Law works good in those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and it guides the Christian impulse to do good and be righteous. The Law only works this way in the regenerate, since without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to please God or desire what is good. Nevertheless, the Law does not justify a believer, even in the third use. Thus my description of the third use as “remorse” or “desire to be righteous,” since the first two only curb and destroy.

    The terms are my own, and you can certainly reject them in favor of something better. I hope that this explains my understanding more fully.

  • Dan Kempin

    Nemo #11,

    Yes to your first sentence. I am not sure how the second sentence follows. The Law is not the place where we find common ground. The Law is good in and of itself, and the Law always accuses.

    Bryan, #12,

    The whole concept of “three uses (or workings) of the Law” is to help distinguish and clarify thought. There is only one Law, and it is always in force and at work. God uses the Law to curb sinful behavior in the world–that is true. Nevertheless, there are three distinguishable ways in which it (the one divine Law) works.

    The first is through fear. Without changing hearts, it curbs outward wickedness–not through a desire to do good, but simply to avoid punishment. That is the first working of the law.

    The second is through spiritual devastation. The Law reveals the brutal truth about our “goodness” and destroys any hope we have of self justification. This is does without offering any hope or solution. Thus my description of this work as “guilt” or “condemnation.”

    Thirdly, the Law works good in those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and it guides the Christian impulse to do good and be righteous. The Law only works this way in the regenerate, since without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to please God or desire what is good. Nevertheless, the Law does not justify a believer, even in the third use. Thus my description of the third use as “remorse” or “desire to be righteous,” since the first two only curb and destroy.

    The terms are my own, and you can certainly reject them in favor of something better. I hope that this explains my understanding more fully.

  • Nemo

    To address the original questions:

    (1) “What is the relationship between the first use of the Law and the laws of the civil authorities?” The same as that between God’s law and Human law. “[I]sn’t the civil power obliged to enforce the first use of God’s Law?” This question makes no sense. The civil authority may be obligated to enforce God’s law (how much of it seems to be the question), and that may be an expression of the first use; but the law is the same. There may be different types of law that are enforced differently (see my post @ 4), but the three uses are not three types. They all refer to the same law.

    (2) That is correct. Morality is morality. Right and wrong are the same for everyone.

    (3) That would follow from 2.

    (4) One can’t “violate the first use of the Law.” One can only violate the law, or not. Again, three uses, but not three laws. Yes it violates God’s law. The question is whether it violates the part of God’s law that it is within the proper vocation of the state to enforce.

    (5) We’re seeing the rejection of the law, regardless of use. Yet God’s law doesn’t vanish when denied, it’s still written on hearts. Defend it, no. Appeal to it, yes.

  • Nemo

    To address the original questions:

    (1) “What is the relationship between the first use of the Law and the laws of the civil authorities?” The same as that between God’s law and Human law. “[I]sn’t the civil power obliged to enforce the first use of God’s Law?” This question makes no sense. The civil authority may be obligated to enforce God’s law (how much of it seems to be the question), and that may be an expression of the first use; but the law is the same. There may be different types of law that are enforced differently (see my post @ 4), but the three uses are not three types. They all refer to the same law.

    (2) That is correct. Morality is morality. Right and wrong are the same for everyone.

    (3) That would follow from 2.

    (4) One can’t “violate the first use of the Law.” One can only violate the law, or not. Again, three uses, but not three laws. Yes it violates God’s law. The question is whether it violates the part of God’s law that it is within the proper vocation of the state to enforce.

    (5) We’re seeing the rejection of the law, regardless of use. Yet God’s law doesn’t vanish when denied, it’s still written on hearts. Defend it, no. Appeal to it, yes.

  • Nemo

    Dan @ 15

    We disagree that political order is entirely based on fear/power. Hobbes’ order was too limited. While I can agree that the law always accuses in a spiritual sense/context, what we’re discussing is law in the polis. The two are related, but not the same.

    Your distinction between the three uses of the law may work if one does not view them in some sort of chronology—but it muddies the question. Take the first use for example, that commonly attributed to what unbelievers experience. Is it the first use because it is based on fear or does it incur fear because it is the first use? If you have a hypothetical unbeliever who believes he is aspiring to do “good works” is he deluded in his motivation or is he experiencing the third use without the first or second?

    There is this desire to “do good” in everyone, marred by a sin nature of course, and unable to carry out its own demands, but there nonetheless. Call it law, call it conscience, call it natural law, it is there. That is the common ground I referenced. Upon that is built political order.

  • Nemo

    Dan @ 15

    We disagree that political order is entirely based on fear/power. Hobbes’ order was too limited. While I can agree that the law always accuses in a spiritual sense/context, what we’re discussing is law in the polis. The two are related, but not the same.

    Your distinction between the three uses of the law may work if one does not view them in some sort of chronology—but it muddies the question. Take the first use for example, that commonly attributed to what unbelievers experience. Is it the first use because it is based on fear or does it incur fear because it is the first use? If you have a hypothetical unbeliever who believes he is aspiring to do “good works” is he deluded in his motivation or is he experiencing the third use without the first or second?

    There is this desire to “do good” in everyone, marred by a sin nature of course, and unable to carry out its own demands, but there nonetheless. Call it law, call it conscience, call it natural law, it is there. That is the common ground I referenced. Upon that is built political order.

  • Dan Kempin

    Nemo,

    Good statement in point 4 of post 16, by the way.

    I did not say that political order is based on fear or power. I said nothing about the basis of the political order. I said that the first use of the law is fear. (And yes, incidentally, human and civil laws are also based on fear. People drive the speed limit because they do not want a ticket.)

    I don’t know who Hobbes is. I was not attempting to resolve the relationship between the Law of God and civil authority–merely to clarify the three uses. You are correct that they are not a chronology. There is only one law, and it always works. The first use is not limited to unbelievers, but it also takes place in Christians, as does the second and the third.

    The law works wrath, though. It is not the gospel, and it does not lead people to faith. An unbeliever cannot experience the third use of the Law, since it is a fruit of faith.

    I do not take issue with your argument that the Law of God can be argued on the basis of a “common good,” but I was initially unclear where you were going.

  • Dan Kempin

    Nemo,

    Good statement in point 4 of post 16, by the way.

    I did not say that political order is based on fear or power. I said nothing about the basis of the political order. I said that the first use of the law is fear. (And yes, incidentally, human and civil laws are also based on fear. People drive the speed limit because they do not want a ticket.)

    I don’t know who Hobbes is. I was not attempting to resolve the relationship between the Law of God and civil authority–merely to clarify the three uses. You are correct that they are not a chronology. There is only one law, and it always works. The first use is not limited to unbelievers, but it also takes place in Christians, as does the second and the third.

    The law works wrath, though. It is not the gospel, and it does not lead people to faith. An unbeliever cannot experience the third use of the Law, since it is a fruit of faith.

    I do not take issue with your argument that the Law of God can be argued on the basis of a “common good,” but I was initially unclear where you were going.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    There is an underlying premise in this post that I would challenge, namely, that the various “uses” of the Law are under our control and are ours to defend. This usually creates a problem in the so-called “3rd use” where well intentioned preachers try to shape up the justified with a healthy does of “3rd use” instruction.

    I think it is better to view these “uses” as descriptors of the various ways in which the Law impacts the hearer. The Law curbs coarse outbursts of sin, it convicts the sinner, it instructs in holiness. This is what God does with the Law, not what we do. It’s not our place to “defend” any “use” the Spirit may have for the Law.

    The “first use” or curbing function of the Law is roughly equivalent to “natural law” (without the technical baggage commonly associated with that term) or “the law written in men’s hearts” (Roman 2:14ff) so that those without the written Law naturally do what the law requires mediated by the conscience. Paul does not invoke government in Romans 2, though one might well argue that government arises out of the first function of the Law.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    There is an underlying premise in this post that I would challenge, namely, that the various “uses” of the Law are under our control and are ours to defend. This usually creates a problem in the so-called “3rd use” where well intentioned preachers try to shape up the justified with a healthy does of “3rd use” instruction.

    I think it is better to view these “uses” as descriptors of the various ways in which the Law impacts the hearer. The Law curbs coarse outbursts of sin, it convicts the sinner, it instructs in holiness. This is what God does with the Law, not what we do. It’s not our place to “defend” any “use” the Spirit may have for the Law.

    The “first use” or curbing function of the Law is roughly equivalent to “natural law” (without the technical baggage commonly associated with that term) or “the law written in men’s hearts” (Roman 2:14ff) so that those without the written Law naturally do what the law requires mediated by the conscience. Paul does not invoke government in Romans 2, though one might well argue that government arises out of the first function of the Law.

  • Dan Kempin

    WCwirla #19,

    I would caution agains equating the first use of the divine Law with natural law. To do so seems to argue against what you said in the first two paragraphs. The “first use” is a way in which the Law works, not a different kind of Law. Natural Law, if it is written by God, must by its very definition work in all three ways. (When and where the Spirit pleases, if you please.)

    Still, your overall point is of great importance. We cannot choose to preach, implement, or defend the “first use” of the Law. We can merely preach, implement and defend the Law of God.

  • Dan Kempin

    WCwirla #19,

    I would caution agains equating the first use of the divine Law with natural law. To do so seems to argue against what you said in the first two paragraphs. The “first use” is a way in which the Law works, not a different kind of Law. Natural Law, if it is written by God, must by its very definition work in all three ways. (When and where the Spirit pleases, if you please.)

    Still, your overall point is of great importance. We cannot choose to preach, implement, or defend the “first use” of the Law. We can merely preach, implement and defend the Law of God.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I don’t think you understand what Cwirla is saying. That we don’t control how the law works is Cwirla’s first point. That being said, first use of the law really has nothing to do with the spiritual uses in preaching. That is relegated to the civil authorities. In preaching the law though the law will impact the hearers with the first and or third, as Dr. Murry notes, not uses so much as functions.
    The first use of the law is about keeping law and order, or the peace as they say. It is not about invoking guilt or pricking the conscience. The conscience may at times be effective in guiding some to not break the law. But the first use of the law cares not whether you have a conscience. Quite frankly I never really feel guilty about breaking the speed limit, or not wearing my seat belt. But if I see a cop I do slow down for fear of a ticket. However in preaching, I may reference a breaking of the law of the land that is legitimate and invoke guilt in someone. In that way the two are related but it is quite a one way street there. The first use is in the realm of the police, the state and has nothing to do with the Spirit. The Spirit uses the law in preaching to bring about the second and third functions.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I don’t think you understand what Cwirla is saying. That we don’t control how the law works is Cwirla’s first point. That being said, first use of the law really has nothing to do with the spiritual uses in preaching. That is relegated to the civil authorities. In preaching the law though the law will impact the hearers with the first and or third, as Dr. Murry notes, not uses so much as functions.
    The first use of the law is about keeping law and order, or the peace as they say. It is not about invoking guilt or pricking the conscience. The conscience may at times be effective in guiding some to not break the law. But the first use of the law cares not whether you have a conscience. Quite frankly I never really feel guilty about breaking the speed limit, or not wearing my seat belt. But if I see a cop I do slow down for fear of a ticket. However in preaching, I may reference a breaking of the law of the land that is legitimate and invoke guilt in someone. In that way the two are related but it is quite a one way street there. The first use is in the realm of the police, the state and has nothing to do with the Spirit. The Spirit uses the law in preaching to bring about the second and third functions.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Barb #13

    Teach the Law to the world, yes. Make them follow? Impossible. God has never made us follow either.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Barb #13

    Teach the Law to the world, yes. Make them follow? Impossible. God has never made us follow either.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I appreciate both these thoughts:

    “Even the staunchest relativist believes in good and bad–their views are just myopic. The task of a good citizen is to connect the dots from the little bit they do see back to everything they are ignoring.” Matt C. #14

    “yet God’s law doesn’t vanish when denied, it’s still written on hearts. Defend it, no. Appeal to it, yes.” Nemo #16

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I appreciate both these thoughts:

    “Even the staunchest relativist believes in good and bad–their views are just myopic. The task of a good citizen is to connect the dots from the little bit they do see back to everything they are ignoring.” Matt C. #14

    “yet God’s law doesn’t vanish when denied, it’s still written on hearts. Defend it, no. Appeal to it, yes.” Nemo #16

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Thinking about Veith’s question: “how will the first use of the law manifest itself in a morally relativistic, pro-choice-in-all-things culture?”

    Doesn’t the law manifest itself every time this sort of culture harms or kills another because of its institutionalized relativism? Isn’t that ultimately where folks will face the law? – in their own self-inflicted wounds, in abuse from the neighbor, and in death.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Thinking about Veith’s question: “how will the first use of the law manifest itself in a morally relativistic, pro-choice-in-all-things culture?”

    Doesn’t the law manifest itself every time this sort of culture harms or kills another because of its institutionalized relativism? Isn’t that ultimately where folks will face the law? – in their own self-inflicted wounds, in abuse from the neighbor, and in death.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror #21,

    Dear brother,

    (I feel the need to call you ‘brother’ since I saw you with a good beer AND an excellent firearm,)

    I understand what pastor Cwirla is saying, and I agree with it–mostly. I also understand and agree that the first use of the Law is compulsory, external, and fear based.

    That, in fact, was my point.

    Pastor Cwirla equated the “first use” with the “natural law” from Romans 2–the Law which God Himself writes on the heart. The conscience bears witness to this, accusing or even defending.

    Since, as you say, the first use is “not about invoking guilt or pricking the conscience,” how can it be equated to the natural Law that clearly does precisely those things?

    That was my point of caution. I trust pastor Cwirla’s judgement, but I am not clear in what sense the two can be equated.

    By the way, the Law certainly functions in its first use in the realm of the police and the state, but not exclusively so. One’s behavior can, and should, be curbed by the fear of divine punishment to a greater degree than the fear of civil punishment.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror #21,

    Dear brother,

    (I feel the need to call you ‘brother’ since I saw you with a good beer AND an excellent firearm,)

    I understand what pastor Cwirla is saying, and I agree with it–mostly. I also understand and agree that the first use of the Law is compulsory, external, and fear based.

    That, in fact, was my point.

    Pastor Cwirla equated the “first use” with the “natural law” from Romans 2–the Law which God Himself writes on the heart. The conscience bears witness to this, accusing or even defending.

    Since, as you say, the first use is “not about invoking guilt or pricking the conscience,” how can it be equated to the natural Law that clearly does precisely those things?

    That was my point of caution. I trust pastor Cwirla’s judgement, but I am not clear in what sense the two can be equated.

    By the way, the Law certainly functions in its first use in the realm of the police and the state, but not exclusively so. One’s behavior can, and should, be curbed by the fear of divine punishment to a greater degree than the fear of civil punishment.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    Of course where people believe in God, fear of God does curb behavior, but then that falls into the second and third use.
    And I would contend that even if Natural Law does invoke guilt in some who do not know God, the first use of the law is still not about that. Even if the basis of the First use is some natural law theory. The first use is about keeping law and order period, whether or not the accused feels guilt or remorse.
    Where one does feel guilt or remorse the second function of the law is at work, and one might apply the gospel.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    Of course where people believe in God, fear of God does curb behavior, but then that falls into the second and third use.
    And I would contend that even if Natural Law does invoke guilt in some who do not know God, the first use of the law is still not about that. Even if the basis of the First use is some natural law theory. The first use is about keeping law and order period, whether or not the accused feels guilt or remorse.
    Where one does feel guilt or remorse the second function of the law is at work, and one might apply the gospel.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    I agree with Dan @20 and 25 that 1st use and “natural law” are not the same thing. I wasn’t sure about that when I wrote it.

    The law written in men’s hearts (whether you want to call that “natural law” or not) impacts man in all three ways (curb, mirror, guide), like any other form of the law. I would also not equate the 1st use with government, though government is a servant of that function of the law of which fear of temporal punishments is the result (Romans 13).

    To the original post, one way in which the “1st use” of the Law is manifest even in a individualistic, relativistic culture is the intrinsic temporal consequences built into the action (eg habitual drunkenness leads to addiction, etc).

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    I agree with Dan @20 and 25 that 1st use and “natural law” are not the same thing. I wasn’t sure about that when I wrote it.

    The law written in men’s hearts (whether you want to call that “natural law” or not) impacts man in all three ways (curb, mirror, guide), like any other form of the law. I would also not equate the 1st use with government, though government is a servant of that function of the law of which fear of temporal punishments is the result (Romans 13).

    To the original post, one way in which the “1st use” of the Law is manifest even in a individualistic, relativistic culture is the intrinsic temporal consequences built into the action (eg habitual drunkenness leads to addiction, etc).

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    > Everyone’s conscience still works, though our society
    > seems to work awfully hard to kill it in regards to
    > sexual morality. But we each still know its wrong to
    > take another person’s spouse.

    But for how long? That’s being actively attacked now too.
    You’ve seen the ads on TV for AshleyMadison.com, no?

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    > Everyone’s conscience still works, though our society
    > seems to work awfully hard to kill it in regards to
    > sexual morality. But we each still know its wrong to
    > take another person’s spouse.

    But for how long? That’s being actively attacked now too.
    You’ve seen the ads on TV for AshleyMadison.com, no?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m almost certainly in over my head here — though a Lutheran, I often get lost when we stop referring to Bible verses and start talking theology. And as there has been much discussion — and much that I agree with — already, I’m almost certain to duplicate some of what has gone before. That said …

    I find confusing your repeated comparison of a use of God’s Law with civil laws themselves, as in (1) and (4). One cannot enforce a use of a law, but only the law itself, no? As such, your question (1) doesn’t make much sense.

    But then, I note that there is much confusion here over what the uses of the Law actually are, much less how to apply and think about them — even among fellow Lutherans! As such, while I do certainly agree with the ideas behind the three uses of the Law, I wonder if it’s actually a useful framework for this discussion.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the real question here is: should civil law reflect God’s Law? (And if yes, to what degree?) As to the latter question, I think it’s clear that the answer is NOT “completely”, since not even the Israeli theocracy — and guess who set that up! — had laws against everything God said was wrong. As has been noted here, God allowed divorce, even though he hates it. What does that say to us in our societies today?

    In fact, let’s read question (4) in light of that:

    Some Christians are saying that we should let the state set its own standards for marriage and the like -– including allowing for divorce -– but that the church can insist on its own standards for its members. Wouldn’t that violate the first use of the Law?

    Seems like an easily answered question, written like that. Even if we can’t agree on what the first use of the law is, we can agree that not even God demanded that Israel’s laws mirrored the standards he had for his people. I think we’re safe in following his example.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m almost certainly in over my head here — though a Lutheran, I often get lost when we stop referring to Bible verses and start talking theology. And as there has been much discussion — and much that I agree with — already, I’m almost certain to duplicate some of what has gone before. That said …

    I find confusing your repeated comparison of a use of God’s Law with civil laws themselves, as in (1) and (4). One cannot enforce a use of a law, but only the law itself, no? As such, your question (1) doesn’t make much sense.

    But then, I note that there is much confusion here over what the uses of the Law actually are, much less how to apply and think about them — even among fellow Lutherans! As such, while I do certainly agree with the ideas behind the three uses of the Law, I wonder if it’s actually a useful framework for this discussion.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the real question here is: should civil law reflect God’s Law? (And if yes, to what degree?) As to the latter question, I think it’s clear that the answer is NOT “completely”, since not even the Israeli theocracy — and guess who set that up! — had laws against everything God said was wrong. As has been noted here, God allowed divorce, even though he hates it. What does that say to us in our societies today?

    In fact, let’s read question (4) in light of that:

    Some Christians are saying that we should let the state set its own standards for marriage and the like -– including allowing for divorce -– but that the church can insist on its own standards for its members. Wouldn’t that violate the first use of the Law?

    Seems like an easily answered question, written like that. Even if we can’t agree on what the first use of the law is, we can agree that not even God demanded that Israel’s laws mirrored the standards he had for his people. I think we’re safe in following his example.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Mike Westfall #28
    No, hadn’t seen that before – but not surprising. We all still know its wrong. That’s why “discreet” is always a part of these false worldly promises. In that situation the 1st use of the law (and perhaps the 2nd) will come when your wife finds out she (and you) both have gonorhea.

    Isn’t that website also a good negative example of the civil realm abdicating its responsibilities to society, and just letting it run amuck with no curbs at all? In a just society, the civil authorities should go after individuals and companies that promote such licentious lifestyles (including anyone who gives them advertising). I have no problem with the civil authorities punishing the people who run such websites to the end that they are not just fined, but censored.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Mike Westfall #28
    No, hadn’t seen that before – but not surprising. We all still know its wrong. That’s why “discreet” is always a part of these false worldly promises. In that situation the 1st use of the law (and perhaps the 2nd) will come when your wife finds out she (and you) both have gonorhea.

    Isn’t that website also a good negative example of the civil realm abdicating its responsibilities to society, and just letting it run amuck with no curbs at all? In a just society, the civil authorities should go after individuals and companies that promote such licentious lifestyles (including anyone who gives them advertising). I have no problem with the civil authorities punishing the people who run such websites to the end that they are not just fined, but censored.

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  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Up here (Canada) laws banning sodomy were revoked in the early 70s. Any law restricting abortions was overturned in 89. Prayer in public schools (Ontario) was ended in ’90. Gay marriage is now in (04). The direction of secular N.America is clear. I often wrestled with this whole issue (from my erstweilige reformed perspective) and have concluded already years ago that I agree with Bror@10. To ask the state to reinstate laws against sodomy is to absolve the church of any responsibility for being the moral compass in a community – something it does through evangelism and conversion. IOW, do you want to change a society’s moral makeup? – don’t look to civil authorities to carry out God’s will so we can all sit back comfortably without going out to all nations, we must see the church as the agent for moral leadership and direction.
    Therefore, politically I’m Libertarian. The state must protect the church’s right to exist, to preach, to proselytize, and protect its right to restrict membership to people of its own choosing, and allowing opposing views to be freely spoken. In this way the church’s role in society is very clear: it does not bear the sword, it is armed with the word which divides one of two ways. Moreover, not even the Holy Spirit coerces. Asking for enforced morality from the state is to beg for false conversion, lip-service, and luke-warm Laodiceans. There are enough of those types in churches already.
    Blessings,
    CL

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Up here (Canada) laws banning sodomy were revoked in the early 70s. Any law restricting abortions was overturned in 89. Prayer in public schools (Ontario) was ended in ’90. Gay marriage is now in (04). The direction of secular N.America is clear. I often wrestled with this whole issue (from my erstweilige reformed perspective) and have concluded already years ago that I agree with Bror@10. To ask the state to reinstate laws against sodomy is to absolve the church of any responsibility for being the moral compass in a community – something it does through evangelism and conversion. IOW, do you want to change a society’s moral makeup? – don’t look to civil authorities to carry out God’s will so we can all sit back comfortably without going out to all nations, we must see the church as the agent for moral leadership and direction.
    Therefore, politically I’m Libertarian. The state must protect the church’s right to exist, to preach, to proselytize, and protect its right to restrict membership to people of its own choosing, and allowing opposing views to be freely spoken. In this way the church’s role in society is very clear: it does not bear the sword, it is armed with the word which divides one of two ways. Moreover, not even the Holy Spirit coerces. Asking for enforced morality from the state is to beg for false conversion, lip-service, and luke-warm Laodiceans. There are enough of those types in churches already.
    Blessings,
    CL

  • http://bioethike.com Robert

    The Orthodox Lutherans recognized and taught a form of Natural Law, which they believed was accessible through human reason. The Founding Fathers of the United States assumed much of the same. God has implanted in human hearts a knowledge of His will, although appropriating this knowledge is impaired by sin.

    Contemporary Lutherans are handicapped when dealing with modern cultural issues because they have rejected the philosophical assumptions, including Natural Law, accepted and used as a framework for moral theology by Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, et. al.

    Beginning in the 1930′s, the Missouri Synod began paying only lip service to Natural Law theory, even as they began to think, speak, and write more like the Swiss Lutheran theologian, Karl Barth, a strong divine command theorist.

    In the wild, strong divine command theory is the natural predator of Natural Law. Strong divine command theory insists that all things are permissible except those things expressly prohibited, in pen and ink, in Holy Scripture.

    As I suggest on bioethike.com, it is time for today’s Orthodox Lutherans to reacquaint themselves with classical, Lutheran moral reasoning, which includes a re-appropriation of the Lutheran interpretation of Natural Law.

    Robert at bioethike.com

  • http://bioethike.com Robert

    The Orthodox Lutherans recognized and taught a form of Natural Law, which they believed was accessible through human reason. The Founding Fathers of the United States assumed much of the same. God has implanted in human hearts a knowledge of His will, although appropriating this knowledge is impaired by sin.

    Contemporary Lutherans are handicapped when dealing with modern cultural issues because they have rejected the philosophical assumptions, including Natural Law, accepted and used as a framework for moral theology by Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, et. al.

    Beginning in the 1930′s, the Missouri Synod began paying only lip service to Natural Law theory, even as they began to think, speak, and write more like the Swiss Lutheran theologian, Karl Barth, a strong divine command theorist.

    In the wild, strong divine command theory is the natural predator of Natural Law. Strong divine command theory insists that all things are permissible except those things expressly prohibited, in pen and ink, in Holy Scripture.

    As I suggest on bioethike.com, it is time for today’s Orthodox Lutherans to reacquaint themselves with classical, Lutheran moral reasoning, which includes a re-appropriation of the Lutheran interpretation of Natural Law.

    Robert at bioethike.com

  • http://bioethike.com Robert

    Make that Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. Ouch!

  • http://bioethike.com Robert

    Make that Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. Ouch!

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    “Make that Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. Ouch!”

    Hehehee.

    To Robert @33: Most excellent point! Because we Lutherans have lost the concept of “natural law” and are resorting instead to “biblical principles,” we are hamstrung in the public square. We ought to be able to argue matters of public morality on the basis on reason without resorting to revelation.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    “Make that Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. Ouch!”

    Hehehee.

    To Robert @33: Most excellent point! Because we Lutherans have lost the concept of “natural law” and are resorting instead to “biblical principles,” we are hamstrung in the public square. We ought to be able to argue matters of public morality on the basis on reason without resorting to revelation.

  • fws

    @5 Jim. excellent post! ditto #33 & 35

    I see the seeds of confusion being in this post that it would be very easy to assume that there are actually 3 DIFFERENT laws. we humans tend to separate rather than merely distinguish when we categorize.

    The law simply happens. Like the law of gravity and even industrial standards. It is not something we need to contend for. It is MOST CERTAINLY not something we need to contend for in some special way as christians.

    There is also a problem in thinking that there is one law for everyone and some special sanctified “third use” that is only for christians. This is the seed of most error I would suggest today among confessional lutherans.

    there is ONE Law. We all break that one law simply by being ourselves, who we are. sin-R-us.

    That one law kills all of us until we die to it and with Him on the cross in our baptism. and we become Little Jesus’es. Christ-ians.

    Jesus kept the law simply by showing up and being himself. what else would he have done. it came naturally to him.

  • fws

    @5 Jim. excellent post! ditto #33 & 35

    I see the seeds of confusion being in this post that it would be very easy to assume that there are actually 3 DIFFERENT laws. we humans tend to separate rather than merely distinguish when we categorize.

    The law simply happens. Like the law of gravity and even industrial standards. It is not something we need to contend for. It is MOST CERTAINLY not something we need to contend for in some special way as christians.

    There is also a problem in thinking that there is one law for everyone and some special sanctified “third use” that is only for christians. This is the seed of most error I would suggest today among confessional lutherans.

    there is ONE Law. We all break that one law simply by being ourselves, who we are. sin-R-us.

    That one law kills all of us until we die to it and with Him on the cross in our baptism. and we become Little Jesus’es. Christ-ians.

    Jesus kept the law simply by showing up and being himself. what else would he have done. it came naturally to him.


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