Thoughts on the conversation with my critic

Thanks to  Trevin Wax for arranging that discussion between Ben Witherington and me.  (See the posts over the last three days.)  It’s a good use of technology to have that kind of forum.  Some thoughts:

(1)  An effective argument–that is, one whose purpose is persuasion rather than just hitting the other person over the head with your position–tends to start by finding common ground.   I did that.   (I hope I didn’t concede too much.  Perhaps I should have defended Luther more.  Or gone after Ben’s Arminianism.  But those lines of thought didn’t seem productive in this particular argument.)  In academic debate, it’s especially important to find a way to be civil.  I think we succeeded at that.

(2)  If I were to someday sit down with Dr. Witherington at a pub over a beer as he suggested–and how significant was that offer for a Wesleyan!–I’d want to ask him, What kind of good works do you think play such an important role in your understanding of salvation?  I was astonished that he doesn’t believe in the “imputed righteousness” of Christ, holding instead to an “imparted righteousness” given by the Holy Spirit, which means an actual righteousness that Christians attain.  I know about the Arminian doctrine of perfection and their belief that it is possible to lead a sinless life.   I would like to ask him what that looks like.  Is it doing some heroic and spectacular acts of goodness?  Or is it being able to avoid bad behavior?  I have noticed that the notion that our works contribute to our salvation often manifests itself in a person adopting some code of behavior that is rigid but fairly easy to follow, such as abstaining from drinking or smoking, even though the code has little actual moral content.  It also has nothing to do with what the Bible actually says.  (Another option is to come up with ritualistic observances, as in Roman Catholicism, which believes the same thing.   Repeating the Rosary a hundred times becomes a “good work” that accrues “merit,” even though the action is not particularly “good” in a moral sense.)   I would like to ask, are the godly elderly women in a Wesleyan congregation who believe in the necessity of moral perfection any different, really, in their behavior or demeanor than the godly women in a Lutheran congregation who consider themselves sinners saved only by the blood of Christ?   I’d truly like to know what this moral perfectionism is supposed to look like.  (I’d love to hear from any of you readers who believe that.)

(3)  I want to start a movement that goes by the brand and the slogan GTBL.   Not to be confused with LGBT.   My acronym stands for “Glad To Be Lutheran.”   These kinds of theological discussions and the personal stories that emerge from them always make me feel that way.

Here Dr. Witherington actually attended a Lutheran church.  But what made him indignant is service of confession and absolution in which he had to pray, “I confess that I am by nature sinful and unclean.”  He resented the theology that he characterized as “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”   He thinks he isn’t by nature sinful and unclean, that if he falls he can just get right back up on his own, indeed, that God requires that of him.  How different we are!  I know myself as a sinner by bitter experience.  I think that phrase from the TV commercial shows excellent theology.  I’ve fallen, along with Adam & Eve but by my own fault as well.  I can’t get up.  I need help.  I need someone to raise me up.   And that happens when I hear the words of absolution.  The Gospel is not just for back when a person first became a Christian, but it’s for every moment of the Christian life.

Dr. Witherington also has problems with the presence of God.  He doesn’t want to think that God is in vocation any more than he wants to think that God is actually present in the Sacraments.  He wants space for human beings to be autonomous.  I understand that.  But I consider it so sad!

I do respect him and agree with much of what he said in his book.  I don’t mean to vaunt my Lutheranism over those of you who don’t share my theology.   I can understand someone not believing in Lutheranism for all kinds of good reasons, including that it is too good to be true.  All that I can say personally, though, as I study other theologies, is GTBL.

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.

  • James T. Batchelor

    Change the “G” for “glad” to a “D” for “dare” and you have the motto of the Higher Things Youth group.

  • James T. Batchelor

    Change the “G” for “glad” to a “D” for “dare” and you have the motto of the Higher Things Youth group.

  • Dennis Peskey

    While I concede a lack of knowledge regarding Wesleyan theology, the description provided in this post leads to to wonder, “Did Wesley actually believe he could become a better Pharisee than Saul of Tarsus?” I would pray Dr. Witherington would not persist in this works righteousness until it becomes necessary for Christ to unseat him from his high horse leaving him blinded with only his ears to hear the Gospel. If you’re not sinful, what need is there for Christ. Imparted righteousness is every bit as detestable as infused righteousness. Christ put it plainly, “Only God is good.” To think ourselves capable of such condition apart from God’s grace and mercy is to deny Christ’s words which is a denial of Christ himself.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    While I concede a lack of knowledge regarding Wesleyan theology, the description provided in this post leads to to wonder, “Did Wesley actually believe he could become a better Pharisee than Saul of Tarsus?” I would pray Dr. Witherington would not persist in this works righteousness until it becomes necessary for Christ to unseat him from his high horse leaving him blinded with only his ears to hear the Gospel. If you’re not sinful, what need is there for Christ. Imparted righteousness is every bit as detestable as infused righteousness. Christ put it plainly, “Only God is good.” To think ourselves capable of such condition apart from God’s grace and mercy is to deny Christ’s words which is a denial of Christ himself.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Duane Peters

    Greetings from Canada. I am one of the pastors who went with you to that great blues bar in Winnipeg. I follow your blog and also Dr. Witherington’s, so I was intrigued when I read that the two of you would be debating. I have never commented on a blog before, and I know little about computers, so I must beg your indulgence if my formatting does not meet the high standards set by your readers. You mention that you sought common ground with Dr. Witherington and indicated that he objected to the words contained in the confession of sins. It might be helpful to note that the words Dr. Witherington actually quoted were from the “old green hymnal,” Lutheran Book of Worship: “we confess that we are in bondage to sin,” found on page 77 of the same. I believe Trinity Lutheran Church in Ashland, Ohio is an ELCA congregation. Thus, it is likely that they used Lutheran Book of Worship when Dr. Witherington attended, rather than Lutheran Worship or TLH, which most LCMS congregations would have used. If you still wish to seek common ground, you might want to point out to him that this statement conflicts with Thesis 18 of Walther’s Law and Gospel, which says that the universal corruption of mankind should not be described in such a way as to give the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and sinning purposely. Walther argues that great damage can be done when such a statement is made without the qualifying statement: “as we are by nature” or “as long as a person is still in the state of natural depravity and is unregenerate.” He quotes Romans 6:14: “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” I do not wish to enter into a debate about whether the statement in LBW can be correctly understood or not. The point is that Dr. Witherington may have been led to think that Lutherans believe Christians are still in bondage to sin when we do not believe that Christians are ruled by sin.
    In Christ,
    Pastor Peters

  • Duane Peters

    Greetings from Canada. I am one of the pastors who went with you to that great blues bar in Winnipeg. I follow your blog and also Dr. Witherington’s, so I was intrigued when I read that the two of you would be debating. I have never commented on a blog before, and I know little about computers, so I must beg your indulgence if my formatting does not meet the high standards set by your readers. You mention that you sought common ground with Dr. Witherington and indicated that he objected to the words contained in the confession of sins. It might be helpful to note that the words Dr. Witherington actually quoted were from the “old green hymnal,” Lutheran Book of Worship: “we confess that we are in bondage to sin,” found on page 77 of the same. I believe Trinity Lutheran Church in Ashland, Ohio is an ELCA congregation. Thus, it is likely that they used Lutheran Book of Worship when Dr. Witherington attended, rather than Lutheran Worship or TLH, which most LCMS congregations would have used. If you still wish to seek common ground, you might want to point out to him that this statement conflicts with Thesis 18 of Walther’s Law and Gospel, which says that the universal corruption of mankind should not be described in such a way as to give the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and sinning purposely. Walther argues that great damage can be done when such a statement is made without the qualifying statement: “as we are by nature” or “as long as a person is still in the state of natural depravity and is unregenerate.” He quotes Romans 6:14: “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” I do not wish to enter into a debate about whether the statement in LBW can be correctly understood or not. The point is that Dr. Witherington may have been led to think that Lutherans believe Christians are still in bondage to sin when we do not believe that Christians are ruled by sin.
    In Christ,
    Pastor Peters

  • Dennis Peskey

    I’ve intended to stress an attribute of God which is applicable to all the recent discussions – but, I am but a poor, lazy and miserable sinner who does not do the good I want…etc. What is missing in the discussion of both justification and sanctification is the holiness of God. My understanding of this is directly attributable to Dr. John Kleinig.

    First, foremost and always, only God is holy. While we may enjoy limited knowledge or ability of other attributes of God, our holiness is always dependent upon him. Holiness is a power of God alone and our measure of this is in direct relation to our relationship with God.

    God is portrayed biblically as thrice holy; an clear establishment of the source. This was a prime lesson of the tabernacle; the Holy of Holies was where God choose to reside (let the Calvanists beware). Upon the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant sat Christ; access to Him was permitted only by the high priest on the day of atonement and under very strict conditions. It was here the sin-bearing goat’s blood was splashed to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel – only once a year.

    On the other side of the curtain was the Holy Place where the appointed priest entered twice daily to offer the sacrifices for cleansing and the prayers of the people; very near to God’s presence yet clearly seperated from His real presence. Being this close was sufficient to render the entire sacrifice holy as the priest returned outside to the Altar of Burnt Offering to sprinkle the now holy blood of the animals on the altar.

    Finally, the entire nation of Israel could share in God’s holiness through consumption of the peace offering which was the only one of the seven sacrifices given for all believers in the camp of Israel to consume.

    The lesson of the tabernacle was no holiness was possible apart from God. Both the removal of sins and obedience to His Word was possible only in faithful adherence to his Word. The woman with the persistent hemorrage clearly understood this teaching; she knew she only had to touch Jesus’ garment to receive the healing power of his holiness. Many people touched Jesus in his earthy ministry yet did not necessarily share in his holiness. But when we approach him in faith, according to his will – it is then we are given forgiveness of our sins and the ability to please God by doing his will.

    Now, Lutherans enjoy the weekly feast of the Lord where He gives us this very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and to strengthen our faith (and, subsequently, our service to the Lord by acts of mercy to our neighbors). Christ is both real and present in his supper; he invites us to eat and drink of the sacrifice he made for our salvation. When we fear, love and trust in his Word above all else, his holiness abides in us and we can enjoy the true peace of his sacrifice.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I’ve intended to stress an attribute of God which is applicable to all the recent discussions – but, I am but a poor, lazy and miserable sinner who does not do the good I want…etc. What is missing in the discussion of both justification and sanctification is the holiness of God. My understanding of this is directly attributable to Dr. John Kleinig.

    First, foremost and always, only God is holy. While we may enjoy limited knowledge or ability of other attributes of God, our holiness is always dependent upon him. Holiness is a power of God alone and our measure of this is in direct relation to our relationship with God.

    God is portrayed biblically as thrice holy; an clear establishment of the source. This was a prime lesson of the tabernacle; the Holy of Holies was where God choose to reside (let the Calvanists beware). Upon the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant sat Christ; access to Him was permitted only by the high priest on the day of atonement and under very strict conditions. It was here the sin-bearing goat’s blood was splashed to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel – only once a year.

    On the other side of the curtain was the Holy Place where the appointed priest entered twice daily to offer the sacrifices for cleansing and the prayers of the people; very near to God’s presence yet clearly seperated from His real presence. Being this close was sufficient to render the entire sacrifice holy as the priest returned outside to the Altar of Burnt Offering to sprinkle the now holy blood of the animals on the altar.

    Finally, the entire nation of Israel could share in God’s holiness through consumption of the peace offering which was the only one of the seven sacrifices given for all believers in the camp of Israel to consume.

    The lesson of the tabernacle was no holiness was possible apart from God. Both the removal of sins and obedience to His Word was possible only in faithful adherence to his Word. The woman with the persistent hemorrage clearly understood this teaching; she knew she only had to touch Jesus’ garment to receive the healing power of his holiness. Many people touched Jesus in his earthy ministry yet did not necessarily share in his holiness. But when we approach him in faith, according to his will – it is then we are given forgiveness of our sins and the ability to please God by doing his will.

    Now, Lutherans enjoy the weekly feast of the Lord where He gives us this very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and to strengthen our faith (and, subsequently, our service to the Lord by acts of mercy to our neighbors). Christ is both real and present in his supper; he invites us to eat and drink of the sacrifice he made for our salvation. When we fear, love and trust in his Word above all else, his holiness abides in us and we can enjoy the true peace of his sacrifice.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Pr. Peters (#3) Oh, the “joy” of LBW; HC1, pg. 74 – dismissal: “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” (HC2, pg. 95 – ditto; HC3, pg. 117 – ditto)
    Nothing dismisses quite like leaving them with the Law (and we wonder whatever happened to the Lutheran in E?CA).
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Pr. Peters (#3) Oh, the “joy” of LBW; HC1, pg. 74 – dismissal: “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” (HC2, pg. 95 – ditto; HC3, pg. 117 – ditto)
    Nothing dismisses quite like leaving them with the Law (and we wonder whatever happened to the Lutheran in E?CA).
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Good stuff, Dennis. Everybody, read John Kleinig’s Commentary on Leviticus. You will be amazed and greatly blessed.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Good stuff, Dennis. Everybody, read John Kleinig’s Commentary on Leviticus. You will be amazed and greatly blessed.

  • TE Schroeder

    Dr. Veith: “I’ve fallen, along with Adam & Eve but by my own fault as well. I can’t get up. I need help. I need someone to raise me up. And that happens when I hear the words of absolution.”

    I appreciate Dr. Veith seeing the great chasm between a Lutheran and an Arminian understanding of the depravity of man. I wonder if Lutherans should strike the word “help” from our description of how we are redeemed. When I hear, “I need help,” it sounds semi-Pelagian to me. God helps me.

    I know the fault lies with the word “help,” which has several shades of meaning. Since it is prone to be misunderstood — or more accurately, understood according to one’s own theology which means opposing theologies would confess it — I think we should avoid it. “He helped me into the boat,” could mean that he snatched my unconscious body out of the water (Lutheran) or it could mean that he threw a ladder from the boat and I decided to climb up (Amrinian).

    There are better, clearer, not-to-be-misunderstood ways of confessing this. Let’s strive for those.

  • TE Schroeder

    Dr. Veith: “I’ve fallen, along with Adam & Eve but by my own fault as well. I can’t get up. I need help. I need someone to raise me up. And that happens when I hear the words of absolution.”

    I appreciate Dr. Veith seeing the great chasm between a Lutheran and an Arminian understanding of the depravity of man. I wonder if Lutherans should strike the word “help” from our description of how we are redeemed. When I hear, “I need help,” it sounds semi-Pelagian to me. God helps me.

    I know the fault lies with the word “help,” which has several shades of meaning. Since it is prone to be misunderstood — or more accurately, understood according to one’s own theology which means opposing theologies would confess it — I think we should avoid it. “He helped me into the boat,” could mean that he snatched my unconscious body out of the water (Lutheran) or it could mean that he threw a ladder from the boat and I decided to climb up (Amrinian).

    There are better, clearer, not-to-be-misunderstood ways of confessing this. Let’s strive for those.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Right, Rev. Batchelor! I had forgotten that. And I would venture to say that inasmuch as Higher Things teaches young people to be “glad” of their Lutheranism, which it does, they will “dare” to be Lutheran.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Right, Rev. Batchelor! I had forgotten that. And I would venture to say that inasmuch as Higher Things teaches young people to be “glad” of their Lutheranism, which it does, they will “dare” to be Lutheran.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And right, Pastor Peters! Thanks for commenting and please continue to do so. That Dr. Witherington was going to an ELCA church, with that non-Waltherian confession of sin, does keep my mind from boggling somewhat. Also, the fact that one can go to a pastoral conference and everyone then goes to a blues bar also makes me GTBL.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And right, Pastor Peters! Thanks for commenting and please continue to do so. That Dr. Witherington was going to an ELCA church, with that non-Waltherian confession of sin, does keep my mind from boggling somewhat. Also, the fact that one can go to a pastoral conference and everyone then goes to a blues bar also makes me GTBL.

  • Tom Hering

    Why a blues bar? Did the conference make everyone feel sorry for themselves? Maybe it should be GTLB then, “Got Those Luther Blues / just can’t pay my dues / you know what I mean / on the pot I’ve been.” :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Why a blues bar? Did the conference make everyone feel sorry for themselves? Maybe it should be GTLB then, “Got Those Luther Blues / just can’t pay my dues / you know what I mean / on the pot I’ve been.” :-D

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    Sure, but “Lutheran” can mean lots of things. You have to be specific. Are we talking about “confessional” Lutherans? Then we should make that more explicit: GTBLQUIA. The “quia” makes it clearer.

    This joke is likely lost on most.

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    Sure, but “Lutheran” can mean lots of things. You have to be specific. Are we talking about “confessional” Lutherans? Then we should make that more explicit: GTBLQUIA. The “quia” makes it clearer.

    This joke is likely lost on most.

  • Joe

    I need a like button #@tODD.

  • Joe

    I need a like button #@tODD.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My point being, “Not to be confused with LGBT” ain’t gonna happen. Please, let’s think of another slogan! (That said, have you seen the lengths — literally! — to which inclusiveness can go? For the record, my earlier comment @11 was referring to this slightly shorter — and therefore slightly more culturally oppressive — acronym).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My point being, “Not to be confused with LGBT” ain’t gonna happen. Please, let’s think of another slogan! (That said, have you seen the lengths — literally! — to which inclusiveness can go? For the record, my earlier comment @11 was referring to this slightly shorter — and therefore slightly more culturally oppressive — acronym).

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    As a Calvinist rather than a Lutheran (though I admit to Lutheran tendencies), I was surprised by Dr. Witherington’s statement on imparted righteousness. It was not a position I would have expected an Wesleyan Arminian to take. I am left wondering whether I misunderstood him, am more ignorant of the position then I thought or he is taking an unusual position from his doctrinal perspective.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    As a Calvinist rather than a Lutheran (though I admit to Lutheran tendencies), I was surprised by Dr. Witherington’s statement on imparted righteousness. It was not a position I would have expected an Wesleyan Arminian to take. I am left wondering whether I misunderstood him, am more ignorant of the position then I thought or he is taking an unusual position from his doctrinal perspective.

  • Jonathan

    “(Another option is to come up with ritualistic observances, as in Roman Catholicism, which believes the same thing. Repeating the Rosary a hundred times becomes a “good work” that accrues “merit,” even though the action is not particularly “good” in a moral sense.) ”

    The Rosary consists of prayers and meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. These are good works.

  • Jonathan

    “(Another option is to come up with ritualistic observances, as in Roman Catholicism, which believes the same thing. Repeating the Rosary a hundred times becomes a “good work” that accrues “merit,” even though the action is not particularly “good” in a moral sense.) ”

    The Rosary consists of prayers and meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. These are good works.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan said (@15):

    The Rosary consists of prayers and meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. These are good works.

    That is true. In part.

    The Rosary also contains prayers to Mary that she would, in turn, pray for us. It also refers to her as “our life, our sweetness, and our hope”. It also says that it is to her we cry, to her we “send up our sighs”, and ask her to turn her “eyes of mercy toward us”. And, on Wednesdays and Sundays (traditionally), it also asks us to ponder Mary’s assumption into heaven, and her coronation as “Queen of Heaven and Earth”.

    None of which have anything to do with “the life, death and resurrection of Christ”, much less Scripture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan said (@15):

    The Rosary consists of prayers and meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. These are good works.

    That is true. In part.

    The Rosary also contains prayers to Mary that she would, in turn, pray for us. It also refers to her as “our life, our sweetness, and our hope”. It also says that it is to her we cry, to her we “send up our sighs”, and ask her to turn her “eyes of mercy toward us”. And, on Wednesdays and Sundays (traditionally), it also asks us to ponder Mary’s assumption into heaven, and her coronation as “Queen of Heaven and Earth”.

    None of which have anything to do with “the life, death and resurrection of Christ”, much less Scripture.

  • Jonathan
  • Jonathan
  • SKPeterson

    @15 and 16 – As well as denying that Holy Spirit character his due.

    And, while meditating upon Christ’s life, death and resurrection is good, it will not gain you any merit toward your salvation – it will only point out the fact that you are a poor, miserable sinner in desperate need for the life and works of Christ to cover you.

  • SKPeterson

    @15 and 16 – As well as denying that Holy Spirit character his due.

    And, while meditating upon Christ’s life, death and resurrection is good, it will not gain you any merit toward your salvation – it will only point out the fact that you are a poor, miserable sinner in desperate need for the life and works of Christ to cover you.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @17 – these lines from the wiki entry are particularly apropos:

    The emphasis was always placed on Mary as merely a receiver of God’s love and favor.[2] His opposition to regarding Mary as a mediatrix of intercession or redemption was part of his greater and more extensive opposition to the belief that the merits of the saints could be added to those of Jesus Christ to save humanity.[3]

    Somewhat at odds with the Rosary.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @17 – these lines from the wiki entry are particularly apropos:

    The emphasis was always placed on Mary as merely a receiver of God’s love and favor.[2] His opposition to regarding Mary as a mediatrix of intercession or redemption was part of his greater and more extensive opposition to the belief that the merits of the saints could be added to those of Jesus Christ to save humanity.[3]

    Somewhat at odds with the Rosary.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s also worth pointing out that Lutherans do not subscribe wholesale to the entire corpus of writings of Martin Luther — which would be difficult, anyhow, as he changed his mind over time on a number of issues.

    Lutherans do (in theory; some of them, at least) subscribe wholesale to the Book of Concord. Got any quotes from the BoC that endorse the Rosary?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s also worth pointing out that Lutherans do not subscribe wholesale to the entire corpus of writings of Martin Luther — which would be difficult, anyhow, as he changed his mind over time on a number of issues.

    Lutherans do (in theory; some of them, at least) subscribe wholesale to the Book of Concord. Got any quotes from the BoC that endorse the Rosary?

  • SKPeterson

    Last interjection – riffing on Todd’s GLBTQUIA note, the position, place or mystery surrounding Mary is not part of the quia subscription to the AC.

  • SKPeterson

    Last interjection – riffing on Todd’s GLBTQUIA note, the position, place or mystery surrounding Mary is not part of the quia subscription to the AC.

  • Walter Mack

    My father was a clergyman in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition. It wasn’t until I attended a Wesleyan school that I was introduced to Luther in philosophy-religion courses. Since then, I’ve considered myself a Lutheran — Christ first, last and central — even while remaining in the church of my youth. Late in life, it became necessary for me to be confirmed in an LCMS church. Yet, when listening to Lutheran radio discussions of Wesleyan theology, I often fail to recognize the tradition of my childhood and youth. One almost needs to experience it to speak knowledgably about it.

    From my experience and understanding of A-W theology as I was taught, those of this persuasion believe that one may attain freedom from willful sin through the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Sins which Lutherans as well as Wesleyans would consider not to be willful become “mistakes,” (Wesley’s word) are under the blood of Christ, and thus the individual remains “perfect.” I have met some Christians whose lives seemed to reflect that perfection theology. However, I’ve seen such lives, too, within my Lutheran congregation. Probably the meanest people I’ve known were some who were “sanctified entirely” yet treated my father — and others — hatefully.

    While committed to decision theology, Wesleyans modify the Arminian position by the doctrine of “prevenient grace,” that grace which the Holy Spirit advances to one who is under the conviction of sin to make a “decision for Christ.” At least, this is my understanding.

    One of my conclusions about Wesleyan theology is that it almost eliminates responsibility for sins of omission, far and away the most common sins of believers.

    This is much too simple an exposition; books could be written on nearly each statement made here and probably have. “Wir sind alle Bettler.”

    (Just sign me as “wdm.” Thank you.)

  • Walter Mack

    My father was a clergyman in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition. It wasn’t until I attended a Wesleyan school that I was introduced to Luther in philosophy-religion courses. Since then, I’ve considered myself a Lutheran — Christ first, last and central — even while remaining in the church of my youth. Late in life, it became necessary for me to be confirmed in an LCMS church. Yet, when listening to Lutheran radio discussions of Wesleyan theology, I often fail to recognize the tradition of my childhood and youth. One almost needs to experience it to speak knowledgably about it.

    From my experience and understanding of A-W theology as I was taught, those of this persuasion believe that one may attain freedom from willful sin through the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Sins which Lutherans as well as Wesleyans would consider not to be willful become “mistakes,” (Wesley’s word) are under the blood of Christ, and thus the individual remains “perfect.” I have met some Christians whose lives seemed to reflect that perfection theology. However, I’ve seen such lives, too, within my Lutheran congregation. Probably the meanest people I’ve known were some who were “sanctified entirely” yet treated my father — and others — hatefully.

    While committed to decision theology, Wesleyans modify the Arminian position by the doctrine of “prevenient grace,” that grace which the Holy Spirit advances to one who is under the conviction of sin to make a “decision for Christ.” At least, this is my understanding.

    One of my conclusions about Wesleyan theology is that it almost eliminates responsibility for sins of omission, far and away the most common sins of believers.

    This is much too simple an exposition; books could be written on nearly each statement made here and probably have. “Wir sind alle Bettler.”

    (Just sign me as “wdm.” Thank you.)

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Here is a blogpost I made quite some time ago on Witherington’s Romans commentary, in case it is of interest to someone. http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com/2009/11/where-new-perspective-on-paul-meets.html

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Here is a blogpost I made quite some time ago on Witherington’s Romans commentary, in case it is of interest to someone. http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com/2009/11/where-new-perspective-on-paul-meets.html

  • Pete

    So, what’s the GTBL t-shirt going to look like? Please tell me it’ll have Luther’s rose and not the creepy Cranach flying snake. Maybe “Wir sind alle bettler” on the back?

  • Pete

    So, what’s the GTBL t-shirt going to look like? Please tell me it’ll have Luther’s rose and not the creepy Cranach flying snake. Maybe “Wir sind alle bettler” on the back?

  • Pete

    And I’m with tODD @13 – everybody’ll think we’re just homosexuals with mild dyslexia (say that three times, fast).

  • Pete

    And I’m with tODD @13 – everybody’ll think we’re just homosexuals with mild dyslexia (say that three times, fast).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Brigette, that is a telling quotation you have given in your blog and your response to it is right on. (Everybody, read Brigitte’s post on her blog that she links to.) This new perspective on Paul stuff has to be nothing less than an attack on the Gospel itself. I don’t see what’s left of the Gospel. And yet evangelicals are eating it up. How can one claim to be an “evangelical” without believing in, you know, the “evangel”?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Brigette, that is a telling quotation you have given in your blog and your response to it is right on. (Everybody, read Brigitte’s post on her blog that she links to.) This new perspective on Paul stuff has to be nothing less than an attack on the Gospel itself. I don’t see what’s left of the Gospel. And yet evangelicals are eating it up. How can one claim to be an “evangelical” without believing in, you know, the “evangel”?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I am highly cognizant of the likelihood of confusion between LGBT and GTBL. That’s what recommends it. That is the only way Lutherans will get any sympathy from today’s culture.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I am highly cognizant of the likelihood of confusion between LGBT and GTBL. That’s what recommends it. That is the only way Lutherans will get any sympathy from today’s culture.

  • Tom Hering

    That’s a slippery slope, Dr. Veith. Next thing you know, states will recognize the legitimacy of GTBL marriages. Then those marriages will be performed in our churches. Then GTBL couples will adopt children, and raise them to think the GTBL lifestyle is normal.

    So, think about the children, Dr. Veith! The children!

  • Tom Hering

    That’s a slippery slope, Dr. Veith. Next thing you know, states will recognize the legitimacy of GTBL marriages. Then those marriages will be performed in our churches. Then GTBL couples will adopt children, and raise them to think the GTBL lifestyle is normal.

    So, think about the children, Dr. Veith! The children!

  • EGK

    Aa couple of comments to Dennis @#5:

    Jim Nestingen notes that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to “Go in peace, serve the Lord,” would be “Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!”

    To disallow any commands from Christ to actually be performative would lead to this dialogue:

    Jesus: “Lazarus, come out!”

    Lazarus: “Lord, you know I can’t, since I’m dead! All you’re doing is accusing me!

  • EGK

    Aa couple of comments to Dennis @#5:

    Jim Nestingen notes that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to “Go in peace, serve the Lord,” would be “Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!”

    To disallow any commands from Christ to actually be performative would lead to this dialogue:

    Jesus: “Lazarus, come out!”

    Lazarus: “Lord, you know I can’t, since I’m dead! All you’re doing is accusing me!

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    One of my conclusions about Wesleyan theology is that it almost eliminates responsibility for sins of omission, far and away the most common sins of believers. (Walter Mack @22)

    1. Thank you Dr. Veith. It’s the first and only feedback to the post. One of the reasons I made the post at the time was because I heard pretty much unqualified endorsement of Witherington also by Lutherans in discussion.

    2. About “sins of omission”. Once I asked Dr. Witherington on his blog if he prays “and forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s prayer and and he said “yes.” When I asked he what kind of sins he asks forgiveness for he said mostly “sins of omission”.

    Dr. Witherington regularly misused Luther’s “sin boldy”, though it was set into context for him, as if Luther was advocating going out and sinning on purpose. After that I did not really know what else one can say to him. I have absolutely no idea how one can hold to this perfectibility.

    I feel bad for those souls who keep trying and realizing that they are failing but are not taught that they are still Christians. It reminds me of a chapter in the dear, late Michael Spencer’s book ( Mere Churchianity) titled: “It is hard to manufacture victory.” (If I may be so bold as to attach another link.) http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com/2011/05/its-hard-to-manufacture-victory-michael.html

    It seems to me that many evangelicals are also not understanding what Michael is saying here, judging by some Amazon reviews.

    GTBL

    (None of this makes us anti-nomians. The law always accuses, but the law is always also instructing. “Law” and “instruction” are practically synonymous and are meant to be kept; though the dead have zero power to raise themselves or co-operate; The law says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this,” and everything is already done; mortal sins are to be feared in the best works… etc.)

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    One of my conclusions about Wesleyan theology is that it almost eliminates responsibility for sins of omission, far and away the most common sins of believers. (Walter Mack @22)

    1. Thank you Dr. Veith. It’s the first and only feedback to the post. One of the reasons I made the post at the time was because I heard pretty much unqualified endorsement of Witherington also by Lutherans in discussion.

    2. About “sins of omission”. Once I asked Dr. Witherington on his blog if he prays “and forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s prayer and and he said “yes.” When I asked he what kind of sins he asks forgiveness for he said mostly “sins of omission”.

    Dr. Witherington regularly misused Luther’s “sin boldy”, though it was set into context for him, as if Luther was advocating going out and sinning on purpose. After that I did not really know what else one can say to him. I have absolutely no idea how one can hold to this perfectibility.

    I feel bad for those souls who keep trying and realizing that they are failing but are not taught that they are still Christians. It reminds me of a chapter in the dear, late Michael Spencer’s book ( Mere Churchianity) titled: “It is hard to manufacture victory.” (If I may be so bold as to attach another link.) http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com/2011/05/its-hard-to-manufacture-victory-michael.html

    It seems to me that many evangelicals are also not understanding what Michael is saying here, judging by some Amazon reviews.

    GTBL

    (None of this makes us anti-nomians. The law always accuses, but the law is always also instructing. “Law” and “instruction” are practically synonymous and are meant to be kept; though the dead have zero power to raise themselves or co-operate; The law says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this,” and everything is already done; mortal sins are to be feared in the best works… etc.)

  • Tom Hering

    “Jim Nestingen notes that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to ‘Go in peace, serve the Lord,’ would be ‘Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!’” – EGK @ 29.

    Why on earth wouldn’t I want to? For every imaginable reason on earth. Though mostly for the reason Paul gives:

    For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members

    I have to (and I do want to) struggle against my old nature to serve the Lord. More than that, I have to (and I do want to) put my old nature to death. But that’s not easy. My old nature is a survivalist, and fights tooth and nail to stay alive. So, then, does the command, “serve the Lord,” help me? Not one bit, because a command is just a command – it’s not a form of help. Does the blessing, “go in peace,” help me? Yes, absolutely, because it’s Gospel, and the Gospel is supernatural power – a power far beyond my own powers. And that’s what it takes to serve the Lord. It takes the Lord Himself to serve the Lord. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    As for Lazarus, he could never have answered the Lord that way. He was dead. And not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    “Jim Nestingen notes that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to ‘Go in peace, serve the Lord,’ would be ‘Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!’” – EGK @ 29.

    Why on earth wouldn’t I want to? For every imaginable reason on earth. Though mostly for the reason Paul gives:

    For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members

    I have to (and I do want to) struggle against my old nature to serve the Lord. More than that, I have to (and I do want to) put my old nature to death. But that’s not easy. My old nature is a survivalist, and fights tooth and nail to stay alive. So, then, does the command, “serve the Lord,” help me? Not one bit, because a command is just a command – it’s not a form of help. Does the blessing, “go in peace,” help me? Yes, absolutely, because it’s Gospel, and the Gospel is supernatural power – a power far beyond my own powers. And that’s what it takes to serve the Lord. It takes the Lord Himself to serve the Lord. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    As for Lazarus, he could never have answered the Lord that way. He was dead. And not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. :-)

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “I do not think men should place their children, wives, or themselves under the care of Lutheran pastors and churches, today. Why not?

    Principally because modern Lutherans administer, teach, and write about the Sacraments in a way that leads tender souls to trust in the ritual and the elements rather than Jesus Christ. Here’s the opening paragraph from a Concordia Publishing House pamplet distributed at no cost in the foyers of Missiouri Synod Lutheran churches around the country. Titled “What About Holy Baptism,” it opens with this paragraph:

    Suppose for a moment that there was a doctor who had such incredible talent that he could prevent people from dying, and bring those who had died back to life, never to die again. Just imagine how people would do whatever they could to be treated by this doctor! No consider that in Holy Baptism, God actually does give us the gift of eternal life! Let’s learn more about this marvelous blessing. (The pamplet goes on to make statements about the connection between “the Word” and the water, and once or twice faith is mentioned, but the first paragraph is an accurate representation of the whole.)

    This is sacramentalism and it destroys souls.

    It is never, ever right to lead the souls under our care to believe that Baptism saves us…

    As Luther and Calvin warned constantly, sinful men are always tempted to exchange ceremony and ritual for heart religion and saving faith. Thus, promoting our rituals and ceremonies in such a way that hardened or ignorant sheep trust those ceremonies to save them or their children is betrayal of those souls and their children.”

    Excerpted from Calvin on Baptism: “hypocrites …glory in a naked and dead sign”

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “I do not think men should place their children, wives, or themselves under the care of Lutheran pastors and churches, today. Why not?

    Principally because modern Lutherans administer, teach, and write about the Sacraments in a way that leads tender souls to trust in the ritual and the elements rather than Jesus Christ. Here’s the opening paragraph from a Concordia Publishing House pamplet distributed at no cost in the foyers of Missiouri Synod Lutheran churches around the country. Titled “What About Holy Baptism,” it opens with this paragraph:

    Suppose for a moment that there was a doctor who had such incredible talent that he could prevent people from dying, and bring those who had died back to life, never to die again. Just imagine how people would do whatever they could to be treated by this doctor! No consider that in Holy Baptism, God actually does give us the gift of eternal life! Let’s learn more about this marvelous blessing. (The pamplet goes on to make statements about the connection between “the Word” and the water, and once or twice faith is mentioned, but the first paragraph is an accurate representation of the whole.)

    This is sacramentalism and it destroys souls.

    It is never, ever right to lead the souls under our care to believe that Baptism saves us…

    As Luther and Calvin warned constantly, sinful men are always tempted to exchange ceremony and ritual for heart religion and saving faith. Thus, promoting our rituals and ceremonies in such a way that hardened or ignorant sheep trust those ceremonies to save them or their children is betrayal of those souls and their children.”

    Excerpted from Calvin on Baptism: “hypocrites …glory in a naked and dead sign”

  • Tom Hering

    The Bible says, “baptism now saves you” and then adds, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God.” Yet TUAD @ 32 wants us to believe the Bible is wrong to base one miracle on another, and on the power of Jesus Christ.

    Seriously, TUAD, you’ll have to do more than just copy and paste from other anti-Lutherans if you want to convert us. You’ll have to offer us four-day, three-night vacations at a non-denominational summer camp. Or promise that you’ll send us not just one, but two collections of anti-Lutheran tracts in an attractive, zippered carrying case (just pay additional postage and handling). Or give us a 1-877 number to speak to you live, one-on-one. Woo hoo!

  • Tom Hering

    The Bible says, “baptism now saves you” and then adds, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God.” Yet TUAD @ 32 wants us to believe the Bible is wrong to base one miracle on another, and on the power of Jesus Christ.

    Seriously, TUAD, you’ll have to do more than just copy and paste from other anti-Lutherans if you want to convert us. You’ll have to offer us four-day, three-night vacations at a non-denominational summer camp. Or promise that you’ll send us not just one, but two collections of anti-Lutheran tracts in an attractive, zippered carrying case (just pay additional postage and handling). Or give us a 1-877 number to speak to you live, one-on-one. Woo hoo!

  • Joe

    TUAD @ 32 – since you offer a tract, I’ll respond with a hymn:

    God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
    He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
    Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
    That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

    Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
    I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
    Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
    In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

    Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
    Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
    Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,
    And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

    Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
    When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
    Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
    Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

    There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
    Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
    Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
    I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

  • Joe

    TUAD @ 32 – since you offer a tract, I’ll respond with a hymn:

    God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
    He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
    Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
    That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

    Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
    I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
    Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
    In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

    Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
    Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
    Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,
    And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

    Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
    When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
    Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
    Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

    There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
    Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
    Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
    I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

  • Dennis Peskey

    My thanks to the apology presented by Tom Hering (#31) regarding EGK’s remarks in post #29. Dr. Nestingen’s remark “that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to ‘Go in peace, serve the Lord,’ would be ‘Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!’” errs in properly distinguishing Law and Gospel. If you deem it necessary do tell congregants to “serve”, you have not properly distinguished Law and Gospel, or as the Word proclaims, “Good trees bear good fruit.” Noone instructs an apple tree on how to produce good apples; if the tree is properly nourished and watered, it will respond in kind.

    I would point both EGK and Dr. Nestingen to Thesis V and XXIII in C.F.W. Walter’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. I am aware Dr. Nestingen is ELCA and as a denomination, they tend to struggle with the Third Use of the Law. But to advocate a sending with “Leave ‘em with the Law” is not how Lutherans should conclude the Divine Service. [note: LSB begins each and every DS with the Law - then the Gospel] I would challenge any Lutheran who endorses this dismissal to differentiate between Lutheran and Methodist – they’re much better at dismissing with the Law and defending the practice as doctrine.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    My thanks to the apology presented by Tom Hering (#31) regarding EGK’s remarks in post #29. Dr. Nestingen’s remark “that if people have been given the Gospel, their response to ‘Go in peace, serve the Lord,’ would be ‘Why on earth wouldn’t I want to?!’” errs in properly distinguishing Law and Gospel. If you deem it necessary do tell congregants to “serve”, you have not properly distinguished Law and Gospel, or as the Word proclaims, “Good trees bear good fruit.” Noone instructs an apple tree on how to produce good apples; if the tree is properly nourished and watered, it will respond in kind.

    I would point both EGK and Dr. Nestingen to Thesis V and XXIII in C.F.W. Walter’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. I am aware Dr. Nestingen is ELCA and as a denomination, they tend to struggle with the Third Use of the Law. But to advocate a sending with “Leave ‘em with the Law” is not how Lutherans should conclude the Divine Service. [note: LSB begins each and every DS with the Law - then the Gospel] I would challenge any Lutheran who endorses this dismissal to differentiate between Lutheran and Methodist – they’re much better at dismissing with the Law and defending the practice as doctrine.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • WebMonk

    I’ve been on vacation and away from teh Interwebs.

    When I saw Veith’s GTBL acronym, I first thought of the Linux command. Then I thought of GLBT.

    Yeah, I’m a computer geek.

  • WebMonk

    I’ve been on vacation and away from teh Interwebs.

    When I saw Veith’s GTBL acronym, I first thought of the Linux command. Then I thought of GLBT.

    Yeah, I’m a computer geek.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X